Cross Country Skiing: Getting Started

Here are some tips on getting started cross country skiing from “Cross Country Skier” magazine. To subscribe to the magazine, call 800-827-0607 or visit their website at

The first step to get started skiing is to learn the diagonal stride.

Diagonal Stride (aka “Classic” Style)
The Workhorse of Skiing

Begin the diagonal stride with the heel (in this case, the right heel) firmly planted on the ground. Think of beginning your kick by “squashing a bug” with your heel. This will keep your kick far enough forward that it achieves maximum grip when your weight is directly over the wax pocket or engineered grip section of the ski. If you kick too far back, your right ski will slip and you will find yourself slapping your left ski down as you bring it forward. As the left ski begins to move forward, kick down and backward firmly with the right ski…

…and stride forward decisively onto the left ski, committing all the weight to the new “glide” ski. Note the straight vertical line from the knee to the ankle of the glide ski.

As you recover the right ski for the next stride, think of “landing” it in the track the way you would an aircraft. Don’t just plop it down.

Think of “throwing away” your poles behind you. Your pole straps should be adjusted so you can let go of the grip momentarily without losing the pole. In a long tour, this can keep your hands from cramping.

Glide with all your weight on the right ski. If you are skiing correctly and aggressively, your “kick” ski should lift off the snow for a second. If it doesn’t, chances are you’re still trying to keep your weight “between the skis,” keeping some weight on both skis at all times and not committing all your weight to the glide ski.

Skier: Dan Alighieri

The Double Pole
Relatively few skiers manage an efficient double pole. The object is to use the stronger muscles of the torso as much as possible, sparing the smaller muscles of the arm.

Begin the double pole by planting the poles as close to the ski as possible. The baskets should be slightly behind the hands if a vertical line were to be dropped from the pole grip. Begin the motion by bowing over without moving the arms backward. Once the torso has begun the forward motion of the skis, continue through with the arms, poling strongly, keeping the elbows in close to the body, and following through with the poles behind the body.

Downhill Survival Tip: The Wedge

The wedge (aka, the “snowplow”) is the basic speed control method, especially for the beginning skier. Done properly, it can shave off speed and bring you back into control. It can also be used to initiate and perform a turn (but that’s a lesson for a later time).

Things to remember include that your skis get their bite on the snow from a firm angulation. This comes primarily from the knees, which are held together in a kind of knock-kneed stance. The upright body position keeps the weight back on the skis, which enable the skier to control the tails of the skis, which is the point at which the skis are widest apart and therefore most influential in slowing.

Skier: Dan Clausen, PSIA Nordic Demo Team, Minocqua Winter Park, Wisconsin.

Skate Technique: Weight Shift
Don’t Stall on the Hills!

The commonest problem in skate technique is that of stalling on the uphills. Though there are many components to proper skating, all of which can have an effect on loss of momentum on hills, one is most important: Proper weight shift. As experts know (and as beginners may doubt), with proper weight shift, a skier can easily scale even the steepest hill using just the legs.

In this example, you can see the skier shift strongly from his right in the first image, through the center in the second, and then strongly to the left in the third. In the final image (closest to you), he is once again shifting all his weight onto his right ski. In each image, you can follow his weight shift by the position of his head in relation to his skis. In the first shot, his nose is over his right ski. In the second, it is directly between his skis; this should only happen when you are in transition between glides. In the third image, his nose is again directly over his ski, in this case his left.

Skier: Dan Clausen, Minocqua Winter Park, Wisconsin

To subscribe to Cross Country Skier magazine, call 800-827-0607 or visit their website at

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