Though not a difficult sport, cross-country skiing can be confusing for first-timers. Whether you’re heading out with a group of friends or want to try to ski on your own, this short guide will help you prepare for the day ahead.

Safety first. Though cross-country skiing doesn’t look particularly dangerous, improper form and reckless behavior can result in hurt or broken limbs. The relatively tame sport has its share of dangers; weather is always a factor, but speed and improper equipment use can be dangerous. Always tell somebody where you are skiing and take the time necessary to ensure the trails are properly groomed.

Choose your style. When starting to ski, you may simply fall into the action that works best for you. However, there are two distinct Nordic skiing styles: classic and skate. We have previously published an article explaining the important differences between the two. Once you determine the style you would like to use, you can turn your focus to equipment, safety, and technique.

Assume the position. Before heading out on the trails, practice adopting the correct cross-country skiing stance. Start by standing tall, then move to an upright slouching position by flexing your ankles. This will allow you to bend from the ankles, not your hips, and your arms can swing freely in both directions–forward and backwards.

Dress the part. Appropriate apparel is necessary for this outdoor winter sport. Dressing in layers is crucial to cross-country ski safety and comfort. Of course, your body temperature will increase through the duration of the run; however, cold temperatures could cause it to crash dramatically if you break or stop.