Out in the cold
Out in the cold

Out in the cold

Skellefteå is a magical place in winter, and cross-country skiing is a great way to explore and a fun way to get some exercise. Rehana Lothian reports.

Out in the cold
Getting away from it all. Photograph by BMJ / Shutterstock

When there’s snow on the ground and the weather is cold and bright, you’ll want to head out to make the most of the winter paradise. A great way of combining a trip through majestic snow-coated pines – or across frozen lakes – with getting winter exercise is to head to one of Skellefteå’s cross-country ski tracks. Silently glide alone through the forest in an immersive forest therapy experience or ski with friends to find a unique fika spot in pristine beauty.

Skellefteå municipality is dotted with tracks; many are even lit at night. There’s no monthly subscription or timetable in the outdoors, so this is all about doing it your way – a ski stroll or a serious workout.

Out in the cold
Håkan Öström

If that sounds interesting, what about your skiing equipment? I spoke to Håkan Öström (pictured left), joint owner of local business, Sport City, who has been selling ski kit for more than 20 years together with his business partner, Bosse Hansson. Håkan is a ski enthusiast himself and would love to see more newcomers use the many ski tracks dotted around the city and municipality. I asked Håkan for a few tips about the basics of cross-country skiing and equipment.

 

 

 

What are the physical benefits of cross-country skiing?

’It’s a good way to get outside, is low impact and has a low risk of injury, which is perfect for beginners. It’s a whole body workout for aerobic fitness and building strength. As a beginner, you should find a fairly flat track to practice on first.’

What are the different styles of cross-country skiing?

’You have classic style, which is best for a beginner, (your skis sit in pre-cut tracks and you move forward in a straight line – it’s like a jogging motion) and skate style (you push your skis out to the side, a little like skating). Most people start with classic style as it can be hard to coordinate the action of skate skiing at first, (the timing and action is key – it’s quite technical). If you are out in the wilderness or just off track, you’ll use touring skis, which are wider. It can be harder than it sounds. You need good balance and if there is lots of soft snow, it’s hard going.’

What is the basic principle of the skis – how do they work?

’Most cross-country skis sold these days are skin skis, (They have a synthetic material layer in the middle of the ski for grip). They grip well and require much less maintenance than the previous generation of skis which needed grip wax and good knowledge of how they reacted to changes in temperature. Skate skis are shorter and stiffer and don’t have the grip. This means your weight is not pushing directly down to the ground but through the skis. Touring skis are softer. The whole ski grips and many have the synthetic skin. The action is more like walking in skis. The extra width of the skis helps you stay on top of softer snow.’

Out in the cold
“Skis can last for many years, so it’s sometimes worth spending a little extra cash on good skis that you will be happy with and use for the next ten years.” Photograph by Rehana Lothian.

When I’m choosing skis, what should I think about?

’When you’re buying skis, make sure you buy according to your weight as well as height. It is also really important to try out the skis. Skis can last for many years, so it’s sometimes worth spending a little extra cash on good skis that you will be happy with and use for the next ten years. The cheapest ones don’t have the right stiffness. If you are very light or a child, this may not be such a big issue. For kids, it’s really important that they have good grip and don’t struggle to get up hills. To maintain skin skis, it’s really just a case of cleaning them occasionally.’

Out in the cold
“For kids, it’s really important that they have good grip and don’t struggle to get up hills.” Photograph by Tatyana Bakul / Shutterstock

It’s cold outside but I’m going skiing. What type of clothing will work?

“For cold weather, layers are important and you shouldn’t use materials that will hold your sweat and cool you down, such as cotton. Breathable synthetic or wool layers are key. The base layer can be a thin merino wool layer, followed by a thin fleece layer. The outer layer should be light and comfortable with a panel of wind stopping material as the wind is constantly cooling you. For your feet, don’t choose overly small shoes and wear merino wool socks. Possibly two pairs of socks if you need it.’

Out in the cold

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