On learning to XC skate ski

We’re learning to cross country ski – the Skate discipline in particular. It’s hard, exhausting but very satisfying when it goes right. At this point, descending is absolutely terrifying. Here’s some little things which have helped me so far. Mostly they’re for me to refer back to.

You don’t push off the ski behind you, so much as transfer all your weight in the direction you want the forward ski to travel. This might be the most important thing. Point your whole body – hips, shoulders, head – in that direction.

Use poles to aid forward motion. I find it helps to angle them to point in the direction of the forward ski.

Try to keep the forward ski completely flat on the snow. That way it’ll glide better. As soon as you’re on an edge, you’re limiting your glide.

Try to keep the glide going when you’re climbing. On steeper pitches, pushing the forward ski “out” seems to help.

Slushy snow is really tricky – especially when your poles go straight through it, or you sink on every “push”. It’s easier to stop on the descents though!

Most of the time you can ignore the ruts left by other skis and grooming equipment (except for the classic tracks – don’t vandalise them if you can help it). Nine times out of ten, your ski won’t catch in them – and if it does you just do another “skate” and it won’t be in there any more.

Keep an eye on the sides of the track. If the front of your ski goes into the bank it’ll stick and you’ll probably fall flat on your face.

It’s not as cold as you think. You almost certainly don’t need that down jacket. This is really hard work and you’ll be sweating buckets in negative temperatures.

Just like biking, look where you’re going, not where you are. Don’t look at the front of your skis. No, seriously, keep your eyes up!

That said, bad posture seems to help. Keep your weight in the direction of travel. Going out the back door hurts, and it’s hard to get up again!

Rather than taking massive strides from one ski to the other, make smaller, more subtle movements. Like you’re walking (strolling).

I know descending is hard when there’s no real edges to push against. Relax, you big control freak. Don’t panic. Look where you want to go. Keep the knees apart. Weight the outside ski to steer – right to go left, and vice-versa.