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5 Surprising Skills Many Intermediate Nordic Skiers Haven't Mastered (Yet)

Tips & Ideas Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The truth is, many skiers either come to XC skiing with either a great athletic foundation from another sport like cycling or may progress with enough strength and endurance to push through and make steady progress but never really hit the sweet spot where their skiing takes off. 

To break through a plateau, get race ready, or just have a more ease-filled, satisfying workout, here are a few up-your-game Nordic skills worth putting on your to-do list. 

Slow Down in the Tracks 

If you're classic skiing in tracks and get rolling on a steep descent, it's not hard to move quickly from the comfort zone of a fast, fun downhill to "Help! I am out of control." Easy fix? Step the inside ski out of the track into the middle of the trail and wedge it—think a sort of half-pizza. Put your weight on that inside ski to help add more brakes; to get the feel, lean a bit in and reach down to touch the knee of your wedged-ski leg. 

Video: Classic Nordic Ski Lesson — learn the basics like standing up, turning, and stopping

How to Fall

It's tempting, but don't try to brake (or break your fall) with your poles, a potentially painful and expensive strategy. Instead, stay loose and relaxed and fall to your side, the snow is pretty forgiving. 

Get up Quickly 

Nine times out of ten, it seems like a wipe-out lands us with skis and poles hopelessly tangled. The best first move is to take off both poles—just toss them to the side. Next, roll to your back, then bring your knees up and in so you have some control over your legs; get your skis parallel. Once you have things sorted, lay your skis in the snow perpendicular to the hill, if you're on one, and crawl slowly forward onto your hands and knees. Push up to standing.

Video: Classic Nordic Ski Lesson — learn the basics like standing up, turning, and stopping

How to Take a Corner

One of the simpler ways is to push into a wedge and put weight on the outside ski. (Again, a good hack is to reach down to touch the outside of that knee to make sure your weight is going there.) The sexy way? Step turns, which require a bit more balance and finesse; this is where a good private lesson comes in.

Efficient Climbing

Speaking of lessons—give yourself the gift of getting pro pointers here, there are multiple methods for skate and classic. One tip that applies across disciplines is to power down. Although it's tempting to hit a hill hard and use momentum (or just get it over with), decreasing speed gives you enough juice to focus on power and form, which will help your climbing more in the long run. 

You can up your game with these techniques via online videos. Better yet, have a friend shoot footage as you practice so you can see if you're hitting the right form and technique. Clinics, classes, group skis, and private lessons are great ways to get instant expert feedback and tweak your form. The more skills and better form you develop, the more efficient, graceful, and pure fun each day on the trails become.

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