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Introduction to Cross-Country (Nordic) Skiing

adapted from materials developed by Spokane Parks and Recreation

Cross-country skiing (also known as Nordic skiing) has been described as the best land-based aerobic and conditioning exercise available. It’s also a great way to enjoy nature and make the most of winter instead of hiding indoors for four months! It’s a great activity to share with family or friends, or just to get away from the busy-ness of life.


Two Types

Classic style is the traditional form that usually comes to mind when we think of cross-country skiing. Skis face forward, parallel to each other, and the legs and arms move in a stride that produces a smooth forward motion. Classic skiing is easier to learn in the beginning, and can be done at a relaxed pace. It is also a skill that can be developed for years.


Skate skiing involves moving the skis in an open V formation, pushing off to the side on one ski while also pushing off with both poles, then gliding on that ski while pushing off with the other. Skate skiing requires wide groomed trails. Skate skiing requires athleticism regardless of how intensely it is approached.

A video introduction to classic and skate styles is at the bottom of this page.


Skiing on Mt. Spokane

In the Spokane region, the majority of cross-country skiing is done at the Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park. Learn more here.


Lesson Programs

Spokane Nordic Ski Association and Spokane Parks and Recreation provide a number of lesson programs at Mt. Spokane. Learn more here.

What to Bring


Cross-country skis, boots and poles are available for rent or sale at area winter fitness stores including Fitness Fanatics, Mountain Gear and REI. Beginner lessons through Spokane Parks and Recreation include skis, boots and poles if requested during registration.

On the Trail:
Bring a quart (or more) of water, snacks, sunscreen, lip balm, and extra clothes and gloves, plus a day/fanny pack to carry them.



The clothing suggested below is geared toward the relaxed skier. If you tend to push yourself a little harder on the trail, you may want to move toward slightly lighter clothing, but keep in mind that winter in the mountains can mean quickly-changing conditions.

  • Socks: Synthetic or wool. An extra pair may be good idea.

  • Long Underwear: Tops and bottoms are recommended. They should be made of polypropylene, Capilene, polyester, nylon or wool. Avoid cotton.

  • Insulation Layer: A wool sweater-vest, fleece or pile jacket makes a great insulation layer for times when you are inactive or cold.

  • Pants: Synthetic, wind/rain pants, exercise tights, knickers or wool pants are all great options. *Avoid cotton, especially jeans.

  • Jacket: Wind-resistant, water-resistant or even better, rainproof.

  • Hat: Required! Much of your body heat escapes through your head. A hat that covers your ears will be the most effective in conserving body heat.

  • Gloves or mittens: Bring an extra pair in case your hands get wet.

  • Optional - Softshell: Softshell jackets and pants combine a shell layer with a light micro-fleece insulation layer. Keep in mind that these hybrids work best during more intense aerobic exercise. If you are just beginning to ski, or prefer to ski slowly, you may not generate enough body heat to warm up the softshell jacket effectively.

  • Extra Clothing: It’s hard to beat the wonderful feeling of clean, warm and dry shoes, socks, hat and shirt on the drive back home.

Here's a short video showing the basics elements of classic and skate skiing:

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