Skate skiing is classic cross-country’s edgier cousin—literally. Propulsion comes from pushing off the edge of the ski with a duck-footed stance, similar to how speed ice skaters drive off their blade edges. Couple that with gliding on the flat of the ski and thrusting with chin-to-toe poles, and skate skiers can truly fly.
At the Winter Olympics, biathlon and Nordic combined events both feature skate skiing. But, as Scott McGee, a member of the Professional Ski Instructors Association Nordic team and the author of Basic Illustrated Cross-Country Skiing, says: “You don’t have to race or to wear LYCRA to enjoy cross country.”
Beginning skate skiers should head first to flat terrain. McGee points out that skate skiing is possible at most cross-country ski areas where snow cats till and resurface the trails, leaving a ridged surface known as corduroy. Skate skiers should avoid mussing the tracks set for classic skiers, who use a toe-forward running stance and kick on waxed skis for propulsion.
As the Mountain Sports School Director at Snow King Mountain Resort, McGee frequents the trails in and around Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Snow King offers a groomed Nordic trail at the summit. The Teton Pines Cross Country Ski Center, set at the base of the Tetons, grooms ten miles of trails for classic and skate techniques.
Consult the Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA) to find trails near you, or for the most territory dedicated to the sport, head to the largest cross-country ski area in the U.S. Methow Valley Sport Trails Association is a non-profit association that maintains 120-miles of trails in north-central Washington.