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I am temporarily relocating from a region with mild climate to Montréal. I run almost every day, in summer and winter, as the temperatures rarely go much below freezing point. Now, I guess I will have to switch sports, at least for the cold season. Also, I think it would be a shame not to cross-country ski in Canada. Doing work and travel, I will be on a budget. Hence my question:

What are inexpensive ways to learn cross-country skiing? Could I teach it to myself? Is it advisable to buy gear off craigslist or ebay and if yes, what would I have to consider?

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    You can run all the way through the winter if you want to, you just need to get some winter running clothes. My wife's Uncle runs through the winter in insulated Vibram 5fingers in Edmonton, AB. You may also be interested in getting a pair of running snowshoes. – ShemSeger Aug 31 '15 at 21:00
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    Allow me to introduce you to Kijiji (Kah-gee-gee). It's a Canadian thing. – ShemSeger Aug 31 '15 at 21:47
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    Here's a good deal, just need to find some boots that fit. – ShemSeger Aug 31 '15 at 21:50
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    Have you done any skiing before, such as downhill skiing? Cross-country skiing is not really that difficult to learn, especially if you're not on steep terrain and the conditions are easy (e.g., not icy). You could probably teach yourself by watching youtube videos and just going out and trying it. Or find someone who can go out with you once and help you figure it out. – Ben Crowell Sep 1 '15 at 0:40
  • @ShemSeger merci beaucoup! – henning Sep 1 '15 at 11:07
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The cheapest ways to try cross country skiing are borrowing equipment, yard sale equipment, craigslist, or rentals. If you like it, and rent frequently, that stops being cheap.

If you make friends who run or are otherwise active, ask around, and someone might have a spare set of skis and poles they can lend you - you can find them for a few dollars at yard sales sometimes, and some skiers pick them up as spares or loaners (This is why I've got 3 sets of skis for 1 set of legs). Then you'll just need to buy boots.

Places to ski:

Easiest: flat ground, groomed trails, golf courses, snowmobile tracks.

Harder: Slopes, or anything with virgin snow (snow with no tracks). With virgin snow, it's generally best to go with one or more buddies who can trade off in trail breaking, or go for very short trips.

Hardest: Very hilly or mountainous, especially with virgin snow.

If you're sticking to flat terrain or groomed trails, you can pretty much get out and go with little or no instruction (depending on your tolerance for falling and being awkward). I don't know about Quebec specifically, but in Massachusetts, some golf courses rent cross country skis in the winter, and groom tracks for skiers to use. Other courses don't make it official, but still allow skiers on their grounds. Depending on what you are looking for, a season's pass to a local golf course may satisfy your need for exercise at a reasonable cost. The disadvantage would be that you could only ski at that location.

If you want harder terrain, it would be worth either taking a lesson, or going out with a friend who skis. Going straight is easy to figure out, as long as you don't care about being the most efficient possible. Turns and hills are a little harder. If saving money is most important, and you don't have any skiing friends, you can learn technique from books and videos without much trouble.

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    thank you. seems like it is not too hard to learn after all. hadn't thought about golf courses, too. – henning Sep 1 '15 at 18:32
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It is possible to get the gear relatively cheap. Search on ebay or the kind. Search on internet forums where outdoor enthusiasts hang around and offer their used gear on a market place. I know such forums for Germany and Austria but I am sure you will find the kind in Canada too. I have to say I trust those guys more compared to ebay because I think there are more black sheep on ebay. But this is very subjective of course. Relating proper types of ski you could check out this.

What is way more important than your gear is to take a class in avalanche rescue training. This is really important and I mean it. Compare the prices but do a proper training by real professionals. I am not trying to make the big bargains for safety relevant gear/training (see e.g. this topic). They are worth the money. Relating the avalanche topic please check out e.g.:

You don't want to go on cross-country ski tour alone. One reason might be it's a social event which is more fun then. But more importantly you care for each other. Especially for the case of emergency (injury, avalanche, finding the right path). Maybe you can find people in local outdoor clubs (there are feeless groups too) who are more experienced. You will learn from them. And potentially you could find really good friends there :)

  • Avalanche training is not that relevant if you're not in terrain that can have avalanches. AFAIK Montreal is not mountainous...? Even if you are in an area that has mountains, it is not always necessary to have formal avalanche safety training if you want to go cross-country skiing. For example, if you're going to an area that has groomed trails, you could just check with the owners or check their website for conditions. – Ben Crowell Sep 1 '15 at 0:36
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    I also disagree that there's anything wrong with going cross-country skiing alone. It's a decision to be made by the individual based on their skills, evaluation of the environment, etc. – Ben Crowell Sep 1 '15 at 0:38
  • I don't say everybody likes to go in a group and that everybody searches "fun" in the mountains. Therefore I wrote "one reason ... might be". I think there is nothing wrong to recommend avalanche training in general if you are starting with ski tours. By definition you do this in a remote place (without prepared runway). At least I know it like that. And of course there might be tours on flat terrain where an avalanche is unlikely. If one is planning to do those kind of tours solely, then go for it and skip the "annoying" avalanche course... – Wills Sep 1 '15 at 4:02
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    There might be a misunderstanding with "cross-country skiing" and "ski touring"? – Phab Sep 1 '15 at 5:36
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    there are avalanche countries in quebec, typically in the chic-chocs. but that would indeed be touring. If you are xc skiing on the mont royal, you'll be clear from avalanches... – njzk2 Sep 1 '15 at 15:11

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