Fourteen writers contributed to The Enthusiast’s Guide to the Winter Games, covering every sport from speedskating to curling.

Sam Anderson’s dour portrait misses the subtlety and grace in cross-country skiing. Yes, it is a grueling sport — as are rowing, running, speedskating, cycling and swimming — and Anderson pays fair homage to this aspect. But fitness, strength and perseverance in the face of fatigue alone are not enough to win.

To be a good skier requires balance, rhythm and an animal-like ability to respond to constant variations in topography and snow conditions. Every meter of trail varies in slope, pitch and smoothness. Skis will slide differently over snow that has been shaded or lies on a north-facing slope versus snow in an open, sunny field. And snow changes day by day, hour by hour. Skiers must maintain balance over their skis as they glide over what may be a rough or rutted surface or when they hit a patch of snow that is softer and slower. Losing balance costs speed, and long practice is needed to attain this skill. But once it is mastered, the skier can speed across the landscape, almost floating above the snow. And on downhills, good skiers preserve their momentum and use it to glide up the next hill. And therein lie the joys of what I will argue is a most elegant and engaging sport. Harry Read, Madison, Wis.

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