The Joys of Nordic Skiing

By on December 1, 2011

By Alice Burron –

There is something unique about Nordic skiing that cannot be found in most other sports. It’s the combination of the freedom and joy felt from the rush of air past your face, the sparkling pristine snow, beautiful vistas, and the feeling of your muscles powering you along in a meditative rhythm.

And, there is no other activity that quite compares to Nordic skiing for a whole-body winter workout that also recharges you mentally like a strong battery. Not only does this low-impact cardiovascular sport give you an amazing workout, it’s just plain enjoyable. And…it’s much less expensive than its cousin down-hill skiing.

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Nordic skiing works all of the main muscle groups, along with the core muscles involved with balance, the upper body from polling, and, of course, the heart and lungs. You can expect to burn anywhere from 500 to up to 800 calories per hour, depending on your intensity level—about the same as running.

Even though Nordic skiing is a fantastic workout, it is easy on the joints, which makes it a great choice for those who want to avoid high impact activities.

There are several Nordic skiing options to choose from that vary in skiing styles, terrain and equipment. You may find yourself inclined to stay with one style, or do all types for variety.

Ski Touring: When you feel like getting away, this might just be the type of skiing for you. Head to the backcountry and follow trails, or break in your own trail. Because of the difficulty of breaking a trail, and the varied terrain, it is great for challenging your balance which burns more calories than skiing on flat surfaces. It also allows you to literally ‘get away from it all’—you may not see anyone else during your whole skiing trip (so be sure to tell people where you are going).

Groomed Trail Skiing: Using groomed trails is a great way to get your ski legs back if you’ve been away for a while, and it also allows you to focus on form and speed. Groomed trails usually have a flat groomed area on one side for skate skiing, and two inset tracks on the side for classic-style skiing.

  • Skate skiing (also known as Freestyle skiing) involves using the inner edges of the ski to push off and glide (much like ice skating). The equipment used is also slightly different than Classic equipment; typically skis are shorter and stiffer, poles are longer, and boots are taller and stiffer.
  • Classic skiing (also known as Traditional skiing) uses a straight ahead glide, often on two-track grooves, to help guide the skis and keep them in line. Classic skis are a little longer and a little less stiff than Skate skis, and the boots are more like shoes.

To locate groomed trails, ask staff at any store that sells Nordic skis to point you in the right direction. If you are going out for your first ski adventure, you may want to consider starting at a Nordic center, where Nordic skiing experts are happy to give you guidance, start you on the appropriate trails, and they may even have equipment for you to rent and perhaps try out before you buy.

Nordic skiing is a great way to keep your winter workouts interesting while also benefiting your body and mind! Try it out this winter, and don’t forget the hot chocolate!


Alice Burron earned a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She is an affiliate spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and is an ACE certified personal trainer and certified Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant. Her first book, Four Weeks to Fabulous, is aimed at helping the busy person lose weight using sound nutrition, weight control and exercise principles that are proven successful. Visit her on her website at

About Alice Burron

Alice Burron, one of the co-authors of the “Stress As Trigger, Your Body As Target” book, is a life-long student of health and wellness. Her experience includes worksite wellness, wellness coaching, personal training, writing, speaking and community wellness initiatives. She can be contacted at [email protected] The book can be purchased at


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The Joys of Nordic Skiing