About Cross-Country Skiing and Roller Skiing

Cross-country skier
Cross-country, or 'Nordic', skiing evolved from a practical need to move across snow-covered terrain. Stone Age carvings discovered in a Norwegian cave and dated around 2000 BC, depict a figure using long skis for hunting. The word 'ski' comes from the Old Norse word 'skid' which literally means a board or a split piece of wood.

Sondre Norheim, a Norwegian from the Telemark District of Norway, is credited with pioneering skiing as a sport in the 19th Century. He developed curved Telemark skis, and bindings, and his
name has become synonymous with the 'Telemark Turn' and ski racing.

Modern Nordic skiing comprises several disciplines, all of which are very popular today; cross-country (track) skiing, ski skating, ski touring, telemark skiing, biathlon (ski and shooting) and now roller skiing. Although most of the principles of cross-country skiing are the same as those applied to the downhill, or Alpine, sport (for example turning, stopping, balancing, weight distribution and transfer) the significant difference between the two disciplines lies in the design, shape and function of the skis.

Cross-country skiing - classic technique Cross-country skiing - biathletes 

For cross-country skiing light, narrow skis are used in prepared tracks. They are fitted with 'free-heel' bindings that allow the skier to travel up as well as downhill. Two techniques are employed; the traditional 'classic' technique, which entails skiing in cut tracks, and the 'skating' technique which is a similar technique to that used for roller skating and roller blading, but is utilised on pressed snow adjacent to the 'classic tracks'. This 'free' style is used by biathletes competing in their highly strenuous and competitive ski-shooting races.

Ski touring or back-country skiing , which normally takes skiers away from prepared tracks and into the wilderness, is conducted on more robust, metal-edged skis, often with a cable binding, but still with a ‘free heel’. There are also numerous other mountain skills associated with this type of skiing such as navigation and emergency survival.

Closely linked with ski touring is the 'Telemark turn', which has become a ski discipline and style in its own right, both on and off piste. Whereas the early Telemarkers had to make do with wooden skis, rope bindings and leather boots, today’s specialists wear plastic boots and use shorter, wider skis that look more like alpine skis than their Nordic equivalent, albeit with a free-heel binding.

Today roller skiing is becoming an increasing popular sport. Long snow skis are replaced by very short, strong ‘skis’ with single wheels at either end, which allow them to be used on hard surfaces in either winter or summer. Once used largely as an out of season training medium for serious winter skiers, roller skiing has become an extremely popular sport in its own right. www.rollerski.co.uk [opens in new browser window).

In short, there is a variety or style of Nordic skiing to suite every age and ability level. Whilst the sport can provide the severest of challenges, at its most basic level it allows skiers to participate in a low-impact winter activity, at their own pace, and with plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors.

For further information on cross-country skiing in Norway:
www.skiingnorway.com (opens in new browser window)