Get­ting Started with Clas­sic Ski­ing

SkiTrax - - News - By Keith Ni­col

When I teach at the Su­per­camps at Sil­ver Star and Sov­er­eign Lakes, B.C., I am al­ways sur­prised that more peo­ple sign up for skat­ing lessons than Clas­sic lessons. And the same holds true with my learn-to-cross-coun­try-ski videos on Youtube. I think I know the rea­son for this – skat­ing on skis is known to be a de­mand­ing, very tech­ni­cal ac­tiv­ity, whereas I think Clas­sic ski­ing is viewed as more of a begin­ner style of ski­ing. It is ba­si­cally “walk­ing on skis” to many peo­ple.

But Clas­sic ski­ing is de­cep­tive – although it looks easy, it is ac­tu­ally very dif­fi­cult to do well. For in­stance, within the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Nordic Ski In­struc­tors (CANSI) in­struc­tor-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, the di­ag­o­nal stride is the only tech­nique to be ex­am­ined at all four lev­els, from begin­ner cross-coun­try-ski in­struc­tor (Level 1) to an ad­vanced in­struc­tor (Level 4). So I al­ways en­cour­age skiers to try Clas­sic ski­ing first and to learn good tech­nique, then try skat­ing once they learn how to bal­ance and glide on Clas­sic skis.

First of all you, need good equip­ment that is sized cor­rectly (photo 1). Last sea­son at Mount Wash­ing­ton Ski Re­sort, I taught one woman who had skis that were way too stiff, and she was con­stantly slip­ping and had lit­tle con­trol of her skis. Once I had her try skis that were bet­ter fit­ted to her, she was all smiles, en­joy­ing her­self. It is ideal to try out equip­ment be­fore you buy. Also if you are in an area where you can take a les­son, sign up for a cou­ple to get you off on the right foot.

If you don’t have an in­struc­tor nearby, then try this pro­gres­sion. First of all, find some level tracks and start off with no poles – shuf­fling your feet back and forth to gain propul­sion. Work on push­ing your foot down and back (see photo 2). Be sure to swing your arms nat­u­rally, and you will note that as I push my right foot back, my left arm goes for­ward (photo 3). It is im­por­tant to be flex­i­ble at the an­kles, knees and hips, and once you are com­fort­able with the “shuf­fle,” try adding some “pop” by push­ing down quickly by flex­ing your knee. This will give you more mo­men­tum for­ward, and you should start to be­gin to feel bal­ance on just your glide leg (photo 4). It is im­por­tant to al­ways do some no-poles ski­ing early in the sea­son, and through­out the win­ter, re­fine your abil­ity to bal­ance on a sin­gle ski. This is the sin­gle big­gest prob­lem area for most of the skiers I teach, and will serve you well if you de­cide to try skate-ski­ing down the road.

Once you can “kick and glide” with no poles, try adding your poles. Note that when I plant my pole I am aim­ing for a strong arm po­si­tion, and start off my pol­ing with el­bows at roughly 90° (see photo 5). Most be­gin­ners want to reach out with their poles, but this pro­duces a weaker pol­ing ac­tion. At this point, I find that many skiers who were do­ing well when they had no poles now get the tim­ing con­fused and end up lung­ing for­ward in­stead of strid­ing back. So re­tain that snappy knee “pop” when you add poles, and this should cre­ate the proper tim­ing of legs and arms (see photo 6). 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.

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