Discover your Eastman Adventure: Cross Country Skiing 101

Are you looking for a new outdoor adventure? Has cross-country skiing been on your bucket list for years? Well, you don’t have to put it off any longer! Learn the basics of cross-country skiing so you can get out on the trails and try this fun sport!

For information on some of Eastman’s incredible skiing trails, visit our blogs Discover your Eastman Adventure: Fantastic Skiing Locations and 5 Awesome Eastman Skiing Locations. 


  • Stay home if you have been travelling or do not feel well. Here is an excellent resource if you are quarantined. This will help you find people in Manitoba who are willing and able to help you while quarantined. Help Next Door Manitoba
  • Go out with people within your household, but practice social distancing (2 metres away) with other groups.
  • Please call ahead before visiting a business and inquire about their regulations to enter the building, such as capacity, sanitation, etc. Also, consider using curbside pickup where possible.
  • Please practice Leave No Trace. Clean up after yourself and leave nothing behind, such as trash and waste.


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Learning How to Cross-country Ski

It is possible to learn how to cross-country ski on your own, but your learning experience and overall skiing experience will go much better with some help. Whether you decide to take lessons or even just hit the trails with a skier friend.


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Types of Cross-Country Skiing

There are two kinds of cross-country skiing; classic skiing and skate skiing.

When people talk about cross-country skiing, most people are picturing classic skiing. This is the original version of the sport and can be identified by technique. Classic skiing involves a straight-line stride, a technique called “diagonal stride” or “kick and glide” to propel yourself forward. The skier puts their weight on one ski, pushes off, glides on the other ski; and then repeats!

Skate skiing is a newer technique that resembles an ice skating motion, with the skier pushing off the skis laterally to propel themselves forward. When done proper, skate skiing can be fun and fast!

If you are starting out, classic skiing is a great place to begin. While it takes dedication, effort, and time to master this technique, it is still the best way to include skiing in your life. Throughout this blog, we will talk about tips and techniques used for classic skiing.


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Whether you’re buying or renting gear, you should know the basics of what you’ll need for your adventure.

Skis: Choosing the correct ski length depends on your weight.

Boots/bindings: When it comes to boots and bindings, your main concern should be that you have a compatible boot/binding system.

Poles: With tips in the snow, the top of correctly sized poles is about even with your armpits.

Outdoor essentials: As always, remember to bring an outdoor kit with you. This includes:

  • Navigation (maps, compass, GPS device, satellite messenger, personal locator beacon)
  • Headlamp/flashlight
  • Batteries (various depending on what tools you bring)
  • Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, buff and other sun-protective clothing)
  • First aid kit
  • Knife
  • Multi-tool/mini repair kit
  • Matches, lighter, or tinder
  • Shelter (like a light emergency bivy)
  • Food
  • Water
  • Extra clothing (gloves, hat, socks, shirt, etc.)

If you are trying out cross-country skiing, you probably don’t want to purchase all this gear. Have no fear, though; you can always rent gear! Winnipeg River Recreation District (Lac du Bonnet) offers free ski rentals that include skis, poles, and shoes.


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What to Wear while Cross-Country Skiing

The million-dollar question when people are getting ready for a winter outdoor adventure; what on earth will I wear? But when you really look at it, it is quite simple!

For winter activities, most people are either wearing wrong/harmful clothing or too much clothing. The goal in the winter months is to stay warm AND dry – not only from the elements but also from sweat. As unpleasant as it sounds, you should dress, so your body feels chilled at the start of your adventure when doing any winter activity. Eventually, your body will get used to the chill, and, especially if doing a physical activity like cross-country skiing, your body will warm up. If you still find yourself shivering too much, you can always put on another layer and, of course, discard a layer if you find yourself overheating.

Don’t forget to dress in layers and avoid cotton. Layers are a beautiful thing, and I don’t mean in a fashion sense. For a base layer, wear something lightweight, comfortable, and warm even when it gets wet. Keep in mind that wool is a great option for a base layer, so your body temperature stays regulated. Other good materials for base layers are silk and various synthetic material.

Your middle layer traps air, which is what keeps you warm; the more air you trap, the warmer you’ll be. Natural or synthetic materials design for this purpose and are breathable are ideal. Middle layers should also allow the transfer of the moisture wicked through the base layer to continue its journey away from the body. Goose down, fleece, and wool are good options of material for the middle layer.

Your outer layer is designed to protect you from the elements. It should be durable and breathable and protect you from the wind, rain, snow, and branches. Something simple like a windbreaker, rain jacket, and winter jackets designed as “outer shells,” which tend to be more durable. Also, this layer should be waterproof. Fabrics like Gortex are perfect for this layer. Keep in mind that the outer layer isn’t designed to be thick or warm (as this is what the middle layer is for).

A huge, mega no-no is using a cotton layer. Once cotton gets wet, it stays wet, making you very cold and shivering.

Here are some other clothing items needed for your experience.

  • Buff
  • Sunglasses
  • Gloves
  • Beanie/toque
  • Socks


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Technique of Classic Cross-Country Skiing

As we mentioned above, classic cross-country skiing’s basic action involves a straight-line stride, a technique called “diagonal stride” or “kick and glide” to propel yourself forward. The skier put their weight on one ski, pushes off, and glides on the other ski. But there is a lot more to it than that!

In the below video, done by REI and Greg Rhodes, they go into detail about the techniques beginner skiers should know. This includes body position, moving on flat ground, pole basics, going uphill, going downhill, turning, and getting up from a fall.

This video perfectly explains the basics so you can start your classic cross-country skiing adventure.

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