Winter 2005 Forward to a Friend

A deep, fresh layer of snow makes the ground new again and invites you to explore, to strike a new trail. Everything surrounding you seems crisper, reborn – the frozen air, the diamond-like sparkle of the flakes on the ground and even the sun, with its added edge of brightness. Most significant is your own solitude, heightened by the cold. Striding forward, slicing into the whiteness, you embrace the contemplative essence of winter.

Touring Centers

Many people are tempted to escape directly to the backcountry when they first get a pair of skis. We suggest that beginning skiers have their first skiing experiences, whether classical or skate, at a local touring center.

A center’s groomed trails make the sport much easier to learn and enjoy. You are far more apt to meet experienced skiers, and you also have the opportunity to learn from professional instructors. Most likely, both acquaintances and instructors will enjoy sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with a beginner. With their help, learning the basics can make each subsequent outing far more enjoyable!

Without skis, snow is something you shovel. With skis, snow is something you glide on. Snow is a cross-country skier’s delight. Mountainous slopes are unnecessary, because cross-country skiing can take place on flat land – across the country. All a skier needs is the correct equipment.

Cross-country skiing is aptly described as “hard” – difficult – because the skier has to put in effort to receive a reward. Gliding is the reward for kicking; downhill is the reward for uphill; and winning is a racer’s reward for relentless training. No matter at what level you enter the sport or what milestones you might want to reach, the reward is always worth the effort.

A Short History

Skiing evolved out of necessity, with primitive skis used for transportation as many as 4,000 years ago. What we consider a sport today was once a means to enable hunting in extremely snowy parts of the world.

Be Prepared

Cross-country skiing provides health benefits for skiers of all ages. Part of staying healthy is proper preparation, particularly in your equipment. Along with correctly fitted skis, boots and poles, skiers setting out on the trails should have:
  • Warm, layered clothing that allows adaptation to changing weather conditions and the intensity of the workout.
  • Sunglasses that will protect the eyes from strain and snow.
  • Skin protection in the form of sunscreen and lip balm – even though it’s winter, you can still burn!
  • Drinking water – you can dehydrate in the winter, too, so maintain your fluids.
  • Day pack for backcountry trips – for camping overnight in an emergency.

The first practitioners of cross-country skiing might have been the migratory Sami living near the Arctic Circle in what is now northern Norway, Sweden and Finland. Skis gave them greater mobility for hunting reindeer. It may be a little bold to say that Norway gave skiing to the world. However, the word ski is definitely from the old Norse language (from skith – a stick of wood).

Skiing competition began in Norway in the 19th century. That country’s first Holmenkollen ski festival was in 1892, in which the main focus was an event that combined cross-country skiing and ski jumping. Eight years later, the two skiing events were separated.

In 1924, cross-country skiing became an Olympic event, with a women’s cross-country added in 1952.

The 2005 Subaru American Birkebeiner

Subaru is the title sponsor for the American Birkebeiner 51-kilometer cross-country ski race for 2005, which is scheduled for Saturday, February 26.

With an inauspicious beginning in 1973 involving 34 men and one woman, this event has become an annual gathering place for enthusiasts. They congregate in the Cable-Hayward area of northern Wisconsin every February to celebrate North America’s most prestigious cross-country ski marathon. For 2005, event planners expect 6,500 adult participants, 1,600 youth skiers and more than 15,000 spectators.

Find out more about this legendary race and its intriguing history at www.birkie.com.


There are two forms of cross-country skiing – the classical (kick-and-glide, traditional, diagonal) and skate technique.

Classical is the oldest cross-country skiing technique. Gliding on skis over deep snow has been practiced for at least 4,000 years. The classical technique requires a ski with either a “waxless” (fish scale) pattern or sticky kick wax under its midsection. The skier places his or her weight on the ski, which then contacts the snow with the waxless pattern or kick wax and holds that ski stationary. The “kick” drives the skier forward onto a gliding ski. This kick-glide, kick-glide motion allows the skier to cross almost any country. Classical skiing can be done in many conditions and locations, including deep backcountry powder, packed snowmobile trails or the well-groomed parallel tracks of your local touring center. (See the “Touring Centers” sidebar.)

Driving the Factory Team

A passion for skiing drives the members of the Subaru Factory Team. Here are thoughts on skiing by team members:

“All those associated with the cross-country racing team – directors, managers, wax technicians and racers – view ski racing as something special. We have chased our dreams and put skiing at the forefront of our lives from the time when we started skiing in our backyards. Today, as we kick and glide on the finest equipment in the business, we know we’re here because we have always loved this sport.”

“We were all introduced to the sport in a different way, but we all think about skiing year round. With the oldest member of the team being only in his early 30s, this 12-member team has managed to collectively dedicate 182 years to cross-country ski racing.”

“In the early season we may be skiing on three inches of snow on a local un-groomed golf course. Soon we are hunting for snow and breaking trails in the backcountry, spooking moose. Next we are spending four hours at a time putting in a 60-kilometer over-distance workout on a repetitive 10-kilometer loop. When it becomes race season we line up trying to beat our friends and fulfill Olympic-size dreams. Come spring we are swooshing over crust and cruising in the backcountry. It is about enjoying winter to the utmost – something all of us can do with cross-country skiing!”

Learn more about the Subaru Factory Team by visiting www.subaru.com or www.enjoywinter.com.

In the late 1980s, the skate technique (also referred to as “freestyle”) swept the cross-country racing scene. As a result, many beginning racers and other cross-country skiers of that era only learned it and not the classical technique. Skate technique looks much like using ice skates. The easiest place to learn and practice skate technique is on the well-groomed trails at a cross-country touring center. Groomed trails with little or no irregularities make it easier to balance on the short, narrow skating skis. The trails provide an enjoyable experience, as do snowmobile trails or the very firm crust that is found in the high mountains of the western United States at springtime.


Many cross-country skiers are the same people who love to run, bike, swim and otherwise be active during the summer months. Rather than spend the winter wishing for warm weather, they recognize their desire to be active. Cross-country skiing is the perfect outlet.

There are a number of health benefits derived from skiing. The activity helps skiers to stay fit, burning calories and building cardiovascular endurance. The sport gives a workout to the skier’s abdominal, leg, arm, chest and back muscles. While flexibility, balance and strength are physical requirements from the start, skiers tend to enhance these attributes for better all-around fitness.

Like adherents of other sports, cross-country skiers become enthusiasts over time. By the time November comes around, they’re anxious to don their skis if they haven’t already done so. Some will go to the lengths of traveling to glaciers and other places with snow to ski during the summer months. Skiing becomes a passion, and the enthusiasts will go to extremes for more. Some even become racers, with Olympic dreams. (See the “Factory Team” sidebar.)

A special thanks to members of the Subaru Factory Team for helping to put together this article.

Miscellaneous Cross-Country Skiing Facts
  • There are no age limits to the sport – people from 2 years old to no limit in age enjoy the sport because pacing and the length of time spent on skis per session are personal decisions
  • Fields, parks, golf courses, touring centers – flat or hilly, these types of places provide excellent grounds for cross-country skiing
  • More than half of the cross-country skiers are women (52 percent, according to The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports)
  • Babies can be pulled behind parents in sleds called “pulks”
  • The largest North American cross-country ski marathon is the American Birkebeiner, which takes place annually in northern Wisconsin