Nordic or Alpine?

By Courtney DiFiore

Are you a Nordic (classic – cross country) or Alpine (downhill) skier? Do you know the difference? Growing up around both sports (from the Lake Placid, NY area), I’m familiar with the two. Below, I’ve categorized some areas in which the two sports differ. Note that when I refer to Nordic (cross country) skiing, I’m talking about the classic Nordic skiing not skate skiing. Stratton does offer equipment for both but I prefer Nordic.

Technical Workings: Those that downhill ski know that the hard boot they wear is attached from toe to heel to the ski via bindings. Cross country (Nordic) skiers only have the toe of their boot attached to the ski. The cross country boots are soft as well. Almost like hard core hiking boots if I had to compare them to something.

Cross country skiers terrain varies. As a Nordic skier, you will find yourself going up and down whereas downhill skiers just go down and also at a faster speed.

Equipment and $$$: If you’re looking for a sport that won’t break the bank, cross country skiing should be higher on the list than downhill skiing. Trail passes cost less than lift tickets, the equipment for cross country skiing costs less and you don’t need as much of it. Downhill skiing requires high-end ski jackets and other attire for the windy, cold days spent on chair lifts. When you Nordic ski, you’re typically shielded from the elements by forest and it’s such a great aerobic work out that you’ll probably find yourself getting warmer the longer you ski. You’ll want to dress in layers. Cross country boots and skis are also less expensive than downhill hard ski boots and skis. The Nordic skis are also often narrower and longer and have no metal edges unlike Alpine skis. The Nordic poles are also usually longer.

Location: Downhill skiing takes place on a ski resort. Depending on where you live, that may be farther from your home than cross country ski areas. Nordic trails are often available in many parks. In my experience, if you have the equipment, you can pretty much go anywhere. I use to go in my backyard when I lived in NY. I have a large field behind my house and trails in the woods that led to a local Golf Course. I’d ski my way through my back yard and over to the course every weekend. I like the Nordic trails at Stratton because the terrain isn’t as flat as most. I can enjoy some rolling hills that make it more interesting. I also love them for their serenity and how peaceful it is as I glide among the trees, by streams and up and down rolling hills.

Safety Issues: No helmet is required for Nordic skiing but it doesn’t hurt to wear one. Serious injury is more often related to downhill skiing rather than cross country skiing. However, like any sport, if you take the proper precautions you can ski safely all season long.

Overall, I enjoy both sports but it really depends on my mood when I choose what to participate in on any given day. Nordic skiing is more leisurely. Alpine skiing is more of a thrill. If I’m in the mood to be alone with my thoughts or have a more relaxing day, I cross country ski. When I’m ready for some fast-paced action, I choose to Alpine. If you’ve never tried one or both of these sports, I’d suggest looking into it. Now that we’re all up-to-date of the difference between Nordic and Alpine skiing, we can impress our friends with our new knowledge during the Winter Olympics in Sochi!

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