Basic Skills

If you / your kids are new to cross country skiing, you may be interested in basic movement skills to get started. Below are a few activities to work on before heading out for a longer ski. These are easier to teach in person with skis on, but I have included pictures as a visual to help. 

Getting Up
You’d be surprised by how many people struggle to get themselves up after taking a tumble on skinny skis. The first thing I teach kids and adults is how to properly get up. Often people try using their poles, but this is a fantastic way to break a pole. Instead, try these steps after taking off your poles: 

1. Dead Bug - Though you may feel silly, putting all four limbs in the air while resting on your back untangles skis and allows you to get them back in a parallel position. 
2. Grab the Tips - While in ‘dead bug’ reach for the tips of your skis.
3. Skis Parallel to Body - While maintaining a hold of your ski tips, swing your arms and legs over so they are next to your upper body in the snow.
4. Hands Forward - With your hands ahead of your body (and bindings), move your centre of mass (think ‘zipper line’) over your skis so your knees are bent and resting on your skis.
5. Stand Up - With your skis underneath you and your hands ahead of your feet, raise your body to a standing position.

If you’ve fallen on a hill, make sure your skis are perpendicular to the fall line (tips of skis pointing towards the forest or side of the trail), positioned downhill from your body. 

Being able to stand up after falling is a skill that benefits everyone. It is a smoother way to return to an upright position, gives children some independence and results in fewer broken poles. 

Changing Directions 
Another basic skill often overlooked is the ability to change directions. Learning how to move your centre of mass from ski to ski is a skill you will continue to use as your ability advances. We teach children a ‘star turn’ which is also used for experienced skiers by adding advanced elements.

Star Turn
1. Stand on a level snow surface with skis parallel and choose a direction (right or left).

2. Shift centre of mass over the ski opposite to the direction of travel (if turning left, weight should be on right ski).
3. Step your unweighted ski in the direction of travel.
4. Transfer your centre of mass to the ski that has just changed your direction and bring unweighted ski in parallel. 
5. Repeat steps until you’ve completed a 360° turn (and left a beautiful star-shaped pattern in the snow.) 

Once you’ve been successful in one direction, try the other. Add speed while maintaining balance. Do it on a gentle hill which will require edging skis. Move to a steeper hill or practice on a natural corner… try adding speed! This movement is versatile for all levels. 

Balancing on One Ski
The foundation of Nordic skiing is balance. Without the ability to transfer your centre of mass over your base of support (ski) you will find improving technique difficult. This skill should be practiced on a level, groomed snow surface. Use tracks if performing on classic skis, but make sure your ski-less foot remains on the outside of the tracks, so it is not ruining the centre of the track-set. 

Ballerina on Skis
1. Take off one ski and set aside.
2. On classic skis, place your ski in the track and your ski-less foot outside the track with your feet parallel.
3. Move your centre of mass over your ski-less foot.
4. Using your glutes, lift and extend your ski behind you so you are balancing on your ski-less foot.
5. Drive your ski forward onto the track by ‘kicking’ off your ski-less foot.
6. Shift your centre of mass to your ski and glide as long as possible on the ski. 
7. At the end of your glide, reset with your feet parallel. 

This skill can also be done on skate skis. Perform it on a skate lane and use a lateral kick from your ski-less foot. The key point to remember is you are working on balance so remaining on that glide ski as long as possible is the goal.