Nordic Skiing: the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Rugbrød

During the dark and cold winter months, there comes an insatiable need for Danes, and Scandinavians as a whole, to seek nature and light. We do not see cold winter conditions as prohibitive, but rather an opportunity to explore nature and to find comfort from the mundane facets of life in quiet snow-blanketed stillness. No activity lends itself as well to midwinter than cross-country skiing (also known as XC skiing or Nordic skiing). It may come as a surprise that Danes are some of the most passionate people about cross-country skiing, frequenting Danish ski clubs and ski resorts in Sweden and Norway to the tune of 600,000 annually. Denmark’s geography is actually ideal for cross-country skiing since it is quite flat. No big hills to contend with here. According to the 2010 official statistics for Denmark, 40 percent of Danes consider themselves skiers.

The cross-country skiing tradition is rooted in Scandinavia and can be traced back thousands of years. In fact, the oldest ski in existence was found in a Scandinavian bog dating between 4500 and 2500 B.C. Denmark has close ties with the sport of cross-country skiing. You see, Denmark ruled much of Scandinavia at one time, and Denmark’s rule was not always welcome. A Swede by the name of Gustav Vasa, later crowned King Vasa, fought for Swedish sovereignty against Denmark and successfully made a cross-country ski trek from Sälen to Mora to get help building forces against Danish King Christian II. This historic trek has become memorialized in Sweden by an annual cross-country ski marathon competition called the Vasaloppet. It is the oldest, the most attended in terms of participants (more than 60,000 participants are registered for 2014), and the longest cross-country ski race in the world at 90 kilometers in length. We can thank Denmark for inspiring this world-renowned competition and we’re happy to say the circumstances are now more far more congenial than they were in 1520 during Gustav’s trek. Besides the thousands of Danes that participate in the Vasaloppet, Danish Crown Prince Frederick trains for and competes in cross-country ski events, racing the Vasaloppet in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Are you ready to plan your Danish ski trip yet? Rold Skov (Rold Forest), just south of Aalborg, is a popular Danish destination for cross country skiing. For the latest news and tips on skiing in Denmark, Danmarks Skiforbund (Danish Ski Association, in Danish) is a great resource for the best places for your Danish ski tour. If you can’t make it to Denmark just yet, check out the Cross Country Ski Areas Association for all the places that you can enjoy cross-country skiing in the Unites States and Canada.

XC SKIINGWhat is so great about cross-country skiing, you ask? We say, what isn’t great about it?! It is completely accessible regardless of age or athletic ability. It provides a complete whole-body work out and is the most efficient at burning calories more than any other form of exercise. It’s safer than downhill skiing or snowboarding. The clothing is less bulky and more attractive than for other snow sports. It is great for recreational enthusiasts and athletes alike. It is tradition.

photoYou may not live in Denmark, but like Danes, don’t let that stop you from trying out this winter activity. Ski season is just starting in many places and you can easily rent gear if you don’t already own it yourself. You can get started by taking lessons. Most Nordic ski centers offer lessons and rental gear, as do many outdoor stores, local parks and recreation centers, and even some ski clubs. Some lesson packages include ski gear rental and others do not, so do your homework to get what you are looking for.

Unlike downhill skiing, cross-country skis are longer and thinner and the toe of the ski boot is attached to the ski while the heel remains free. Cross-country skiers can choose to ski classic style or skate style, both of which have a different method and slightly different types of ski gear. Classic style cross-country skiing is the oldest of all forms of skiing, and easier to learn than skate skiing. Our national secretary, Ava Hansen, is an avid cross-country skier and enjoys classic style skiing the best. In addition to your ski gear and clothes, Ava recommends this handy list of items to get you started on your Danish-inspired cross-country skiing adventure.

For a one-day ski tour:

  • Waterproof/water-resistant backpack
  • Whistle
  • Space Blanket
  • Lighter
  • Extra clothes (especially dry socks, gloves, hat)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Compass
  • Mobile phone
  • Trail map
  • Food/Snacks
  • Hydration
  • Insulated thermos of glögg, hot cocoa, or tea
  • Hand warmers
  • Ski hookers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Handkerchief
  • Plastic bag for wet clothes
  • Ski wax