SkiTrax - - Contents - By Keith Ni­col

by Keith Ni­col

As we get ready for an­other cross-coun­try-ski sea­son, there are a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties we can do to be sure we make the most of it. Cross-coun­try ski­ing in­volves aer­o­bic con­di­tion­ing, strength, co­or­di­na­tion and the abil­ity to bal­ance. Many skiers will cross-train with run­ning, bik­ing or sea-kayak­ing in the sum­mer and then hit the gym in the fall to build up spe­cific ski mus­cles, but prac­tis­ing bal­ance is of­ten an af­ter­thought. Bal­ance is key to both Clas­sic and skate-ski­ing, and as we age, this skill be­gins to de­cline. That means to main­tain our ski skills we need to prac­tise spe­cific bal­ance ex­er­cises even more as we move into our for­ties, fifties, six­ties and be­yond. If you are very fit and strong, but have lit­tle bal­ance, your abil­ity to ski well will be se­verely com­pro­mised.

So through­out the sum­mer, I look for many ways to work on my bal­ance. It might be as sim­ple as rig­ging up a teeter-tot­ter on a beach, as shown in photo 1. We saw one on Hornby Is­land, B.C., where we were sea-kayak­ing for sev­eral days in early Septem­ber, and I made a point of us­ing it sev­eral times while we were there. Some­times, as shown in photo 1, I used it to prac­tise two-footed bal­ance, and I also did one-footed ex­er­cises on it by cen­tring my foot in the mid­dle. You can also get in a sim­i­lar prac­tice in the gym or at home with a wob­ble­board, as shown in photo 2. This is a round disc of wood with a half-sphere sup­port­ing it. In photo 2, I am demon­strat­ing one-footed bal­ance, which I do the most, but you can also do two-footed bal­ance with this as well. I reg­u­larly use this wob­ble­board in­doors while watch­ing TV, and it strength­ens an­kle and other mus­cles that help you stay cen­tred.

Of course, the best form of early-sea­son bal­ance prac­tice is to go roller­ski­ing, and through the fall, I try to prac­tise on one ski fre­quently. I try to sim­u­late snow-ski­ing, so I move my hips for­ward and feel my weight to­ward the ball of my foot, as shown in photo 3. If you feel the most weight on your heel, try mov­ing it grad­u­ally, mov­ing your hips for­ward as you glide. Of­ten when we ski, we are not aware of where our weight is or what our arm po­si­tion looks like, so I rec­om­mend that you have some­one video­tape your roller­ski­ing so that you can see how you look so that you can then make corrections based on what you see.

If you don't have some­one to video­tape your ski­ing, you can still make corrections by us­ing some of these tips. When I skate-ski, I pe­ri­od­i­cally look down just as I am about to glide on a new ski to make sure that I bring the ski un­der­neath me and that I put it down as flat as pos­si­ble (see photo 4). All too of­ten, skiers adopt a wide stance and never get their skis un­der­neath them, which means that they are glid­ing on an edged ski. Since edged skis are vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to glide very far on, this means that their skat­ing is awk­ward and choppy. In photo 4, I am push­ing off my right ski and glid­ing on a flat left ski.

An­other way to get this sen­sa­tion of bring­ing your feet un­der­neath you be­fore you glide is to find a paved trail with a line down the mid­dle. As I skate, I try to place my foot down on the line, as shown in photo 5. Photo 6 shows me set­ting down my glide ski with my op­po­site foot. With each skate, I try to have my roller­ski hit the line, and this forces me to start my skat­ing ac­tion with my feet un­der­neath me, which helps me to bal­ance on a flat glide ski. This can also be done in snow, al­though it is harder since we of­ten don't have lines painted down the ski trail. But you can make one your­self by dou­ble-pol­ing down the skate lane and then set­ting your skis down on top of the line as you freeskate. For help with any as­pect of your Nordic ski­ing, seek out the as­sis­tance of a cer­ti­fied CANSI or PSIA in­struc­tor.

Con­trib­u­tor Keith Ni­col has been on four Cana­dian INTERSKI demon­stra­tion teams for Nordic ski­ing. He holds CANSI'S high­est in­struc­tor rank­ing in both track and tele­mark ski­ing. He has a pop­u­lar Nordic ski­ing web­site at­col/ nordic%20main.htm and many pop­u­lar Youtube videos for im­prov­ing your Nordic ski­ing (search k2nicol). He can be reached at k2nicol@

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