Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Colorado was born on skis. Without previous cross-country skiing experience, I signed up for a lesson at Snow Mountain Ranch’s world class Nordic Center to channel my inner winter Olympian.
My lesson began with meeting my instructor Vince, a Michigan native who’s been a ski machine since the early seventies. After three years volunteering at Snow Mountain Ranch, Vince has the 100 km of Nordic trails on property memorized and enjoys sharing his love with novice skiers, like me!
Vince says, “the solitude and physical motion of moving through the forrest,” is what he loves most about classic style skiing.
After I bundled up all my spandexy-waterproof ski gear, it was time for sizing my skis and poles.
Ski size depends on height and weight of the skier and the ski poles should fit right above the armpit. Classic skis come in either waxable or waxless, but beginners should stick to a simple, waxless ski with a moderate camber (bend in the middle) and a bit more width for more stability, like the Rossignol Evo.
Before we hit the trails… Let’s learn some nordic lingo:
Kick: The lifting and forward kicking of the feet before you glide.
Glide: As the kicking leg comes forward, the weight is transferred to the back leg to allow the front ski to glide forward.
Camber: The upward curve of the middle of a ski, which can be seen when the ski is laid on a flat surface. The camber depends on the ski’s intended performance and skier ability level.
Kick zone: The textured middle part of the ski that grips the snow as you kick and glide.
Glide zone: The portion of a ski base (tips and tails) that is waxed to maximize glide.
Once I finally got my ski boots clipped in, I followed in Vince’s ski-tracks, trying to mimic his graceful motions. Classic-style Nordic skiing uses a straight-ahead glide to propel the skier forward and, much like swimming, requires proper alignment and stellar form. The body positioning for classic is leaning slightly forward from the ankles while keeping the hips high. It felt like reverse moonwalking.
As we cruised along through the pine tree-lined trails, Vince stressed the importance of taking it slow, allowing yourself to glide for a second before kicking with the other foot. Doing some kick and glides without the poles gave me a chance to work on balance before adding an arm motion.
A great tip for using poles is to pretend to toss a glass of water to a person in front of you. This motion quickly brings the forearm to shoulder height before digging the poles into the ground. After a few minutes, my abdominals and triceps were on fire. The whole body motion of classic skiing is a fantastic total body workout.
Thanks Vince for the fun lesson! I’ll be back to the Nordic Center for sure.
On downhills, try not to panic and embrace the speed by crouching down and holding the poles tight to your upper body. If you’re like me and get going way too fast, just step one foot out of the classic tracks and press into the inner edge of the ski to slow down. F.Y.I., wipeouts will happen.
In less than an hour, I was gliding and smiling through the snow feeling (probably not looking) like a pro.
If you or your family want to learn how to cross country ski, give the Nordic Center a call to reserve your spot for a group or one-on-one lesson any day of the week!
Lessons (one-hour, group lessons available at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., private lessons available at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.)
Group (per person) —$25
Private — $45
Additional person — $25
Please call the Nordic Center at 888-573-9622 to schedule your lesson.
Learn to Ski Package (equipment rental, trail pass, one hour group lesson)
Adult — $50
Child — $40