How Fast do XC Skiers go?

How fast do xc skiers go

Are you interested in XC skiing but can’t quite figure out how fast you can go? You are not alone, very many people around the world tease around with the idea of replacing walking with XC skiing but the speed question holds them back.

Others even doubt whether XC skiing is interesting at all. Well, you might not be privy to a lot of XC skiing details but the hype and admiration people around the globe have for professional and celebrity skiers should tell you something about the fun in XC skiing.

Novice cross-country skiers have more questions than answers. They wonder; how fast XC country skiing is compared to running. How fast do Olympic cross-country skiers go? Is 40 mph on skis too fast? Just to mention a few.

If you feature in this bracket, worry no more as today’s article will stress as much as possible to answer these questions and more.

Read on

How Fast Can XC Skiers Go?

How Fast Can XC Skiers Go

Professional skiers can easily achieve 15 mph even on long skiing trips while the most experienced crosscountry skiers are known to deliver skiing speeds as high as 25 mph. These speeds tend to increase and decrease depending on the terrain and snow conditions although, with proper training, a skier can easily work their way around nature.

Recreational cross-country skiers, on the other hand, have their average skiing speed in the 7-9 mph range with the best in this class hitting the 10 mph speed record.

Skill LevelOver Average Distance (miles)Average Speed (mph)
Professional Racers3515
Experience Skiiers3520-25
Recreational xc Skiiers357 to 9

With that said, it is important that we stress the importance of working on your skill and worrying less about your average speed- with better skills, speed skiing becomes easier. Besides, we can’t say for sure that the best speed skiing skiers maintain their average speed throughout the trip.

It’s a known fact that speed skiers perform better when downhill skiing and struggle to with uphill trails. If you gauge your speed relative to their downhill skiing speeds then you might be unfair to yourself-most recreational skiers make this mistake.

Other factors like upper body composition and equipment could also affect your crosscountry skiing speed plus the technique in play. If you consider these factors, you’ll realize that you’re better off enjoying your ski rather than antagonizing over track speed.

Cross Country Skiing Explained

Cross Country Skiing Explained

The crosscountry skiing sport is divided and enjoyed into two main types; the classic option and the skating option. This division is based on the techniques applied in each type.

The differences in these techniques are evident in very many fronts. In classic skiing, for example, we lead with the first foot when passing into the turn while in the skating technique, this foot trails.

The wickedly fast cross country skiers you watch on the track or downhill run bear years of training under their belts. A conversation with one of the few skiing champions could reveal so much about the faster speeds- cross country skiing is a highly technical activity. We will elaborate on a few facets surrounding the powerful stunts you watch on TV.

Tips For XC Skiing

Tips For XC Skiing

The direction to where you point your face when skiing depends on the direction of the slope not where you feel most comfortable. When going downhill or gliding on slightly tilting terrain, face downhill. The same applies to upward skiing, if you’re skiing upwards, you’ll want to be facing directly forward.

Follow these face direction rules but don’t be rigid, keep an open eye for unpredictable snow conditions or or changes in the environment- a fellow skier could hit you from the side and cause you serious injury. This mostly happens in crowded runs.

Avoid trails with poor conditions like bad lighting, this way, even new users can avoid crashing.

As for balance at high speeds, make use of your hands. Just like in running, you need to spread and fold your arms accordingly to maintain balance throughout the ski.

As a cross-country skier, you will need to maintain proper form for long distances. To do this, glide rather than splint when going uphill or through flat terrain. When you reach the world’s steepest slopes, you can push off with your limbs forward and backward; like you do when running fast.

For the skiing-over-running question, it’s apparent that recreational crosscountry skiers with proper skiing techniques will reach their destinations in shorter periods- we measure the speed using skiing apps. They can attain and maintain higher skiing speeds with less effort, plus, a casual speed skier rarely make coffee stops.

To conserve energy, you can use a route with the least wind resistance- this will serve you better in continuous distances throughout your cross country ski.

Cross country skiing or as some of us call it- Nordic skiing, might not be as physically demanding as other sports but we cannot rule out the need for endurance and self-control.

Classic XC Skiing

Classic XC Skiing

As the name suggests, classic skiing is an ancient skiing technique that was employed by the earliest skiers in the world, the Nordic people. Classic skiers might not have the most advanced methods at their disposal but they sure do enjoy their time in the outdoors.

Skate skiers who’ve had the chance to try out classic skiing liken it to walking only that you get to use skis and poles. The most notable aspect of this technique is the constant kicking and pushing- despite it creating immense friction with the snow, it is the best way to push yourself forward when classic skiing.

The kicking and pushing also help the skiers maintain balance as well as manage their speeds when going downhill- they can attain higher speeds in classic skiing by kicking much harder.

If you talk to professional crosscountry downhill skiers about your plans to join the winter games, they’ll most probably recommend classic skiing- it is not only easy to perform but also more novice-friendly. Well, not entirely, this only works if the learner is using roller skis. On actual snow, you are safer skate skiing, and then taking on classic skiing after a few trips.

Learning skiing is not as easy as celebrity downhill skiers make it appear, it takes immense effort, a lot of time, and a little bit of homework. If you have access to a ski area then that’s all you need to get started. You can groom the trails to accommodate both skiing styles on the same course so you’ll get to train both, the learning curve will be steeper but definitely worth it. While grooming, remember to keep the vertical feet of the snow standard.

Skate Skiing

Skate Skiing

With the classic skiing technique out of the way, we’ll now shift our focus to skate skiing. Considering the history of crosscountry skiing, skating is still a new kid on the block. Introduced in the 80s, this new technique added fun and methodology to a rather boring recreational activity.

It is also called the ‘’free technique’’ owing to its limited levels of guidance compared to classic style skiing even in the same event.

If you are planning your entry into skate skiing, it’s important that you master the V-style; it is the basis of all other styles in this sport. It’s simple; you just need to push your ski edge well enough into the snow before employing your body weight to effect gliding.

The transfer of weight to the skis helps you increase speed. With the right amount of skill and confidence, you can easily attain 30 mph-that is all the thrill you need, for now.

With a mastery of the V-style, the previously troubling uphill terrains will now be a walk in the park. V-style skiers also have an easier time taking on sharp turns, especially on wide trails.

We recommend that you learn this style before others so as to benefit from its many features while also enjoying the sport- the v-style is known to be so much fun, some reviews even consider it addictive.  

In the V-style, the skis are held in a V shape where the tips are wider compared to the tails- you’ll have to learn this since conventional skis styles have the skis in parallel position. To promote the efficiency of the V-style, the skis are made shorter than normal. This makes it easier to maneuver and turn them even at high speeds.

When moving forward, you’ll roll each ski independently, one goes inwards then sideways. The whole concept borrows a lot from ice skating although in limited degrees due to the varying conditions in the two sports.

The boots spotted in crosscountry skating events bear a difference different from those employed in classic style events. One notable feature is the cuffs, this helps with the stabilization aspect. To maintain balance and secure the user’s feet, skate skiing boots must be stiffer.

The poles used in skate skiing are also longer- these coupled with the stiff boots offer the best form of forward propulsion. In both XC skiing techniques, the poles in use can greatly alter the outcome of a race.

Unlike classic skiing where novice skiers can cheat their way to the finish line by walking or simply gliding their skis forward, skate skiing calls for high levels of training plus a full body and soul investment.

For an optimum experience, look to skate ski on machine-groomed trails- skate skiing on ungroomed trails can be hell, especially for inexperienced skiers. If you can’t gain access to a well-trailed track, a well snow-crusted surface will do but the level of skill required will be higher of course.

With that said, we must point out that skate skiing under extreme weather conditions can be difficult if not unsafe- skiing on slow snow hinders gliding and in turn, costs you more energy to move forward even on small slopes.

Should I Learn Both Classic And Skate Skiing Techniques?

Should I Learn Both Classic And Skate Skiing Techniques

Most newbie skiers select and focus on one technique, well, it’s safe to concentrate your core strength on one technique rather than being all over the place but as the experts say” you can never learn too much”. If your time and budget allow it, learn both.

The two skiing techniques have a lot in common, learning each offers you the freedom to borrow various aspects from either side and employ them to better your skill in the other.

Additionally, learning both techniques means that you’ll have both types of equipment. This means that you’ll get to choose the style to employ depending on your mood and maybe your preference at that particular time.

As you chase skills in the two techniques, however, you must remember the financial and time costs- it can get expensive.

Key Principles In Cross Country Skiing

Key Principles In Cross Country Skiing

There are a few factors crosscountry skiers should understand before hitting the speed track. They include;


Friction arouses different reactions among crosscountry skiers; some acknowledge its benefits while others feel that skiing would be more fun if friction was reduced.

Friction results from the ski’s contact with the snow and its effect on the miles traveled depends on how they employ its presence to their advantage. To best control friction, do this;

When skiing on a downhill trail, for example, the less friction you are up against, the better- an easier glide allows you to attain higher speeds with less effort. In uphill travel, however, without friction, you will have trouble pushing off the snow to move forward. Friction must be present for the ski to grip the surface without sliding off the trail.


Gravity is another loved and at the same time hated participle in XC skiing. This is the force that pulls us to the center of the earth or downwards. When moving downwards, gravity will pull you to the ground but not downhill- you will have to overcome it to propel yourself downwards.

Gravity sounds like a hindrance to easier skiing but remember, when skiing uphill, you need gravity to remain grounded. Without gravity, uphill travel in skiing would be non-existent. Gravity plays a vital role in maintaining balance in uphill skiing.


This is the power that pushes us forward when we ski. Force is generated by our use of arms, legs, and equipment. The poles for example push us forward when moved horizontally but do not have the same effect when moved vertically. How you use force will determine how it will serve you.

Bottom Line

Bottom Line

The high levels of professional athleticism and speeds in xc skiing are the biggest draw for fans in the winter Olympics- skiing is a big deal. These speeds can go as high as 25 mph or even more depending on the skier’s level of skill and of course, confidence.

These speeds do not just come by though; they are a result of years of training and mastery of the physics behind speed management, in cross country skiing.

The article above explains in detail, how fast recreational skiers travel, the various techniques you can employ to attain fast speeds, and a brief look into the physics of xc skiing.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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