What is Nordic Skiing?

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While downhill skiing is the faster and more popular sport of the two, Nordic skiing is a fun and clean form of exercise. Even in major cities, you’ll find local groups of these skiers taking to the streets in the winter months.

While many people use the terms "Nordic skiing" and "cross-country skiing" interchangeably, there is a difference. Cross-country skiing takes place on groomed terrain, where there are parallel lines that act as a guide for your skis. Nordic skiing, on the other hand, refers to any form of skiing that takes place on ungroomed, off-piste terrain on less steep mountains than cross-country skiing.

A History of Nordic Skiing

The word “Nordic” refers to the northern regions and the Nordics in Europe and the Americas.

Cross-country skiing has been around for centuries. Records of Nordic skiing date back to 11th-century Norway, where, supposedly, it was invented by farmers that hauled wood to market over frozen lakes. In the 1200s, Norwegian men used skis during times of warfare. Similarly, from the 15th to 17th centuries, skis were used as a means of military transportation in various European countries. In the mid-1800s, Nordic skiing became a type of recreational activity, in addition to being a means of transport.

A century ago, cross-country skiing was a fringe sport only practiced by the Scandinavians. But it was gaining popularity. France hosted the first cross-country skiing events at the Winter Olympics in 1924 for men, while women first competed in 1952 in Oslo. Norway continues to produce some of the top skiers of today.

Cross-country skiing was not added to the Winter Paralympics until 1976 in Sweden.

The first appearance of the Paralympic Nordic skiing was at the 1988 Winter Paralympic Games, where athletes raced on a combination of both classic and freestyle techniques. Shorter and faster tracks were created for Paralympic Nordic skiing to accommodate hand-cycles.

Nordic Skiing Today

Nordic skiing takes place on undulating hills, typically from mid-November to mid-March. The sport has three main disciplines: cross-country, telemark, and alpine touring.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) oversees the international competitions and publishes guidelines and rules for the different disciplines.

Nordic skiing as an Olympic sport recognizes cross-country skiing, ski jumping, biathlon, and Nordic-combined. The FIS Nordic World Championships hosts these four disciplines, as well as Telemark skiing, every second year.

A biathlon event encompasses rifle shooting and cross-country skiing. Nordic-combined skiing entails competing as a cross-country skier and a ski jumper. Telemark skiing is a combination of Nordic and Alpine skiing.

For a detailed description of these sports, see Nordic VS Cross-Country Skiing on NorwiSki.

Final Thoughts

Skiing has grown from a utilitarian activity to a sport loved by the masses, with more than 135 million skiers from around the globe. Nordic skiing is one of the most popular forms of skiing, with its own sub-disciplines recognized as Olympic and Paralympic games. Its popularity can be seen in the millions of viewers who are passionate about skiing. The FIS Cross-Country World Cup in 2020 drew in 260 million viewers from Sweden alone!

Nordic skiing is still gaining popularity by skiers and viewers alike. One thing is for certain: skiing will never be a dying sport.