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Nordic/X-Country skiing - questions(6 posts)

Nordic/X-Country skiing - questionsStevenB
Dec 21, 2003 11:44 AM
howdy --

looking for some advice about xc skiing...best way to start, easier discipline to learn, etc. any experience you can share would be appreciated.

steven
My 3-pin, diagonal stride knowledge is useless now, but...Cory
Dec 21, 2003 1:21 PM
I'm pretty much skiing-challenged--I live 15 miles from some of the best resorts in the West, and I hate the whole winter sports scene, from the cold and wet to the poseurs. I'm already counting the days until April....
In self-defense, though, I did learn to xc ski about 20 years ago and got fairly competent at it before I realized that if I was going to be cold and windblown, I'd rather do it on a bicycle. A few tips:
First, take lessons. I grew up in non-snow country and had no idea about skiing until I was close to 30. I fumbled around on my own or with some friends without learning much until I signed up for a couple of group lessons. It made a huge difference. I had some friends who were pretty good--better than my instructors, I imagine--but they weren't teachers. Just an hour or two of lessons really helped.
Practice, practice, practice. We have a school right across the street, and I must have done a thousand laps around the soccer field in two inches of snow getting my stride right (I don't see many serious skiers diagonal-striding now, but that's what I learned and I've stuck with it because I'm just there for exercise and to get some fresh air).
Once you get the basics, it was helpful for me to ski with people who are a little better than I am (almost anybody qualifies). I enjoy real cross-country skiing, through the woods on non-groomed snow, much more than I like sliding around on designated tracks. I'm lucky to live where I can do that and to have friends who go out almost every week, so I had lots of opportunity. Try both, though.
Rent before you buy. Equipment is really cheap to rent (I used to get it for $12 a weekend 10 or 12 years ago; don't know what it costs now). Try several types of skis and boots so you have an idea what you want.
Finally, for the sake of humility, see if you can find some "citizen's races." Around here, at least, there are all kinds of them. It's a pretty interesting experience to be whipping along looking and feeling good and have a family of two adults, kids 9, 7 and 4 and a golden lab come up behind you and politely ask if they can pass.
thanks!StevenB
Dec 21, 2003 4:05 PM
that's really helpful - i have an rei gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket, but know that i should rent first...especially to see if i like it enough to deal with the traffic up to tahoe! as you suggested, i'll try to take lessons - maybe even one of each, classic and skate, just to see which i prefer.
More thoughts.eyebob
Dec 22, 2003 6:25 AM
Good advice from above. If you've never done it take some lessons. It's pretty easy, but you'll be clumsy at first. Skate skiing usually requires well groomed trails and all that so it's little more limiting as far as where and when you can go. Back country skiing and xc are a little more amenable to trailblazing and can allow you to do go where you don't already have a trail.

Brooks and Vert addict is a good source for info. He helped me a lot last year when I re-introduced myself to it

BT
Buy good equip.,Go into woods, expect to fall a lot.128
Dec 22, 2003 7:00 AM
Really, keep expectations low. First few seasons for me were really frustrating b/c the 'kick and glide' technique takes time to learn and until then it's just a pain in the ass to get moving. Trick is to not give up before it's fun. Watch people better than you for technique. I also read a lot of stuff in the library after I got into it a little. In the beginning, go out when it's sunny and not too cold.

I spent 200us on boots, poles and skis at LL Bean 5 y/ago.
Alpine is a little different story! : )

Funny you should ask: Skied Alpine at Sunday River Friday and did 3 hours groomed/backwoods at Sunday River nordic touring center Sat. I'm a bit 'noodley' today....

In my experience the learning eventually comes along with what I enjoy most about skiing: just getting out there, touring the woods or being on top of a giant mountain. And the after ski beer!!
Rent/Lessons, Buy Stuff, Ski LotsDale Brigham
Dec 22, 2003 8:38 AM
Steven:

Lots of good advice above. As others have stated above, if you want to optimize your learning experience (i.e., decrease floundering time and spend your equipment money wisely), taking lessons from expert instructors (plenty of those around Tahoe) on groomed trails is the first step (stride) to success.

If you are a quick study, you might find yourself doing a nice little diagonal shuffle-stride or skate stride at the end of the first day. If you have experience balancing on slippery and/or unstable platforms like ice skates, roller blades, or alpine (downhill) skis, it will all be very familiar to you. Dealing with those pesky, yet essential, poles is the most unfamiliar part for most new XC skiers. A good instructor will sequence the learning steps so that you don't get overwhelmed with too many new moves at one time.

I have instructed kids and adults in skate and classic (think diagonal stride) skiing (former USSCA Level II Nordic Coach), and I think a new skier could be taught either skating or classic first. In my opinion, classic is more fundamental and easier to pick up at first, but a good diagonal stride is much more complex and harder to learn for most folks than a decent skate stride. In both techniques, the key element is having all weight on only one ski at a time except for very brief (and powerful) transitions from one ski to another. Diagonal stride allows more "cheating" in this regard (incomplete weight transfer), compared to skating, which makes it easier to start doing right off. I'd let the instructor decide how to sequence the learning.

If I could only learn one discipline, it would be classic, since that can get you anywhere. Skating almost always (except for some spring-snow conditions) requires groomed trails; classic just requires snow. Both are beautiful ways to get around and have fun. When it's all working, it's like flying on snow.

The equipment you eventually purchase really depends on the type of skiing you think you'll want to do most of the time. If it's all groomed-trail resort skiing for you, you might decide to go straight to skating gear. If you want to hit the woods and golf courses, then wider, longer, classic skis are in your future. If you see yourself doing mountainous Alpine touring or lift-served skiing with Telemark turns, then the skis are very wide and stout with metal edges. The skis, boots, bindings and poles for each discipline should be purpose-matched for the skiing type you want to do.

The closest to the all-purpose ski is a light touring model, which will get you around in the woods, but not be too much of a dog on groomed trails. As you might expect, that ski (and matching boots, bindings, and poles) is a compromise that is imperfect in many conditions (too light for mountain trails; too slow and heavy for tracks), but it will get you started in deciding what your true niche is in skiing. If you get this kind of ski, you probably want to get one with a patterned base that eliminates kick waxing. (Kick waxing may be fairly simple or very complex, depending on your location --ask instructors and ski salespersons for their advice.) Please note that pattern base ("no-wax") skis are almost always too slow for skating (too much base resistance).

I envy you, Steven! My ski days are limited here in the Redneck Midwest (MO). In the winter, I wish I were back in CO or NM, my old skiing homes.

Have fun!

Dale