Passion for the tracks
“IT IS THE most beautiful sport in the world.” Probably also the healthiest, the most elegant, the gentlest, and the most fun of all. In any case, Uwe Spörl leaves no doubt that you’ve missed out on a whole lot if you’ve never strapped on a pair of cross-country skis. “It gives you so much to glide over the powder snow on a perfectly prepared cross-country trail, to let the wind blow across your cheeks, to experience only nature and your own self and simply block out everything else.” Enchanting winter landscapes, tracks in the snow, idyllic tranquillity quickly appear before the inner eye – the hustle and bustle on the piste and the traffic jam in front of the lift takes place elsewhere.
Of course, it helps immensely if you know your cross-country skis well. But the owner and manager of the Nordic Power cross-country skiing and snow sports school in Oberjoch is also confident about this: “It’s not an extremely complicated movement. You can get the hang of it relatively quickly. Cross-country skiing is a whole-body sport, there are hardly any other sports that involve so many muscle groups.” What sets the sport apart: Especially for beginners, it can be designed as a moderate and steady physical strain with loose movements, while already passionate cross-country skiers can really challenge themselves athletically, “you can control that well yourself,” says Spörl about the possible range of intensity. In any case, happiness hormones are released, the cross-country coach promises.
As an advantage over alpine skiing adventures, the Allgäu native cites the flexible planning framework: “You don’t have to invest and plan the whole day. It’s enough to spend an hour on the cross-country ski trail and do something really good for your body and soul. This means that cross-country skiing can also be easily integrated into everyday life. However, you shouldn’t expect too much of yourself at the beginning and you shouldn’t choose sections that are too demanding so that the fun doesn’t fall by the wayside.
When it comes to clothing, follow the onion principle and wear several thin layers of functional clothing. A good running hat instead of a thick woollen cap is also valuable. As far as equipment is concerned: “No one needs to buy top equipment right from the start, as there are many opportunities to borrow and try out equipment. It is much more important to learn the movement well so that it comes easily.” That’s why the expert recommends a basic course to all those interested, “learning with professionals saves time and is much more fun than fiddling around with the movements yourself.” After the first few days of the course, you can already get a good idea of the sport and all its possibilities.
THE RIGHT TECHNIQUE
With like-minded people, it’s a fun way to start in a group, and you can work on the technique later in individual training. The classic technique is suitable for beginners, in which the skis are guided parallel and the connection between the skis and the snow is optimally provided by a mechanical climbing aid. Skating allows you to move faster, but you should already have more experience, says Spörl. In this technique, the leg kick is made using the skating stride; incidentally, the style only became established in the 1980s.
There is one more thing the professional would like to give to all those who want to discover cross-country skiing for themselves or have already done so: “The fun factor should always be in the foreground and not the running speed.” Because it is a common mistake that even passionate hobby runners are not immune to: You simply run too fast. Years ago, a study in the Allgäu region of Germany took a closer look at cross-country skiers. By measuring the lactate value, which indicates the physical workload, they found that 85 percent of the men and 82 percent of the women were going too fast.
LEARNING THROUGH PLAY
The passion has long since spread to all age groups. At kids’ camps, even the youngest learn how to adequately handle cross-country skis. “They often find cross-country skiing together with their parents terribly boring, but you can also jump or slalom while cross-country skiing, the play factor is crucial.” A starting age of six to seven is recommended, “it’s good if the child can strap on the skis themselves and also get up independently after a fall,” says Spörl, who has been making tracks through the snow with his father since an early age. “My hobby is now my profession”, Spörl rejoices.