If one thing differentiates the cross country or nordic skier from his alpine cousin it’s hills. Uphills, that is.
Everybody does downhills, and all that gravity makes this part of skiing pretty easy. So let’s talk about how to make the most of the uphill experience.
Watch a cross country ski race and you’ll see that the hills separate the men from the boys, and the women from the girls. Many a race is won or lost on the uphill, and not just in skiing. Remember those exciting mountain stages in the Tour de France?
The issue of hills concerns us recreational skiers just as much as the racers. Sure, we ski a bit slower than the hardcore racers, but we still need to get up those hills.
If you want to get fit in just about any sport going, hills are the ticket. They stress heart, lungs and most other body parts, whether you are skiing, running or cycling. Yes, they are more work, but they get you fit and if you do them right and work on them a bit, you can show off to your friends as you ski smoothly by.
Practise hills on the ski trails and you’ll find running and cycling that much easier come spring.
With good wax and good technique, you should be able to stride up just about any hill at the ski club without having to resort to doing a herringbone. And odds are that if you are slipping, it’s probably your technique rather than your wax causing the problem.
The first thing to remember is weight shift – the same thing that gives you that great glide on the flats.
In this case, you want to hammer that wax pocket into the snow to get maximum grip. It’s important to have your weight right over your ski as you do this, so look up the hill (look down – a common habit – and your bum will stick out, your weight will be too far back and that kicking ski won’t do you nearly as much good).
So push that ski into the snow, use your arm, move your weight onto that gliding ski and move on up.
Try this exercise to help your weight transfer. Find an easy hill, then ski up without using your poles. Concentrate on moving up smoothly. Now repeat, but try to use one fewer stride. And again.
As hills get steeper, shorten your stride. And as you approach the hill’s crest and the pitch eases out, lengthen out your stride to maximize your glide.
Sometimes you will get a bit more grip out of the tracks rather than in them. Experiment a bit and see what works better for you on a given day.
Just before you hit the top, try accelerating a bit, lengthening out that stride and picking up your tempo. That little burst will really impress your friends.
Then you can stop and admire the view while you wait for them.
See you on the trails.
Claude Chabot is executive director of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club. If you have questions about the club or its extensive network of trails, you can reach Claude at [email protected]