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 cross country skiing

20 Often Asked Questions

SKATING LOOKS EASY. IS IT?

Skating is easy but doesn't come without the awkward moments we encounter in any new sport. People who seem to have the easiest time learning skating are figure skaters and hockey players. Alpine skiers also pick it up quickly relying on their experience of gliding and skating on skis as they travel between lifts and on flat sections of trail.
     While ice skaters and alpine skiers may have the lower body movements wired, learning to use the poles correctly takes time.  Experienced cross country skiers, on the other hand, have a head start with poling movements learned for kick and glide skiing.
     If I were to make one suggestion to someone learning to skate is to make sure that you have proper fitting equipment: skis a little taller than body height; poles between chin and nose; and most important, snug fitting ankle high skating boots for control. If the boots are too big and sloppy, it's almost impossible to skate correctly.

SHOULD I BUY WAXLESS OR WAXABLE SKIS?

     If I were asked that same question about ten years ago my answer would have been "strictly waxable". Back then most waxless gripped well, but their forward glide was about as fast as a snail trying to out-sprint a rushing lawn mower.
     Today there are some great low maintenance waxless skis that provide close-to the same grip and glide as a waxable ski.
     To determine the best ski for you first consider your area's winter climate. The easiest conditions to wax for are either consistently cold (below 25 degrees) or warm (35 and up) temperatures.
     The most difficult condition for waxing is when temperatures play leap-frog above, below and around the 32 degree mark. In these conditions, the snow crystals change so frequently that waxing becomes a nightmare. In these conditions, waxless skis are a definite advantage.
     Putting climate aside, the most important issue to consider is how much you ski. If your the type of person with limited time to ski after work, on lunch breaks or when a spare moment presents itself, then going waxless is the best choice because they require little or no preparation.

HOW CAN A SKI BOTH GRIP AND GLIDE?

The ability of cross-country skis to both grip and glide makes them unique.  The grip function of a ski allows us to travel up hill with solid strides. On the flats, grip is the anchor that propels us forward into effortless glide. What enhances the skis ability to grip and glide is called "camber".
     Modern cross-country skis are not totally flat. Look at a pair of skis base to base and you'll notice that with the tips and tails touching, the bases are bowed and separated by the skis camber. This camber is the magic key for grip and glide.  When we press the ski down for grip, the ski flattens for a moment, allowing the wax or waxless pattern to hold on the snow. After the kick, the waxed midsection of the forward gliding ski raises off the snow leaving it to glide on its smooth tip and tail.

     Choose your skis carefully. A ski camber that is too soft for your body weight will have positive grip in the flats but nonexistent glide. Pick a ski that is too stiff and unless your Mr. Universe you wont have the strength to force the ski down for grip.
IF SOMEONE WANTS TO PASS ME AT A TOURING CENTER, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Whether you skiing on a one-way trail, or with skiers striding in both directions, the rule of `Right Is Right' applies.

On a one-way trail with two lanes, slower skiers should stay in the right lane. This allows faster skiers to pass you on the left. If you’re skiing with a partner side by side and hear a skier from behind say "track" (the request to pass), the skier in the left lane should merge to the right.

On a two-way trail where skiers are going in both directions, stay in the right lane. If you're on a narrow single lane trail, step off the off the trail to the right to allow passing. When you step off the trail make sure to get your poles out of the way.

Don't fret about passing situations. Most cross-country skiers are courteous and if they need to pass they'll often use it as an opportunity to show off their skill by skiing around you.

IS MY DOWNHILL SKI CLOTHING APPROPRIATE FOR CROSS-COUNTRY?

When an Alpine skier calls to reserve a lesson they always want to know if their downhill clothing is appropriate. My answer is always yes, but depending on weather we make a few adjustments
     The one advantage of most downhill ski clothing is it stretches with the body movement — an essential with cross-country skiing.  The disadvantage is that it's designed first and foremost to be insulate the body and trap heat. Cross-country skiing on the other hand is a sport of movement where our own exertion keeping us warm.
     Use your downhill clothes with these few adjustments:
     Socks: rather then thin downhill socks, choose a medium to thick wool or synthetic sock for comfort and warmth.
     Pants: Wear your downhills pants but eliminate the thermal underwear. The pants alone will be plenty warm.
     Jacket: Leave your thick jacket at the touring center. A thermal top with turtle neck and sweater is perfect for most days. Bring along a thin shell for colder weather and wind.
     Gloves: Downhill gloves are too warm and too bulky. If you can, opt for a thinner pair of gloves.
     Hat; Wear one to keep your ears warm. You can always put it in your pocket if your get too warm.

     Goggles: No. Goggles tend to fog up so opt for sunglasses.
ARE YOU EVER TOO OLD TO LEARN HOW TO CROSS-COUNTRY SKI?

If you can walk your way into a touring center then there should be no limitations preventing you from learning the sport. I've taught people full of self doubts due to age and physical limitations. Seeing the smile of satisfaction at the end of the lesson has made me a firm believer that anyone can learn.

     What makes cross-country skiing possible to everyone, regardless of age, is that the sport allows people the freedom to ski and advance at our own pace.  They can stay on flat terrain and rest when tired.
HOW YOUNG CAN I START MY KIDS CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING?

I've seen children as young as two years old enjoy the experience of cross-country skiing. At any age, the best thing parents can do is to let them ski at their own level and pace.
     Somehow children let you know when they want to start. Their first experience might last only ten or fifteen minutes as they slide around the backyard between sessions of making snowballs and rolling in the snow.

     We have a children's program here in Aspen that takes out three to five year-olds in a separate group from the six and over age group. The parents who ski with the group know the kids learn by observing. The parents biggest challenge is getting the children to come in before they get too tired, leaving them hungry for more skiing in the future.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO SKI OUT OF THE TRACKS? IS IT HARD?

Skiing in soft unbroken snow is a lot of fun once you’re comfortable on skis. Use the techniques acquired on prepared tracks but don't expect as much glide.

WHY DO I NEED TO TAKE A LESSON? IT'S JUST LIKE WALKING, ISN'T IT?

There is more to cross-country than just walking on skis.  The sport, diagonal and skating, is enjoying the sensation of gliding on skis.  Lessons help open up the vistas of more gliding, turning, more control and the true excitement of how much fun the sport can be.

     Experienced Nordic skiers know the virtues of perfecting their technique. With instruction you increase your skill level allowing you to ski longer and travel a greater distance with much less effort.
WHY DO THEY CALL IT DIAGONAL STRIDING?
The diagonal refers to the opposite arm and leg movement, moving diagonally as we ski. It's the same diagonal movement that we use in everyday walking.  When our right leg starts to swing forward our opposite left arm moves forward at the same time. »learn the basic diagonal stride
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A GOOD CROSS-COUNTRY SKIER?

To be good enough to enjoy the sensations of gliding and control may take only an hour. Perfecting and learning the many techniques takes days or weeks of practice. I have seen major breakthroughs in the ability of non skiers after a week of skiing.

For many, skating seems to take less time to learn enough basics to enjoy the sensations of speeding around the trail. These people usually have a background in athletics.

HOW DO I STOP WHILE SKIING IN THE TRACKS?

     For a beginner, even flat non-threatening terrain hold exciting moments of uncontrollable speed.
     In the flats, slowing down is easy if you  stand up straight (good for wind resistance), stop striding and carefully jab your poles into the snow. If your ski partner unexpectedly falls in front of you simply step out of the track into the other lane or the side of the trail.
     The most efficient technique for stopping on downhills is called the Track Snowplow.
     With the track snowplow, one ski is taken out of the track and wedged to slow momentum or stop.

I HAVE LOUSY CONTROL ON THE DOWNHILLS BECAUSE MY HEELS ARE ALWAYS SLIPPING OFF THE SKIS. WHY IS THIS?
The most important link in cross-country ski equipment is the boot and binding. Unlike downhill gear where stiff plastic boots are anchored to the skis at the toe and heel, cross-country boots are designed to give the foot flexibility and control while being attached to the ski only at the toe. If your boots slip off the skis, they are too soft torsionally or sloppily connected to the binding. Both problems can be solved with a contemporary boot/binding system combination. Fortunately, new boot/binding systems have torsionally rigid soles and control wedges underneath the ball of the foot to prevent heel slippage.
CAN THE ELDERLY LEARN TO SKATE?

I have yet to see any age limitation that prevents learning to ski skate. However, if someone is not comfortable with sliding on skis, or can't balance on a gliding ski, they'll find skating difficult. In these cases I recommend a few days of classical skiing instruction to learn balance.

HOW DO I GET UP FROM A FALL?

One exercise I use in lessons is to start off by having people plant their poles in the snow and then kneeling down on one knee. Then I have them rise back up from the one knee and using their poles for support. This is the latter half of the motion used to get up from a fall.

     The first part comes after the fall when the free heels allow you to crawl forward toward the ski tips until your knees are over the skis and your feet are behind you. Now you bring one knee forward and up until the foot on that leg is flat on the snow. Then plant both poles and rise up from the kneeling position. »take our quickie lesson
I ALWAYS SLIP ON UPHILLS. WHAT GIVES?

Slipping on uphills has the same cause whether we're diagonal skiing or skating. The best grip comes when we stand so that our total body weight presses the edge, wax or waxless pattern into the snow. When you lean too far forward, your weight goes ahead of your feet and onto your toes. You lose your balance and your skis slip out from under you.

     Use these hints to help prevent slipping. One is to keep my hips forward.  This is accomplished by sticking the pelvis out ahead causing you to stand very erect. Also, pay attention to where you look. Scanning the snow for lost change invites slippage while keeping your sights towards the top of the hill helps maintain the right body position. »take a Quickie Lesson
I FREEZE WHEN I COME TO A DOWNHILL. WHAT TO DO?

At the lip of the hill, slow to almost a stop and proceed with the half snow plow I talked about earlier. By starting the snow plow at the top of the hill you'll be in control from the onset.

     If you feel uncomfortable with the track snow plow then take off your skis and walk down the hill.  Don't walk down in the groves of the track but just off to edge of it where it is still firm and packed.  Put your skis in one hand and poles in the other and use them both for support and balance.
CAN I SKATE ON DIAGONAL EQUIPMENT?

Sure, but it won't be fun. Remember that skating skis are made for glide, and glide is the key for skating. The pattern of a recreational waxless ski slows down glide. We can usually get in a few skates but there’s too much friction to keep the skis gliding forward.
     A waxable recreational ski is a little easier to skate on because there is less friction coming from the grip wax. Many people still learn to skate on this type of equipment. It allows them to experiment with skating and after exhausting themselves be able to retreat back to the familiar diagonal stride.

     If you were to take your waxable diagonal ski and wax it tip to tail for glide, it would make a great skating ski.  As a matter of fact, in softer snow conditions the softer tip and tail flex of a diagonal ski makes it a faster skating ski. The only drawback, however, is that most recreational boots are low cuts and too flexible for skating.  A good high top skating boot with a stiff sole makes a difference in control and stability.
WHAT IS HOT WAXING?

Hot waxing is the application of glide waxes to a ski base. It protects the base from dirt and scratches, and helps the skis glide fast. Even recreational skis can be hot waxed on their tips and tail base sections to enhance glide.
     The easiest way to determine if skis need a coat of hot wax is to look at their bases. The glide sections of the skis should look smooth and shinny. If they look pale, dry and blotchy, it's time to hot wax. Another indication you need a hot wax job is when your skis feel slower then normal. This typically occurs when the temperature suddenly drops from warm to very cold. Now it's time to hot wax with a wax for cold snows so glide stays smooth.

     If you’re a recreational skier and have little interest in hot waxing for performance, have a shop wax your skis a few times during the season. At the end of the season be sure to have them waxed for summer storage. Another option is to use a paste or liquid wax that can be applied with a cloth on the trail in minutes.
WHAT KIND OF TURNS CAN I DO ON RECREATIONAL CROSS-COUNTRY SKIS?
With good equipment, there is no limit to the types of turns you can do on skinny skis. If conditions are right, you can perform the same turns as downhill skiers; Snowplow, Stem Christy and Parallel turns. In addition, cross-country skiers have the Telemark, a free heel turn that's fun and functional in all snow conditions.

 

 

 

CLASSIC TECHNIQUE: Diagonal Stride; Adjusting Pole Straps; Arm Swing; Double Pole; Kick-Double Pole. CLASSIC UPHILL TECHNIQUE: Classic Uphill Diagonal; Edging; Side Step; Herringbone. DOWNHILLS AND TURNING: Getting up from a fall; Kick Turn; Track Snowplow; Five Tips for the Diagonal Stride; Kick Double Pole. SKATE SKIING: Ten Tips for the V-1; V-2 skate technique; Marathon Skate. ALL AROUND: Stationary Turns; Step Turns. RESOURCES: Nordic Glossary; 20 Q and A; History of Cross Country Skiing

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