Skate Skiing

Get Ready to Nordic Ski & Snowshoe

As the winds blow colder and the snow arrives, thoughts of strapping on your cross-country skis, skate skis or snowshoes come to mind. Eventually, the snow base will be enough to wander out and indulge in a favourite pastime.

The gap between each winter season is about eight to nine months here in Ontario. Most sports do not have so long to wait ’til conditions again become favourable. For these snow sports, the season is a mere three to four months in the south (if we are lucky!) and Northern Ontario might get a month more of good conditions. So be ready!

Here is a quick read on what you should be thinking as we all get psyched for our first venture out onto the trails of a frozen winter wonderland. Are you primed and good to go without any foreseeable mishap?

red snowshoes

Gear Checklist:


Boots – Did your boots perform the way you wanted last year? Perhaps they were too tight or too loose? Did the laces forever need tightening? Maybe it’s time to replace them with more a modern bindings system and better ankle support.

Do your boots have seams that are starting to come apart? Before they do, use some contact cement to keep them together. Would thermal foot pad inserts in your boots help keep your feet warmer?

Bindings –  These simple yet crucial devices keep your boot securely in place and pivoting freely, so check yours for cracks and loose screws. Skiing back on one ski is no fun (it’s happened to me).

Nordic Skis – Check for cracks, chips and scarring on the bases. These imperfections can usually be ignored if they’re just cosmetic, but rock scratches on your ski bases do add friction, so if you’re a speed demon, then tend to them or take them to a pro shop to be fixed. Give your skis some love.

You might be using hand-me-downs or used cross-country skis. That’s OK, but if you want to go faster, you may wish for a more custom fit. Perhaps you are considering skate skiing.

Getting Nordic skis that actually match your height, weight and skiing style will improve your push and glide strokes. This gets you farther with less effort and more enjoyment. Isn’t that what we all want.

And keep your old ski as designated “rock skis” for those outings when there is barely enough white stuff to ski on but you just have to go.

waxing nordic skis
Wax on, wax off, wax on…

Wax –  The really important part is applying NEW WAX. Last year’s base wax has surely worn off and a new base of glide wax would be wise on ALL skis. If you ski on “waxless skis,” that includes you. (You don’t need grip wax but you still need glide wax.)

For the rest of us Nordic skiing purists, time again for that annual ritual, messy as it is. But well worth it to go faster and farther than the waxless crowd (subtle jab there).

Scrape off the old gummed-up grip wax. Then start putting it all back on before your first outing.  Do you need to get more wax for your favourite temperature ranges? 

[I am not going to tell you how to wax your skis – look it up. For some that is a science and a degree in physics…surface tension, capillarity behaviour…much could be said, lol]  

Snowshoes – Have your shoes been performing well last year? Do the straps need adjusting and are they still holding together? Are the boots you use in your snowshoes a good fit? Do they pivot properly, stay centred as you stomp through the snow?

Poles – You need poles to ski Nordic trails. It just cannot be done without them. Not so much for snowshoeing on even ground but good to have on steep or icy inclines.

A simple stick device with a grip on one end and a pointy part on the other. Are those ends in fine shape? Or do you need to adjust the grip strap (which loosens in time), or replace a missing metal tip or broken basket?

These long aluminum/fibreglass appendages have to endure a lot of stress, you occasionally falling on them. See any fractures, bending or breaks? It could be time to retire them before they fail.

Buying Gear – The used equipment market has served me well over the years with the odd find at a yard sale or on Kijiji, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. There is not always a lot of gear out there, so finding exactly what you need can be tricky.

Last year things got scarce and I expect the same this season. New equipment inventories are likely to be thin again, so get what you need now. Don’t wait. 

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia –  Winter Apparel Specials

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Rossignol – 15% Off your first order

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks

Sports Clothing –  Did your winter activewear perform well last year? Time to pull it out of storage and size it up. Are any of your garments wearing thin, unravelling, looking tired, or just not keeping you warm and dry?

Feeling comfortable – warm but not too warm – on the trail is your goal. Having ample movement without the bulk of thick layers gives you the freedom necessary to engage in this sport. I get into that whole topic of the science of ski clothing in this post from last year.



Your vehicle – Whatever gets you to the resort, ski club or woodlot to enjoy the trails needs to be reliable. Winter is not a time to wonder if your car, van or truck is going to give up on you. 

Be sure your vehicle is fit for the road and full of gas.  Check under the hood that fluid levels are topped up, especially the windshield wiper fluid. Nothing makes winter driving riskier than poor vision at night through a salt-encrusted windshield. 

In the last decade, I could finally afford snow tires on rims. If you can too, they definitely give you more traction in the winter.

Coach Bus – When I belonged to a ski club, riding the bus to the trails was a joy. Not having to drive home tired, in the dark and/or during a blizzard was so worth it. 

Check club bus schedules for changes before they surprise you. These days Covid may have caused cancellations. 

And may I add, consider staying overnight at a motel to make the outing less of a gauntlet. You can also trek an extra day before heading home during the daylight hours.



The last thing to mention is buying a box(es) of your favourite snack foods for the trail loops. Look over what arrangements you have with water bottles, day packs and waist pouches for your outings.

If all this still works for you, carry on. If you are running out of water, munchies or whatever, don’t go through another year of grief.

Get organized and update your setup so you can enjoy your time away.

So that’s a good start to getting in gear (pun) for the winter months. May it be an enjoyable, peaceful and invigorating outdoor experience.


Stay warm and safe – Dan Roitner

nordic ski for sale

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Rossignol – 15% Off your first order

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks

December 27, 2023No comments, , , ,
Tips on Trying Nordic Skiing

For those of you wondering and wishing to get out and try some Nordic skiing for the first time, here are a few tips to get you started.

I am going to help you sort out the easiest and safest options to try out this sport…so you do not get frustrated or hurt and give up too soon.

To give you the best sense that cross-country or skate skiing is indeed fun and to your liking, you need to pick the right resort, have decent gear, good conditions and go a few times.

Renting gear and trying a local established resort is what I recommend.

If you wish to continue skiing yearly, then you can buy gear and travel farther. (I hear Norway has a few scenic loops.) lol

Naturally, if you are sporty and have downhill skied before, then your base skill level is sound. Whether you actually like skiing on a trail in the woods is a personal preference. It’s like hiking but faster.

You can have hills to climb and then zoom down. And it can be a full workout if you want it, especially skate skiing.

I find it great to get out of town in the fresh air and nature. The solitude on the trail gets me reflecting on what I did last week and making plans or nothing at all. Nordic skiing is a very individual experience.

You may enjoy as I have, taking the club ski bus and skiing as a group with friends. Perhaps it will lead you to pack for a backcountry trek in the Rockies one day or getting into racing.

Dangerous? Well, we all fall sometimes, just make sure you aim for the soft snow and not a tree. It’s always possible to get hurt but I rarely ever see it.  Learn how to stop and turn first! Stick to the Beginner Green trails and perhaps go with experienced friends or take lessons.



ski names



I have listed at the bottom of this post my top recommended beginner locations. Keeping in mind novice skiers want easy, flat terrain with few hills. Paths are wide with gradual turns. Most locations have gear rentals and lessons offered.



– But first an FYI about the sport –


Here is an Overview to get you Started Skiing:



You can try skiing on borrowed skis as a beginner at a local park, but I would suggest a more enjoyable outing is to go to a “resort”. This would be at one of the Nordic locations listed on this site. Find one close by that rents gear.

They will have safe, beginner trails designed for Nordic skiing and groomed for Classic and Skate skiing. You will not be surprised with steep descents, tight turns…especially at the bottom of a hill. Yow!

As a novice skier, use the short beginner Green trails. Judge your skill level and progress from there. You will develop a sense of how to balance, turn and stop on your skis,  you do not need any challenges yet.

Starting out, you will want people around just in case and perhaps a ski patrol service. Though never crowded, a rustic trail may have no one on it. Popular ski spots have plenty of signage and you will be glad to see eventually the one that says –

Parking Lot this Way  –>

Having equipment issues or getting lost in the winter out on the back end of a run as the sun sets is no fun. So stick with the popular closer, short loops for safety.




Trail Fee:

Expect low; certainly much, much lower than the cost of a tow ticket for downhill skiing.

Trail fees average around $10 a day, fancy resorts are higher at about $20+, and many woodlots and public park areas are Free.

Paying a trail fee at an organized “resort” is suggested. You get groomed trails with ski tracks and signage to get you back to the parking lot. Trying a field or local forest will be more challenging to cut your own trail (bushwacking) and may dampen your spirits.

Resorts have plenty of amenities and comforts to get you through the day. These can include a warm chalet, bathrooms, snack bar, lunchroom, change rooms, pro shop, lessons, lodging etc.  Convinced?


scales on cross country skis
grip scales on skis bottoms

Rent/ borrow first. Buy later, if you like it. Renting is most convenient at a resort, and renting gear in your town may not be so easy, if available at all. The good news is most places do rent. (List below) Typically a package (skis, poles and boots) is $20 – $30 a day.

Unfortunately, used gear rented or borrowed may not fit and/or be sized for your height and weight exactly and the skis likely will glide a tad slow. So expect better performance and fit with new shiny skis.

Not going like the wind is safer on your first outings as you learn. Later the name of the game is waxing to minimize friction, work less, zip along faster… smile more. At that point, you will upgrade.

Buying Nordic gear is at times scarce as this is not as popular a sport as downhill skiing. Try sports shops stocking downhill gear, they may have a small Nordic dept. MEC has a large selection and a few ski destinations have a pro shop too. A few bicycle shops like Velotique carry ski gear in the winter. Play it Again Sports offers used gear, and you can trade-in too.

I am keeping it simple here and recommending what they call Waxless skis. Meaning, you do not need grip wax. The grip comes from “fish scales” on the bottom to give you traction on the kick. (glide wax does go on the ends, so they are not literally waxless)

Skate skis and boots differ from classic cross-country ski gear. Look into it some more if you prefer to try that.

An average new gear package is about $500 + clothing $300. Budget for New Skis + bindings ~ $250, poles ~ $50, boots ~ $150, waxes ~ $30. I have often bought used boots as my son seems to need a pair almost annually!



nordic ski group



Picking a bad weather day or perhaps better stated, a poor snow conditions day can spoil an outing for any skier. Bad snow and temperatures too hot or cold do not make for fun times.

Ideal conditions are temperatures between -2 to -10C, and new snowfall in the previous few days. Warmer temps give you slow, heavy wet snow that is tricky to ski through. On colder days below -15C, it can be too chilly and hard to dress for.

Check weather forecasts and snow conditions before you make plans; there can be fickle weather in Ontario.

The best locations have trail grooming snowmobiles. Though no resort makes snow for Nordic trails, good grooming and a set track are worth the trail fee.

And a warm cabin/chalet to retreat to for lunch with a hot chocolate is certainly welcome for the novice. You have plenty of time to rough it in the bush later.



family skiing on trail



You may be a natural at it or have some experience downhill skiing to get you started. Practice by going out every week to improve your skills.

Always ski in your comfort zone. Yet work at expanding it to improve and enjoy this sport. Evenly it will take less effort to go farther and faster.

Can you ask experienced friends to take you along, show you some pointers? (Just don’t keep them from doing a run at their own speed eventually.)

Joining a Nordic ski club is a great way to pick up tips. Skiing in a group also pushes you a bit and can be a safer option for the novice.

Learn how to STOP and TURN first!

Yes not be able to stop or turn well is a frightening situation for a novice skier. Find a gently sloping hill with no trees around to practice and sort out your balance, braking and turning skills.

Actually many locations have club lessons or ski staff to instruct. Paid lessons could be a good idea.
This can vary in availability, some places offer same day single lessons others you may need to join the club and book it.



Here are a few videos I found to get you started on technique:


What to Pack:

This sport takes you out in the cold of the winter on trails that at times that can be far in the bush and lonely. So you need to be self reliant and prep for it. As a beginner, you will not venture too far from homebase on the Green trails. Still packing a few light, small items is wise.

The first mistake beginners make is how they dress. In short, you want to underdress in layers and as you warm up, you start to unzip and vent. You actually do not want to sweat much as this will chill you if you stop too long.

So when you leave the chalet you will feel slightly cool. As you ski your core will heat up to a comfortable temperature, yet not getting you sweating excessively.

Go for polyester and wool blends for socks and long underwear. Use a breathable windbreaker type of jacket. Have a hat and good warm gloves/mitts that can grip the poles.

Eat when you get back from the trail. But bring some water, snack bars + phone.  Note your water may turn into a block of ice if you do not keep it warm.

A paper map is nice to have, some larger resorts have one to take, for the smaller locations, try printing out the maps on this site. Your phone may not get a signal, though GPS will work with a pre-downloaded map. And keep that battery warm.

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia –  Winter Apparel Specials

Salomon  – Cross Country Clothes and Gear

Rossignol – 15% Off your first order

Mountain Equipment Company (MEC) – Cross-country skiing gear

two snowshoeing

As you know, any new skill takes more than one attempt to master and enjoy. So I do hope you give it a few chances and gauge how well you like it. You will feel new muscles ache days later, that’s ok, it will pass as you train yourself to ski better, faster and farther.

My wife Teresa has gone back to snowshoes; she just did not take to Nordic skiing, while my son Trevor at 14 is flying down the hardest hills. Meanwhile, I have been at it for 35 years and still love it.

You be the judge. If you follow my advice,  at least the odds are good that you will enjoy it. Now get out there before the snow melts and just try it!


Recommended Beginner Nordic Ski Locations :

Groomed, mainly flat terrain on Beginner loops, ski gear rentals, Nordic ski instruction offered.

Southern Ontario

Northern Ontario

Other locations with beginner flat wide trails. No grooming, bring your own gear.

sunset ski trail in the pines

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia –  Winter Apparel Specials

Salomon  – Cross Country Clothes and Gear

Rossignol – 15% Off your first order

Mountain Equipment Company (MEC) – Cross-country skiing gear

I have included some links on this page to sites that I believe offer good quality apparel. I may get a small referral fee if you shop at these suppliers using my links. This is at no extra cost to you.
January 20, 20212 Comments, ,
What is Nordic Skiing ?

Nordic Skiing, Would I Like It ? 

If you are active and don’t mind the cold and snow, you may have the temperament to enjoy this outdoor sport. Having done decades of skiing in Ontario, Canada let me fill you in, so you can decide for yourself. Let’s start with the basic concepts.

 Nordic skiing is a general term used to encompass Cross-country, Skate and Telemark skiing.


Call it – Cross-country, X-Country or Classic Skiing

is the most popular and offered at all resorts. One uses thin skis with poles to travel machine-groomed trail. Most of the trail would have a track set into the snow for your skis to follow (except on steep sections).

cross country skierThe skis come in two styles: waxed and waxless versions. For years, veterans of the sport would put glide wax on the ends of the skis and grip wax on the base under the boot area. Picking the right wax is a science and a pain to put on, but if done for the right temperature range it will give you the longest glide after a kick so you go further on the same leg power.

A kick? Yes, the process of moving forward involves getting a push from the grip wax as you swing your arms and legs back and forth. This takes a bit of getting used to. But the most important part to learn is the turning and stopping process. Without it you will just be worried about hitting a tree or twisting an ankle.

The other type of ski is waxless. This means there is no grip wax, just glide wax on the base. The traction for the skier comes from “fish scales” cut into the base that work at any temperature. This simplifies the ski prep and is the best when the snow is over +0 Celsius but glides are slower and can make some noise.


Skate Skiing 

is a relatively new sport that is offered at most resorts. Trails are groomed wider with no track set, though often one shares the same path with cross-country skiers on one side.

Skis are narrower and shorter, boots are higher with better support, and poles are longer.

Skis have no grip wax, just glide wax and you push sideways as you would while ice skating to move you forward.

Skate skiers love the speed and great aerobic exercise they can get. One can sort of skate ski with a regular pair of classic skis and boots; you just won’t be as agile or fast.



Telemark Skiing

By Happy-marmotteOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

is similar to downhill, with a boot that bends in the binding as you turn. It combines downhill and cross country technics and originated in Norway. We do not cover this fine old specialized sport on our site.

One can find trails close to home or cut your own in a local park. Equipment and trail fees (if any) are a fraction of what downhill skiers pay. Plus the exercise, fresh air and serenity of the woods are wonderful.

More will be said in future posts about gear, technique, ski conditions, clothing and food. Give it a try, when the snow is here…stretch your legs and get out there!

The best part of Nordic skiing is it does not need a hill to enjoy it.

Suggested locations to shop online:

Quality Clothing with Fast Shipping

Patagonia – up to 40% OFF Sale on Winter Apparel

Salomon  – Outdoor Ski Clothes Layers

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – Nordic Ski Jackets, Gloves, Hats, Socks

I have included some links on this page to sites that I believe offer good quality apparel. I may get a small referral fee if you shop at these suppliers using my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

January 8, 2016No comments,