Cross Country Skiing Rules

Cross country skiing is a winter sport known for its vigorous nature and its celebration of the outdoors. Like other sports or competitive activities, cross country skiing has its own set of rules to which participants must abide. In competitive cross country skiing, the rules are strictly enforced—by race officials, national organizations and the International Ski Federation—to ensure fairness between racers.


There are two main cross country skiing techniques: Classical and free. Classical technique incorporates a diagonal stride movement within a set of machine-prepared tracks—although the skier can opt to ski outside of the track using the classical technique. Classical technique also incorporates double-poling techniques and “herringbone” techniques on the uphills. Free technique typically involves a skating motion, although any technique—including the classical technique—is allowed in free technique races. The International Ski Federation (FIS), in its official International Ski Competition Rules, explicitly states that, if competing in a classical technique-only race, single- or double-skating and turning techniques that incorporate pushing is not allowed.


In competitive cross country skiing, skiers typically train year-round for competitions. Although there are no fixed “rules” about a skier’s level of preparation, Torbjorn Karlsen—a well-known authority on ski training who holds Norway’s highest attainable coaching degree—promotes a five-fingered approach toward optimal cross country skiing preparation. Karlsen believes that, as a racer, you must perform distance workouts at a low intensity and interval training at a relatively high intensity; listen to your body to know when hard (i.e. more intense) sessions can be performed; perform ski-specific strength training (i.e. perform your strength training on skis or rollerskis); recover sufficiently between hard sessions; and reduce your training volume as you transition to the racing season.

Performance Enhancing Drugs

Like many other competitive sports, such as cycling, football and baseball, cross country skiing has experienced its share of recent doping violations. To curb the use of performance enhancing substances in international cross country ski competitions, the World Anti-Doping Agency has established a list of prohibited substances, which include, but are not limited to, the following categories: anabolic steroids, peptide hormones and growth factors, beta-2 agonists, hormone modulators, and diuretics and other masking agents. Additionally, cross country skiers are forbidden to perform blood doping, gene doping, or tamper with the integrity of their collected samples.

About this Author

Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician and freelance writer based out of Durham, N.C. He writes about health, fitness, diet, lifestyle, travel and outdoor pursuits. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.