The great Scottish outdoors provide the perfect playground for cross-country skiing, the all-terrain snowsport that you do at your own pace. The lightweight equipment provides an excellent way to get outside and continue exploring during winter months. Little snow is required to wind through woodland, stomp over hillsides or skirt around golf courses. For those looking for groomed trails or to have a shot at skating, tracks are cut in the Clashindarroch Forest, around Glenmore and during special events on the Glencoe Plateau.
Being kind on the joints, cross-country skiing is accessible to all ages. The easy to learn basic technique also means that those new to cross-country skiing can quickly integrate into Nordic ski clubs or set off on their own adventures. To find out more about Scotland’s welcoming Nordic ski community and where you can get involved or go for a ski, see the sections below.
Meanwhile, cross-country ski racing is often touted as one of the most physically demanding competitive sports and renowned as winter cross-training for triathletes, runners and rowers. If it is the colourful, lung-burning, lycra-wearing aspect that appeals to you, check out our performance page.
Cross-country skiing is participated in year-round across Scotland with the aid of roller skis, which are short skis with wheels. Roller ski technique is a very close approximation to cross-country skiing on snow, but practiced on tarmac. Challenging and fun in its own right, roller skiing is great for those looking to learn cross-country ski basics, as well as those looking to hone their skills or keep in shape over the summer.
For those new to roller skiing, practice on traffic free circuits is recommended such as at the Huntly Nordic Outdoor Centre, Glenmore Lodge and the Fife Cycle Park. For more advanced skiers heading out onto local roads, some useful road safety guidance is available on Fasterskier.com: https://fasterskier.com/fsarticle/rollerski-safety-best-practices/.
Snowsport Scotland run events for those wanting to try roller skiing for the first time and for more experience skiers looking for a bit of coaching or to ski as part of a group. Visit our events calendar for more information or contact us at email@example.com.
There is also a Snowsport Scotland Roller Ski Race Series, more info on our Performance Cross-Country Skiing page.
Currently there is one purpose built dry mat for cross-country skiing, located at the Huntly Nordic and Outdoor Centre. The striding lanes, and figure of eight loop (including a little hill over a bridge) provides 400 m of track ideal for first timers looking for an introduction to classic technique to more experienced skiers who are looking for a challenging training session.
One of Sport Scotland’s national centre at Glenmore (near Aviemore) has a purpose built roller ski track and biathlon shooting range. For more information about the track and roller ski sessions there:
The centre is the only full dedication facility to cross country skiing and roller skiing. It runs a range of activities, course and programmes all year round on it’s artificial ski matting, roller ski track and tubing.
In winter, the Clashindarroch Forest provides some of the best snow holding trails in the UK and is well pisted by the volunteer trail cutters from the Huntly Nordic Ski Club. The forest averages 45 days of skiing each year although in 2011/12 and 2012/13, the forest had over 100 days of skiing.
Glenmore Ski trails are provided by the Glenmore Cross Country Ski Machine. This is run as a charity to provide high quality ski tracks in Glenmore Forest near Aviemore for the use of all cross country skiers. For further details on conditions and ski hire visit:
HNOC is Britain’s only purpose-built all-weather facility for cross-country skiing and roller skiing, providing tuition at all levels from novice to elite. The facility is run by Aberdeenshire Council.
Skis and roller skis (with boots and poles) are available for hire for use on the dry ski track and the roller ski track at the Huntly Nordic & Outdoor Centre. When there’s snow, skis, boots and poles can be rented by the day or half day for use on the trails in the Clashindarroch Forest between Rhynie and the Cabrach or other local trails.
HNSC aims to promote all forms of Nordic skiing: track, racing, touring, telemark and roller skiing. They operate primarily at Huntly Nordic and Outdoor Centre and Clashindarroch Forest Ski Trails in addition to other locations in North East Scotland. We cater for all ages and standards from novice to elite level international skiers (5 Winter Olympians since 2010).
Highland Nordic aim to promote cross-country skiing with an emphasis upon both roller ski and on-snow ski racing. They have their own roller skis, snow skis, boots, and poles for sessions. Highland Nordic operate all year round in the Strathspey area.
There are two techniques used for cross-country skiing; Classic and Skate. As a cross-country ski technique, skating is actually comparatively young, first being used in the 1980s. Classic, on the other hand, has been included in the Olympics since 1924. Classic technique is comparable to running with alternate arms and legs propelling the skier forward up a twin-cut spur. Skate technique is more akin to ice-skating, roller blading and speed skating with power from the legs being generated by a side-to-side motion on wide, smooth trails.
After the Seefield 1985 World Championship, where all the medals were won utilising skate, classic and skate were separated and defined as separate techniques. Specific equipment has since been developed for each technique.
For both classic and skate, boots attach to the ski binding at the toe only, allowing a wide-range of motion and free heel. The equipment for both techniques is also lightweight – especially in comparison to alpine ski equipment.
Skate skis are typically shorter than classic skis and the poles are longer, reaching to between the skier’s shoulder and nose. The boots provide ankle support and are stiffer along the sole. Skate roller skis are typically slightly shorter than classic roller skis and have wheels that are free to roll backwards as well as forwards.
Classic skis tend to be slightly longer and cambered so that the central section makes contact with the snow when the skier kicks down on the ski. Forward propulsion is generated by the ski gripping the snow, which can be achieved through a variety of different technologies such as fishscales (notching in the base), hairiesor zeros (fibrous hairs on the base) or wax (sticky tub wax corked onto the base). The poles are slightly shorter, coming up to the skier’s armpits and the boots have minimal ankle support and are very flexible at the toe. Classic roller skis have a ratchetted front wheel to prevent the ski rolling backwards and providing the grip equivalent to the central section of a ski.
New cross-country and roller ski equipment can be bought online or at specialised sport shops in Scotland. Second-hand gear is also available from club kit sales or centre ex-rentals. The price for a complete roller ski package including boots, roller skis and poles starts from about £210. Second hand ski packages start from about £120.
Snowsport Scotland employs two cross country coaches to support the progression of cross country ski athletes through the pathway and into the GB Snowsports teams. This is done in partnership with Clubs, GB Snowsports and the British Nordic Development Squad.
Please check our Facilities & Clubs page to get in touch with your local cross country skiing or roller ski club or contact one of cross country coaches to find out about our national programmes.