Learning to Ski Cross Country

Ideas and suggestions to make it easier

 

SKIS & BOOTS

A metal edged touring ski, about 20 to 30 cm longer than your height is suitable to use while learning to ski and is also ideal for touring anywhere in KNP. It should be of conventional design with a width at the shovel of about 63mm, 55mm under the boot and 59mm at the tail and preferably double camber. Avoid the extra wide skis with a lot of sidecut as they are designed for telemarking.

Hire boots are usually lightweight and fit the NNN-BC ski binding and are the best combination for learning to ski. A heavy-duty alternative later when buying boots is leather boots with cable bindings.

The skis will have a patterned base which gives grip for going uphill and a smooth tip and tail section. It is important that the gliding surface is smooth and has been prepared by ironing in a glide wax. It should be clean and free of nicks and gouges and when stroked with the fingers should feel as smooth as a painted surface. If it feels rough like unpainted wood and the fingers do not slide freely on it then it needs waxing. If you are hiring skis insist on a good base for your money.

A properly waxed ski will glide easier and so require less effort to ski on. It will glide smoothly. It will turn much easier.

A ski with a rough base will not glide smoothly. While skiing it will continually decelerate and tend to stick. Every time it sticks the skier tends to keep going and this results in instability and many falls and causes the skier to be timid.

If you own your own skis make a protective sleave to go over the tip and tail of the ski so that they do not get abraded at the contact points while travelling to the snow. 

STOCKS

Many people ski with stocks that are too long and they tend to make the skier unstable and restrict a smooth diagonal stride, or too short and they reduce the effectiveness of poling. In good snow conditions or on a groomed track the stock could come up to the top of the shoulder when standing on firm ground. For learning and touring a stock that will fit under the armpit is about right. For downhill runs with turns the stocks should be 30cm shorter which allows the skier to adopt a lower stance which gives more stability.

Conventional stocks can be made shorter when doing turns by holding them below the handgrip with the thumbs only in the straps and pulling down on the strap.

When buying stocks consider telescopic stocks that can be adjusted at any time to suit the conditions. On long steep climbing traverses one is set very short and the other much longer. Do NOT over tighten telescopic stocks as they may freeze and be impossible to adjust without tools. Do up firmly but gently with a gloved hand and if they do stick, two people without gloves may be able to loosen them. Freezing of the joint is usually caused by corrosion in the screw mechanism. Undo stocks at the end of the season to allow moisture to escape and rub a thin smear of lip balm on the screw thread and you will never have any trouble.

HOLDING THE STOCKS

The majority of touring skiers hold their stock in a firm grip like an alpine skier. This is WRONG. If you do it, get out of the habit and notice an immediate improvement in your skiing performance.

While using the alpine grip the skier can only use the stock to push on until the hand gets level with the hip and the arm is bent. They have been trying to pull on the stock and push with the stock in the place where the motion is not very efficient. If the stock is held correctly between the thumb and first finger with the other fingers relaxed there is about 80cm of available and very effective push available as the arm can extend back until it is straight. Correct poling will contribute 10 to 20% of the force propelling the skier. Another effect of the alpine grip is to lift the stock and plant it too far forward.

When the arm is forward the stock should be held firmly with a closed but relaxed grip. At the start of the pull down movement use the strap to push on, this is effective and uses less energy than gripping the stock hard. As the hand comes down towards the hip relax the 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers and holding the stock between the thumb and first finger continue the push until the arm is extended straight out to the rear. One should get the feeling of throwing the stock away at the back, but the strap brings it back and keeps it in your hand. Using the two finger grip allows the basket to drag in the snow and be planted naturally in the correct position. As the arm comes forward and up gently tighten the grip on the stock ready for the next push.

The leg muscles are much larger and more efficient to move the body than the arm and shoulder muscles. Strong poling can add speed when needed and assist in maintaining speed over bumps or short rises while lower intensity poling will save energy. When climbing steep hills at a walking pace use the stocks for support and balance and let the legs do the hard work.


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