Suzanne Reisler Litwin: X-Ski Etiquette

I am a cross country skiing lover! Seriously, it’s my most favourite winter sport. I have been doing it since my early 20’s. The sport has everything I need, cardio exercise, arm, leg and abs workouts, fresh air, and gliding speed. It’s also very inexpensive and requires little advance planning. Sort of all the same reasons I like running too.

The only major problem with this activity is the length of season. Cross country skiing requires natural snow. Unlike downhill skiing, where artificial snow can be made to lengthen the ski season, natural snow is needed for cross country skiing.

In Montreal Canada, where I live, the x-skiing season might start at the end of November. That’s if we get lucky with the first 6-8 inches of snow. Usually there is a thaw and the real accumulation of snow doesn’t arrive before Christmas. Once we hit January the x-ski season is in full form!

In January there is usually enough snow to have freshly groomed tracks and trails in many local and provincial parks.

Today was one of those days. It snowed all day yesterday and this morning the tracks were cut with perfect conditions for all to enjoy. Ahhhhhhhhh, 10/10 conditions to ski on. Glorious. Mild outdoor temperatures too.

In the early morning, the tracks and trails are mostly used by the advance x-skiers. You can tell who is an advance x-skier just by their clothing, ski style and etiquette.

Just like any other sport, x-skiing has a particular etiquette. I can best compare it to golf.

You don’t really learn golf etiquette until you play it. For example, you need to stay still and quiet when someone is putting. You don’t make loud noises when someone is driving the ball and you do not touch someone else’s ball! Those are just a few specific golf etiquettes to follow.

Cross country skiing also has specific etiquettes to follow. Problem is, unless you are

an intermediate or advanced x-skier, you probably don’t know them. I will help you to learn:

Basic X-Skiing Etiquette

  1. Do not walk on the cross country ski tracks! Many people think the tracks are made as a walking path. The tracks are specifically created for the x-skiers. The x-ski season is only 12-14 weeks long. Sometimes a week shorter and sometimes a week longer. Freshly groomed tracks are a dream for the x-skiers. Also, people can walk anywhere they like, whereas x-skiers can only ski in the tracks. So please do not walk on the x-ski tracks!
  2. There are usually 2 sets of tracks. The right side is the common ski lane and the left side is the passing lane. The rules of the road apply to the x-ski tracks.
  3. If you need to stop for any reason, please step out of the tracks to free it for other skiers behind you. If you can’t step out of the tracks, don’t worry as the next skier will probably use the passing lane.
  4. Keep a comfortable distance between you and the next skier. Nothing is more annoying than a skier coming too close to your skies or riding over them. Keep a healthy 6-8 metres distance between you and the next skier. This is a curtesy. Today a skier was coming up too close to me. So I stepped out of the tracks and let them pass me.
  5. Never pass a skier on a downhill! This is a HUGE No, No! Unless you are in a race, there is no reason to be passing someone on a downhill. Unlike downhill skiing, x-skis do not have edges. Control on a downhill is done by bracing your body’s core and engaging your legs for balance. This takes skill and concentration. Usually at the top of every downhill slope you will see x-skiers waiting. Each skier needs to take their time to totally complete the downhill slope and beyond towards the end. No other skiers should be on the slope except for the skier completing it. This takes time and patience. If you do not have both, don’t do the sport.Note: Today, I was slowing completing a slope when a younger novice x-skier was flying down the slope next to me. He nearly knocked into me as he didn’t have any control. I got out of the way for him. He continued his reckless ski. If he had known the etiquette, he would have never started his slope approach before; I had completed and cleared mine.His friend followed him soon after, both flying down the slopes and endangering all the other x-skiers. They were stringently informed by another expert to learn the rules of the tracks or get off of them.
  6. Politeness is always encouraged. If you are a slow skier, and the passing lane is full, occasionally step out of your tracks for the faster skiers to pass you.
  7. Keep quiet on the tracks. Please no loud music and cell phone talking. Cross country skiing is meditative and peaceful as being one with nature. Please keep the environment clean from loud noises. You can always talk after the ski.
  8. Pick up your garbage along the way. People dump their water bottles and snack wraps everywhere. The forest is not your garbage bin. Take your garbage with you please.
  9. Senior people are usually the most advance skiers, always yield to them. They get the right of way and they are fabulously inspiring!
  10. Unless it is an emergency, never stop in middle of a downhill, quickly clear the way for others as they may not see you.

Those are just some of the most important etiquette lessons of cross country skiing.

If you are curious about x-skiing and you want to try it. Here are some useful tips to get you going.

Suzanne Reisler Litwin: X-Ski Etiquette

Tips to become a better X-Skier

  1. Always bend your knees and lean forward. Cross country skiing is not like walking upright. Your knees should always be slightly bent forward. Standing straight upward will cause you to lose your balance. Very important to keep your knees bent and lean forward at all times.
  2. Climbing uphill requires the body to bend forward and move your body closer to the surface. If you stand up straight on a climb, you will lose your balance and fall backwards.
  3. When approaching a downhill, bend your knees, crouch forward and engage your core. It is your engaged core which will help you keep your balance. As a dancer who spins, it’s their engaged core which keeps them intact and balanced.
  4. X-Skiing is a workout! So wear layers of clothing, not bulky jackets and pants. Dress similar to winter running layers.
  5. If you have never x-skied before stay on the beginner flats. No climbing and downhill slopes for you. It is important to not get injured on your first attempt.
  6. X-skiing is like swimming, it takes practice to master the full body movement skill. Most of your body is moving during the activity so co-ordination is needed, like swimming.
  7. Don’t forget to pause and take in all the beautiful scenery. Some x-skiers zoom through the tracks to get a great full body work out. For me, part of the activity is the incredible appreciation for the stunning environment. Take moments to appreciate what’s around you.
  8. If your body is really sore after a x-ski, remind yourself it’s a full body activity and maybe your body is not used to it. The next x-ski will be easier, I promise you this!
  9. 9-skiing requires a tremendous amount of abdominal and core work to maintain your balance. You abs will thank you!
  10. Take in big deep breaths and enjoy the glory.

Remember cross country skiing can be enjoyed throughout your whole life time. You can go as fast or slow as you wish. Not many reservations are required and the price to ski is 0 - 30$, depending on where you go.

For me, I pay approx. $4 to park and the 8 tracks and trails are unlimited. Luckily, this is 15 minutes away from my home. My skies stay in my car from mid-December to mid-March. I always hope for more weeks once the sun becomes stronger and the rains begin.

I encourage everyone to give it a try. You can’t imagine the peace and tranquility which awaits you!

Your body and mind will thank you.

-- Suzanne Reisler Litwin

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