Cross Country Skiing Rules

Cross Country Skiing Rules
Cross-country skiing is generally easy to learn and easy on the environment. Once you have the gear (skis, poles, boots) and proper clothing, an outing is practically free, especially if you can find a ski area nearby. Plus, cross-country skiing provides a great all-body workout. Here are some things to consider before you venture out.

Plan Ahead

Rent or buy decent gear to enhance your skiing experience, and choose a good ski-weather day, Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures owner, Porter Hammitt says. Nothing hampers an outing more than ill-fitting gear or icy conditions.
Find an experienced skier to suggest local areas to ski and where to buy/rent gear. Or ask a clerk at your local sporting shop for advice and for current snow conditions.

Dress Appropriately

Stay away from cotton. Cotton doesn't insulate properly, and it absorbs moisture. Choose fabrics that wick moisture away from your body, Recreation Manager of Missoula Parks and Recreation, Shirley Kinsey says.
Dress in layers. Choose a base layer of lightweight synthetics or fleece. Follow with a layer of wool or fleece. Wear a water-resistant shell layer (top and bottom) outermost to shed snow. You'll also need a hat, mittens or gloves, and possibly goggles or sunglasses.

Think Safety

Let someone know where you plan to ski and when you expect to return. This information is needed especially if you plan to ski alone, Kinsey says.
Remember the essentials: first aid kit, matches/lighter, flashlight, repair kit for skis, food, water, sunscreen, extra clothing/socks, map and compass. Wear a backpack to store the items and the clothing you shed as you warm up.

Groomed Trail Etiquette

Some trails are groomed with ski "grooves" (packed-down ski tracks) for skiers to follow. Hammitt advises skiers to step out of the grooves and off the trail to take a break. Yield to faster skiers. Walk along the side of the trail -- never walk without skis on the track. Check ahead if you want to take Fido along -- dogs are not allowed on some trails.

Backcountry Etiquette

Snowmobile trails are packed down and used by snowmobilers. Be careful near blind corners and listen for oncoming machines, Hammitt says. Skiers yield to snowmobiles. Be especially watchful for your dog's safety, and keep him nearby.
As your ski skills increase, you may want to venture away from designated ski/snowmobile areas. Consider going with someone who knows the area.

Learn General Techniques

Practice stopping. Use the "pizza wedge" or "snow plow" (knees bent, ankles at shoulder width, and tips of skis together) to slow yourself and stop.
Practice falling and getting up. "Fall onto your side to absorb the blow," Hammitt says. "And remember, you have an emergency break that is applied simply by sitting down."
To ski, walk in your skis. Shuffle and glide. "Let your skis do the work," Hammitt says. "On a groomed trail, I tell kids, 'Get in the groove and do the shuffle.'"

Take a Lesson

Choose an instructor who is certified with the Professional Ski Instructors of America," recommends Kinsey, a PSIA member.
To find a certified instructor in your area go to The regions of the United States are divided into nine divisions, with each region's contact information listed.

Article Written By Karen Plant

Karen Plant earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Montana, School of Journalism. Her work has been published in several newspapers, online and in the Montana Journalism Review. As a native Montanan, Plant's love for the outdoors is evident in her frequent hiking, camping and other outdoor activities.

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