Everything you need to get started in cross-country skiing thanks to INOVIK by Decathlon

Discover cross-country skiing

Crosscountry skiing is the oldest discipline in skiing.
Nordic skiing has been able to renew itself over the seasons thanks to equipment and practices evolution.
More and more people are interested in this authentic, ecological and sporting practice, which is becoming more and more trendy.
We tell you all about the origins of cross-country skiing, its benefits, the difference between classic cross-country skiing and skating and how to equip yourself to get started.

Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy snow-covered landscapes, whatever your fitness level. On or off-piste, on hilly terrain, children and adults alike will find cross-country skiing a fun, all-round outdoor activity.

1 / What is cross-country skiing?

The origins of cross-country skiing

Born in the Nordic countries in ancient times, cross-country skiing is the oldest ski discipline. Competition saw a sport that started out as a way of getting around become a fun sports discipline and an Olympic event for the first time at the Chamonix Olympics of 1924. It experienced a revolution with the growth of the freestyle practice (skating) and the evolution of the equipment to become a very popular activity from the end of the 19th century.

The practice
Cross-country skiing is practised on groomed trails specifically designed for this practice, and also off-piste on terrain of varying hilliness. As in downhill skiing, the difficulty of the slopes is distinguished by a colour rating, from green, the easiest, to black, the most difficult, through blue and red.
Cross-country skiing is practised according to several techniques which present themselves as disciplines: on piste, we can spot classic cross-country skiing, practised using the diagonal stride technique, and skating, which looks like a skater's motion. Off the pistes, we can spot Nordic cruising which consists of walking off the pistes while remaining close to them, and back country, which allows you to get further away and for longer, similar to ski touring.
In ski resorts nowadays you'll find play spaces where you can easily get started, spaces suitable for toddlers, and cross-country ski instructors who will support you as you first start out or as you progress. France has some of the most beautiful Nordic ski areas where it is possible to practise cross-country skiing in all its forms.

2 / The rules of cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is an activity that allows great freedom: no lifts, equipment that enhances freedom of movement. You can practise it wherever you want, provided you have snow and the right equipment and you respect the safety rules.

On the slopes, on the other hand, everyone has their own space which must be respected by everyone: tracks for classic skiing on the right, the groomed part for skating on the left. And just like on the road, the pistes are laid out to follow one direction and you can't go in the wrong direction!

Some courtesy is also required: when a fast skier comes up behind, move aside to let them pass. Conversely, if you want to overtake someone and the piste is narrow or the skier is working hard to ascend, show patience before overtaking and take the opportunity to admire the landscape.

Discover cross-country skiing

Appropriate and well prepared equipment

Alternative cross country skiing, skating, Nordic cruising or back country, each discipline has its own equipment to adapt to the snow and terrain conditions, and maximum enjoyment!

To be prepared, your equipment must be properly adjusted (poles, bindings, shoes) and your skis properly waxed. Waxing will be different depending on the snow conditions and the weather, otherwise it will stick or glide too much...

Activity adapted to what you want and what you are capable of

On piste or off-piste, as in downhill skiing, adapting your activity to the snow conditions, the weather and the level you are at is the best way to enjoy it safely. Not forgetting a small snack and a drink to stay in top form all day long. Professional lessons are the best guarantee of a successful and safe outing, especially off the slopes.

3 / Cross-country skiing
what are the benefits?

Cross-country skiing offers great freedom in unique spaces, combining nature, the great outdoors and intense physical effort.

Practised in the heart of the countryside, in often unspoilt landscapes, cross-country skiing can provide an opportunity to disconnect and rejuvenate yourself as you breathe in the pure mountain air, free of urban pollution.

It is an all-round sport, which requires the whole body, whatever the level. It is therefore excellent for maintaining or improving your fitness. If you're someone who feels the cold, you'll find you quickly warm up when you're cross-country skiing!

The practice of cross-country skiing also requires a lot of balance, and it works your proprioception, that is to say the capacity of the body to properly position itself in a natural way. This concept is important for improving posture, effectiveness and preventing injuries.

Cross-country skiing – is it for you?

Cross-country skiing is a sport accessible to all, suitable for all ages from 4 up and all fitness levels.

Although the basics are easily acquired, especially in classic cross-country skiing, we advise you to have some lessons to master the movement and get even more enjoyment from it. Once you have learned the basics, you will be able to practise freely.

The different techniques and modes of practice correspond to different profiles.


Do you want to relax in the countryside, practising a sport similar to walking, which allows for different levels of effort? Walking mode, which is practised in classic cross-country skiing, is suitable for beginners and relaxed skiers, because of its gentle side and being accessible to all. In these conditions cross-country skiing is the ideal sport to practise with family, friends or simply at one with yourself.


Do you want to push yourself and seek the excitement of gliding and speed? Already a practising sportsman or looking to gradually increase your fitness, a more technical mode of cross-country skiing is the one for you. It works the cardiovascular system, muscles, psychomotricity and coordination. You can opt for classic cross-country skiing or skating, after a few lessons to work on your technique as mush as you need.

5 : Equipment needed for cross-country skiing

The choice of equipment will depend on whether you practise classic or skate cross-country skiing. Cross-country skiing equipment is lightweight and comfortable! Long, narrow and light, the skis are only fixed to the front of the foot and differ according to the practice.

5 / Equipment needed for cross-country skiing

The choice of equipment will depend on whether you practise classic or skate cross-country skiing. Cross-country skiing equipment is lightweight and comfortable! Long, narrow and light, the skis are only fixed to the front of the foot and differ according to the practice.

  • Discover cross-country skiing clasic


    Cross-country skis are long, light and narrow.
    They are equipped with a binding that leaves the heel free at all times whether it is on the ascent or the descent.
    In classic: The skis are equipped with a base that provides a perfect grip to prevent going backwards and preventing braking when gliding forward. Several grip systems are employed for classic cross-country skiing: scales, skins or grip wax.

    In skating: Skis for skating are shorter than classic skis and their base does not have a grip area. It is completely smooth and needs to be waxed regularly for better gliding.

  • Discover cross-country skiing

    Ski boots

    Cross-country ski boots are light and comfortable.

    In classic: the shoes used have a mid-height upper and a soft sole to benefit from a good extension of the foot, which enables effective propulsion.

    In skating: the shoes used have a higher upper and collar at the level ankle to better support the ankle.



    Cross-country ski poles are much longer than alpine ski poles, since their role is to push, support and balance.

    There are no specific poles for classic cross-country skiing or skating as there are skis and boots.

    However, the choice of the size of the ski poles differs according to the practice.

    In classic:
    Skier size * 0.83 = Ski pole size

    In skating:
    Skier size * 0.89 = Ski pole size

6 / Clothing for cross-country skiing

  • Discover cross-country skiing


    First you have to choose clothing adapted to cross-country skiing: close to the body and stretchy, for freedom of movement, in fabrics that are sufficiently warm for the winter conditions and most of all breathable.

    Then, you need to adjust your outfit to the intensity of your practice and the weather conditions.


    Protection accessory

    Choose specific protective accessories to protect yourself from external elements,: light headband, hat, thin and breathable gloves for comfortable contact with the pole.

    Remember, sunglasses are essential for cross-country skiing, to protect you from the glare even when there is no sun. Choose the ones adapted to the practice of winter sports, if possible with changeable lenses according to the weather.

  • Discover cross-country skiing


    Cross-country skiing is an endurance sport, it is strongly recommended that you keep a water bottle with you to stay hydrated during your excursions. The water bottle holder is practical as it leaves you freedom of movement and provides easy access to your water bottle

Want to get away from it all and enjoy nature? Tempted by the adventure of a snowy mountain hike this winter? Please come and tell us all about your experience with classic or skate skiing, both on the piste and off-piste!

Discover cross-country skiing


Inovik communication team

Future cross-country skier, nature lover who loves to share, adventurer in snowy valleys, and high intensity and contemplative hiker.

If you have questions or suggestions, leave us a comment !