Outbound Collective logo

Why You Should Try Cross-Country Skiing This Winter

You don't have to be stuck in the gym this winter to maintain your fitness! Blast calories, tone muscles, and experience the quiet beauty of winter by putting some skinny skis beneath your feet!

By: Michelle Olmstead + Save to a List


Cross-Country skiing torches more calories per hour than almost any other sport, including running and cycling (hundreds to thousands depending on intensity) and it is a full-body workout.  Almost every major muscle group is involved, and it's especially good for the core.  In addition, it improves balance, stability, power, and coordination.  This activity generates a lot of heat, so dressing in layers is essential, starting with a wicking base layer.  Often times you will find the only other thing you need is a vest to insulate your core, a hat and a pair of gloves.  Of course it is all dependent on how fast you are moving, the temperature, wind, and how often you stop so be prepared for conditions.  

Enjoying Nature in Winter

Whether you are on back country skis breaking trail, or at a Nordic center with groomed tracks, cross-country skiing allows you to experience a different, quieter, and less hurried nature experience than hiking in the busy Summer or Fall seasons.  Finding yourself alone among big snow-covered pines, listening to the birds, and breathing in the crisp Winter air is a priceless experience.  

It's as Easy or as Hard as You Want it to be!

The beauty of this sport is that it's intensity is totally up to you!  Classic technique, which uses a walking motion, and is performed in groomed tracks, is the easiest to learn.  It's all about balance and once you get it, you can shuffle along at a leisurely pace or kick it into gear for a killer workout.  Back country skis made for breaking trail through the forest use a similar motion.  Freestyle or skate technique uses a motion much like ice skating.  It takes longer to learn and must be performed on a firm, groomed surface, but there is no better workout known to man!  In all disciplines, boots are attached to the bindings at the toe only, leaving the heal free for assistance with climbing hills.  

It's a lot Less Expensive than Traditional Downhill Skiing.

Like any sport, top end equipment will cost you, but when you are just starting out, XC equipment can be found for a significantly lower cost than downhill equipment, with passes to Nordic centers almost a steal compared to the high cost of the resorts.  Of course, breaking trail with your back country skis is free!  

It is Great for Family Fun and Bonding.

Getting kids to stay active in the Winter can sometimes be a challenge.  Cross-country skiing is a great family activity to get them off the couch and away from their phones!  For their first time, I would suggest a lesson with an instructor at a Nordic center.  They will fall a lot in the beginning, and it's best to have someone who knows what they are doing and can make it fun so they don't give up.  Once they get it, you probably won't be able to keep up with them!  This is also an activity they can keep doing for a lifetime, as there is much less impact to the joints than downhill skiing.   


A little bonus:  You burn so many calories while cross-country skiing that it will allow you to enjoy that post-workout beer and cheeseburger without the guilt! 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Overnighter on the Sonoma Coast

Benjamin Canevari

Journey to Wyoming’s premier snowmobiling destination: Togwotee Mountain Lodge

Samuel Brockway

Hiking in comfort: a review of Danner Mountain 600 Evo boots

Meghan White

A peek through God's window

Heather Arnold

Big Bend Bound: Crafting Your 3-Day Adventure

Erin Newman-Mitchell