It’s 20° outside, but you are starting to sweat. Swoosh, swoosh. You glide through the snow while going uphill, downhill, exploring rolling terrain and open meadows.
With a stormy winter ahead, conditions are ideal for cross-country skiing.
“Cross-country skiing is sliding on skis on variable terrain in contrast with downhill, or alpine skiing where it is always going downhill,” explained Executive Director and President of Cross Country Ski Areas Association Chris Frado.
Frado, who has been cross-country skiing for 40 years, likens the sport to walking, jogging and running.
“You can do any pace that you would like, and you can pick the terrain that is suitable for you. It’s such a welcoming sport to so many people. We used to say, 'if you can walk, you can cross country ski,’ but what we want to say to people nowadays is, 'if you can walk, we can teach you to cross country ski,’ because nobody is born with an inherit knowledge of what to do when they strap on five-foot-long sticks to the bottoms of their feet,” says Frado.
Experts say to be sure to wear boots that fit comfortably like a sneaker, and wear clothing that will provide just enough warmth.
“A great experience cross-country skiing has more to do with comfort in the elements than it does with how athletically adept the skier is. Also, beginners should expect to be absolutely terrible at cross-country skiing on their first outing, but then it is fair to expect exciting improvements during every subsequent session,” explains U.S. Ski Team Cross Country Skiing Women’s World Cup Coach, Matt Whitcomb.
AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity explains how to determine a snowfall’s intensity.
“It’s actually very complicated and it has to do a lot with the convective nature of the storm; whether the storm gets very convective or not, also it has to deal with the amount of upward motion and how the snowflakes are formed. Sometimes you can get a lot of small snowflakes and the intensity may not be that impressive, but it’s accumulating pretty well.”
This type of accumulation is one of the reasons why Whitcomb enjoys the sport.
“My personal favorite skiing condition is between 20° and 25° F, when it is snowing hard. It’s warm enough to dress lightly and to not freeze if you keep moving, and the flakes in your face make it hard not to smile,” says Whitcomb.
Scott McGee, Coach of the Nordic Team for the Professional Ski Instructors of America, develops educational materials and works to promote snow sports instruction. The Nordic team, rather than a competitive team, is an educational team.
“Snow needs to stay cold and dry and easy to get grip and glide. You can ski in a storm with light snow; I mean, it gets down to comfort at that point. You might want goggles if you are skiing in wind. You’re going to want sunglasses because of the glare on the snow. Wearing sun protection is pretty important, especially in the winter,” explains McGee.
Another important factor for cross-country ski conditions is whether it will be a wet snowstorm or a dry snowstorm.
“Wet snow means that the temperatures are going to be above freezing. So it’s going to be like 34 degrees and snowing outside, so your snow ratios are going to be about 8-1.
For every inch of liquid, you get eight inches of snow. Dry, powdery snow -- where it is very, very cold, your ratios could be up around 20 -- even 30 to one, meaning that for every inch of liquid you get like 20-30 inches of snow. This is a dry, fluffy snow, more of a powdery type of snow,” says Margusity.
According to Whitcomb, the U.S. Ski Team relies on a combination of what the locals are predicting and what the local weather website recommended by the race organizer is saying.
“We’ll use a quiver of many different websites to get an overall feeling of what is likely to happen. Of course, that includes AccuWeather! We also carry basic portable weather instruments to measure humidity, temperature and pressure. Predicting the weather is so important at the elite level of the sport as proper ski preparation will have an enormous impact on the ski’s speed and kicking power. Though, perhaps the one thing harder than cross-country skiing is properly predicting the weather,” said Whitcomb.
According to Whitcomb, although we are in an unstable economy, he thinks every family that lives in a snowy region should take advantage of this relatively inexpensive, healthy and family-oriented sport.
“If you like living, cross-country skiing will let you do a lot of it.”
By Aimee Morgan, AccuWeather Staff Writer
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