Lake Tahoe skiing: Nordic skiing at Tahoe-Truckee is worth a try |

Lake Tahoe skiing: Nordic skiing at Tahoe-Truckee is worth a try

Sebastian Foltz
Olof Hedberg is director of the Summit Nordic Ski Club in Summit County, Colo.
Courtesy Susan Bobb |

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — While in Scandinavian countries Nordic skiing is close to being the national pastime — with some races attracting participation in numbers similar to events like the Boston Marathon — here in the states, it largely still plays the role of second fiddle to its alpine counterpart.

But with a relatively low buy-in for gear and ski passes, as well as a cardiovascular conditioning benefit, it’s definitely worth a second look.

We spoke recently with former pro Swedish Nordic skier Olof Hedberg, to get a little more insight into one of his homeland’s favorite pastimes and why it’s worth a try.

“First of all, it’s an endurance heavy sport. It’s easy to get fitness quickly,” Hedberg said. “Second of all, it’s a great full-body work out. You’re using both your legs and upper body, which is different from running and biking. Third, like swimming, it’s low impact.”

“I like to call it explorer skiing. More like walking in the woods on skis.”Olof HedbergProfessional Swedish Nordic skier

He suggested it’s a great option for both summer athletes looking to stay fit and not lose their conditioning through winter, as well as those who may have knee or hip trouble.

With smooth gliding motions, both skate skiing and classic-style Nordic have much less impact on the body compared to downhill skiing.

And while it can be endurance-heavy, if you’re pushing for speed, Nordic skiing can also be a casual pastime more akin to a hike.

Still, if you’ve ever watched someone glide across the snow and thought, “that looks easy,” don’t be fooled.

“I wish I could say it was,” explained Hedberg, suggesting, “maybe go with a coach. It can be tricky the first couple times.”

While it requires a lot of coordination, he also said those with ice skating or roller skating experience might find a faster learning curve.

Either way, he said, “Once you’ve done it a couple of times and get the technique down, you can really get speed and more easily get the benefits from it.”

Skate vs. Classic

In the Nordic skiing world, there are two styles — skate and classic. Both have their advantages. It’s more a question of which may be right for you, and many avid cross-country skiers alternate between the two.

The main difference beyond style of motion is, “with classic you can go more everywhere. Skate, you really have to stay on groomed trails,” Hedberg said.

Skate style involves movement similar to ice skating with wider gliding strides.

Classic is the style you might picture someone breaking their own trail in a more linear motion. Classic skiers slide straight forward on one ski while their heel releases on the other in a lunging motion.

“Both are really good for conditioning,” added Hedberg, further explaining that classic would be the choice for those interested in more of a hiking style experience off of groomed trails. “I like to call it explorer skiing. More like walking in the woods on skis.”

Check out any one of Tahoe-Truckee’s numerous Nordic ski areas or rental shops for more information and lesson suggestions.

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