Cross-country skiing: Alex Harvey’s tips

The importance of staying hydrated and choosing the right clothes

A collaboration with Alex Harvey, Olympic cross-country skier.

For your body to be at its best during a cross-country skiing outing, it's essential to pay particular attention to your hydration and choice of clothes. Here are some of my recommendations to help you take full advantage of your next sliding session on the trails.

Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq

Essential supplies: water and food

Experts agree that it’s important to stay hydrated when doing sports. Surprisingly, cross-country skiers often tend to forget this.

Indeed, it’s often thought that if we aren’t sweating buckets – which is frequently the case when cross-country skiing - we don’t need to rehydrate. On the contrary, even if we don't notice, the heat (not necessarily sweat) that we generate is a source of water loss. It’s a natural mechanism of the body to defend itself against the cold. So you have to think about staying hydrated and especially don't wait until you’re too thirsty.

In addition to remaining well hydrated, don't forget to have a little something to eat during longer outings, as you do during the warm season. Remember to bring food that won’t turn into a concrete block as it cools or a liquid with carbohydrates and proteins that you can bring in an insulated bottle.

Stéphane Audet | © Sépaq
Francis Bouchard | © Sépaq

Strike a balance in your choice of clothes

On top of hydration, clothing remains a key factor when it comes to having a good time on the trails. When it comes to cross-country skiing, dressing inappropriately is probably the most common cause of discomfort (on par with learning to wax). Wearing too many clothes causes the same discomfort as not wearing enough.

You'll understand that we must strike a balance. Don't dress as if you're going alpine skiing, or for a summer bike ride. You'll find that with practice, it becomes easier to choose the right clothes, so don’t get discouraged! You’ll know that you’ve discovered the perfect recipe if the slight chill at the beginning disappears after a few minutes of sliding. A bit of physical activity will balance things out, and you’ll find yourself skiing without sweating too much either.

Also make sure to protect yourself from frostbite by never hesitating to take a break in a little shelter to warm up when it’s very cold. When faced with the deep freeze, make it a priority to protect your extremities (hands, feet, ears, face, etc.) by wearing appropriate clothing such as good gloves and a tubular scarf that you can adjust according to your needs.

Winter often comes with very chilly weather. Let’s learn to adapt and enjoy the magnificent trails and scenery a few minutes from home by respecting these few golden rules. Please don’t complain, as believe me, with the ton of snow that has already fallen, we’re truly the envy of Scandinavian and other European skiers alike!

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