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.  That's why all I've provided on the main Getting Comfortable on Skis page is a list of topics. 

My story 

I learned to ski on a few outings with my parents in my teen years.  I'm pretty sure I didn't take a lesson -- it would not have fit into our budget priorities.  Fortunately the biggest penalty I suffered for my ignorance was a big bruise on my hip from hitting a tree alongside a downhill section of the trail.

Later I got into downhill skiing at lift-served resorts, where I did spend the money on lessons.  And soon after that I fell in love with skiing in the backcountry on ungroomed slopes both moderate and steep.  I took a lesson on backcountry downhill techniques about once every year or two, and learned about other skills for touring in ungroomed snow from more experienced partners.  I learned a lot -- but not about the "cross country" variety of skiing on groomed tracks. 

Then I got interested in cross country racing, and trained for my first race without paying any attention to improving technique.  The next summer I got serious about working on my technique.  I got advice from local racers at rollerskiing workouts, started reading books, and finally got some formal coaching on technique at a two-day training weekend on rollerskis.  I got myself videotaped, and analyzed videos of the elite World Cup racers.  Then I got another five days of formal instruction and coaching and videotaping on snow at Silver Star in British Columbia, Canada. 

Lessons learned from my path 

  • Now I see that there are lots of helpful tricks that I would have been glad to learn years sooner, and interesting motion patterns that would have been fun to practice at.  I easily could have -- if I had known there was so much more to learn.  I figured it was "just" cross country -- how complicated could that be? 
  • Learn techniques and strategies early that will help you handle the risks and dangers:  Some people have been harmed worse in their first few days than just my bruised hip.  I don't see why the cross country version of skiing has to have much significant risk of harm. 
  • I would have benefited from seeing better models of technique than enthusiastic family members.  Hanging around at a good XC ski center affords fleeting glimpses of good skiers before they disappear around the next bend.  But videos offer the opportunity to watch repeatedly from good camera angles, with pause and slow motion. 

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