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Cross-Country Skiing

Learn about this Winter Olympic sport

January 10, 2014
CHRISOF LOEPSEL—BONGARTS/GETTY IMAGES

 

Cross-country skiing is the oldest type of skiing. The earliest form of the sport began more than 5,000 years ago in northern Europe. Back then, people strapped on cross-country skis made of wooden slats to travel quickly in snowy conditions. The sport became an Olympic event for men in 1924. Women's cross-country skiing made its debut at the 1952 Games. In Sochi, there are six different events for men and women, including sprints, relays and freestyle races. The skier or group of skiers with the fastest time wins.

The Rules of the Game

Events are split along two basic techniques: classic and free. In classic races, skiers move their skis parallel to each other within narrow tracks on flat ground. In free events, skiers use shorter skis to push themselves forward off the ground in a similar fashion to speed skating. The free technique is also slightly faster than the classic technique and requires more strength.

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