Cross-Country Skiing 101: Glossary

Posted at 5:46 AM, Oct 12, 2021

Classical technique: Kick-and-glide cross-country skiing technique distinguished by diagonal stride, keeping the skis parallel to one another. Also known as diagonal technique. 

Double pole: A technique in which a skier propels themselves forward using both ski poles simultaneously. A variation of double poling is named kick double pole, where a skier pushes off with one ski while using both poles simultaneously. Both techniques can be used in classical and freestyle races. 

Feeding Zone: Area on a cross-country skiing course where coaches are allowed to hand off energy drinks and/or gels to athletes mid-race. Only seen during longer distance events. 

Freestyle or skate technique: Skis are spread apart at the tip and close together at the tails. Skiers push off the inside edge of alternating skis to propel themselves forward. First named “skate” due to the similar motion to ice skating. 

Harries: Ski preparation technique. A ski is roughed up with a brush, instead of waxed, when kick wax is not desired for a classical race – introduced by only U.S. skier to win a cross-country skier Bill Koch.

Herringbone technique: Skiing technique used primarily to climb steep hills. Herringbone is allowed in classical races as long as a racer does not glide. Herringbone technique is sometimes called the "duck walk." 

Klister: Sticky, goopy kick wax used on the camber (the section of the ski directly beneath the foot) of cross-country skis in classical races where a tacky grip is necessary. Used when snow conditions get mushy for better kick. 

Bill Koch: 1976 Innsbruck Olympic Games silver medalist in the 30km – the only U.S. cross-country skier in history to win an individual Olympic medal. 

Loppet: Scandinavian word, said to be Norwegian in origin, meaning a ski race. Loppet has also been used to refer to an “intense competition,” and also, to describe a skiing event in which people ski to take in the outdoor beauty around the ski trails. 

Lucky Loser: A skier who is not one of the top two finishers of their heat, but advances through to the next round of a race based on the ranking of their time.  

Photo finish: In cross-country skiing the winner of a race is based on the first toe of a boot, NOT the tip of a ski, to cross the finish line. 

Piste: The snow-covered track used in a cross-country ski race. 

Scramble leg: The first leg of a mass start ski race, where skiers are all “scrambling” for the best position. 

“Track!”: In a race, a skier may yell “track!” before passing a fellow skier. In race etiquette, this is the most courteous way of saying, “Get out of my way!” 

Tip: The upward curving front of a ski. 

Tail: The flat back end of a ski. 

Vertical: An uphill climb. 

Wax: Substance used on the bottom of skis. Two wax types commonly used on cross-country skis include kick wax and glide wax. Kick wax is also known as grip wax, used on skis during classical technique races. Glide wax is used on the tips and tails of skis during classical races, and on the entire length of the skis in freestyle races. Ski waxes are developed while considering a variety of race day conditions, including snow condition, snow temperature, air temperature and air humidity.  

Wax pocket: Also known as the “kick zone” or more formally, the camber. This section of the ski is directly under the foot where grip wax or klister is applied 

White ribbon: Slang for a cross-country course that has been made using artificial snow, when no other snow is present. The snow track has the appearance of a white ribbon twisting through forest trails and across expanses of grass fields.