The Beginner’s Guide to Cross Country Skiing


The word “ski” is a Norwegian word that comes from the Old Norse word “skið” which means a stick of wood, and cross country skiing is the oldest type of skiing there is. From Norwegian roots, cross country skiing originated from needing to travel across a snow covered landscape to hunt and gather food. In the beginning, the skis were also used to help keep in social contact during the winter.

Finally, at the end of the 19th Century, cross country skiing became a sport. The first cross country ski race ever recorded took place in Norway in 1842. Cross country skiing was the sole form of skiing, besides jumping, and stayed largely popular until the end of World War II. After the War, chairlifts being built on hillsides which caused a change in focus to downhill skiing.

XC Skiier


The equipment needed for cross country skiing includes skis, boots, bindings and poles. Boots for cross country skiing are much lighter and more flexible than boots for downhill skiing. Cross country ski boots are more similar to running shoes to give users more ease for movement. Bindings also differ from those of downhill skiing by securing only the toe of the boot to the ski. Poles are a necessity for cross country skiing to help push and propel you forward. Poles should reach the height of your armpit when standing and can be made of fiberglass – lighter and cheaper – or can be made of metal – a little more expensive, but more durable.

Ski wax is also a necessary component to cross country skiing. It can be the difference between winning or losing a race or aid in making a leisurely day on the trail more enjoyable (and less strenuous). There are two general types of wax, glide wax and kick wax (also known as grip wax). Kick wax increases friction to help grip and prevent slipping on flats and when going up hills. It is applied on the sky roughly under the binding area; also known as the wax pocket or kick zone. On the contrary, glide wax decreases the friction between skis to help your ski, well, glide across the snow as you stride. Of the two, glide wax is more difficult to apply as it typically requires an additional investment in the form of both time and money -e.g. extra equipment.

nordic ski poles


Although the weather is cold, while cross country skiing you will generate a lot of heat. Because of this, it’s best to dress in layers. Keep in mind that what you wear for each layer will make a difference for your comfort while out skiing.

Your base layer should be fitted, but not so tight to make you feel constricted. Wearing a baggy base layer will cause the cold air next to your skin circulate and make you feel cold. Wool or synthetic base layers help wick moisture away from your body. Your middle layer is for warmth. We love clothing made from merino wool because it provides warmth while still being light and breathable. Your outer layer should be light and breathable. Bring along a hard, but still breathable, waterproof/windproof outer shell as well, to protect from the elements. Of course, don’t forget gloves and something for your head.


Rice Lake Skiing



Rice Lake is a great place for cross country skiing. The Tuscobia State Trail is 74 miles in length and runs from Park Falls to the Wild Rivers State Trail, just north of Rice Lake. Tuscobia Trail is open to cross country skiing and no pass is required. However, the trail is not groomed and skiers must share the space with snowmobilers.

Twenty miles north of Rice Lake is the Blue Hills Trail System. Skating and classical style skiing are accommodated and trails are available for every ability level. To use the trail you need to make a (minimum) $5.00 donation to help support the Blue Hills Trail Association.


The American Birkebeiner is back in Wisconsin this year and happening Saturday, February 20. The Norwegian race started in 1932 to commemorate bringing the son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg to safety, which occurred in 1206.

American Birkie started in 1973. 35 people participated in the first Birkie, cross country skiing from Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward to Telemark Lodge in Cable, WI. Today, the full Birkie has 10,000 participants annually, and all the weekend’s races have over 13,000 participants.

Come stay in Rice Lake this year for the Birkie, and get a free ride to the event. You will be picked up at your hotel and shuttled to the start of the race.

We hope to see you out on the trails this winter. Plan your cross country skiing vacation now.

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