You can move forward by mimicking a walking stride and swinging your poles back and forth while stabbing them into the snow. However, to actually improve your kick-and-glide movement—you know, what you see really good skiers doing—you have to put in a little work. That’s OK if you’ve already tried cross-country skiing; you likely understand there’s a degree of physical challenge involved. Cross-country skiing is, arguably, the most full-body workout around. It also serves up a cardiovascular ass-kicking. So whether you’re hitting the tracks at a groomed Nordic center, venturing through rough tracks through rolling woods, or even breaking ground yourself, a handful of the following cues and drills can improve your efficiency.
Take it from Colorado’s Meghan Cornwall. The USSA Level 100 certified coach and Head Development Coach and Program Manager of the Boulder Junior Nordic Racing Team has spent years grooming athletes into better classic skiers. Anyone interested in racing on cross-country skis should start with her training advice and preparation tips.
Work on Form
“The biggest cues to help with classic skiing are keeping your weight forward and being able to shift your weight from ski to ski,” says Cornwall. “Even World Cup skiers are constantly doing weight shift and balance drills to get better.”
In keeping your weight forward, she explains, you’re able to get the full compression of what’s known as the “kick pocket” of your ski—the wax, fish scales, or skins that contact the snow and enable forward momentum (if loaded with your bodyweight). “If you have your weight back, like you’re sitting in a chair,” explains Cornwall, “you can’t compress that pocket and get any glide.”
The other big thing to work on, she says, is shifting your weight from ski to ski. Weighting one leg and ski at a time—with your center of gravity leaning forward and not back—adds to the full compression of the kick pocket and helps each ski engage in a gliding motion.