Learning to ski

There are many reasons why XC skiing is popular. It is a healthy outdoor exercise that can be done at any level of fitness.  XC skiing is a less expensive way of enjoying the snow than alpine skiing, bringing it within the reach of many more families. The skills required can be learnt in less time than it takes to become a competent alpine skier while people who can already use alpine skis will quickly learn XC techniques. XC races cater for those with plenty of energy while touring can involve a trip of a few hours to a whole day trip or be extended by camping out overnight.  People who are blind can ski XC as well as amputees and paraplegics. There is no age limit on cross country skiing so toddlers can be introduced to skis when they are good walkers and at about six years old will be quite proficient and at the other extreme there are a few skiers still getting out in their 80’s.

 Learning to ski on cross country skis is easy; if you can walk you can ski. With a planned series of a few lessons most people become good enough to ski around the marked trails at resorts  Modern touring skis and boots are available for hire and are recommended. Avoid racing skis, old skis and those with “3 pin bindings” that have been borrowed from friends or grandfather because although they can be used to ski on, they are difficult for a beginner to learn on.

It would be foolish to learn to ride a bike or surfboard without guidance from an instructor and this applies to cross country skiing also. This is relevant for downhill skiers who try cross country skis and find it difficult, but the only problem is that different techniques are needed on cross country skis and the downhill experience makes learning easier.

It is difficult to learn to ski out of a book. If you do learn out of a book you will not be a competent skier. The best way to learn to ski is to get lessons from someone.

OK, you have a mate who has been skiing for years and they offer to teach you. They may not be a good teacher and they may teach you all their bad habits along the way. If you take up their offer and within a week you can follow them anywhere you will have had a good teacher. If you find that it is difficult to do some manoeuvres or keep up with the others then the sooner you get some professional lessons the better.

And after having lessons take a moment to reflect on what you have learnt. Have you learnt enough to go around the marked trail on your own? Have you learnt enough to go out away from the marked trail on your own? The marked trail is no guarantee that you will be able to follow it. Many people have become distressed while skiing along a marked trail. You will learn from your experiences and if you venture out with care, you will eventually have the knowledge and ability to ski further away and enjoy all that the Kosciuszko National Park has to offer. 

There are many things that your instructor can teach you:

  • Step turns during the diagonal stride or during a downhill run
  • Sidestepping uphill and downhill
  • Kick turn
  • Herringbone
  • Downhill running
  • Double poling
  • Traversing a slope
  • How to slow down
  • How to stop
  • How to get down a hill before you can turn
  • Snow plough turns
  • Stem turns.
  • Skating turns
  • Telemark turns
  • Touring in deep snow
  • Touring on icy tracks
  • Touring on wind scoured snow
  • Finding the best route
  • Racing technique
  • Skating technique

When booking instruction make sure that you will get what you want. Some organisations offer guided tours that may not provide the basic instruction needed. When you pay for instruction you should be assured that you are getting a certified instructor. It is a good idea to keep a diary of the important instructions given in a lesson complete with stick diagrams to refer to each time you ski until it becomes second nature.

  Organisations providing cross country instruction in Kosciuszko National Park include:

  Jindabyne Winter Sports Academy

Selwyn Snowfields   www.selwynsnow.com.au 

Snowsports Adventure Centre, Perisher Valley www.wildernesssports.com.au 

Wilderness Sports, Jindabyne


Clubs provide instructional days through the season as well as a calendar of weekend trips and tours and off snow social activities.


Canberra Cross Country Ski Club    

NSW Nordic Ski Club  http://nordicskiclub.org.au/

University of New South Wales Cross Country Ski Club.     


Learning more about skiing

After every ski lesson it is a good idea to write down the important things that you have learnt together with stick diagrams depicting the positions. Refer back to these notes frequently while learning and then at the start of every season until they become second nature.

Watch other skiers, especially racers and see what they are doing. If someone is skiing better than you ask yourself “what are they doing differently?”

Books are a useful reference to remind you of something that an instructor has taught and it is better to have more than one book and to read them frequently as different authors place emphasis on different aspects of skiing technique. Once you have a good basic technique it is possible to improve your skiing by following suggestions from a book.             

                       More tips to improve your cross country skiing