Cross-country skiing is one of the best activities for anyone who wants to keep active while exploring the winter landscape. It’s a chance to relax and be one with nature while still getting your adrenaline levels up. While it’s quite the workout, cross-country skiing is easier to learn than downhill skiing or snowboarding – many people manage to pick it up in the course of a morning. If you’re not convinced about downhill skiing but you want to get out there on skis, cross-country skiing is a cheaper and safer way to do so.
Many destinations in the Alps offer prepared cross-country skiing trails. Most of these trails run through the valleys, but certain ski areas also have special high-altitude trails with guaranteed snow or special Nordic skiing parks. If you’d like to go cross-country skiing on your winter holidays, it pays to choose a region which always has open trails. On this page you’ll find everything you need to know about planning a cross-country skiing holiday. From cross-country skiing equipment to the best cross-country skiing destinations, here is a full overview of this Nordic sport.
- Cross-country skiing in Austria
- Cross-country skiing in Germany
- Cross-country skiing in Italy
- Cross-country skiing in Switzerland
- Cross-country skiing in France
- Clothing and equipment
- Planning your cross-country skiing trip
Austria is full of wonderful cross-country skiing destinations: Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Steiermark, Salzburg and Carinthia spring to mind, among others. Many places have opted to specialise in cross-country skiing, and these are the best destinations for a cross-country skiing holiday. At these ski areas you’ll often find floodlit night trails, special facilities and various cross-country skiing events.
Germany has outstanding cross-country skiing. From Sauerland to the forests of Bavaria, this is one of Europe’s best destinations for cross-country skiing. The Black Forest alone has 700km of prepared routes! Germany’s trails are generally easier than the trails you’ll find in the Alps, with less of a change in altitude. Just remember to check the snow report before you go cross-country skiing in one of the lower-altitude German ski areas, because snow cover can be unreliable here.
Italy is a picturesque cross-country skiing destination. Most of the trails are located higher up in the mountains, which means you’ll usually be skiing with incredible views of the Dolomites! Here you’ll also find the Dolomiti Nordicski, the largest cross-country skiing region in Europe with 1300km of trails spread over 12 ski areas. Beginners, don’t be intimidated by the high-altitude trails: places like the Seiser Alm offer plateaus with routes that are less challenging.
Switzerland boasts an astounding 5000km of cross-country skiing trails, with something for every level. From high-altitude trails with guaranteed snow, to relaxing routes through the Jura, everyone is sure to find a fun challenge in Switzerland. Experienced cross-country skiers, don’t miss the chance to take part in the Engadin Ski Marathon. This annual event sees more than 10 000 people take part in a 42km cross-country skiing race.
Cross-country skiing hasn’t caught on as much in France, and there are less destinations that specialise in cross-country skiing. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have a nice cross-country skiing holiday in France, just that you’ll need to make a bit more effort to inform yourself before going. Most of the ski resorts that offer cross-country skiing trails are located at lower altitudes, such as the Vogezen or the Jura. Look for a ski resort with an “Espace Nordique”.
1: Espace Nordique Les Guibertes, Serre Chevalier
2: Espace Nordique Val-des-Prés/Les Alberts, Montgenèvre
3: Manchet (6.5km), Val d’Isère
4: Bouc Blanc (5km), Courchevel
5: Col de Pierre Carrée (at 1844m!), Flaine
Cross-country skiing can be divided into two main styles: classic and skate. Both have several different styles, but the main difference between classic and skate cross-country skiing is that classic cross-country skiing is done in a track, while skate cross-country skiing is done on a regular trail, with the skis pointing outwards in a V-shape. Most people agree that the classic style is more approachable for beginners.
Trying out cross-country skiing is fairly easy. It doesn’t require much in terms of specialised gear – just cross-country skis, boots and poles – and you can rent these at the ski resort before deciding if you want to invest in your own.
Cross-country skiing is relatively easy to pick up and as such it’s suitable for a wide range of people. That being said, there are a few exercises you can, and should, work on at home in order to be well-prepared for your cross-country skiing trip. The first order of business is getting in shape – you may want to try these 5 exercises – and working on your balance and coordination. Hiking, cycling and rollerblading are good ways to prepare yourself for cross-country skiing. However, even if your fitness isn’t at its highest point, the nice part about cross-country skiing is that almost anyone can do it, from kids to grandparents. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling a difficult trail right off the bat, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a trail that’s not as steep or not as high up.
Cross-country skiing, boring? No way! Talk to almost anyone who’s tried it once and you’ll notice that they’ve become an instant convert. No lift queues, no expensive ski passes, no crowded slopes: cross-country skiing lets you enjoy nature at your own pace, with peace and quiet all around except for the rustling of animals in the trees and the swooshing sound of your skis gliding over the snow. It’s a solid workout with minimal risk of injury in a beautiful setting. There’s no need to wear uncomfortable ski boots or a helmet, and you can even bring your dog along with you!
2. No lift queues
3. Get back to nature
4. Affordable winter sports activity
5. Little risk of injury
The tiny ski resort of Mieming has done away with lifts and is focusing all its energies on more sustainable sports like cross-country skiing.
Cross-country skiing has a reputation for being a lamer cousin to downhill skiing. Here are 10 videos that prove you can have a laugh with cross-country skiing too!