When you think of cross-country skiing, one of two images probably comes to mind: that of the bearded mountaineer slowly shuffling over a snowy plain or that of the athlete who eats, sleeps, and breathes cross country.

Cross-country skiing has had a few marketing problems in recent years, making it look either too old-school or too hard for the average Joe. But the sport seems to be gaining ground at last, due to its environmental and economic advantages.


The sport has gained a name for being difficult and even a little esoteric. While Alpine skiers tend to be urbanites and holidaymakers, cross country skiers live mostly in mountainous areas and are very passionate about their sport. Cross-country skiing demands stamina and endurance, different from the energy spent during a round of downhill skiing. If a cross-country skier stops pushing, he or she often stops moving forward.

It's hard to be cool with Scandinavian-print wool socks up to your knees and an oversized sweater on your back

This, combined with its outdated marketing ploys, has inflicted on it a very old fashioned image - it's hard to be cool with Scandinavian-print wool socks up to your knees and an oversized sweater on your back.

Cross-country skiing received a boost in popularity following the introduction of skate skiing in the 1980s. Skate skiing involves a weight transfer onto one ski and then the other, similar to ice skating, and is practised on cross-country ski trails. Skate skiing attracted sporty types as it works all muscles in the body and gets the heart pumping (a cross-country skate skier burns around 800 calories an hour). As a result cross country skiing became faster, more technical, and just plain sexier.

While skate skiing brought a change in cross-country fashions - sleek jerseys and tights in updated colours and cuts - the sport still suffered from being regarded too difficult. Marketing again played a role in determining the public's opinion of cross-country skiing, with perhaps too much focus on the athletic aspect of the sport. As Bruno Clément, director of the Nordic ski area of [R1708R, Les Saisies] put it, "We forgot that we had to target everybody."

The sport seems to be gaining ground at last, due to its environmental and economic advantages

The media may also play a role in the "hipness" of cross-country sports. In Germany, national television channels give the sport plenty of airtime, whereas in France and Italy, "only the Olympic Games, two weeks every four years, put the spotlight on the sport. It's hardly enough," says Mirko Hominal of www.ski-nordique.net. As a result, French and Italian cross-country skiers don't get much recognition outside their home region.

A cross country ski area respects its natural surroundings with tracks adapted to the mountain. It doesn't modify the landscape to make the sport possible and when the snow melts, the area can even become pasture. Plus, cross-country skiing consumes only the energy that each skier puts into it. No electricity or machinery is necessary.

This means that the costs of maintaining a cross country area remain low and proportionally, so do pass prices. A day of cross-country skiing without gear hire usually tallies up to less than €10 per adult. In an era when most families are carefully weighing their budgets, cross-country skiing offers a fun way to enjoy the snow without breaking the bank.

A day of cross-country skiing without gear hire usually tallies up to less than €10 per adult

Cross-country skiing offers a fun way to slim down and stay in shape. Whether you are well over the hill and need to take it slow, an athlete with a need for speed, or somewhere in between, there is a cross-country style suitable for all. With little gravitational impact, it is also less damaging to knee joints, unlike running.

Most skiers opt for Alpine, leaving almost zero wait to get on the cross-country tracks, which are less densely packed than the pistes. This translates in to less queuing and more skiing.

Recent developments in cross-country skiing - modern marketing techniques, resorts deals, and public events - are helping to overthrow the sport's stayed image. Instead the sport is making a name for itself as a greener and cheaper alternative to Alpine skiing.