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Cross-Country Skiing in Canada

Canadian cross-country skiing is a sport that, since its inception over a hundred years ago, has challenged the stamina, agility, and concentration of athletes like no other event. Much beloved throughout the country, cross-country skiing in Canada is a major component of the national tourism industry and is central to the national ideals of natural beauty, physical fitness, and great adventure. The sport is wildly popular among professional athletes and casual enthusiasts alike, suitable for races and competitions as well as for leisure and family fun across the great icy expanses. Canada's unique climate and variety of natural features make it one of the prime locations for crosscountry (sometimes referred to as "XC skiing") in the world.

Cross-country skiing in Canada is primarily enjoyed on trails that stretch along the southern border with the United States; popular trails reach from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, with branches that reach into the Yukon in the west and Newfoundland in the east. Especially prized areas include the Lappe Nordic Skiing Center and Stokely Creek Ski Touring Center in Ontario, as well as the Huberdeau Trails and Parc National de la Mauricie in Quebec. These Canadian cross-country skiing areas offer miles of open, even land that sees ample annual snowfall and is perfectly suited to the demands of cross country.

Far from being limited to regulated competitions, Canadian cross-country skiing is enjoyed in an exciting variety of ways. One traditional manifestation of the sport is similar to backpacking or adventuring in the wilderness among normal terrain; participants plan a trip of some extended duration, and travel across the countryside on skis, often stopping to visit natural features of interest or to camp overnight. In fact, some trails offer overnight facilities for such skiers, affording them an extra level of comfort and security on their journeys. Of course, cross-country skiing in Canada is also a major organized sport, and recognized globally as one of the most challenging winter events, testing the body as well as the spirit through extremes of temperature and fatigue. The largest competitions are held at the Winter Olympics and World Championships, featuring events from shorter "sprints" to races of a much longer duration, though many regional contests occur each season. One particularly interesting and emerging competitive event is that of the cross-country biathlon, which combines skiing with rifle marksmanship, and speaks to the traditional skills expected of Canadian woodsmen and adventurers.

Cross-country skiing in Canada makes use of a basic set of equipment, easily recognizable to skiers of any discipline. The basic footgear is comprised of a long and thin ski, able to assist athletes in moving more quickly over even ground, and a supportive boot which attaches to the ski at the toe. The skis are accompanied by a set of poles, which the athlete uses to gain traction, pivot, and help direct movement while in motion. There are a wide variety of particular types of Nordic skis and poles, and each participant tends to have a favorite based on their own preferences and abilities. Just as important as the skis themselves are the variety of waxes applied to the undersides to provide a working grip; depending on the type of snow over which a skier travels, different waxes are used to ensure proper movement can be achieved.

With its rich tradition and long history, it's no wonder that cross-country skiing is practiced with many different styles and techniques. Classic cross-country involves completing a trail inlaid with grooves that direct the skis, and encompasses several techniques for maneuvering over hills, around obstacles, and uphill. "Free" skiing or "skating" is so-named for its similarity in execution to the sport of ice skating, in which the feet push off the ground in successive movements to gain speed. This style of skiing is very physically demanding and relies less upon the poles for support. Because of the potential dangers involved in traveling over uneven ground or obstructions, this style is recommended only for "piste" or prepared-trail areas. For those wishing to ski "off the beaten path," however, the style of "telemarking" is suitable for back-country skiing and can be employed safely in the wilderness without the need for a groomed, dedicated ski trail.

Of all the many winter activities in Canada enjoyed each year by citizens and travelers from around the world, cross-country skiing is one of the most exciting and culturally relevant on offer. Of course, visitors also enjoy alpine skiing in Canada and snowshoeing in Canada, sports that likewise test the limits of physical agility and endurance while bestowing the athlete with an invigorating outdoor experience and a true appreciation for the demands of nature. Explore Canada's athletic opportunities and strap on a set of skis; you may find, like many thousands before you, that they're not so easy to set aside.
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