When it comes to Nordic skiing, most athletes will tell you about two specific styles. The first, Classic, will allow you to glide easily through snowy landscapes on classic ski trails. You will leave behind to parallel tracks, and the movement is natural and smooth. The second style, Skate, guarantees speed and a killer workout. Skating is a free technique, meaning the trails don’t offer must guidance (as a classic XC trail might). The key to skate skiing is the v-style, where you create speed by pressing the edge of your ski into the snow and pushing hard against it. Most Nordic skiers are familiar with these two styles, but which is best for backcountry?
To tell you the truth, neither is exactly right for backcountry Nordic skiing. That’s why the sport has its own, distinct style! Backcountry style allows you the freedom to explore a range of terrain without difficulty. The style is similar to Classic skiing, but there is a small difference. Backcountry style incorporates a kick and glide phase while keeping the skis parallel. However, in incorporating a slight, skate-like push, you’ll feel more comfortable in deep snow. The style is not meant for speed, but instead designed to address the range of conditions one might experience in the forest. If you find a flat stretch of path, you can utilize the Classic style to glide through. If you encounter steeper and deeper conditions, you can begin to incorporate a Skate-like push to get through even the toughest snowpack.
The key to finding your perfect backcountry method is simple. Adapt. Don’t stick to Classic skiing just because it’s more comfortable. Don’t stick to Skate skiing because you want the speed. Backcountry style is, necessarily, a combination of all popular and useful Nordic ski methods—take the time to figure out what works for you, your skill, and the terrain you’re on.
And one more thing—get yourself some proper equipment. I have a post about choosing good backcountry skis.