Is cross-country skiing having a moment?

With a British cross-country skier making the FIS podium twice in a fortnight, and the Alps beyond reach for most of us this season, is it time to turn to Nordic skiing?

Cross-country skiing has always been hugely popular in Scandinavia, where almost everyone practises the national sport of ‘langlauf’. It’s so important, in fact, that Norway, Sweden and Finland recently pulled their champion cross-country ski teams from international competition to protect athletes’ health during the pandemic. Professional skiers enjoy massive aerobic capacity, so the risk of respiratory damage to x-country mega-stars like Therese Johaug and Johannes Haesflot Klaebo is simply not worth taking, the Scandi pros have decided.

Their absence has left the competition wide open to athletes from countries like the UK, which don’t normally stand much of a chance against the all-conquering Nordic nations (and Russia). In the last event before the self-imposed travel ban was imposed (Ruka, 27-29 November), for example, Norway’s men took 12 of 16 possible medals. The remaining four went to Russia.

Medal success for Team GB Snowsports

As a result, Team GB Snowsport’s Andrew Young has stepped up to the plate and currently sits in fourth place overall and for sprint in the FIS rankings. His team mate Andrew Musgrave is third in the distance rankings.

Young took sprint silver on the Dresden city centre course last weekend – the best ever World Cup result for a British cross-country skier. He won bronze in Davos seven days earlier.

Brilliant results for Team GB Snowsports, who are encouraging young skiers to get in touch if they’d like to join the crew, with an eye on the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Milan.

The current absence of two of the world’s top three cross-country skiing teams in international competition is doing wonders for the profile of the sport in places like the US whose athletes are also podium-ing. If you can’t do it – watch it.

Where to watch it

We are big fans of Nordic skiing here at, and thoroughly recommend checking out the races you can find on YouTube, Eurosport and the FIS site even if it’s not possible right now to get out on the mountain.

Could our kids be next gen ski champs?

Some 1.5 million Brits take a ski holiday every year and, if you’ve been to an Alpine resort in the school holidays, you will know that includes a helluva lot of children. So are we getting to the point where our ski kids will be good enough to compete with the snowy nations like Canada, France, Switzerland and Norway?

Recent generations have seen increasing numbers of British children learning to ski from an early age, and it is that early exposure to the enjoyment and challenge of winter sports, combined with Team GB backing,  that is starting to manifest itself in professional success on the piste.

Traditionally, we have done badly in the Winter Olympics: not surprising given our lack of infrastructure as well as a deficiency of accessible, reliably snowy mountains.

2014 Olympics: UK wins first medal on snow

Things started changing in the last couple of Winter Olympics, however, with the UK’s first medal on snow won by boarder Jenny Jones in 2014, followed by two more snowboarding medals at Sochi last year.

Meanwhile, alpine racer Dave Ryding finished second in the parallel slalom at the World Cup in Oslo on New Year’s Day,  fourth overall at the World Cup in Italy on 23 December, and came ninth at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Ryding is our most successful World Cup alpine skier EVER.

British Nordic skiers making tracks

We’ve also got a number of Nordic skiers who are making progress in World Cup events: Andrew Musgrave took a podium place in the 15km World Cup race at Toblach in December 2018 and finished 7th in the skiathlon at the 2018 Winter Olympics. He recently scored a top 10 place in the gruelling Tour de Ski 15km classic.

These successes are now the focus of a vision from Performance Director for GB Snowsport Dan Hunt – the Dave Brailsford of winter sports. He is ambitious, aiming for the UK to be a top-five nation in ski and snowboarding by 2030. He was quoted in an article in The Times this week. “It feels like British cycling in 2006,” Hunt explained. “We may not have mountains  but we have sporting intelligence.

“This is where I get excited. What we are really good at, better than anyone else in the world, is shutting a gap of about 0.3 seconds.”

British downhill No 1 Dave Ryding agrees, telling The Times: “To be a top-five nation you only need one person to do well in each discipline. I won’t be around in 2030… but the younger generation is stronger than I’ve ever seen it.”

Get your ski kids involved

So if your child wants to take their skiing that bit further, how to support them? These links should help:

British Nordic (cross country) skiing:

Snowsport England:

GB Snowsport:

And if you need to kit them out, or pass on their no longer needed ski, remember that buying and selling via is the eco way to keep down costs and keep ski clothing out of landfill.