3 XC Ski Tips for Beginners

If you’re new to the sport of cross-country skiing it can be a bit overwhelming thinking about everything from equipment to putting the actual mechanics of how to ski together.

As I’ve coached new skiers ranging in age from toddlers to grandparents I’ve noticed a few trends out on the trails. Today’s blog post is all about the best ski tips for beginners.

1) For a new skier figuring out balance on cross-country skis can be tricky. We need to be able to shift our weight to balance and glide on one ski and then the other ski. This is sometimes referred to as ski-to-ski balance. It’s easy to “shuffle” on the snow and not take advantage of the glide that nordic ski’s offer. The best way to learn weight shift and proper balance is to ditch the ski poles and learn to glide without them.

It’s tempting for new skiers to rely too heavily on their poles for balance. If you’re learning to ski, it’s a good idea to spend the first 15-30 minutes of the day gliding without poles. It will be awkward and uncomfortable but you’ll be much better off if you master balance, weight transfer and glide before you strap your poles on. Every winter I spend a good chunk of my first few days back on snow skiing without poles to regain my balance and technique.

2) Have you ever tried to hike up a really steep hill while looking at your feet? Not only do you miss the scenery but it’s harder to maintain your balance. Cross-country skiing isn’t any different. It’s tempting to look at our feet to see what our skis are doing, but this body position causes our weight to shift forward too far–forcing our legs to slip out from underneath our body.

While skiing it’s important to keep a good athletic stance with the body. This means  that the ankle, knee and hip are slightly flexed. A good tip is to look forward. Not up, not down, just forward, especially when climbing a hill.  If we try to look too far up and over the hill or at our feet it throws off our balance. This can be fixed by looking into the hill.

3) If you’re a cross-country skier you know that some of the terrain we ski on can be gnarly enough to cause the body to tense up. It can also be easy to focus so hard on just learning to ski that we simply can’t relax and let our body’s natural instincts take over.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a World Champion or a beginner, tension and cross-country skiing are not a good combination. If you find yourself getting frustrated or tensing up (especially on a steep or technical downhill) smile, take a deep breath or two and try to relax. You’ll have a much easier time out on the trails.

Recently I had a skier ask me what they could do to get better at skiing. My response was simply to ski. To become a better skier you’ve just gotta get out and ski!


So, new skiers, welcome to the wacky and awesome world of nordic skiing. What are some questions that you have about the sport?

For those of you who ski regularly, what tips or advice do you have for the new skiers out there?

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