Cross country skiing can feel awkward at first, especially if you are only acquainted with downhill alpine style skis. 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. Cross country skiing also provides a great all-body workout. Remember that it takes time and patience to gain skill. Stick with it, and the magical, peaceful feeling of gliding slowly through the snow on cross country skis will have you hooked for life.
Learn from a Pro
Take a lesson your first time out on cross country skis. Find a reputable cross country center by contacting downhill ski resorts in your area and asking if they know of any cross country ski instruction centers with certified instructors. Sign up for a group clinic or a half-hour private lesson. It will save you hours of frustration trying to learn on your own or worse yet, years of unlearning the wrong habits.
Borrow Your Skis
Rent skis when you first begin cross country skiing. Most cross country centers will offer rentals or you can check out deals at local outdoor stores. Before you buy, try out at least three different kinds of cross country skis: traditional skis, skate skis and backcountry skis. Decide which style you like before you commit to a purchase.
Start with Tradition
There are two styles of cross country skiing: traditional and skate skiing. In the traditional skiing technique, called the diagonal stride, your skis are pointed straight forward and it is not necessary for your feet to leave the ground. In skate skiing, your skis are pointed outward, away from each other, and it is essential to lift your foot at the back of every step. The traditional technique is a better beginner method because it is easier to learn.
Ditch the Poles
You don't need to start out using your poles. Put the poles aside until you figure out what to do with your feet. Once you are comfortable on your skis, add the poles into the mix.
Expect to Fall
Learn how to fall correctly and get up gracefully before necessity teaches you. When falling, spread the impact over as much of your body as possible by rolling into your fall. When getting up, angle your skis perpendicular to the slope you are on and center your weight while you are still low to the ground.
Use a Course
While your ultimate goal with cross country skiing may be back-country adventure, start the learning process on a cross country course. The groomed, rated trails and tracks make learning much easier for beginners.