Nordic skiing to embrace the mountains

Nordic skiing, also known as cross-country skiing, can be traced back to the Nordic countries where it is still used as a means of getting around in some rural communities. It’s the evolution of snowshoeing and involves gliding across snowy landscapes without the assistance of ski lifts. “In Nordic skiing you move across the snow under your own steam; there are no chairlifts or platter lifts,” explains Imma Obiols, an instructor at the Nordic ski resorts of Catalonia (Tot Nòrdic)


Nordic skiing is for everyone

Cross-country skiing uses skis that are longer and narrower than alpine skis because they make for greater mobility and flexibility. The idea is not to walk on the snow, as some people think, but rather to glide across it using your own body strength. “Nordic skiing has no limitations and is a highly recommended sport because it involves non-impact movement of all parts of the body,” notes Obiols. “It combines lower and upper body exercise. Plus the movement and sliding adapt to your fitness level and don’t call for any great expertise".


Classic or skating?

There are two Nordic skiing styles: classic and skating. The former, which is best suited for beginners, is the more traditional and easier to learn. The skis are guided along a track made in the snow on the slopes which helps to maintain balance and prevents the skis from criss-crossing. By contrast, skating is done on wider slopes with compacted snow by pushing the skis left and right. It means you can pick up more speed and brings more freedom, but it is also more physically demanding.



Ski mountaineering for the more daring

It is often mistaken for Nordic skiing but it is not in fact the same. Nordic skiing is always done on circuits. These are long-distance trails which are prepared with groomers to compact the snow and lay down the tracks required. By contrast, ski mountaineering (skimo) is a type of mountaineering that takes place in open mountains and the idea is to go up and down peaks when they are already snow-covered.

Both routes are done with the same skis, which are sheathed in a special synthetic material called “sealskin” so you can climb without slipping. Descents are mainly outside ski resorts and hence on ungroomed terrain which calls for extensive knowledge of the local surroundings and greater physical fitness.



In the Catalan Pyrenees there are seven Nordic ski resorts with a wide variety of slopes suitable for beginners and expert skiers alike. “All the resorts have the essential services including groomed slopes, gear rental and ski schools,” say the team at Tot Nòrdic. “Plus some of them also feature lodges almost at the foot of the slopes where they run activities all year round.”

If you’re looking for a recommendation, a getaway to la Cerdanya to do some cross-country skiing is a great choice. It hosts the Guils Fontanera resort, sited on an Atlantic-influenced slope which means it gets more snow time. There are also the  Lles and Aransa, resorts which are connected and muster a total of 67 km of slopes. They run through alpine forests and afford exceptional views of the Serra del Cadí mountain range And Lles de Cerdanya is also home to the Refugi Cap del Rec lodge where you can stay overnight in the heart of nature.

Another option is to head into the Alt Pirineu National Park where there is the small Virós-Vallferrera resort, Sant Joan de l’Erm featuring slopes for all levels, and Tavascan, where you can also go downhill skiing, freeriding and ski mountaineering. Or you can opt for Tuixent-La Vansa, a resort with routes running across the north face of the Port del Comte massif and which enable you to admire Pedraforca while you ski. There are loads of choices.

Nordi Ski and Snowshoeing