I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t a big fan of cross country at school. It usually involved jogging around the school field and adjoining terrain judged to be suitably ‘country’ in mandated clothing that wasn’t really suitable for the conditions, dodging as many as possible of the dubious items that might be found underfoot at any given time. It just didn’t have the same allure as track running or any other PE activities for that matter.

Maybe the problem was that we didn’t have enough snow. If we did, we could have done cross country skiing. Since Christmas is now looming, it makes sense to turn our attention to winter Olympic sports. And surely there is none more festive than cross country skiing, which involves making your way through snow-covered pine forests in beautiful wintry scenery. Take your camera out part-way round the course and you could probably get a decent shot for your Christmas card.

For while we were pounding grassy areas around our schools during our years in education, our Norwegian counterparts were having considerably more fun on skis.

Cross-country skiing has its roots in the practicalities of nordic transportation: getting to where you need to go across tricky terrain that’s covered in snow. It first became a competitive event in the 19th century and went on to become an Olympic sport. Indeed, cross country skiing has been an event at every Winter Olympics since 1924.

Events are typically sprints over 1.5km or pursuits at 15km or 30km. Races might begin with a mass start, in which case the first person to cross the finish line is the winner, or a staggered start, in which case the competitor with the quickest time is the winner.

Cross country skis are shorter and lighter than those used in downhill skiing. This is due to the addition lifting and movement that is needed in cross county events, particularly during uphill section of the course.

For the same reasons, cross country ski boots clip into the skis by the toe only, allowing more movement of the heel and ankle.