how to learn techniques for fun on Classic cross country skis

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Here are some fun things to do on Classic skis 

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glide down a hill 

Gliding feels enjoyable.  I think most of us must have programming on our genetic DNA for feeling the fun of glide -- lots of other animals enjoy it too. 

But it's not enjoyable if it feels out of control, or there's a significant risk of injury. 

So the goal is to learn to get the fun, while managing the control and risk -- and for more on that, see our page on Downhill techniques

get a little glide in every stride 

It's also fun to get some of that glide enjoyment even on a flat trail -- and make it part of every stride. 

The basic idea on a flat trail is to (1) make your leg-push off one ski a bit stronger and quicker, (2) step onto your other ski, (3) hesitate before you make the next leg-push.  If all goes well, that first leg-push generated more energy than was needed to make the step -- so when you hesitate, the left-over energy is available to make you glide on the other ski.  

  • The quickest way to learn it 

The quickest way to learn to do this is to use the "stomp and glide" variation of the classic stride.  For the details on how to do it, so our page on 

Learn to Stomp and Glide 

You likely will not need any special help like an instructor or videotaping to learn it. 

  • The worthwhile alternative 

But there's another way to do classic stride called "committed weight transfer", for more details on what it is, see our page on

Balance and Weight Commitment "secret" 

The only problem with this "committed weight transfer" approach is that it takes longer to learn it -- lots of practice with special exercises.  The payback is that once you've learned it, it's more efficient and less tiring.  And it is the key foundation for several other valuable techniques. 

  • How to learn "committed weight transfer" 

It's pretty important to work with a good instructor or coach on this -- especially in the first couple of practice sessions -- then again at later points for "check-ups".  

The reason is that learning solid balance and weight commitment depends on a complicated interaction among ski flex, grip wax (or waxless pattern), body position, pressure distribution, etc. -- so it's tricky to sort out what's going right and what's going wrong -- and some of those key factors are invisible. 

The key secret to learning this balance and weight transfer is lots of skiing without using poles.  For more detail see 

Exercises for Learning Balance and Weight Commitment

Getting videotaped is valuable for this, but it's important to have an experienced observer or coach to help interpret -- because there's so much complex interaction to sort out, and the most visible deficiencies in form are not necessarily the most important ones to work on improving. 

  • Skip past the "stomp and glide" phase?

The key learning problem with "stomp and glide" is that some of the moves in that technique variation are counter-productive for most other technique variations you might want to learn later. 

So unless you're pretty convinced that "stomp and glide" is going to be the end of the line for you on technique, or you're in a big hurry to get to putting glide into your classic stride -- try to minimize your involvement with it. 

Instead, try to do lots of your skiing without poling -- using your legs only.  You can start working on the fun of glide with just your legs.  

And you can still keep your poles with you just in case -- just hold each one with your hand grasping the middle of the shaft, half-way between the tip and the handle. 

There's a problem with jumping into learning into full classic stride with both arms and legs before you're ready for it:  The coordination is so complex that it's very easy to slip into bad habits.  So instead start working on 

Exercises for Learning Balance and Weight Commitment

If you want your arms to get some exercise too, spend some time trying this:  All poling with no leg push -- see our page on double poling.  After you've got that working, another technique to try is "kick double pole" -- since that uses both legs and arms, but keeps them cleanly separated into different phases of the stroke cycle. 

go faster when you want to

Going faster on flat or gentle terrain soon puts some glide into your strides.  So again . . . 

  • The quickest way get faster than the basic shuffle  

The quickest way to learn to do this is to use the "stomp and glide" variation of the classic stride.  For the details on how to do it, so our page on 

Learn to Stomp and Glide 

You likely will not need any special help like an instructor or videotaping to learn it. 

  • The basic problem with speed in Classic stride 

The basic problem with going faster is that it usually requires that you to push forward against the ski with more intense force.  But then the ski will slip back. 

So you need more down-push force to press the ski into the snow so it doesn't slip back.  It you're trying to go real fast, then lots more down-push force.  

But if you use lots more "stomp" to deliver that down-push force, that doing the stomp itself requires power from your leg muscles -- and those muscles only have so much capacity.  So the "stomp and glide" wastes some of your speed capacity -- and often it's a double waste

  • Solutions to the basic speed problem -- learn these secrets: 

 - - Committed Weight Transfer "secret" 

 - - Exploiting the Wax Pocket "secret" 

 - - Smooth Striding "secret" 

 - - Pole-Push Power "secret" 


long glide in your stride when you want it 

If a little glide in each stride is fun, long glide must be funner. 

But the only way to glide longer on a flat trail is to supply more push in the power part of your stroke.  More push requires more grip. 

And again the quick-learning "stomp and glide" can supply that on an occasional basis, but it gets tiring if you want to keep doing those "glide long" strokes for a while.  And so again we come to . . . 

  • the benefit of "committed weight transfer" for delivering fun skiing feelings at lower cost. 

For maximum grip and maximum push, you can use both "committed weight transfer" and the "stomp" together. 

  • But there's another trick:  Change your pole-push timing. 

The obvious timing of the pole-push is to synchronize it with your leg-push (like in walking on dry land).  The disadvantage of that is that it ties your pole-push stroke to the limitations of your leg-push.  

But actually the design of your body and your pole allows the duration and effective distance your pole-push to be longer than your leg-push.  You can unleash this power by learning to start your pole-push before you start your leg-push.  For more, see the 

Offset Pole-Push Timing "secret" 

The result of this "offset" timing is more power delivered from your poles, and so more power available to make your glide longer.  (And power from your poles is not subject to the limitation on the grip of your skis.) 

  • But you can glide even longer, using another technique variation. 

The trick is to put the finish as well as the start of your pole-push before your leg-push -- so the pole-push and the leg-push follow in sequence -- with no overlap.  

This is as far as you can get from the synchronized pole timing of the "walking on snow".  Think of using your pole-push to "extend the glide". 

For more on how to do this and how to learn it, see the "linked kick-single-pole" variation on the Offset Pole Timing "secret" page. 

You likely do not need an instructor to learn this -- in fact you might have difficulty persuading an instructor to help you with it.  Getting videotaped could help. 

conquer an uphill 

Most people think of skis as equipment for gliding down a hill.  

It's still sort of believable that skis can be effectively used on the flat.  And once they see the trick, they can see how skis can be angled out to the side and dig their edges in to climb up a hill, as in herringbone. 

But to point your skis straight directly up the slope of a small hill and then make it all the way to the top without slipping is pretty amazing. 

It's one of those intrinsically satisfying accomplishments.  

First you have to pick the right hill in the right snow conditions. 

You look at the hill, you instinctively feel its gravity against you -- feel that it would be work to get up it even walking in your boots.  You stand at the bottom on your skis, and you can slide them back and forth -- feel that they're clearly different from hiking boots.  Your feelings right there on the scene verify that the equipment is not a match for the task. 

You know that you could force your way up it with herringbone.  But as an act of free choice, you point your skis straight up the slope, and start up it -- because you can. 

And you've been practicing the special skills you need -- so you make it to the top. 

Now that you're up there, you see and feel the difference.  You turn around and look back down, and you know that going the other way would be no work at all, and your skis would easily glide down -- just the opposite of what you made them do on the way up. 

Key secrets and tricks for this: 

Skis that Fit "secret" -- and if waxable, then Grip Wax that Grips 

Committed Weight Transfer "secret" 

Exploiting the Wax Pocket "secret" 

Climbing up a Steep Hill "secret" (at least parts of it) 

get up a hill without using poles 

When I first started working on my Classic technique, I literally could not imagine doing this.  

One day I thought of the possibility, but it felt like an act of courage to actually try it.  

I started out by choosing a slope where I couldn't hit anything if I slipped back or fell sideways.  I held my poles with my hands just below the handles -- so they'd be there to at least slow me down if I slipped back or fell.  I made sure I had lots of wax on my skis. 

And I did slip a few times.  But it worked better than I thought.  It was like the "final exam" in grip technique.  It really helped me sort out which tricks just sounded right and which ones really worked. 


 - - Balance and Weight Commitment "secret" 

and all its pre-requisites 

 - - Exploiting the Wax Pocket "secret" 

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