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I don't think my path into and through cross country skiing provides much help for new skiers just learning to get comfortable on skis -- but you can read more details and see my "lessons learned". 

Therefore, all I've provided on this page is a list of topics that I got mostly from going through some cross country skiing books I own.  Most of the real help for this stage of learning is on the Resources for Learning page -- and in the lessons you take.   

How to Learn 

My advice about how to get comfortable on skis is: 

  • Take a lesson from a good instructor at a good cross country ski center that has rental equipment. 

Some key things to learn early

 - - Whether the gear you are using is a reasonable fit for you and your style of skiing at this point and your skiing goals.  Or if you should switch to different equipment before practicing and learning and practicing further. 

 - - How to fall down and get back up again. 

 - - Sufficient downhill technique and downhill risk management to handle the range of trails you'll be out on during your first few days of skiing. 

 - - Initial strategy for recognizing and managing risks dangers of skiing. 

  • Get familiar with one or two of the recommended Introduction to XC skiing resources on the Resources for Learning page 
  • Make up your own "check list" of what you need to and want to learn -- including what's in the List of Topics below. 
  • Practice and learn soundly the items on your check list by taking more lessons, and practicing exercises you find helpful in the Resources for Learning page. 
  • Get advice and help as needed to keep your level of risk very low.  

I don't see why learning the "cross country" variety of skiing needs to expose you to any more than a very low level of risk. 

  • Be aware of snow conditions where nothing works
  • Have fun.  Enjoy this new way of moving in the special environment of snow. 

List of Topics 

I got these topics from going through some cross country skiing books I own, and adding some other suggestions. 

I suggest using it as a base for making your own "check list" of what you need to or want to learn to get comfortable on skis. 

Once you've made your own list, you can use it to guide what lessons you take, which instructor you prefer, what to ask questions about, what practice drills to focus on.


  • Selecting equipment -- skis, boots, bindings, poles.  Is what you're using a reasonable fit for you? and for how you are actually skiing on snow at this point?  and for your skiing goals?
  • How to connect boot to ski through binding (and how to dis-connect) 
  • How to hold the poles 
  • Clothing 

Standing up and falling down 

  • Effective Posture for skiing 
  • Basic balance and feel: 

 - - shift weight forward and back 
 - - shift weight side to side 
 - - wedging the ski tips together 
 - - spreading the tips apart 
 - - digging the edges in 
 - - standing on one ski 

  • How to fall down 
  • How to stand back up again after falling down on flat terrain 

Getting around on the flat 

  • Shuffling 
  • Turning around in place 
  • Turning while shuffling or striding 
  • How to fall down while moving 
  • Try a little bit of Start some Glide and Weight Transfer -- as long as you keep it only on flat ground 
  • Poling -- basic 
  • Trail etiquette -- how to interact with other skiers 

Handling a downhill slope 

  • Judgment about slopes, obstacles, risks 

 - - when to use non-ski techniques 
 - - when not to get anywhere near the hill 

For more on this, see these pages: 
 - - Downhill Techniques -- Risk Management 
 - - Non-ski Downhill "survival" techniques 

  • Side-stepping down a small hill 
  • Basic snowplow or wedge 
  • How to fall down while skiing down a hill 
  • Changing direction on a downhill (basic) 

Getting up a hill 

  • Sidestep up a hill 
  • Herringbone up a hill (basic) 

Managing the Risks and Dangers

  • What are the main risks and dangers of cross country skiing? 
  • Which ones can you evaluate and handle yourself? 
  • Which ones do you need special information, or expert advice or assistance? 
  • What are some key decision points for managing the risks? 
  • What's your strategy for handling the special risks of getting down a trail or hill? 

For some ideas and more questions about risk management, see these pages: 

 - - Risks of Cross Country Skiing 
 - - Downhill Techniques -- Risk Management 
 - - Non-ski Downhill "survival" techniques 

more . . . 

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