Many of you will know the origins of Nordic walking. It comes from cross-country skiing when, in the 1930s, the Finn elite cross-country skiers developed Nordic walking as their summer training fitness programme. So not a bad pedigree.
What I hadn’t appreciated is that cross-country skiing is just one aspect of the generic term ‘Nordic skiing’. This encompasses all types of skiing where the heel of the boot is not attached to the ski. It is what distinguishes it from Alpine (downhill) skiing. Nordic skiing includes ski jumping, telemarking and, according to Wikipedia, roller skiing. I also now understand how Nordic walking got its name!
For anyone who has already done some Alpine skiing, the other main differences according to Norma Sherratt (one of our Tuesday Ashton Court walkers who is also a keen Nordic skier) are lighter equipment, no need for lift passes (and lift queues), and the chance to explore an area in peace and quiet. She says it is probably also easier to get started, though skiing well on Nordic skis is a different matter involving very good balance and technique.
All this is tempts me. Especially the bits about ‘peace and quiet’ and ‘no lift queues’. I also have a keen desire to go back to the roots of Nordic walking and see how well it equips me for Nordic skiing. Not the sort, you understand, that requires me to trek over hills and mountains, utilising techniques such as the famous telemark turn. No, I am talking about the type of cross-country skiing where you ski in specially cut tracks, using very similar techniques to Nordic walking. Even this isn’t straightforward. The main challenge Norma – and my other cross-country skier expert Sheena Stoddard – tell me is to go downhill with your speed under control and, more importantly, the knowledge of how to stop!
So I have an idea which I am in the process of exploring. It is to visit Finland, the birthplace of Nordic walking, in early March 2016 and try cross-country skiing. The snow should be good, the weather a little less freezing than during February and I may even get to see the Northern Lights. I would like to take a group of fellow Nordic walkers with me. Preferably those who, like me, have never cross-country skied before. Tempted?