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The Confidence Conundrum: Making X-C Ski Lessons Work at Your Own Level

Tips & Ideas Friday, November 1, 2019

The flakes are flying this month, and it’s our first chance to get on the snow! There’s an interesting phenomenon at many Nordic events: when skiers line up and find groups according to ability, there’s a huge line of intermediates. The whip-thin go-fasters in the advanced group can make some of us feel like we’d never keep up, and the beginners? Well, most of us have skied a bit, so that makes us not-beginners, right?

Hence the safety and swelling ranks of the intermediates—a place where you see Nordic skiers who clearly need to review some very basic technique alongside those who, let’s face it, are pretty much sandbaggers.

Why is it so hard to evaluate our own Nordic skiing ability? Some are chronic overestimators, while others underestimate what they’ve got under the hood. Both can impede your growth as a skier—you either won’t challenge yourself enough and grow bored, or be constantly struggling to keep up, sacrificing form and technique for the sake of saving face (and having a miserable time to boot). 

Gender comes into play here, too. A study done at Cornell University found that men overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. In fact, their actual performance does not differ in quality or quantity.

This is where finding the right instructional fit for a cross-country ski lesson is imperative. For some, a women-specific group setting allows athletes to better push themselves and recognize abilities. For others, that’s where high-level, one-on-one instruction comes in, so a student can focus on very subtle and specific tips and tricks, form, mental obstacles and more.

If you’re unsure where you fall, visit a Nordic center during a slower time—a Sunday afternoon, or weekday—and ask for an instructor to take you out for a bit to suggest a level of instruction that would be comfortable and beneficial, and what they’d like to see you prioritize in order to kick your skiing up a notch.

Another way to improve your skiing? Video analysis. Watching yourself work on climbing or polling frame-by-frame can illuminate all kinds of tiny crimes and hidden strengths, so ask your instructor to film you and go over the footage with you over a hot chocolate after class.

It’s important to be confident. In sports, success is inextricably linked to confidence and performance, and just like with any type of skill, confidence is developed through focus, effort, and repetition. But pair that with the right instruction, and your confidence will be rooted in knowing you’re skiing correctly, efficiently, and in a way that allows you to move up and onward with skill and joy.

Want to try Nordic skiing but not sure where to start? Check out our video lesson series. Looking forward to hitting the snow? Do so at one of these awesome events!

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