I am Terrible/Awesome at Cross-Country Skiing

You don’t want to see the first draft of this article. The one I wrote after my FIRST attempt at cross-country skiing, when the bruises on my legs were still blooming. That article is not very nice.

If you follow me on facebook you might have taken part in a voting competition for Visit Finland a few weeks back. The vote was to decide which common outdoor activity I would try in Finland: snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing. Either you guys severely overestimated my sporty abilities or you like seeing me fall down, because you chose cross-country skiing.

My first attempt was a total disaster. Just for fun I tagged along with a group of Finnish teenagers for a ski lesson. The kids skied circles around me. I think they felt sorry for me. A couple were definitely pointing and laughing and I don’t blame them. I could barely stand-up with painfully falling over. I looked like a cartoon.

Trying very hard to remain upright

In retrospect I was largely at a disadvantage as the instructions were all in Finnish, a language I definitely do not speak. Of course, Finns learn to cross-country ski in grade school as a part of physical education. They love to cross-country ski, not just for fun but as a legitimate means of transportation in the dead of winter. Over the course of the week I saw more than one person skiing to the grocery store.

The Finns are so devoted to skiing that instead of “spring break” they have official ski holidays, where all children get a week off of school to travel and go skiing. The Finns have even fought wars on skis.

I meanwhile, once fell of a ski lift. I was eight, and so scarred I haven’t been on a slope since. Talk about being out of your element.

Probably should have been paying attention instead of taking pictures.

Nonetheless, a few days later I was back in the saddle, err skis. This time I was to try the official cross-country skiing beginner course at Kiilopää Fell Center. I was not psyched for another morning of brutal falls and exasperation. Luckily for me I had two important elements working in my favor this time.

  1. The class was in English, a language I happen to speak
  2. I was the youngest person in the class by about 20 years. Also the only one who had ever strapped on skis before or had even lived in a country where it snowed (the other participants were from Hong Kong and Singapore).

This time we started out with the basics of movement We learned how to walk in the skis, how to use the poles to propel yourself forward and most importantly how to fall without hurting yourself AND how to get back up again. To my surprise it wasn’t that hard, it was actually kind of fun.

How to fall over

I was the start of my class. I was skiing circles around the others as they tried to stay upright. True I was just going back and forth in a circle on a begginer tract, but man, I was amazing!

I was sore too. There’s a reason you use a nordic-track at the gym- it’s quite the workout! Even so, I would definitely try cross-country skiing again. It’s not quite the horrifying fight with gravity that is downhill skiing: it’s more relaxing, a way to see and absorb nature.

Plus now I know how to fall down.

Worth it

I visited Inari as  a guest of Visit Finland and Northern Lapland Tourism.


20 Responses to I am Terrible/Awesome at Cross-Country Skiing

  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) March 4, 2013 at 10:19 AM #

    I love that they teach you how to fall down! Just get a few drinks in me and I manage that quite well all on my own! 😉

    As a Canadian, I’m sure many people think that if we don’t have ice skates strapped to our feet, we have skis instead. I’ve only gone skiing once in my life and it was fine, but I honestly cannot see the appeal of doing it on flat ground. Hills all the way!

  2. Dalene March 4, 2013 at 12:41 PM #

    I am like you – tried skiing at a young age and fell off the ski lift. I really enjoyed cross-country skiing though, as long as the slopes weren’t too big. 🙂

  3. Hogga March 4, 2013 at 12:58 PM #

    lol i like how they teach you how to fall over

  4. cosmoHallitan March 4, 2013 at 10:31 PM #

    I’m moving to Latvia next year and am told that cross-country skiing is also very popular there. Will definitely sign myself up for professional lessons to hopefully skip that whole “terrible” part!

  5. Andrea March 5, 2013 at 2:13 PM #

    I went skiing one time with no instruction, and it was horrible, sounds like your first experience with cross country! I think someone teaching me to fall down would have made all the difference in the world!

  6. Alouise March 5, 2013 at 7:01 PM #

    I’ve done downhill skiing as a kid, but never cross-country skiing, Honestly I would have assumed cross-country skiing would be easy, but I’m sure I’d probably be down on the ground after my first try.

  7. The CounterIntuitive March 8, 2013 at 7:10 PM #

    funnily enough, this actually makes me want to try it now…

    • Steph March 9, 2013 at 5:35 AM #

      Wear fuzzy socks and practice falling!

  8. John Walsen March 9, 2013 at 3:16 AM #

    Don’t worry a good fella of mine says that ” Ski is like bicycle.Once you learn it you never forget it”. So my adavice just keep skiing and you will be pro before you know it 🙂

  9. Vesa Koskela March 10, 2013 at 10:10 AM #

    Hi there Steph!

    I’m working as a teacher in Finland and I took my class to your blog post to learn a little bit about social media and blogs. We were excited to learn about your experiences here and the kids even had a few questions for you. It would be great if you could answer them. Fifth graders have some funny questions so here are three of the more common type: do you like cars, do you like skiing and is Finland a nice country in your opinion?

    I hope that you can answer very soon!

    • Steph March 10, 2013 at 2:23 PM #

      That’s awesome! So glad you guys liked the post. Here are my answers:
      1. I don’t own a car, but I think they are okay.
      2. I do like skiing although I don’t do it very much at home.
      3. Finland is a very nice country!

      If you have more questions feel free to email me. And tell the kids I say hi!

  10. Gayla March 13, 2013 at 4:40 AM #

    Good for you for getting back up on the skis and sticking with it. The first part of most new endeavors and adventures is learning how to fall. Kinda like a metaphor for life 😉
    Great photos!

  11. Sky March 14, 2013 at 9:18 PM #

    I can only imagine what would happen if I attempted cross-country skiing…I’m pretty sure I’d probably end up with a broken bone or two. But it does kinda sound like fun, glad you tried it a second time so you could really experience it!

  12. Sherry Ott March 17, 2013 at 7:50 PM #

    It’s always good to learn how to fall down! As long as they teach you how to get up!

  13. Cailin March 21, 2013 at 6:40 PM #

    Here in “Canada” haha we went on school trips to the ski hills too – I have never loved it! I’ve tried downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, skip blades you name it. Me and skiiing / moving quickly on snow and ice do not mix very well. So don’t feel so bad 😉 haha

    • Steph March 21, 2013 at 7:59 PM #

      what is a skip blade?

  14. Jennifer March 21, 2013 at 8:12 PM #

    Tim and I took up cross country skiing when we moved to Italy. I’m my no means awesome at it, but I do enjoy it. I totally get passed up by old Italian men in what look like speed skating suits practically flying by me as though they were wearing ice skates and not a pair of 5 foot long skis strapped to their feet!

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