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A family of four enjoys a snowshoeing excursion on a bright, sunny day.

For a Nordic skier or snowshoer, the breathtaking sights; the silence of nature’s winter paradise; and the fresh, invigorating air all seem enhanced by the crisp, shushing sounds of skis gliding on freshly groomed snow or the rhythmic sound of snowshoes crunching with every sure-footed step.

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing both stimulate our minds, bodies, and souls.

And snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are both easier than you may think! Both Nordic activities have been around for many years and have evolved over time with considerable improvements in equipment. Modern equipment, proper weather gear, a few easy-to-learn tips, and a little practice will surely aid in a spectacular day on Treetops’ Nordic trails.

Is Snowshoeing Hard?

Between snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing is generally much easier for beginners to pick up and learn more quickly. Snowshoeing mostly uses the already strong, stabilizing muscles in your legs: the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Since most of us are on our feet and walk many steps in our everyday life, we typically adapt very well to snowshoeing. Properly sized snowshoes distribute our body weight evenly so as not to sink too deeply as we traverse the snow.

The biggest difference is that our step pattern will need to be slightly wider with snowshoes, so we do not step on the other snowshoe as we walk. The depth of the snow and the incline of the terrain will dictate the height of our steps and the energy our bodies will need to exert. You can prepare for a snowshoeing excursion by doing walking lunges at home, which simulate the increased difficulty of the snowshoeing movement.

Here's one more important tip to remember: do not overdress. Your body will generate more heat than you think! You should layer up with shirts and jackets, but it’s not a good idea to layer your socks. If your feet are not able to move fluidly and comfortably in your boots, they will actually get much colder.

Is Cross-Country Skiing Hard?

Compared to snowshoeing, cross-country skiing is generally more difficult to learn and is more athletic and rigorous. Cross-country skiing can be more taxing on your back and shoulders if you do not let your strong leg muscles dominate the slide-and-glide motion.

Using proper equipment is important for successful cross-country skiing. The length of your skis, for example, definitely matters. Beginning skiers are much better off starting with shorter skis. Similar to downhill skiing, there are times when snow-plowing or pigeon-toed walking is necessary to venture either downhill or uphill. These techniques are much more difficult when the skis are longer (and have a greater tendency to cross). Most importantly, your ski poles are your friends in cross-country skiing. You will use them extensively in most motions, except when gliding downhill.

Unless you’re using a more modern skating style method, always keep the tips of the skis pointing forward in the direction that you want to go. Practice initially by taking smaller strides and raise your trailing heel off the ski. When the leading ski has almost stopped sliding, plant down on that ski and slide the formerly trailing ski into the lead. Most novice skiers tend to begin to move the trailing ski before the lead ski has almost stopped moving forward. Attempt to keep your back as straight as possible during this forward gliding motion.

When going downhill, be sure to bend your knees, stay centered on your skis, and keep your ski poles off the ground with the tips pointing behind you. Cross-country trail slopes are not usually severely graded and the rise and fall of the trails are relatively subtle. As with snowshoeing, you will exert considerable energy and generate body heat, so the advice about dressing in layers and not layering your socks remains the same.

Plan a Winter Getaway at Treetops Resort

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can both be an individual activity or an excellent, memorable social event. Treetops hosts several Skiable Feast and Spud-tacular Snowshoe Lunch events each winter, which combine a guided tour on cross-country skis or snowshoes with station stops along the way to sample food and beverage offerings.

We make it easy for you to give snowshoeing and cross-country skiing a try! We have an excellent supply of rental snowshoes and cross-country skis, boots, and poles waiting for you, and seasoned Treetops staff are ready to size you quickly with the perfect fit for our sprawling, scenic trails.

Ready to try one of these fun winter sports? Submit a Plan a Trip Form to design your low-key but memorable winter getaway at Treetops.