The Crystal Ski Holidays Blog

7 Health Benefits Of Cross Country Skiing

A traditional mode of transport in Northern Europe, cross-country skiing has been around for yonks and in a world of high speeds and 1080 spins, it’s often labelled a ‘niche’ hobby. Across Scandinavia though, the habit retains its popularity, holding high status as a leisure pursuit and an exercise.

Perfectly groomed cross-country trails under the Northern Lights in Geilo, Norway

Perfectly groomed cross-country trails under the Northern Lights in Geilo, Norway

The advantages to cross-country skiing are plenty; not only can it be learnt pretty quickly, but it’s also a great workout. Plus, unlike its downhill counterpart where skiers are often restrained to queues, cold lifts, busy slopes and over-full cafes, cross-country skiers glide silently past.

What are the health benefits of Cross Country Skiing?

There’s a number of health benefits to cross country skiing.

Low-impact. Think of your joints…

Pounding the pavements is all well and good but it isn’t half hard on your knees. Downhill skiing isn’t that much easier on it either.

Once you get to a certain age and the joints start to stiffen, both can become a bit troublesome. Thankfully, Cross Country skiing is very low impact.

To the point that you’ll find a number of older people who previously ski’d downhill exclusively make the switch to cross country skiing because of the lack of tension put through the knee joint.

It’s probably more social than you think…

On your own pacing around the foot of a mountain…

That’s probably the image that you have of cross country skiing. And although it can be like that (if you so wish it to be), it’s not true.

It can be done in a group. It can be done from a young age. And more importantly it can be done at a pace that is slow enough that you can get plenty of chit chat in.

All of which make it the perfect activity for friends.



It’s not just endorphins that leave you happy after cross-country skiing; escaping town to the pine forested wilds provides you with some very therapeutic peace, quiet and time to think. Not to mention the great views

Great views are pretty therapeutic, right?


Is Cross Country skiing a good workout?

It’s basically just gliding on ice isn’t with the odd bit sliding around. A glorified version of using the cross trainer but in the cold. Can’t be that good for you right?

Well, not quite. It’s actually one of the best work outs for you for the following reasons:

It gets those arms pumping…

With jogging or cycling or even skiing, you don’t really use much outside of your lower body muscles (excluding the heart and lungs obviously). Whereas in Cross Country you really need those arms to get yourself motoring along. In fact, it also engages the shoulder and the lats as well. The end result is that you basically get an overall workout with your thighs and arms burning at the end of it.

Exactly what you wanted.

It burns calories. I mean a lot of calories…

Cross-country skiing is on par with running in terms of calorie-burning potential. In an hour a cross-country skier can potentially burn over double the calories of a downhill skier. If you want a figure for that, they estimate that 1,122 calories are burned an hour.

That’s basically breakfast and lunch sorted and removes all the guilt of getting stuck into the fondue as well.

Great for your heart and lungs…

The heart isn’t just for loving. It’s also pumping all that blood around your body. So although it won’t get as many glances as a ripped six pack or bulging bicep it’s probably a good idea to work it out.

Cross-country skiing is an excellent form of aerobic exercise because it doesn’t just target one muscle group and it’s low impact. The result of both is that you can do it for prolonged periods at a reasonable intensity.

Both of which will hopefully give you a heart as big as Arnold Schwarznegger’s bicep.

Increased endurance

Training in this slower, more stable way builds strength in the supporting muscles you use in everyday life, as well as those crucial to downhill skiing. In short, it will help you get stronger and go for longer.

Stunning snow in Beitostolen, Norway

Interested in trying it?

If you’re interested in having a go, we heartily recommend Norway or Finland, both of which have a long history of cross-country skiing, as well as a massive range of off-piste activities from dog-sledding to ice fishing.

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