Nordic Skiing is the Perfect Winter Sport for Cyclists


By Tom Noaker – We’ve all heard about the physiological attributes of Nordic skiing as an ‘off-season’ training regimen for cyclists but here are a few non-statistical reasons for making Nordic skiing a part of your winter.

You don’t need a helmet, not even to race. Hang up the hard hat, pull that lycra race cap down to your eyebrows, and you’re good to go. You can pack away the elbow and knee pads as well. Even if you crash at speed (downhill speeds on skinny skis can be similar to cycling) you won’t be scraping across pavement or rocks and it’s likely you won’t be pin-balling off the aspens at any of our trail systems here in Utah.

Skate skiing is a great way to have fun and stay fit in winter. Photo by Chris Magerl

Say goodbye to frozen toes and fingers. Trade that January frostbite ride for an hour skate and you’ll be toasty after the first ten minutes. Also the 2-to-1 rule applies; roughly 60 minutes of skiing equates to 120 minutes of riding. Nordic also introduces the cyclist to a new form of ‘full-body-fatigue’ similar to swimming and rowing but with the added components of weight bearing and balance. You know that visual of Nordic ski racers sprawling in the snow moments after crossing the finish line; that’s not soccer drama.

Nordic skiers are a ‘thrifty’ bunch. They know a full set of top end gear costs about half the price of a pair of carbon race wheels. Nordic season and day passes are a fraction of their alpine equivalents. You can reinvest some of those savings in wax, tools, base grinds and ski quiver expansion. As a cyclist you likely own more bikes than cars. As a Nordic skier you may soon own more skis than bikes and it won’t require an austerity budget.

Nordic sport is relatively attitude free and The Utah Nordic Alliance scene is refreshingly cordial. There are a number of discounted group clinics available to help cyclists advance quickly from entry to advanced skill levels. If you’re interested in racing, the Wasatch Citizen Series provides low cost entry fees, accurate, quick results and often post race lunch and prize drawings. Go to for the full story

Cross Country Skiing is therapeutic for cyclists who spend plenty of hours hunched over the bars grinding out watts. A professional bike fit and some regular stretching can be helpful but a few months of reciprocating rather than rotary movement allows the body to fully unfold and reset. Neglected muscle groups get a wake-up call and those kinks that begin to feel like permanent-press get a full wash-and-dry cycle. Come springtime you will notice not only an increased cardio capacity but also improved core strength and enhanced power transfer.

Finally, winter is just too long not to make peace with and discovering a snow sport that requires considerable patience, practice and perseverance opens up a whole new attitude for the months of short daylight. When the days grow longer and warmer you may even consider adding some roller skis to your collection but that is a topic for another season; right now we need snow!

Tom Noaker is a well respected and accomplished sales rep and business owner in both the bicycle and ski industries. He has won sixteen State Championships in cycling across four age divisions, as well as three Mountain Bike National Championships, and competes as a cross-country skier at the elite and elite Masters levels. Tom coaches some of the best young riders in the country, and is board president of the South Summit Trails Foundation. Please send your training, equipment and event preparation questions to [email protected] with Ask Noak in the subject line.

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  1. Well said! Other benefits are clean air, no traffic to dodge and the beauty of winter in the mountains. TUNA is a great organization, loved their races and all events. In addition, one can volunteer at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, to lead cross country skiing and biking for those with different abilities. I have done both and it is extremely rewarding. One of the things I miss most due to moving to Tucson, AZ.

    Yours, Don Ries

  2. I love Nordic skiing for all of the reasons you mentioned plus no lift lines or expensive lift passes, and the relative ease with which you can find yourself alone in the outdoors (depending on where you ski)!


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