Written by Filippo
XC skiing is one of the most popular sport in the Czech Republic. One reason is that there are not big mountains in the country so the trails are not too steep and everybody can do it. Another reason is that it is a very cheap activity. Last but not least, it is great sport that allows you to keep training during the winter. You burn more calories than with any other form of exercise or sport — up to 1,122 calories per hour for vigorous tempo! Skiers are also about 40 percent fitter than physically fit individuals, suggesting that the full-body workout provided by cross-country skiing is uniquely effective. So if you want to do something that locals love to do, you should give it a try!
So here our tips, for beginners and advanced skiers, in case you would like to xc skiing while in the Czech Republic (first bullet points are for total beginners). If you want an hassle-free experience you can consider taking a guided XC skiing tour.
- What is XC skiing and why is different from downhill skiing?
XC skiing is the oldest form of skiing starting almost five millennia ago with beginnings in Scandinavia. It begun as a way of transport during snowy months so basically the concept is that you don’t need ski-lifts because the skiis allow you to go up and down plus you have very comfortable shoes. Most of the people do what is called classic style. More sporty people and professional do skating style. If you are beginning, classic style is for you. It is not easy as walking or running but there are some similarities and you can always have fun without hurting yourself. Plus you enjoy a great day on the snow in the countryside.
- What do I need to go XC skiing?
Like for downhill skiing you need a set of skis, special shoes and poles. Classic style skis are different than skating skis. Classic skis comes in 2 versions, waxable and waxless. If you are starting get waxless so all you need to do is just start skiing. With the waxable you will have to apply some layers of wax according to the temperature so it gets complicated. Also keep in mind that classic skis are fit to the skier’s weight and height. Of the two factors, weight is most important.
- Where can I rent the gear I need?
If you go to the mountains it is easy as you will find a lot of ski rentals (more about locations later). English is rarely spoken in the countryside so all you need to know is that If you need classic skiis you need “Klasicke Bezky” and if you want the easy to use waxless you need to say you need them with “supiny”. They will also ask you your shoes number and they will give you poles according to your height. If you need skating skiis then you will need “lyze na brusleni” but you can also say skating and they will understand you. Normally to rent the gear a document is enough eventhough it can happen that a deposit in cash is needed. In my experience average deposit is 1500 CZK per set of skis. If it is a nice snowy winter it will be also possible to ski in Prague so all you need to do is to find the closes rental to your hotel or apartment and then get to an area with some trails (more about this later. Here is a map that will help you finding a rental place (in Czech “půjčovna běžek”).
- Where can I ski in Prague?
The easiest option is to ski for free in Velka Chuchle horse circuit where they keep it going with artificial snow if the temperature is sub zero plus they have ski rental. If the winter is generous with snow you can ski in many of the parks in Prague. My favourite places are Ladronka, Hvezda, Stromovka and Divoká Šárka and you can find them all on this map. It is not easy for a non Czech speaker to find info about the quality of snow in this locations. What I would do is to ask to the rental if they think it is possible to ski or ask to your concierge to check this website for you. In case of Velka Chuchle just check the webcam on their webiste to see if somoebody is skiing. Or you can write me an email, I will happy to help you: info(at)bikoadventures.com
To reach the locations I recomend to use the English version of the transport website DPP.CZ. You will need to insert the closest metro/tram/bus stop to your location and the closest stop to the one of the park I recommended and the system will tell you how to go there. So if you need to go to Velka Chuchle your destination is Závodiště Chuchle bus stop. If you need to go to Ladronka and Hvezda you need to get to Vypich tram stop. For Hvezda also Petriny metro stop works well. For Divoká Šárka the tram stop is called, well, Divoká Šárka (Map).
- Where can I ski in the Czech Republic?
If you have the possibility to travel around you will find the Czech Republic a paradise for XC skiers. Here my favourite 3 locations (map):
- Jzerske Hory (north of Prague): They are small mountains which makes them suitable for everybody. I recommend to go there if you are a beginner. Also they are reasonably close to Prague (90 minutes driving). Among all the localities I suggest the little village of Bedřichov. You will find not only many ski rental but also always great conditions there as there are many races, including the super famous Jzerska 50. The main trail here is called the ‘Jzerska’ magistrala’ and together with all the other trails give you the possibility to ski 180 km!
- Krkonoše, the Giant Mountains (north of Prague): here skiing is more challenging because mountains are bigger (the highest 1600m) so the trails are steeper. The scenario here is better than in Jzerske hory as you have more panoramas. The Main Krkonose Trail, called the ‘Krkonosska magistrala’, is 71 km long and runs across the entire Krkonose range. I recommend to start in the middle, in the village of Pec pod Sněžkou.
- Sumava National Park (south of Prague): I love this area because it is so remote and ancient. It feels like going back in time. It is more for a few days trip because it is quite far from Prague but it si worthy. I recommend staying around the village of Kvilda.
- How should I dress?
While XC skiing you will produce a lot of heat so the best is too dress like a winter runner. I also like to wear my windproof bike softshell which is very thin so I can move well and it keeps me dry in case of snow. The most common mistake is to dress like a skier (you will sweat too much plus that kind of gear will prevent you from moving properly). So even if it is -10 degrees celsius you don’t have to worry for being not dresses enough. Hat, gloves and neck tube are very important accessories to bring with you. Below it’s me on a very cold day, -12°.
Enjoy winter and XC skiing!