Classic Ski Tips

These tips are sponsored by these national and international sponsors: Infinity Ski Poles, Backcountry Access, Toko Ski WaxesRossignol I thank them for their assistance.                   

If you have a ski technique that you would like help with then send me an email at  Also if you are a manufacturer/distributor of a product that nordic skiers might use then let me know.

My qualifications include: Level 4 CANSI Trail Instructor, Level 3 CANSI Telemark Instructor, Level 3 CSIA Alpine Instructor and Level 2 CAA ( Canadian Avalanche Assoc. Certification). At the present time I hold the highest overall CANSI certification in Canada. I have taught in the largest Masters Camp in Canada at Silver Star, B.C. and have helped thousands of skiers from beginner to expert improve their nordic skiing. As well I have been on 4 Canadian INTERSKI Nordic Skiing Demo Teams and run the Winter Outdoor Pursuits Programme at SWGC.  Check out the Links above to find CANSI's, INTERSKI's  and related WEB sites.

NOTE: The MPEG videos are fairly large, and are best viewed on computers on campus.  The MPEG video may appear to be choppy if watching from home. If you would like to watch the video on your home machine, try watching the WMV version.

Straight Lines- new4.gif (987 bytes)

To improve your diagonal stride - think about straight lines. The most important straight line to think about is the rear leg as it extends. Note that it is aligned with the forward lean of the upper torso. In the next nano second my rear foot will lift off the snow due to the powerful push back. To get the most out of your diagonal stride think about pushing down and back - keeping your rear foot on the snow as long as possible. All too often people short change their stride by lifting their foot off too soon.

1 Step Double Pole-No Poles-new4.gif (987 bytes)

A great drill for the one step double pole technique is to try it without poles. If you find you are spinning your wheels and not going anywhere with this no poles technique then it is likely because you really aren't kicking very effectively. The drill below will help you develop this skill and involves advancing your kick leg slightly ahead before you drive the ski down and back. Again as in the example above-try to leave the kicking foot on the snow as long as possible.

The Key to 1 Step Double Pole-new4.gif (987 bytes)

Here I am in the left hand photo getting ready to drive my right foot down and back. My arms are just about to swing forward and assist with the double poling action. In the right hand image -which I call the view from above- you can see for yourself if you are set up for this kick down and back. Just before you kick check out if one foot is slightly advanced (in this case my left foot) and then get your body weight over that ski and then push it backward.

Improve your poling-Part 1new4.gif (987 bytes)

Be sure to extend your arms out past your hips as you ski. A common problem for beginners is that they use their poles as balance aids rather than for propulsion. So once your balance improves (see drills below) be sure to get as much from your poling as possible. Start the poling using a slight drop on to the pole with the trunk and shoulder and then continue the poling motion using the arm and finally the wrist as shown in the attached photo. When you finish poling your hand should be relaxed and extended as shown in the photo. At this point you are simply pushing on the pole strap. It helps to use a vise strap like that shown from Infinity Poles which makes getting the most from your poles very easy.

Learning to Balance                   

Balance is the key to cross country skiing. It is crucial to both skating and classic skiing and a drill that I use a lot is the tried and true ‘scooter’. As seen in this image it is great for classic skiing. I usually use this early in the season when my balance is off and use it frequently in lessons. To do the scooter put the foot with a ski on it in the track and push down and back with the "ski less" foot just outside the track (that way you don’t get foot prints in the track). Balance on the gliding ski for as long as possible. Start with small pushes and then as balance improves, push harder or try the drill down a slight downhill. It really helps to lean forward to counter balance the extending foot (see photo). This is a great drill for beginners but racers will also benefit. To add a challenge—add a hop with the "ski less" foot.                               

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MPEG  - 44 sec. [7.43 MB]
WMV   - 44 sec. [1.89 MB] home viewing

Get More Leg Push new4.gif (987 bytes)

Much of the propulsion forward in diagonal stride comes from the strong push back.   Although it is called 'kick and glide' --the 'kick' is not a soccer kick. Rather it is more of a pushing down and back. I tell my students to think of a 'bull pawing the ground'. In other words - keep your foot on the ground as long as possible as you push it down and back. Your foot should stay on the snow until a straight line forms from your trailing leg and your upper torso as shown in the photo 1. Your trailing leg will come off the snow only as a result of this powerful push back (photo 2). Some skiers lift their back ski too soon resulting in an incomplete 'kicking action'. So instead think about keeping your foot on the snow as long as possible and this will ensure that you are getting as much push forward as possible. Click: Classic Skiing Faster for a complete article on classic skiing tips from Ski Trax Magazine.


         Improve your poling -Part 2new4.gif (987 bytes)

In teaching new skiers the diagonal stride I always start with lots of striding without poles. This greatly improves balance and weight shift. But often all "hell" brakes loose when we add the poles. Often the adding of poles throws the timing way off. So if your skiing isn't smooth when you add poles it is likely that you are planting the poles too up right or waiting too long to plant them. To improve this try imagining that you are punching ahead with your hand, keeping the pole angled back and once it is forward, simply plant the pole. In the upper photo you can see my right arm driving forward. When the basket of the pole is around my toe of my glide boot or binding (see lower photo), I then plant it (ensuring that it is still angled back) and then start to load it with my upper trunk and shoulder muscles. DON'T linger with the arm forward or plant the pole in an upright position since that will throw your timing off big time.

Are you getting as much out of your poles as possible?

Are you getting as much as possible out of your poles while diagonal striding?? Next time you are out for a ski in the tracks focus on ’pole assisted glide’ This techno-babble is just instructor talk for dropping your upper body slightly to load your pole. In the adjacent photo I have produced most of my push forward by pushing my left foot down and back – and I am getting more forward push by now loading the left pole with the torso before driving the arm back. So the arm action in diagonal stride is more than alternately using your arms only-try loading the pole first by subtly dropping onto it with the upper body.

Getting Hip                                              

Bringing your hips forward is an important skill for improving your diagonal stride. Leaving your hips back is a common problem and makes it difficult to shift your weight adequately as well to prepare for the next stride. So try this exercise - start by holding your poles across your bottom. Then stride forward pulling your hips forward with your poles as you complete the stride. This helps you stand taller and prepares you for next bringing your recovery leg actively forward. Be careful at first since this exercise is abit unnerving at first-you feel as if you are going to fall flat on your face. But once you get use to it the drill will work wonders for your technique.

Advance your double poling.        new4.gif (987 bytes)

On the face of it double poling is an easy technique. Just plant your poles and flex at the waist and push back with your arms. Nothing to it. If you want to improve your double pole here are a few tips-first of all it will help if you flex at the ankles and lean your body forward you can load up your poles (see photo 1). You will also find that you can get more glide by moving your weight back on to your heels with your follow through (Photo 2). The tails of your classic skis should have glider wax on them and by shifting your weight back you can take advantage of this. As with any double poling keep your legs relatively straight and bend your waist to about 90 degrees.


1 Step Double Pole new4.gif (987 bytes)

Probably one of the most difficult techniques in classic skiing is the 1 step double pole or sometimes also called 'kick double pole'. It combines aspects of both diagonal stride and double poling so be sure both of these techniques can be performed well before trying it. The key to this technique is timing--most skiers want to rush the motion. For Beat 1 bring both poles forward and push back with one foot (photo 1).  Beat 2 is to bring the legs together and complete the double poling motion. Beat 3 is to simply stand up. Think about the 3 beats and you will have solved the 1 step double pole puzzle. Use it for tracks that are abit too fast for diagonal stride but not fast enough for double pole.

Diagonal Stride Uphill

Diagonal stride uphill is the fastest way to classic ski up a hill. But it needs a few changes from its counter-part performed on the flats. The tempo will quicken, the pole plant will be shortened and it really helps to push your foot slightly ahead uphill as shown in the adjacent photo. As you stride forward try pushing with your heel slightly more forward than you do on the flats and this will help you set your grip wax in the snow. This will give you as much grip as possible.

Lane Changes

The fastest lane changes are those you can do from a double poling position when the lanes are close together. The reasons for changing lanes are varied--trying to pass someone in a race, trying to avoid an obstacle in the track or moving to better tracks are all common reasons for switching lanes. In this case I am moving to the right hand set of lanes.  I have just double poled and then I skate off across the track pushing off with my right ski. I let my left ski cross the tracks and set my right ski down in the tracks before getting ready for another double poling action. Just like when driving a car--always look over your shoulder before you change lanes and try to get into the new lanes as quickly as possible. When the lanes are further apart - one double poling action may not work and so you will have to diagonal stride toward the new lane.

Getting Low                   

I often have students try to get low to experience lots of forward lean. All too often skiers diagonal stride from an position that is too upright. This puts their weight back and their feet ahead. Just as runners lead with the upper body - skiers should do the same. Leaning forward helps propel you down the track. To get this feeling try striding like a gorilla--with your hands swinging and alternately dragging on the snow. Still kick back as shown in the adjacent photo. Try this for 50 or a 100 meters and then gradually rise up. But maintain some forward lean as seen in the next tip-Learning to Balance.

Using Shadows

We often don’t get feedback while we are skiing unless we are doing a ski lesson. However I use shadows where possible to see where my arms are or where my head is positioned. Shadows can tell you if you are getting good weight transfer and if you are following through with your poling. Shadows can also tell you how much winter remains if you have a ground hog nearby on Feb. 2.

Shadows can give you immediate feedback on your skiing



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