Let’s try: cross-country skiing

In this series, we’re shaking things up. We’ll try sports for the first time and tell you what we think of them, share our experiences and personal pros and cons. This time it’s cross-country skiing. By Marion Topitschnig

Whenever I heard of cross-country skiing before this adventure, my first mental image would be an elderly person skiing in a picture-perfect winter wonderland. Or – on the other extreme – a biathlete racing at the Olympic Games. You know, those athletes who skate at an enormous speed, only stopping for a shooting break. Could a sport be more diverse than cross-country skiing? On the one hand, a relaxed nature break, on the other, an intense competition including final sprint and photo finish at the end of each race?

Then my sister enthusiastically told me about her first attempt at cross-country skiing. At that point my curiosity kicked in: I wanted to try, too.

The author trying cross-country skiing for the first time.

So we planned a trip to “St. Aegyd am Neuwalde” – the perfect location for cross-country skiing fans and newbies like me. This small village in Lower Austria with its Nordic centre is also described as a “mecca” of cross-country skiing. It offers a variety of well-prepared “loipes” (cross-country ski tracks) at various levels of difficulty. A perfect place to start. I got the equipment – skis, sticks and shoes – at a local rental and was really surprised at how light it all was.

Then we drove to the loipe by car, got on the skis, and off we went on the trail.

I still remember my mum cross-country skiing ages ago – so you might say the basic movement was familiar. But make no mistake: there are two styles of cross-country skiing. The more classic approach, in which you glide with both skis parallel within the tracks. And “skating”, where the skis are in a V-shape while skiing. These styles both demand different equipment, loipes, and movement and use of sticks .

Back at the loipe. At first I tried to familiarize myself with the skis by gliding. And I started off on the first meters accident-free – yeah! Again, I was surprised at the light weight of the ski. When the track went slightly downhill, I got faster and started to feel less sure of myself. Hard to believe, but keeping the balance turned out to be a real challenge. Who would have thought cross-country skiing is in fact a balancing act?

The equipment – skis and sticks.

Next try downhill – but where are the breaks? How am I supposed to stop with both skis in the tracks? No chance of doing a snowplough. Could the sticks help? No idea. I felt slightly worried, not sure of how to react. So I chose the only possible way out: I fell. Ouch! Not the only “accident” that day, to tell the truth. Another challenge I had to face was getting back up. I even managed to get caught in the snow with one ski once, and only managed to escape this predicament with my sister’s help.

All this may sound a little dramatic, but actually it was great fun. I really enjoyed the movement and the chance to explore nature in a new way.

After about eight kilometres we were ready to go back to our accommodation. As I’d already worried about muscle aches, I was more than relieved to find I didn’t have sore legs or a stiff back the next morning.

New day – new start – new loipe.

We chose the one on “Lahnsattel” and were thrilled. The trails were more advanced, but the weather got worse. Thanks to studying a few youtube videos the night before, my performance improved. I even figured out how to ski downhill.

The loipe – a cross-country skiing track

And, by the way, investment-wise,I would consider cross-country skiing a sport with a moderate price level. The only costs involved are the equipment and the fee for the loipe, which in our case was 4 € per day. Compared to alpine skiing and its high cost, cross-country skiing turns out to be a good alternative. Another advantage is that you don’t need a lift, and can therefore avoid the waiting, or freezing on the lift ride. Since in our case, the trails weren’t busy, we were able to choose our own pace most of the time. To me, this sport seemed more relaxing than skiing or snowboarding.

Finally we got back to the loipe we’d done the day before. Suddenly my legs got tired, I felt my sore thighs, and we decided to call it a day.

Conclusion: I’m more than happy to have found a new winter sport. If you’re really interested in learning this sport, I would suggest you invest in personal training with an instructor.
Fitness-wise – cross-country skiing targets most of the muscles in your body. Compared to other winter sports, that’s definitely a winner!

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