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.
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
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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