The Difference Between Cross-Country Skiing and Skate Skiing

Classic cross-country skiing or skate skiing? The choice is yours when you visit the ranch and head out on our 20 km of daily-groomed Nordic trails that feature seven connected loops. You’re probably familiar with classic cross-country skiing. Skate skiing might be a different story. So, we’ve put together this primer to explain the sport.

You’ll be better equipped to choose the style that best suits the type of winter adventure you want during your visit.


Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s step back for a second to give you some context into the two styles.

The primary difference between classic cross-country skiing and skate skiing is technique. Cross-country or Nordic skiing mimics the natural movement you make when walking. Each ski moves forward in a straight-line direction.

Skate skiing utilizes lateral movements that resemble a person skating. The skier generates speed by putting their weight on the inside edge of each ski and shifting their weight back and forth as they ski.

Ski Movement and Positioning

Perhaps the biggest difference in the stride is that unlike classic cross-country skiing where the ski will momentarily stop as the leg pushes down and back, a skate ski continuously glides. The skis are also positioned differently. Cross-country skis are aligned side by side and move in a straight line. Skate skis are in a constant V formation.


No surprise, but the equipment between the two skiing styles is also different. Compared to cross-country skiing, you’ll find with skate skiing:

  • No grip zone on the ski
  • A stiffer flex
  • Shorter length of ski
  • Longer ski poles
  • Stiffer boots with a higher cuff

Skate Skiing Techniques

Skate skiers utilize five different techniques and switch between them depending on the terrain.

  1. V Skating – This is a power move intended for low speeds like when you’re climbing a hill. The skier pushes off the inside edge of the ski and alternates legs as if they were skating on ice.
  2. V1 Skate – This move quickly generates power and is used to climb hills or to accelerate from a standstill. It’s essentially the V Skate move with a much quicker transition between leg pushes.
  3. V2 Skate – This again is essentially the V Skate, but on a flat or slight downhill. The motion is longer and fluid, which generates a mix of speed and power.
  4. V2 Alternate – This is for higher speeds on a flat or slight downhill and mimics the V2 Skate, but with a quicker transition between leg pushes.
  5. No poles – Used for downhill, the skier will be in a slight tuck position and using a the V2 skate motion, but without utilizing the poles.

To see how these various techniques work, XC Ski Nation has put together this excellent introductory video that demonstrates skate skiing.

Your Turn

Now that we’ve explained the basics, you’re ready to give it a try next time you visit the ranch. The varied terrain on our Nordic trails make it the perfect place to try all five techniques. Uneasy about heading out yourself? Ask about our Ski Tours with our experienced guides.