Recently I started learning to nordic ski. It is not a surprise to many that winter is not really “my thing.” After going to college in upstate New York, where the weather was often below zero and too cold for snow, my days of winter could be done and I wouldn’t mind.
My spouse was a competitive nordic skier. After college, we moved to Texas, New Jersey, Northern California, and finally Southern California. Nordic skiing in Texas and New Jersey was next to impossible, so he didn’t.
When we moved to Northern California, there were more places to ski, and now Southern California has just as many (the Mojave desert is the last place I thought we would have access to Nordic Skiing). I digress.
When we took a trip to Salt Lake City last month, I decided to learn how to nordic ski. I’m ok with being new and bad at things (See Snowshoeing), so I wasn’t apprehensive about being the slowest person out there. And for the most part, I was the slowest person out there. Looking back at Strava, I was ranked as one of the slowest people ever to complete certain segments. LOL.
Maybe you are nervous to learn to nordic ski too…so here is my story.
So What is Cross Country Skiing?
When I was learning to nordic ski, I did not realize cross-country skiing, XC skiing, and nordic skiing are all the same thing. Different names to do the same thing.
The Two Types of Nordic Skiing:
Classic Skiing: This is the original version of cross country skiing and how most people learn to nordic ski. It involves a straight line and is also known as the “kick and glide.” You’ll see “tracks” that make it easy to follow.
Skate Skiing: This is the more challenging and complicated technique. It looks like a speed skater and is faster than Classic Skiing.
Where Can You learn to Nordic Ski?
Most nordic centers offer private lessons! We visited each Nordic center in Park City; they offered lessons if you wanted.
What Kind of Gear Do You Need to Learn to Nordic Ski?
- Either classic or skate-style skis and boots (you can rent these at any Nordic Center). You must have the appropriate boots for the style of nordic skiing you want to learn. As I quickly learned, classic style is the easier of the styles to learn. The appropriate ski length depends on your weight.
- Poles: Pole length should be about even with your armpits.
- Warm and waterproof clothing: You will fall in the snow, so it’s important to wear waterproof and warm clothing. I got good use from my Crash Polartec 2.0 Tights and Crash Polartec 2.0 Jacket. There is no reason to purchase Nordic-specific gear when you are just started.
Learning to Nordic Ski:
- Learn from a professional: I cannot emphasize the importance of learning to nordic ski from a professional. Skiing is challenging, so having someone to teach Nordic skiing will help.
- Avoid avalanche areas: Another reason learning to nordic ski at a resort is a good idea is because you’ll reduce your avalanche risk.
Nordic Skiing Etiquette:
- Yield the right of way: Always go in the correct direction on the trail. On two-way trails, the uphill skier yields to the downhill skier.
- Don’t destroy the tracks: Something I learned while learning to nordic ski was the importance of the tracks. You don’t want to destroy the classic tracks (it makes it especially challenging for beginners like myself), and skate skiers want smooth tracks. This includes snowshoeing. If you’re snowshoeing, don’t walk in the tracks.
Basic Cross Country Ski Techniques:
Basic Athletic Body Position:
Getting the right body position is essential for learning to nordic ski. As someone who didn’t play any ball sports (or even land sports), this was already tough for me to master. You want to start in a basic athletic body position. This means to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend slightly at your hips. Your hands are just comfortably in front of you.
Transfer Your Weight:
Practice shifting your weight from one side to another. You want to keep your hip, knees, and toes aligned above your foot and maintain the same body alignment. Practice this until you feel smooth and steady on both sides. While learning to nordic ski, this took me quite some time, but it’s one of the most important components to learn to nordic ski.
Move With the Skis:
Since classic cross country skiing is easier, learn to nordic ski with that style first. Without the poles, slowly shuffle on the classic tracks. It will feel like a slow walk, and you might be able to walk on the solid ground faster. That’s ok. Your only goal is to walk in the tracks and not fall.
Shuffle and Glide:
Once you’ve mastered walking in the tracks, it’s time to start gliding in the track. Gliding it how you gain speed. Without the poles, you want to start practicing gliding for a short distance. You might feel unbalanced but continue working towards just gliding.
Time to use your Poles:
By starting without poles, you practice your balance and not rely on the polls. Adding the pools adds speed.
How to Hold Your Poles:
- Slide each hand through the bottom of the pole loop.
- Grab the top of the strap and pole grip together.
- The top of your hand should be even where the strap comes out of the pole.
Basic Pole Movement:
Poles will add speed and power to your skiing. Start with your balanced athletic stance. Hold your hands and poles dangling straight down at should width in front of you. The top of your hands should be level with your mouth. Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees.
You’ll want to activate your core muscles as your pole tips straight down in the snow. Then lift your poles back up to the original position and repeat. This will be your basic motion.
Putting It Together:
There is a lot of information and coordination when learning to nordic ski. Begin with the shuffle, glide, and push the pole opposite the ski. Complete with the opposite pole and repeat. This is how you’ll move.
Finally: Never stick the poles in front of you to stop:
Believe me, while learning to nordic ski, this was my first inclination but don’t do that! This can cause the poles to break or cause an injury. You want to coast to a stop (it’s scary but possible).
Learning to Nordic Ski Conclusion:
Anyone can learn to nordic ski, and it’s not as scary or hard as it may seem. If you want to try skiing but don’t want to try downhill, it’s a good option. Or if you are someone who is looking to learn to nordic ski, give it a shot.
Questions for you:
Have you learned to nordic ski?
Do you like winter?