What is Nordic skiing?

Nordic skiing is a term often interchanged with cross country skiing. Read our blog explaining the difference between cross country skiing and nordic skiing in more detail.

Essentially both are general terms used to describe the sport of skiing cross country in undulating terrain rather than downhill skiing in steep mountains. Nordic skiing also encapsulates telemark skiing and thus touches on ski touring. The name has evolved from Scandinavia where skiing cross country has been a common winter activity for decades. It is now becoming more and more popular in the Alps and other mountainous regions.

For the purposes of differentiating the different sports that have evolved in this discipline, we have used the term cross country skiing to mean on groomed pistes and Nordic skiing to refer to the sport away from the pistes in wilder territory.   

So using this definition, nordic skiing is the perfect mix between the technique of cross-country skiing on groomed pistes and ski touring/moutaineering, allowing lucky users to go off piste in the foothills of the mountains and feel the freedom of skiing in the wild without going into the steep mountains.


The equipment for Nordic skiing is a little bit heavier than for its cross-country counterpart, as the skis are more robust than the thin (and often highly technical) cross-country skis. Nordic skiing boots, both warm and light, are very comfortable. The heel of the boot is not fixed to the ski, thus providing a better flexibility.

As for the skis, they are slightly wider than cross-country skis and their edges are sharper, which results in improved stability on all types of snow. There are light scales underneath the Nordic skis for gripping when you are going uphill, which is sufficient for the steepness of slopes possible on Nordic skis.

Sometimes for slightly steeper slopes, skins can be used for extra grip. For going higher into the mountains or on steeper slopes, it is recommended you use ski touring equipment (this is a different ski discipline requiring good level of downhill skiing with off piste experience).


The technique is very similar to classic cross-country skiing, sliding each foot forward and using the poles to help propel you. Going downhill is similar to downhill skiing but obviously on gentler slopes and in a variety of different snow conditions. Nordic skis will even enable you to try some gentle ‘telemark’ on the way down!

This combination is the perfect recipe for some fun and adventure in the valleys without the hassle of having to follow pistes. Please bear in mind that as you will be going off piste, you do need a knowledge of mountain safety as there is still a real risk of avalanche. For peace of mind, we highly recommend that you go with a guide.

Best Nordic Skiing Holidays

If you are an experienced cross country skier and want to take the next step and go off piste, then our 3 day Nordic ski tour traversing the Champsaur Valley in the French Alps will be right up your street.

For purists who want to try the sport in the country of origin, then we have a fabulous cross country ski holiday in Norway which starts learning the basics of cross country skiing on the pistes and culminates in a nordic ski expedition with an overnight in a Norwegian Hytte.

If you just want to dabble in Nordic skiing then you can also try is as part of our fully customisable winter multi activity holidays.