Summit back, neck, and spine specialist Erik Ekstrom, M.D., shares tips for enjoying one of his favorite wintertime activities: cross‐country skiing.
When the weather gets cold and the days get shorter, Summit Orthopedics back, neck, and spine specialist Erik Ekstrom, M.D., looks forward to strapping on his skis. Dr. Ekstrom is a cross‐country skiing enthusiast who for the past 20 years has been involved with the Loppet Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to introducing youth and families to year-round outdoor adventures.
“Cross‐country skiing is a super fun sport with a lot of benefits. It’s a low‐risk sport, it’s great for all ages, it can be done for fun or for more of a workout, it’s a great aerobic activity, it’s a very balanced workout that involves both upper and lower body, and it has a low risk of traumatic injury,” Dr. Ekstrom said.
Types of cross‐country skiing
There are two main types of cross‐country skiing:
- Classic cross‐country skiing, featuring a traditional kick and glide movement, which can be done on groomed trails or ungroomed back country. It’s easy to get started — once you learn to shift your weight and coordinate your arms and legs, you’re ready to go.
- Skate skiing, a Nordic innovation that uses a technique similar to speed skating for a more intense workout. Dr. Ekstrom recommends that anyone who wants to look into skate skiing should take some lessons. “Lessons will help you learn how to do it properly, so that it’s more fun for you,” he said.
Tips for fun and safe cross‐country skiing
- Figure out what kind of cross‐country skiing style you want to do, and get the right equipment (skis, boots, poles) for the job.
- Make sure your equipment fits and is in good condition. Generally, your weight determines ski size, and your height determines pole size. You also want to make sure your boots are not too tight. “The risk of injury goes up if your gear doesn’t fit properly,” Dr. Ekstrom said.
- Consider using glasses or goggles to enable you to better assess terrain, prevent falls, and avoid getting scratched by branches in the face.
- Wear the right clothing: noncotton layers (synthetic or wool) that will wick away sweat and allow you to move easily. “You want to stay warm but avoid getting overheated,” Dr. Ekstrom said. Don’t forget hats and gloves — many skiers like balaclavas for extra cold protection for ears, cheeks, chin, and neck.
- Pay attention to the weather. “Heavy, wet snow is not fun to ski in and can increase injury risk,” Dr. Ekstrom said. Also, be mindful of cold weather fronts and increasing windchill.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Pay attention to the trail — always start in a flat, safe location, and pay attention to the trail’s technical rating. Use a GPS or trail map, and make sure you know what direction the trail is going. “Also, it’s nice to remember that if you fall, you should fill in the divot that you left,” Dr. Ekstrom said.
- Take breaks so you don’t get exhausted — and don’t forget to stay hydrated!