Five minutes in and my lungs are tapped. I have to stop to catch my breath. I’m so focused on the snow a few feet ahead on the trail that I can scarcely enjoy the amazing views. That was me learning to skate ski almost ten years ago, before I was even a runner.
Skate skiing is a form of cross-country skiing that utilizes a skating motion rather than a parallel striding motion (think: ice skating on 6-foot long skinny skis). It generally requires groomed trails, and is therefore best practiced within a cross-country ski center. The skating motion allows you to climb up hills and fly on flats all while giving your balance, core and glute muscles a major workout. And, yeah, you get to ski down those hills, too.
Now that I am as much a “runner” as I am a “skier,” I especially appreciate the cross-training value of the sport. I’ve been able to maintain or perhaps increase my aerobic fitness this winter even though I have been barely running once a week.
How to get started
Find a cross-country center and investigate their learn-to-ski program. Virtually all centers have a package that includes a trail pass, rental gear and group lesson. The lesson will be worth it and is usually close to free in the package deal. Be sure to specify that you want to skate ski, rather than striding / classic ski. Classic skiing is also a great sport, but a fit runner can go directly to the fun of skating.
Clothing for cross-country skiing depends alot on the weather, but you want to dress as though you are going for a winter run. This usually means light wicking layers and a wind / water-resistant jacket. Choose light gloves and sunglasses rather than ski goggles. Take dry clothes for the drive home.
Skate skiing is a highly technique-dependent sport. Your first couple times out will probably leave you gasping for air and feeling wobbly as a newborn calf. The learning curve is quite steep, but don’t let this deter you! The rewards once you “get it” are well worth the time investment.
Where to get started
If you plan to be in or near the North Lake Tahoe / Truckee / Donner Summit Area, you have a number of world-class options for your first skate skiing experience, including:
- Tahoe Donner (Truckee, CA)
- Royal Gorge (Soda Springs, CA, off Old Hwy 40)
- Tahoe XC (Tahoe City, CA)
- Northstar (Mid-mountain)
Snowshoes are allowed at all of these areas. So if you have something left after your lesson, throw on your running snowshoes (Northstar rents running-specific snowshoes) and take advantage of that paid trail pass.
When you join the ranks of runners who cross-country ski, post on Instagram with #whenrunnersgonordic and you’ll show up here!