Are Nordic and Cross Country Skiing the Same?

The Difference Between Nordic and Cross Country Skiing Explained

When it comes to winter sports, skiing is one of the most popular activities. However, there are different types of skiing that can be confusing for beginners. Among these variations, Nordic skiing and cross country skiing often cause some confusion. Are they the same thing? Let’s dive into the details and distinguish between these two types.

Understanding Nordic Skiing

Nordic skiing refers to a specific style of skiing that originated in Northern Europe, particularly in Scandinavia. It encompasses various disciplines such as ski jumping, Telemark skiing, biathlon, and cross country skiing. The term “nordic” indicates its connection with countries like Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.

The Basics of Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing is a form of nordic skiing that focuses on covering long distances across flat or gently rolling terrains. Unlike downhill alpine ski resorts where skiers descend slopes using lifts or chairlifts before gliding down predetermined trails at high speeds; cross country skiers rely solely on their own physical power without any assistance from mechanical lifts.

Nordic Combined: A Combination Sport

Nordic combined combines both ski jumping and cross country racing into a single event. This particular discipline showcases athletes who excel in both areas by testing their skills on jumps as well as during endurance races through varied terrains.

Distinguishing Features Between Nordic vs Cross Country Skiing:

While similar in nature due to being part of the broader nordic family tree (pun intended), there are distinct differences setting these two forms apart:

1. Technique:
– In traditional cross country skiing (a subset within the nordic family), skiers push off with their legs in a coordinated V-pattern, using poles to maintain balance and propel forward.
– Nordic skiing includes various styles, such as classic technique (a diagonal stride where skis remain parallel) and skate skiing (a side-to-side motion that resembles ice skating).

2. Equipment:
– Cross country skis are generally longer, narrower, and lighter than those used for alpine or downhill skiing.
– Nordic ski equipment varies depending on the specific discipline within the sport. Ski jumpers have distinct long-jump specialized equipment compared to cross country racers.

3. Terrain:
– Cross country skiing often takes place on groomed trails that require minimal elevation changes.
– Nordic disciplines like ski jumping may occur on specially designed jumps or hills while cross-country racing might traverse varying terrains including flat tracks, hilly landscapes, forests or even snow-covered town streets.


In summary, nordic skiing is an umbrella term encompassing multiple disciplines including cross country skiing. While cross country falls under the broader category of nordic skiing, it focuses specifically on covering large distances over relatively flat terrain using specific techniques and equipment. Understanding these differences will help you choose which style of this fantastic winter activity suits your preferences best.