*Ben checking in.
The term “cross country skiing” is easy to define. It means “a painful physical exercise invented for the purpose of selling spandex”. However, ours is a sport fully populated with unique and confusing jargon, and so to help avoid the embarrassment of sounding like an Alpine skier, here is a pocket dictionary of cross country skiing terms you can study to be ready for the winter.
bib (n.) – The numbered article of clothing worn by skiers during the race. It is meant to identify the athletes, and serve as either a corset, or a drag chute. There is no in between.
Birkie (n.) – The largest, most important, and distinguished ski race in North America, perhaps the world. So important, that the best racers in the world usually skip it rather than sully it with their actual participation. (See also: Fever)
classic (n.) – The older of the two styles of cross country skiing, it is characterized by linear motions and grippy wax underneath the skis, and looks similar to running on snow. Traditionalists respect this form so much they hardly even put it on the schedule any more.
double pole (v.) – A form of classic skiing, in which you use only your upper body to move forward, leaving out the body’s largest muscle groups. Seen by some as a form of cheating, it is being legislated out of the sport.
Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) (n.) – The international governing body of cross country skiing. Primarily responsible for taking in advertising revenue and ignoring disciplinary action.
fifty(50)-k (n.) – Formerly a method of torture used by medieval Scandinavians, the 50k is currently longest event contested at the World Championships and Olympics.
klister (n.) – A type of grip wax used underfoot in classic skiing. It also has applications as an industrial adhesive, and in those glue traps people use for rats.
Ladies (adj.) – FIS’s preferred description for events contested by female athletes. Chosen as such because “Women’s” wasn’t pejorative enough.
live timing (n.) – The only way anyone outside of continental Europe can keep up on ski racing without paying roughly $1300 a month for NBC’s Super Extreme Gold Pass.
mashed potatoes (n.) – A common snow condition found at most World Cup events, characterized by a complete lack of solidity and most comparable to quicksand. Also, a delicious starch-based dish.
Pisten Bully (n.) – A hybrid bulldozer-tractor machine used for grooming the ski trails before use. They would be the coolest machines ever seen if they didn’t top out at 13 miles per hour.
roller skiing (n.) – A summer translation of cross country skiing onto wheels, it is the primary training method of most cross country ski racers as well as the number one thing local drivers yell at skiers about.
salt (v.) – An attempt to combat soft snow conditions by introducing salt to the snowpack and raising its freezing temperature so that the course will freeze solid at a higher temperature than normal; also (n.) the feeling athletes get when they race poorly.
skate (n.) – The second, and newer, of the two styles of cross country skiing, distinguished by side to side motions and a lack of grip wax on the skis. It is believed to have been invented by Bill Koch on the beaches of Hawaii after a long period of trial and error.
sprint (n.) – A racing event that was invented in the late 1990’s to allow people with fewer than 3 hours of free time to watch cross country skiing.
Technical Delegate (n.) – The race official responsible for monitoring technique, and disqualifying people for double poling too much.
Wax Technician (n.) – A member of the frighteningly disciplined and sleep deprived race employed by skiers for the sole purpose of using wax to make their skis faster than usual. Known for living in small containers with dozens of other wax techs, and their ability to subsist solely on beef jerky and pretzels, they are like Keebler Elves, but normal sized and cuter.