SkiTrax - - Contents - By Keith Ni­col

by Keith Ni­col

This past De­cem­ber (2015), I taught at a cou­ple of the early-sea­son Su­per­camps at the Sil­ver Star-sovereign Lake Nordic Ski area near Ver­non, B.C. For those of you who don't know about these camps, they are a great tuneup for the sea­son be­cause they are known for hav­ing very qual­i­fied CANSI in­struc­tors and coaches on staff.

One of the as­pects of ski­ing that we worked on in my groups of skiers was try­ing to be­come more ag­ile on skis. Since cross-coun­try ski­ing is a dy­namic sport, it is im­por­tant to be able to re­spond quickly to changes in snow con­di­tions and ter­rain. It also turns out that some of the agility ex­er­cises we prac­tised were a lot of fun, so read­ers may find them en­joy­able too.

The first one we at­tempted was to im­prove glide in Clas­sic ski­ing (although it could also be used in skat­ing as well). I no­ticed that sev­eral skiers in our group would ben­e­fit by bal­anc­ing longer on their glide ski, so we had each skier toss a ten­nis ball in the air just as they started to glide. The act of toss­ing and catch­ing the ten­nis ball forced each skier to glide a bit longer. In­ad­ver­tently, the skiers also stood taller on their glide leg, which set them up nicely for a strong kick. This ex­er­cise clicked with sev­eral skiers, and I no­ticed an im­me­di­ate im­prove­ment in their abil­ity to glide (see photo 1). So don't throw out your old ten­nis balls – try jug­gling with them as you di­ag­o­nal stride with­out poles.

De­vel­op­ing quick feet through step turns was an­other agility ex­er­cise that we worked on. Be­ing able to change di­rec­tion quickly comes in handy when ski­ing on hills and helps de­velop con­fi­dence so you are able to stay bal­anced while your feet are shift­ing un­der­neath you. We set up some small ob­jects to ski around sep­a­rated by three to four me­tres and then, over time, short­ened the dis­tance to one to two me­tres. No­tice in photo 2 that I am get­ting ready to make a small step turn around the black cones. I am slightly flexed at an­kles, knees and hips and I have my arms out for bal­ance. All too of­ten, skiers try to do this ex­er­cise with straight legs and this puts their weight back, re­sult­ing in trou­ble con­trol­ling their skis. Re­mem­ber the key to agility is to stay loose. In photo 3, I am edg­ing my left ski and get­ting ready to step onto a flat right ski. My up­per body is ori­ented down the hill and my skis are do­ing all the work, quickly step­ping around the ob­sta­cles.

We also worked on do­ing small jumps on skis. This re­quires that you are bal­anced when you take off, since jump­ing with your weight on your heels or your toes will al­most cer­tainly re­sult in a fall. In this case, we had peo­ple jump over a rope (see photo 4). Be sure to land with soft feet, and by that, I mean en­sur­ing you land with flexed joints. This helps ab­sorb the small shock of land­ing.

The fi­nal agility ex­er­cise we tried was com­ing to a stop as quickly as we could. Although you can stop by do­ing a snow­plow, this is of­ten too slow, es­pe­cially if you are trav­el­ing fast. So a quicker way to stop is a “hockey” stop. In this case, you need to quickly pivot your skis un­der your body (see photo 5). Again, my stance is very sim­i­lar to the step turns we looked at ear­lier. My up­per body is fac­ing down the hill and my feet are do­ing all the work. Be sure to con­tinue to steer your skis across the hill. Again, keep your joints flexed and arms out to aid with bal­ance (see photo 6). It helps to prac­tise this on a small hill on a well­groomed trail be­fore at­tempt­ing a hockey stop on a steeper slope. To help read­ers de­velop this skill, here's a link to a video on how to stop on cross-coun­try skis: www.

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 at www2.swgc.mun. ca/~kni­col/nordic%20main.htm and many pop­u­lar Youtube videos for im­prov­ing your Nordic ski­ing (search k2nicol). He can be reached at

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