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Basically, Cross-country skiing is skiing where the heel of the boot cannot be fixed to the ski, as opposed to Alpine skiing. The sport of cross-country skiing encompasses a variety of formats for cross-country skiing races over courses of varying lengths according to rules sanctioned by the International Ski Federation and by various national organizations. Norwegian army units were skiing for sport (and prizes) in the 18th century. The organization of cross-country ski competitions has evolved to be more accessible to spectators and television audiences.
An early record of a public ski competition was for an 1843 event in Tromsø. The announcement called the event a "wagering race on skis." A distinct alpine technique emerged around 1900 from how skiing was practiced up until then, when Mathias Zdarsky advocated the "Lilienfelder Ski Method" as an alternative to the Norwegian technique. In Norwegian, langrenn refers to "competitive skiing where the goal is to complete a specific distance in pre-set tracks in the shortest possible time." Alpine skiing competitions (known as hill races) existed in Norway during the 18th and 19th centuries, but were discontinued when the main ski festival in Oslo focused on long races (competitive cross-country skiing) and ski jumping (now known as the Nordic disciplines). The alpine disciplines reemerged in Central Europe around 1920. Ski touring competitions (Template:Lang-no) are long-distance cross-country competitions open to the public, competition is usually within age categories.
In the 1800s racers used a single, wooden pole, which was longer and stronger than modern poles, and could be used for braking downhill, as well. In Norway, racing with two poles ("Finland style") met with resistance, starting in the 1880s, when some race rules forbade them; objections included issues of aesthetics—how they made skiers "[waddle] like geese". As the use of pairs of pole became the norm, materials favored lightness and strength, starting with bamboo, which gave way to fiberglass, used at the 1968 Winter Olympics, aluminum, used at the 1972 Winter Olympics, and ultimately carbon fiber, introduced in 1975.
Skate skiing was introduced to competition in the 20th Century. At the first German ski championship, held at the Feldberg Black Forest in 1900, the Norwegian Bjarne Nilssen won the 23 km cross-country race and was observed using a skating motion while skiing—a technique unknown to the spectators. Johan Grøttumsbråten used the skating technique at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 1931| in Oberhof, one of the earliest recorded use of skating in competitive cross-country skiing. This technique was later used in ski orienteering in the 1960s on roads and other firm surfaces. Finnish skier Pauli Siitonen developed a variant of the style for marathon or other endurance events in the 1970s by leaving one ski in the track while skating outwards to the side with the other ski (one-sided skating); this became known as the "marathon skate". Bill Koch (United States) further developed the marathon skate technique in the late 1970s. Skate-skiing became widespread during the 1980s after Koch's success with it in the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 1982 drew more attention to the technique. Norwegian skier, Ove Aunli, started using the technique in 1984, when he found it to be much faster than classic style.
Skating is most effective on wide, smooth, groomed trails, using fiberglass skis that glide well; it also benefits a stronger athlete—which, according to Olav Bø, are the reasons that the technique made a breakthrough in the early 1980s. Athletes widely adopted skating to both sides by the time of the 1985 world championship and it was formally adopted by the FIS in 1986 despite initial opposition from Norway, the Soviet Union and Finland—while preserving events using only classic technique.
Technique and equipment
Cross-country ski competitors employ one of two techniques, according to the event: classic and skating (in free-style races, where all techniques are allowed). Skiathlon combines the two techniques in one race.
Skis are lighter, narrower and designed to be faster than those used in recreational cross-country skiing. For classic events, typical ski lengths are between 195 to 210 centimeters, while ski lengths for skating are 170 to 200 cm. Skis for skating are also more rigid than skis for classical. Skis are waxed for speed and, in the case of classic skis, traction when striding forward. Racing ski boots are also lighter than recreational ones and are attached at the toe only to bindings that are specialized for classic or skate skiing.
Racing ski poles are usually made from carbon fiber and feature smaller, lighter baskets than recreational poles. Poles designed for skating are longer than those designed for classic skiing.
In classic cross-country skiing the skis remain parallel, as the skier strides straight ahead. The undersides of the skis have a grip section in the middle treated with a special ski wax that provides friction when the foot is still, yet glides when the foot is in motion, while the rest of the ski bottom has a glide wax. Classic events occur on courses with tracks set by a grooming machine at precise intervals and with carefully planned curvature. Both poles may be used simultaneously ("double-poling") or with alternating foot and arm extended (as with running or walking) with the pole pushing on the side opposite of the extended, sliding ski. In classic skiing the alternating technique is used for the "diagonal stride"—the predominant classic sub-technique. In diagonal-stride legs move like in ordinary walking, but with longer and more powerful steps. Diagonal is useful on level ground and on gentle uphill slopes. Uphill steps are shorter and more frequent. With double-poling both poles may be used simultaneously, and sometimes thrust is increased by adding kick. Double-poling is useful on level ground and on gentle downhill slopes. On steep uphills fishbone technique can be used.
While skate skiing, the skier provides propulsion on a firm snow surface by pushing alternating skis away from one another at an angle, in a manner similar to ice skating. Skis are waxed with a glide wax over their entire length, making them faster than classic skis. Free-style events take place on smooth, wide specially groomed courses. With the skating technique double-poling is usually employed with alternating skating strides or with every skate stride. The following table puts these poling sequences into order according to the speed achieved as a progression of "gears." In the lowest gear (rarely used in racing), one is poling on the side of the sliding ski, similar to diagonal stride. In the highest gear, the athlete skates without poles. There are equivalent terms in other languages; for example in Norwegian, skating is likened to paddling or dancing, depending on the tempo.
"And if you like to risk your neck, we'll boom down Sutton in old Quebec..."