It’s never too late to work on technique
Susan Mulvihill, January 2010
It has been said that if you can walk, you can cross-country ski.
While there is some truth to that statement, walking through the snow on skis really isn’t that much fun. Whether you are a beginner or have been skiing a long time, it’s important to take a good look at your technique to make each skiing experience a good one.
I’m currently teaching a friend how to ski which reminds me of how scared I was when I started skiing about 30 years ago. I fell down so many times the first day, it’s a wonder I stayed with it. There isn’t room in this article to cover all of the concepts to learn but let’s take a look at some of the most important ones.
Working on your balance is huge. You can do this anytime, anywhere. Stand on one leg for as long as you can, then switch to the other leg. Do this as often as possible. Like strengthening muscles, our balance gets better the more we work on it. This will make it easier for you to shift your weight from one ski to the other while you’re out on the trails.
Look at your pole positions while you’re skiing. Something most beginners do is hold the poles straight out from their sides in a vertical position. That’s because they’re trying to increase their base of support and feel more secure on their skis. Hey, we’ve all been there, done that! But it’s not efficient because as you take a stride, those vertical poles aren’t going to help propel you forward.
Each pole should be planted on an angle of about 60 degrees. For example, when you take a stride forward with your right ski, your left arm should swing forward and be almost straight while you plant the base of the left pole even with the middle of your right boot. With the pole in that angled position, you can use your left arm to push yourself forward by using the pole as a lever. Make sense?
While you’re skiing, each arm should go through a full swing that mirrors the position of the opposite leg. Try not to have a “death grip” on the pole handles. When I was new, I remember developing small blisters on my thumbs from my killer grip. Skiing without poles is a great way to work on your weight shifts and be less dependent on your poles.
RELAXATION, FLEXION AND EXTENSION
Another natural tendency new skiers have is to stand very stiffly on straight legs. While that might feel like a more secure position, it’s actually more difficult for your body to smoothly adjust to changes in the surface and direction of the trail. Instead, keep your knees slightly flexed and you will be able to react more efficiently.
Also, look ahead down the trail rather than looking down at your skis. Your feet are still down there, honest. If you look at the trail ahead, you will be aware of what’s coming and can more easily adjust your stride as needed. Besides, looking down at the ground all the time is hard on your neck.
The bottom line is that skiing should be a fun activity. You’re strapping on those skis because you want to stay active during the winter, enjoy the scenery and burn some calories.
If skiing isn’t fun for you yet, consider taking some lessons. My favorite instructor is Caroline Tareski, who can be contacted at Fitness Fanatics (12425 E. Sprague Ave., 922-6080). Several years ago, I could tell I’d gotten back into shuffling along the trails on my skis and wanted to get more out of it. I took some private lessons from Caroline and my technique improved in leaps and bounds.
The City of Spokane’s Parks Department also offers ski lessons during the season. Check out their schedule by going to spokaneparks.org and clicking on “go cross country skiing” under their activity finder.
See you out on the trails!