Cross-country skiers in Pennsylvania face many challenges as snow conditions can rapidly change in our state.  The ski experience can range from nearly perfect to to literally no snow in a very short time. How does a skier cope?  Following are some tips gathered from over 30 years of experience cross-country skiing in PA: 

1.   Stay positive.  Know that all cross-country skiers even in the best places outside of Pennsylvania deal with the full range of conditions.  

2.  Cross-country ski with a core group of friends.  This helps in staying positive, sharing travel expenses, training, improving technique, and breaking trail, which skiers often do in Pennsylvania.  It is also safer to ski with other people, especially in remote places. 

3.  Have a cross-country ski track within 10 minutes of home.   For example, the track can be on a school yard, field, or park, as long as it's not illegal. It only needs to be a quarter to a half mile in length.  Ideally, it will have small hills and flat sections.  If the grass is short, less snow will be needed for skiing.  The idea is to set your own tracks for optimal skiing and to work on technique.   Instead of continually breaking trail, the tracks will allow the skier to work on diagonal stride, double pole, kick double pole, herringbone climbs, downhill, traverses, and turning.   The track will become a great place for workouts.  For another option, roller skis can be used for drills if you live in a very low snow area.  

4.  Learn how to skate ski.   Skate skiing extends the cross-country ski season as sometimes conditions favor skating rather than classic skiing.  Melt and freeze conditions with some powder on top make for great skating.  Whole fields become wide open skate-skiing wonderlands.  Baseball fields often become great skate ski areas.  Groomed skate lanes are welcomed, but they are not always needed to enjoy skating and to develop skating skills.   

5.  Learn how to wax.   Waxing allows a cross-country skier to deal with the full range of ski conditions.  Waxless skis are useful in certain conditions and situations, but waxable skis are better most of the time.  Waxing increases knowledge about snow and improves ski performance.  It is not that difficult.
6.  Learn how to klister wax.   Klister wax expands the range of conditions classic skiers can enjoy.  It is amazing stuff that works well in both melting and some icy conditions.

8.  Own several types of skis, boots, and poles.   One pair of skis is limiting.  There are different types of skis and equipment for different types of cross-country skiing:  touring, racing, back-country, waxless and waxable, metal-edged, classic, and skate skis, to name a few.    For ski touring in Pennsylvania a light-weight, metal-edged, waxable classic ski is great.  For a citizens race, a racing ski is best.  Over the years, expand the types of skis and equipment and cover the full range of ski conditions in Pennsylvania.  Pay attention to the boot binding system and try to have the bindings work with several pairs of boots.  

9.  Own a pair of rock skis.   Rock skis are skis that are able to take a beating in low snow conditions.  Pick these up at a yard sale or use an old pair that have been replaced by a newer pair.   Rock skis allow skiing in marginal conditions without the fear of damaging a nice pair of skis.  Rock skis expand the number of skiing days; it is surprising how good some rock skiing days turn out to be.  Be sure the skis are the proper size.    

10. Learn how to install bindings.  Installing bindings takes some care, some simple tools, and the ability to follow directions.   It is the best way to take advantage of picking up bargain skis and building a versatile fleet of skis.  A ski shop technician can also install the bindings for a fee.   

11.  Set some goals for the season.   Having goals helps in staying positive and getting outside to ski.  One goal might be to ski at all the  groomed cross-country ski centers in the state.  Another might be to participate in a citizen race or two.   Others might be to explore a new trail system, visit an exotic resort in a far away location, or participate in a large Worldloppet event. 

12.  Learn how to roller ski.  Roller skiing helps when there is no snow.  It keeps the body ready for snow skiing.   A Pennsylvania skier living temporarliy on the snowless coast of Australia got ready for the Kangaroo Hoppet race by roller skiing.   Rollers keep you ready for the snow. 

13.  Go to the snow.   Become a weather watcher and travel to where there is snow for a day of skiing.  Also, seek out the higher elevations in the state.  Often there is snow above 1800 feet, usually less than one or two hours away.   Snow cover resources from weather sites can be helpful in finding snow.  
14.   Use waxless skis.  If the idea of waxing takes all the fun out of going skiing, go waxless. Use waxless skis when the snow is really wet or the temperature is absurd for skiing.  If the conditions will put tons of dirt and debris on the skis, why bother messing up a wax job--use the waxless skis.  If the only skis you own are waxless, go waxless.   



  • cross-country skiing
  • Pennsylvania winters
  • Tips and hints to extend skiing
  • coping with changeable conditions

View All Blog Posts >