Guide to Cross-Country Skiing for Beginners

People of all ages and abilities enjoy the winter sport of cross-country skiing. The low-impact nature of the sport makes it easy on the joints, and the equipment is designed to be efficient and lightweight. It is an excellent way to get outdoors (even on cold days!) and enjoy the winter scenery with minimal environmental impact. 

Benefits of Cross-Country Skiing

There are many benefits to cross-country skiing, including health, social, and environmental. A day or even an hour of cross-country skiing provides a full cardio workout, getting your heart pumping with the strenuous activity! Yet because you’re not overstressing any single muscle group, the activity is sustainable for hours on end. This maintenance of an elevated heart rate strengthens your heart. Plus, as a full-body sport, it uses all major muscle groups, particularly strengthening legs and core muscles.

Additionally, cross-country skiing can be an excellent way to spend time with family and friends. Plan a multi-generational outing, go with another couple, or make it a monthly tradition with friends. Meet new people who share your interest by joining cross-country skiing groups or clubs. 

Enjoy cross-country skiing with minimal environmental impact. Most trails are groomed in natural or backcountry settings. With no need to clear trees and use fuel for equipment such as snowmobiles or ski lifts, cross-country skiing is one of the most sustainable winter sports. 

How to Get Started with Cross-Country Skiing 

If you are new to skiing or cross-country skiing, taking a lesson or going with an experienced skier on your first time out is helpful. Check your local parks for clinics, lessons, trails, and equipment rentals.

You can also learn the basics from watching online videos, including Huron-Clinton Metroparks’ “How To Cross-Country Ski: A Beginner’s Guide.” It reviews the equipment you will need, how to ski, and how to get up if you fall. 

Necessary Equipment

The equipment you’ll need for cross-country skiing includes skis, boots, and poles. All can be rented at Huron Meadows Metropark, Kensington Metropark, or Stony Creek Metropark and staff can assist with sizing. You’ll typically want a pole that goes up to your armpit. 

You will also want to dress for the weather. Layers, including a baselayer and jacket, are recommended as you are likely to warm up during the activity. Wear pants or tights that are water-resistant and allow for mobility. Gloves, a hat, scarf or neck gaiter, and wool socks will keep your extremities warm. You should also bring sunglasses and sunblock. 

Where to Cross-Country Ski Locally

Nine Metroparks have cross-country skiing. Huron Meadows Metropark offers 11 miles of skate-style with rolling hills and 15 miles of classically groomed cross-country ski trails. For winters with less snow, skiers can still enjoy the 1.5-mile loop at Bucks Run, which is refreshed using snow guns. The Ski Center (Golf Starter Building) features classic-style and skate-style ski rentals and a heated lounge, restrooms, and snacks.

Milford Cross-Country Skiing at Kensington Metropark features more than 12 miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing. Coast past snow-glazed fields, frozen ponds, and beautiful deciduous forest. Beginner and intermediate-level trails traverse the park and golf course. 

Ski rental is available at the golf course, and the Ski Center has a food service when conditions for skiing are ideal. Please use only marked ski trails. 

Fasten your skis and enjoy cross-country skiing on six miles of groomed trails at Hudson Mills Metropark. Trails are groomed for classical skiing only, weather permitting. The course has varied terrain and accommodates all skill levels. The Activity Center features a heated lounge, vending machines, and public restrooms.

Escape the winter blues by walking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing at Stony Creek Metropark. Coast over 13 miles of snow-glazed, marked, and groomed traditional cross-country ski trails, covering level to hilly terrain trails on the golf course or mountain bike routes.

Check websites for hours, fees, reservations, and rental information, including group rates. Please note no dogs are allowed on ski trails. Skiing is not allowed in some areas, such as the Nature Center Area and Nature Trails, sledding hills and toboggan runs, snowboarding hills, and on golf course greens. The Metroparks website posts winter closures, conditions, and grooming updates daily

Cross-country skiing is an excellent way to enjoy the winter scenery while getting a workout. Huron-Clinton Metroparks offers some of the best trails in the area, so gather your friends and family and give this invigorating sport a try!


This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history, and the environment. Learn more at

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