Cross-country skiing is a great hobby for both body and mind

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A thick and permanent layer of snow should arrive to Ranua in the very next few days. So, as the new winter season will be soon starting, it’s a good time to write a little about cross-country skiing and how I’ve experienced this great winter sport as a hobby.
Cross-country skiing trail in Finland

Start of the skiing hobby

For my part, the start of the skiing hobby happened in the same way as for many other Finnish adults. It was thus actually a return to the familiar winter sport, after years of break.

This, I understand, is a fairly common trend in Finland, and the big reason for this is that “children are forced” to do cross-country skiing during the school years, which makes many people almost hate this popular and very traditional winter sport.

For my part, hate has never really described the attitude towards cross-country skiing, but after school years, I probably had about ten years period, when I didn’t ski at all.

The return to skiing took place a little unexpectedly in the spring of 2013, when I had to leave my apartment in Rovaniemi due to plumbing renovation and lived in Ranua for a few weeks at the time.

There was little to do at the time, and since I was already very interested in different kinds of sport at the time, I decided one day to grab my dad’s fiberglass skis and make a return to the ski tracks.

The first experience with cross-country skiing after a long break could be described horrible. I was only able to ski for a short time with the skate styled skis that had not been waxed for a long time. This made the whole experience mainly suffering, and after the short run, I decided I would definitely never ski again.

However, sitting in the sauna that evening, the thoughts had softened enough to approach the matter in a slightly different way. “If the skis will be waxed, they will definitely glide better” and “why not try again”.

I returned to the track the very next day and the now waxed skis were already gliding at a completely different speed in the spring snow. This had a huge impact, especially on the mental side, when my own mind realized that I was not in that bad shape after all. On the other hand, my body was certainly much more prepared for a new kind of strain the second time.

Buying my own skis

Fischer RCS Skating Vasa luistelusukset
These Fischer RCS Skating Vasa skis have been my compannion in many types of conditions

During that couple of weeks, I skied in Ranua almost daily and the runs extended quickly to 15 to 20 kilometers. However, the return to Rovaniemi came soon and the ski season was over, as spring had already progressed to the beginning of May.

Skiing did not really creep into my mind during the summer or autumn, although I practically practiced e.g. long distance running, football and futsal. My stamina was developing at a fast pace, especially during the autumn of 2013, as I was able to train well 5-6 times a week.

Purchasing my own skis was a bit spontaneous in November 2013. At that time, I had gone to the local Stadium store to search for a winter jacket with my friend. I somehow ended up watching cross-country skis.

The ski models of the previous winter season were at a good discount at the time, and the salesperson, who also was a friend of my friend, was soon enthusiastically piling up the skating ski package with a “great discount”.

I knew the Korkalovaara ski tracks were quite close to my apartment at the time and I didn’t even think about whether I would buy the skis or not. The financial situation was tight at the time, but even worse impulse purchases have certainly been made.

The first winter in Rovaniemi was quite inactive for in terms of skiing. I don’t remember exactly how many times I went skiing at the time, but the new hobby was clearly overshadowed by other activities.

I probably only piled up tens of kilometers with my new skis. 

The return to the hobby at Ranua

Maastohiihtoladut Ranualla
Ranua has an exceptional cross-country skiing tracks network

The next return to skiing took place in the autumn of 2015, when I lived in Ranua again after a spring in Portugal.

In the last less than a couple of years, I had become even more active in the field of sports and, for example, in the autumn of 2015, I ran really long runs on the Ranua running paths.

The first snow fell quite early that fall, and in Ranua this usually means that ski tracks are built as soon as possible. At that time, the ski season was opened at a very early stage, although the permanent snow and with it the uninterrupted ski season was started on November 13, when I also posted my first picture from the ski slopes to the local Facebook group.

Unlike the winters in Rovaniemi, the Ranua ski trails took my heart practically right away and I was a very active skier for the first winter.

I have not calculated the exact mileage, although I have written each run up in a small notebook from this winter and the following. It may be that the small notepad also contains the total kilometers, but this is something that I need to check when I am visiting my parents again. 

I would say that the total amount for winter 2015/16 was somewhere between 1500 and 2000 kilometers.

Waxing the skis

With my hobby of skiing, my enthusiasm for maintaining and waxing my own skis also started to raise. I started this hobby by purchasing three different kind of waxes  for different weather conditions from my local Sportia store.

The waxing of skating skis does not require anything special if we are talking just about a hobby that is meant to be fun and good exercise. The only thing you need to worry about is that you can make the ski glide as well as possible in different kind of weather conditions. 

My father, who had long since stopped skiing, also had many waxing related things left from his old hobby, such as a handy combination brush for polishing the bottom of a ski. In practice, the only thing I had to buy was an iron designed for ski waxing.

My father had used an old regular iron to wax his skis, but in many ways it proved uncomfortable to use: the temperature of the iron was difficult to control and, on the other hand, there was a risk of electric shock with the old appliance.

Used waxing iron was found through a service where people both sell and give away their old stuff with a reasonable price. This was the only real purchase that I have done so far in terms of ski waxing.

Of course I have had to buy new waxes a few times, in addition to which I found a softer maintenance wax at the local flea market, which is melted on the bottom of the ski during the summer season to protect the soles from drying out and dirt.

Waxing your skis is actually a pretty nice thing to do, because when you go to the ski tracks, it’s always interesting to see how well you’ve done your job. At this point, of course, it must be admitted that self-care of the skis is quite a basic drill: I have never used skis to grind or put some special patterns on the soles of the skis, and he only real maintenance part has been the waxing.

By investing more, I could probably have gotten faster on the tracks and even competed at some level, but I haven’t had a compelling need for either.

And even if it doesn’t matter much, I can still say that even with my limited equipment and maintenance skills, when I was in shape,  no-one ever passed me in the ski tracks of Ranua

Is cross-country skiing an "equipment sport"?

Like many winter sports, cross-country skiing has often been portrayed as a pure “equipment sport”. However, I myself strongly believe that there is no need to invest large sums of money in the sport, but it is possible to enjoy skiing on a smaller budget also.

Nowadays, as I live in Helsinki, the amount of times I am actually able to go skiing is way smaller than before. But when I actually go skiing, I do it with the same exact pair that I bought in 2013.

I have gained about 10 – 15 kilos of weight since my “active years”, but I haven’t noticed any difference in how the skis behave under me. Of course, the pace has slowed to about half of what I used to be able to do in my physical peak years, but the main culprit for this can be found in the mirror, not in the equipment.

Of course, my own experience is purely about skiing as a hobby, and the same laws certainly do not apply to more serious hobby, such as competing. In this kind of scenario the truth is way different and when talking about competing, the hobby can indeed easily become quite expensive.

Body and mind

Tykkyluminen talvimaisema
I like to stop and look at the beautiful winter landscapes when I am skiing

Cross-country skiing is a very versatile hobby for both the body and mind. In addition to endurance sport, it develops the musculature of both the upper and lower body in many ways. Skiing is a good hobby to both develop and maintain body mobility for athletes of all ages. For example, when skiing on the trails in Ranua, you can see skiers of all ages: from infants to really old people. 

For my part, the skiing hobby had a big impact on my ability to do well in many different sports during my physical peak years. I was very light in 2015 – 16 and this was reflected, for example, in the fact that my running speed increased enormously compared to the years when I was actively playing football.

In addition, my ability to jump was at a really high level at its best and this was especially helpful in playing volleyball. A good example of this was the fact that when I was in the best condition, I even managed to dunk a volleyball to the basketball basket at the Peura Sports Hall. I don’t know if that basket is at an official height (3.05m), but in any case, that can be considered a pretty good achievement for a person who is about 170 centimeters tall.

The hobby of skiing has had a huge positive effect on my mind as well. Although I am no longer ashamed of my long-term unemployment in 2015-16, mentally those times were so difficult that I probably would not have survived them without long-term consequences if I had not practiced cross-country skiing at the time.

On the Ranua ski slopes, many dead ends of my mind have been opened and many worries have been left behind. Luckily I have been able to take large steps to right direction since those days and a really big thanks belongs to being active in terms of sport. 

The end of the hobby

I don’t know if, in my own case, it’s right to talk about the term “end” when it comes to skiing. In any case, my former beloved hobby has been more or less on hiatus since the spring of 2017 and since that time I have been skiing only a few times.

In the spring of 2017, I worked as a tourist guide at Ranua Zoo and realized pretty soon after starting work that combining a hard sports hobby with long working days is very challenging. I tried this at first, but quite soon ran into a state of overtraining in the spring, which prevented me from skiing at all. The only cross-country skiing that I was able to do were the guided tours that I arranged for international tourists.

I tried to exercise a few times during the spring, but there was just no energy left in my body at the time.

After the snow had melted, I tried a few more runs of roller skiing, which, however, was not a sport that I was able to enjoy. Already in the summer of the same year, I sold my roller skis through Tori to a new and more active home.

There is quite a logical reason for the complete interruption of the skiing hobby in 2017-2018, as I lived on the other side of the world during those years: in Rafaela, Argentina. In Argentina, of course, it would have been possible to ski in Patagonia in the south, for example, but I never saw the hobby worth all that effort.

In the summer of 2017, I thought for a while about bringing roller skis to my new homeland, but that idea was buried quite quickly and as already told: I ended up selling the skis to someone who had more use for them.

The return to the ski tracks took place after a break of about two and a half years, in December 2019, when I was already living in Helsinki and working for my current employer. At the time, I was quite surprised at how well the techniques, for example, had been memorized and how ready my own body was to ski after a long break. However, a similar fire was no longer found in the species, and in the statistical sense, looking at my own performance, there was no real increase in enthusiasm: as my stamina was really poor compared to the best physical years of my life.

The year 2020/21 was again a completely missed period, mainly due to the covid-19. I did not visit Lapland once during the whole winter. There was actually a lot of snow in Helsinki last winter as well, and I was at times looking for some used ski equipment online. However, I did not end up buying anything, nor did I ask my parents to send my equipment here either.

I will be traveling to Ranua next time in early December this year and for the winter the situation looks pretty good right now. The frost has been around for a long time and there are also decent snowfall before the beginning of December, according to weather forecasts. I consider it quite possible that during the week spent in Ranua I will also end up returning to the ski tracks once again.

Check the maintenance situation of Ranua ski tracks: Infogis 

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