A battle for the ages.
If alpine skiing is the Brad Pitt of winter sports, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are Steve Buscemi and Randy Quaid—even on their best days, they’d never be confused for the glistening, handsome hero of the slopes.
But that’s not to say Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are bad. They’re both fun, great exercise, and well-worth trying. They just aren’t very sexy. Especially when spandex is involved—spandex has been sexy only once in history, and that was in a Whitesnake music video. So in honor of the underdogs, the supporting actors, the untouchables of winter, we present Nordic Skiing vs. Snowshoeing.
The only thing that can make you look—or feel—more physically impaired than your first day of cross-country skiing might be veterinary-grade muscle-relaxers washed down with corn whiskey. Grace doesn’t come easy, but it does eventually come, and then the forest is your playground. Snowshoes, on the other hand, always make you look like Bobo the clown tromping toward a prop pie—no matter how adept you are.
Edge: Nordic Ski
A complete XC-ski package can set you back anywhere from a half-month’s rent to a black-market kidney, though used gear is abundant if you know where to look. Decent snowshoes, on the other hand, are typically no more than $200. Or if you’re thrifty, ask your neighbors—it’s guaranteed someone has free pair gathering dust in the garage between a set of lawn darts and a pair of Rollerblades.
Old wooden skis look pretty darn cool crossed over a cabin hearth, but classic snowshoes (the kind made lovingly with steamed willow branches and sun-dried beaver intestines twisted into artsy diamond-mesh) hearken back to primordial times, when man lived true and pure upon the Earth—and killed a whole lot of beavers.
A good Nordic skier moves across the snow like a hovercraft: smooth, fast, and efficient. It’s a thing of beauty. The fastest snowshoer in the world (a title approximately no people are clamoring for) is still just running in shoes 20 sizes too big.
Edge: Nordic Ski
On snowshoes, it greatly enhances the experience to imagine yourself as Charles Bronson in Death Hunt, clad in furs and wielding a sawed-off shotgun, evading Lee Marvin and his posse of Mounties high in the Canadian Rockies. Of course, on XC skis you could be biathlete Erich Kriegler in For Your Eyes Only, chasing James Bond as he flails about, dodging your perfectly-aimed bullets. Handsome East German assassin or strong, silent mountain man? The choice is yours.
Well, there are pros and cons to each, but it appears we have a draw. The important thing is simple: get outside this winter, strap some sort of unwieldy equipment to your feet, and go explore—however you want.