Cross-country Skiing - Torino 2006, XX Winter Olympic Games

Cross-country skiing (XC skiing) is a competitive winter sport popular in many countries with large snowfields, primarily in Europe and Canada, and as a sport is part of the Nordic skiing family, which also includes ski jumping, and a combination sport of cross-country and skijumping called Nordic combined. Today, there are several types of cross-country competitive events, involving races of various types and lengths, as well as the biathlon, involving a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. FIS World Championships and FIS World Cup events, have long been a showcase for the world's fastest cross country skiers.


Cross-country Skiing at the 2006 Winter Olympics will be held in the town of Pragelato, Italy from February 12 to February 26.


Cross-country skiing originated in Scandinavian countries in prehistoric times. It may have also been practiced by Native Americans for similar lengths of time, although the Norwegians Snowshoe Thompson and Jackrabbit Johannsen are widely credited for introducing the sport to North America.

This sport has been used by explorers by means of transport, and all Scandinavian armies train their infantry on skis for winter operations. Traditionally, all of the equipment was made of natural materials: wooden skis and bamboo poles with leather hand straps. Footwear was usually sturdy leather boots with thick soles. Bindings evolved from simple straps made of twisted wood-based thread, to the so-called Kandahar binding with the fastening of both the boot’s front and back, to the ‘Rat’s Trap’ front-only binding, which became various modern bindings.


Equipment, and in particular skis and poles differ depending on the desired skiing technique.
  • Skis: they are long and thin to distribute the weight of the skier and allow speed. Typical ski size are length 2 m (6–7 ft), width 5–6 cm (2 in) and thickness 1 cm (˝ in).

  • Poles: Like downhill skiers, XC skiers carry two poles, usually made of aluminium, fiberglass or graphite or some other light material with a spike at the end to provide a fixed pivot when the pole penetrates through to a hard surface, and a plastic ring (or "basket") both to provide maximum impetus from thick snow and to ensure the pole only goes to its designed embedding depth, so as to optimise the angle of arm force. Skating or Freestyle poles are usually longer than those used for the Classical technique.
  • Footwear: The skier's boot is attached to the ski with a binding. There are many different types of bindings and boots.
  • Waxes: There are a wide variety of waxes for Nordic Skiing, classified into two main categories: Glide and Kick. Glide waxes are ironed onto a ski and used to make a ski glide faster, and are applied to the full length of skate skis, and outside the kick zone of classic skis, while Kick waxes are used on classic skis. Kick waxes are applied in the 'kick zone' of classic skis to get a grip on snow; so when snow becomes old, refrozen, and/or warm (35 degrees plus), a different type of kick wax called klister, extremely sticky, is used to get a grip on snow.
  • Techniques: There are three main techniques used in XC skiing. Specially adapted equipment is available to suit each.

    • Classical: The Classical technique was the first technique that was used and although not the fastest (in the same way as the breaststroke swimming technique) it is still used today by many, especially beginners, as it tends to be the simpler easier to learn, but take many years to get really good.

      The classical style is often performed on prepared trails (pistes) that have pairs of parallel grooves cut into the snow, one for each ski, and consequently a special long, narrow and light ski is usually used. The skis used either have a fish-scale underside, or ski wax is applied to the central section in the centre of the ski, so that when the skier kicks the ski into the snow it grips, allowing the skier to move forward.

    • Skating: The skating Technique, developed as a result of racing and is harder to learn but once mastered the skiers can travel much faster. Skating can also be mastered faster than classical.
    • Free: Free technique involves the skier pushing one ski outward with the ski angled, so that the inner edge of the ski is driven against the snow, much like an ice skater.
    • Continuous Pursuit: this recently developed style includes races where the competitors complete the first part of the event using the classic technique and the second part using the free technique.
    • Telemark: Telemarking is a technique used to go down hill on Cross country skis. Usually the skiers will use the classical technique for going up the hill and telemarking to ski down steep downhills. This technique is particularly suited to backcountry skiing (off piste cross-country skiing).

    [the text above is derived from Wikipedia and is subject to the GNU licence]
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