How to Teach Your­self to Ski Bet­ter

SkiTrax - - Technique - By Keith Ni­col

In the ski lessons that I teach, I like to give stu­dents a way to check their ski im­prove­ment through­out the sea­son. Of course, one way to do this is to take more lessons, but for skiers who don’t have in­struc­tors close by or can’t find an in­struc­tor at the last minute, here are some tips to check your progress. I use many of these tips my­self to mon­i­tor my own ski­ing, and many of the stu­dents I have shown these to be­lieve they worked well for them.

Let’s start with us­ing shad­ows to help you see what arm po­si­tion you have or how flexed your an­kles and knees are. At the early-sea­son Su­per­camps at Sil­ver Star/sov­er­eign Lake, B.C., I did this with many of my classes. I told my stu­dents that cross-coun­try ski­ing is a life­long learn­ing process, and the only way to re­ally im­prove is to aim for per­fect prac­tice. The old say­ing that “Prac­tice makes per­fect” can be ad­justed to “Per­fect prac­tice makes per­fect.” We used video­tape feed­back fre­quently in the Su­per­camps, but I men­tioned to my stu­dents that a quick way to re­ceive im­me­di­ate feed­back while you ski is to look at your shadow when the sun is be­hind you. Shad­ows can’t tell you ev­ery­thing, but I find that they are par­tic­u­larly use­ful for check­ing arm (are my arms at 90° at the ini­ti­a­tion of pol­ing?) and torso po­si­tion (do I crunch my up­per body to start the pol­ing cy­cle in dou­ble-pol­ing or 1 skate?). In photo 1, I am check­ing my arm swing in freeskate.

Another way to see if your bal­ance is im­prov­ing through­out the sea­son is to bal­ance on one ski on slight down­hills. I do this fre­quently be­cause good bal­ance on a sin­gle ski is the key to good ski­ing in ei­ther skat­ing or Clas­sic ski­ing. Try mak­ing your “one ski glides” longer and longer as the sea­son pro­gresses (see photo 2). I have pro­duced a Youtube video that demon­strates an en­tire se­ries of bal­ance-im­prov­ing ex­er­cises on hills that you can do over the ski sea­son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im­rxzn-eq78.

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Another way to de­ter­mine how well you are freeskat­ing (i.e., no poles) is to check your tracks if you hap­pen upon a sec­tion of track that is freshly groomed. I show my stu­dents this tip in al­most all of my skat­ing classes if we come across this sit­u­a­tion. In photo 3, I am land­ing on a flat right ski and push­ing off strongly on an edged left ski.

If you look at the tracks I have left be­hind, you can see that the track starts off with a flat ski and then ends with an edged ski (see photo 4). The idea of skat­ing with a min­i­mal use of en­ergy is to be able to glide for a long time on a flat ski, so you want to lengthen your abil­ity to glide through the ski sea­son as your bal­ance im­proves. I of­ten see skiers who land only on an edged ski and they would then only leave edged tracks in the snow. Their track is never flat. Of­ten this type of skat­ing is short and choppy, with min­i­mal glide.

Another com­mon skat­ing er­ror is to push off a poorly edged ski that ends up slid­ing side­ways across the snow (see photo 5). This type of skat­ing is com­mon among be­gin­ning skaters, and is very tir­ing be­cause most of the push­ing en­ergy is go­ing into slid­ing the ski across the snow in­stead push­ing off of a strongly edged ski.

Photo 6 shows the tracks that re­sult from this type of ski­ing prob­lem. Check out the fol­low­ing video on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=7-3xu­ar­jrc.

Of course, the best way to im­prove is take a se­ries of ski lessons through­out the win­ter so you are re­ceiv­ing guided feed­back on your ski­ing and you can stop bad habits be­fore they be­come in­grained. For help with any as­pect 6 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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