So what’s really better – cross-country skiing or downhill skiing?

by in Features.

We had our first taste of winter here in Norway with a couple of feet of snow falling from the skies in Trondheim at the end of October. Yes, that’s early – it was a bit of a record. Unfortunately for those of us who love winter – which even as a British import I do – it’s melting now so we’ll probably have to wait a little longer for the real thing.

Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

But it will soon be time to dust off the skis and get out on the trail.

Trail? You mean slopes, surely?

Nah, downhill skiing, that’s not real skiing. Cross-country (or Nordic, or Langlauf, etc.) is what it´s all about, and here´s why:

  1. Cross-country skiing is a full-body workout and you´ll burn over 700 calories an hour in the process (depending on your weight and how vigorous the skiing), rather than just pointing your skis down a hill and then being dragged back up again
  2. You get to explore the countryside, through forests and over frozen lakes, rather than being stuck in a limited area with no trees
  3. It’s sociable. You can ski with friends or family and actually talk to each other en route, rather than meeting in the lift queue every now and again
  4. On the other hand you can also enjoy splendid isolation if you prefer and clear you head of the stresses of modern life, rather than have to look out for teenagers coming from all directions
  5. You can stop for a break, brew up some coffee (preferably on an open fire) and catch some sun if the weather’s good, rather than paying for overpriced snacks at a mountain restaurant/cafe – if there is one
  6. It’s environmentally-friendly; preparation involves a vehicle making the tracks and smoothing out the snow, rather than clearing the slopes to build lifts running on electricity and permanently scarring the landscape
  7. You can generally do it for free, rather than having to pay for a lift pass
  8. It’s a lot less dangerous, worst-case is that you might pull a muscle rather than break a leg – or worse

Okay, that’s a decent list. I assume you’re attempting to court a little controversy here though…?

Indeed. I know I threw the cat amongst the pigeons (isn’t that a great – if brutal – expression?) so now let’s go all BBC here and present the other side. For the sake of balance…and perhaps to stir up some more response…

So, erm, it’s time to dust off the skis and get out on the slopes. 

Slopes? You mean trail, surely?

Nah, cross-country skiing, that’s not real skiing. Whether you’re on a budget or have blown your savings on one of the best luxury ski deals, downhill is what it’s all about, as this picture taken of my most recent descent will testify.


Image (c) SkiStar Åre

Nice try. I doubt for one second there was a single reader who thought that was you. matey…

You’re probably right. Still, downhill rules and here are 8 reasons why:

  1. Speed. You can’t beat that adrenaline rush, which I like to enhance by humming the James Bond or Ski Sunday theme while plummeting down the piste
  2. You can take it easy getting back up the top again on a lift, instead of wasting time struggling up on skis
  3. In more enlightened places (read:not Norway) you can have a beer and some decent food at a mountain restaurant on your way down
  4. Danger. Even though you are relatively unlikely to hurt yourself if you are sensible, the potential risk is part of the attraction to weaker types such as myself
  5. You no longer have to advertise your lack of skill by your inability to keep your skis close together. These new-fangled ‘carving’ skis are actually supposed to be used like most of us have been skiing for all these years. Result!
  6. Downhill skiing generally takes place in a ski resort, with apres ski being part of the deal. And nothing beats a cold beer after a day on the hill
  7. You can get a suntan too, given the open slopes and if the weather is good
  8. Stopping (if controlled) with that sideways motion spraying up a lilttle wave of snow and going ‘whoosh’ is neat

Okay, that’s a slightly-less decent list than the last one, you were definitely struggling at the end.

Yeah, but still.

What side are you on, dear readers? Cross-country or downhill? Or would you even, perish the thought, vote for snowboarding? Is that something that Grown-ups can even do? If anyone over the age of 35 wants to go good for snowboarding, we’d love to hear it too. As always we are braced for your feedback, so bring it on!

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