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The Beginners Survival Guide to Cross Country Skiing

  1. Introduction & Equipment Sizing
  2. Boot/Binding Combinations

Part 1
Skills For Flat Terrain

  1. Basic Diagonal Stride
  2. Adjusting Pole Straps
  3. Arm Movement in the Diagonal Stride
  4. The Double Pole
  5. Kick Double Pole

Part 2
Skills For Uphill Terrain

  1. Uphill Diagonal Stride
  2. Edging your skis for control
  3. Side Step
  4. Herringbone

Part 3
Downhills & Turning

  1. Getting Up From a Fall
  2. Kick Turn
  3. Track Snowplow




Part 1: Skills For Flat Terrain
Level: beginner

The Basic Diagonal Stride

The Diagonal Stride is the oldest and most basic cross-country ski techniques. Its fluid arm and leg movements help power the skier across flats and uphills. Since these arm and leg movements are similar to walking, the diagonal stride is a good entry point into the sport of cross country skiing.

Two basic elements of the diagonal stride are Weight Transfer and Kick.

Weight Transfer
diagonal stride lessonskiing without polesWeight transfer is the act of balancing over the front ski while gliding over the snow (PHOTO 1e). Start with short sliding steps (PHOTO 2a-c), moderately flexed knees and ankles, and upper body upright and leaning forward. With an upright body position, keep weight over the feet with a smooth rhythm between each step. After a few minutes begin to transfer 100 percent of our body weight forward over your front foot. If we lean forward and commit ourself over the front ski, we will immediately notice the sensation of glide.

The next sequence is pressuring the ski for grip. Each ski has a waxless pattern or wax applied to the skis midsection that helps it from slipping backwards. This does not ensure grip however. If we step off the ski lightly it will slip backwards.

To get solid grip, think of pushing straight down, not back, as if we were stomping down on a nasty bug. Start the stomp with the whole foot; rock up to finish off on the ball of the foot (PHOTO 1d). Jog along, putting partial force down for grip and, after a few minutes, go for 100 percent body weight grip pressure.

As we work on the kick and glide movements of the feet, keep the arms relaxed and swinging in a comfortable rhythm, parallel to the ski tracks. At first, keep the hands low and let them swing nearly equal distance forward and back. The opposite arm and leg movements are just like walking (PHOTO 2c).

Body Position
weight transfer body positionTo check our body position lift up one ski off the snow for a moment (PHOTO 3a). Now move the foot back behind, keeping the leg nearly straight, and off the snow a few inches (PHOTO 3b). Repeat this a few times: bring the foot underneath then move it back and try to balance. Notice what happens to your upperbody as you move the foot back. In order to stay balanced the upper body has to lean forward. Let’s keep this forward body position at all times.


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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