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Although the jumping part of Nordic skiing has always been popular, crosscountry skiing was confined largely to Scandinavia until the late 1960's. For jumping, the ski is longer and heavier than other types and usually has three grooves in the bottom for better control. No poles are used. The skier glides down an elevated ramp, the in-run, and then takes off into the air, landing on the outrun, or sloping surface of the hill. He is marked for distance and for form, so the longest jump will not necessarily win first place. Jumps of over 540 feet (165 meters) have been made. Since the distance of the jump depends not only on the jumper's skill but also on the size of the slope and the snow conditions, records are not always meaningful. The most celebrated jumping meet is at Holmenkollen, Norway.
Ski jumping has little in common with the other forms of skiing. The principal skills of ski jumping are employed in midair. A ski jump consists of a steep ramp, or in-run, and a gently sloping landing hill, or out-run. While airborne, the jumper leans forward in a nearly horizontal position, almost parallel to his skis, with his body and skis acting in much the same way as the wings of an aircraft.
The more common form of Nordic siding is crosscountry skiing, in which the skier travels across predominantly level snow by means of long gliding steps and the use of ski poles. Unlike the downhiller, the cross-country skier must provide his own power, which requires a long, powerful striding gait and good coordination of leg and arm movements.
In cross-country racing the ski is somewhat narrower and lighter than the downhill ski. Bindings permit free up-and-down foot motion, and the boot soles are more flexible than downhill ones. Cross-country racing is over level terrain, climbs and descents, and the skier is often faced with obstacles like walls and wooded territory. When not skiing downhill, the competitor must depend on his stride and pole thrust to supply momentum, which makes cross country the most physically taxing type of skiing. In Sweden the long Dalarna cross-country race, which commemorates a historic journey of Gustav Vasa, attracts several thousand competitors.