XC Skiing

Click into cross-country skiis and you'll get more fun out of those snowy months. Steve Hindman, author of Cross-Country Skiing: Building Skills for Fun and Fitness, offers some tips here for beginning cross-country skiers:

Body Position

  • Cup your body as if you were hugging a very large beach ball. This is the basic stance from which you flex and extend while skiing.
  • Experiment with flexing only at the hip, only the knees, or only the ankles while striding. Then try flexing equally at the hip, knee and ankle.
  • Keep arm and shoulders moving in your direction of travel, down the track. Avoid any excess rotation of the upper body.

Grip, Timing, and Push-off

  • Concentrate on foot positioning and feel. Discover what grip feels like through the soles of your feet and what you have to do to create that feeling.
  • To help your ski to grip, quickly increase the flex in your knee and ankle a split second before you begin to extend your leg for the kick. Mimic the down up motion you would use to spike the needle on a bathroom scale.
  • Leap from ski to ski. Then back off and move from ski to ski with the same quick and concentrated effort but eliminate any unneeded up motion. Land on each ski as if you were stroking the fur of a large cat with your foot.
  • Keep hands low as they swing forward to eliminate excess shoulder movement. Point your thumb down the track as your arms swings forward.
  • Poling should start before the kick. To help syncopate your arm and leg, wait until your poling hand brushes the thigh of your weighted leg before swinging your other leg forward and beginning your kick.
  • Use sound to help with pole timing. Listen for the pole basket to hit first, then for the ski to hit—Click (pole plant)…plop (ski onto track)…click…plop. See how long a delay you can create, noting the amount of delay that is most effective.


  • Spend more time relaxed than you do applying power. Concentrate your exertions so you can snap and pop from ski to ski, then relax and glide when you arrive on each ski.
  • After completing your poling, relax your arms and upper body to let gravity begin to swing your poles forward. Once your poles start forward from the pull of gravity, snap them forward with concentrated effort to recover your poles quickly.

Remember when doing any drill that accentuates or demonstrates an extreme position to return to the unexaggerated position or maneuver and integrate what you have learned.


- Adapted from Cross-Country Skiing: Building Skills for Fun and Fitness by Steve Hindman, The Mountaineers Books, 2005


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