Cross-country skiing has a bad rap. Guys seem to think it’s a sport “for girls.” Skiers and snowboarders tend to dismiss it for its lack of thrill and some people yet think Nordic skiing is just plain dorky.
But fellow athletes, fitness junkies and snow-lovers alike would have you think differently about learning how to cross-country ski.
What Nordic skiing may lack in adrenalin rush, it makes up for tenfold in endorphins and a slew of other benefits. It’s one of the best ways to beef up your winter workout.
1. It’s Easy to Pick Up
Learning to cross-country ski is, literally, practically a walk in the park. Yes, it does require balance and stamina, but if you’re a runner or athlete and you’re fit, you’ll be able to master the feel of it after just a few glides. (You can choose from two different styles: classic or freestyle).
You’ve always got the option of taking a lesson or two to get the basics but, with an experienced friend to show you the ropes or the right intuition, lessons aren’t necessary.
Plus, without lift lines, getting on and off the chairlift, waiting to purchase your ticket, it’s a more or less a hassle-free sport.
2. It’s Cheap
If you want your own skis, then that’s the only expense that will really make a dent in your checking account—aside from winter gear (cold weather running clothes work fine with some sort of waterproof jacket. No need for high-tech, spendy ski wear.)
Renting cross-country skis can cost as little as $20 a day. As far as winter sports go, it’s a bargain.
3. It’ll Work You
You can get as much or as little of a challenge out of your cross-country ski session as you’re up for on any given day. You can make it as easy as a quick, mellow glide through the park or you can pick some more difficult terrain and make it the most intense workout you’ve had in months.
It’s virtually no-impact with lots of cardio vascular benefits since it works all of your big muscle groups. Plus, it functions as strength training, especially for your hips, quads, core and shoulders.
For runners, the activity will increase your aerobic capacity and you’ll maintain a high level of fitness all winter.
4. You Can Do It Anywhere It Snows
You can find a plethora of Nordic ski areas located in the Eastern and Western United States as well as hiking trails that allow for cross-country skiing.
But what’s even more convenient, after a fresh blanket of snow, you can also set out into any park, field, country road or golf course.
5. The Winterscape
Even if the thought of fall ending starts you grumbling as early as October, there’s no denying that the beauty of a snow-blanketed expanse is a vision unlike many others.
6. You Can Take Your Dog With You
If you’re heading out to a trailhead or designated ski area, find out the rules for dog owners. But otherwise, the same general rules apply to taking Rex on a good, long trail run. Cross-country skiing with your dog is great exercise for you both.
7. It Helps You Zen Out
Much like running, cross country skiing can put you in that meditative state. The scenery, the alone time—it all adds up to a peaceful stretch of self-reflection.
8. The Hot Beverage Afterwards
Whether you opt for a hot chocolate, hot toddy or mulled wine, sitting by a fire with that warm beverage never feels better than after a hard, winter workout.
Christina Scannapiego is the Outdoors editor for Active.com. She loves yoga and is fanatical about getting her endorphins pumping outside.