Skate skiing: The cool kid’s cross-country

With faster, leaner, and traction-free skate skis, a fairly new faction of skiers is adding youthful energy to the age-old sport of cross-country. Why should try it and where.
woman skate skiing
Ashley McCullough is taking this weather by storm on her skate skis

For the seven New Yorkers who aren’t yet sick of the snow (and for the other eight million or so who are looking for something constructive to do in it), there’s a fairly new faction adding youthful energy to an age-old sport that you may have deemed awfully dull.

Nordic skiing (or cross country, as it’s commonly called) doesn’t get a lot of glory. Maybe that’s because we picture a slow slog, over mostly-flat terrain, on heavy wooden skis, clad in something akin to lederhosen?

That’s the classic style of Nordic skiing (also called “kick-and-glide”). But about twenty years ago, serious Nordic ski racers started using a side-to-side skate technique, that looks more like inline or speed skating, to create lots more, well, speed.

To that end, skate skis tend to be shorter and narrower than classic skis; there are no grooves for traction on the bottom; and the poles are longer.

Hipster skate skier
Cool kids, feeling the need for speed, are clipping into skate skis

Skate skiing involves getting your skis into a V-shape beneath you and transferring your weight from ski to ski as you glide forward. When it’s done well, it can look like you’re very gracefully running on snow. And when it’s done poorly, it can look like you’re being attacked with a chainsaw.

Either way, expect to burn between 500–800 calories an hour. (I’ve found that pretty much anything I eat after a couple hours on skate skis tastes like it came out of one of Daniel Boulud’s kitchens.)

Where to do it? Theoretically, with all this snow we’ve been getting, you could skate ski around the Central Park reservoir or along the main loop. But it’s far better done on groomed trails. There are several places upstate and in the Adirondacks and Vermont where you can go to spend a weekend and take a couple lessons—they’re a basic necessity, for reasons of form, as mentioned. Here’s a master list. —Ashley McCullough


Just near Saratoga Springs, Lapland Lake has rentals, lessons and lodging, and is about a 4 hour drive.

In Lake Placid, the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Center with 50K of groomed trails, rentals and lessons (Ken was my instructor and he rules). Lake Placid has a ton of restaurants and lodging options in every price range. It’s a little over 5 hours’ by car.

In Stowe, Vermont, is the Trapp Family Lodge, where you can do an all-inclusive ski trip in Euro style. It’s a six hour drive.

Once you’re down with the basics, in New Paltz (about an hour and 45-minutes away) you can get a seasonal rental of all the necessary gear from Rock & Snow (for about $160, then cruise up any day you want to the golf course across from the Mohonk Mountain House (free) or skate the trails in Minnewaska for $6 a day (though you’re on your own for refreshments and warming huts).

Fahnestock, up in Cold Spring, is about an 80-minute drive, and is possibly the closest place to skate ski (until we can get the Parks Department to start grooming Central Park). It’s $9 for a trail pass and they have rentals.

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