Author Archives: lauresabatier

Teaching Beginner skiers balance, weight transfer and timing in the first lesson

Steve is a longtime Trakkers member and a dedicated ski instructor for many years. He shares his advices based on observing and teaching beginner skiers. Cross-country skiing is an accessible winter sport and a few tricks makes a big difference to enjoy the glide.

When I teach beginner skiers the diagonal stride with poles, a common problem is that students tend to be too upright such that there is little balance over the glide ski, and the timing of the pole action with the skis is off. Many isolated exercises can be used to try to correct this, but the best method I find that makes a big difference early on is to emphasize putting the poles on correctly and gripping the pole handle between the thumb and forefinger. Then it is possible to fully extend the pole backward in a straight line with the arm by opening the hand and pushing on the strap. The action can be demonstrated statically with the student by grasping the student’s pole and moving it through the extension and recovery cycle. The straight back extension does these things:

  1. The opposing force on the upper body naturally projects it forward over the glide ski.
  2. Weight transfer is more complete.
  3. Timing of the pole action with the skis is smoother and rhythmic.
  4. Correct poling action, timing, balance and posture are learned at the beginning and committed to motor muscle memory. It is much more difficult to modify motor muscle memory later if the student develops bad habits.

Kawartha Nordic – a Wintery Best

Gillian is a long-time cross-country skier. She joined Trakkers this season after many years of cross-country skiing at Kawartha Nordic with her family. Read about their second visit back to this idyllic park with the club.

On our second Trakkers trip to Kawartha Nordic, it was Family Day weekend.

My mother used to live next to this non-profit community-run ski club. 20 years ago, all members volunteered, and they used to spend two weekends a year as “cabin keepers” starting and tending the fire in what used to be a small trailhead cabin. With growth in community, and new resources from partners and Trillium Foundation, the club has grown. But it maintains a distinct non-commercial feel.

My daughter (17) agreed to come along. She joined our regular Trakkers gang – myself, my partner, my son (13), and his school friend (who keeps pace with us after just two lessons through the club). And the gang was larger as we also skied with another Trakkers member and her son (14) who we had met on our first Sunday trip. There was fresh snow, and lots of energy as we set out on the trails.

My kids learned to ski here, on the easier Beaver and Kawartha trails, but we headed straight to our favorite intermediate trail: Red Fox. This trail is narrow and isolated, following slight winds, dips and rises. We are spellbound again by the exquisite sunlight cast through the trees. It is 1km of heaven, between two of the larger routes in the 46km trail network.

Kawartha Nordic is also special for the two trail-side cabins heated by wood stove. From Trakkers weekly posting of insider information for the coming Sunday’s destination, I gained a tip to wrap our sandwiches in foil and heat them directly on the stove. We brought cheese sandwiches, for melting! And a new invention: a foil bundle of black and green olives, which we warmed and shared with other Trakkers members in the cabin 🙂

We usually ski to our favorite Laderach cabin (we like the classic trails around there), but today we had ventured farther to the Tanney cabin. Both cabins stock birdseed so skiers can commune with local winged creatures. All three boys spent their entire lunch outside, feeding the delightful soft-bellied chickadees and nuthatches.   

The return trail was a slight downhill most of the way, so we glided back quicker than expected.

… despite irresistible stops for nature pics.

With time to spare, the youth in our gang sought the thrills of downhill: my daughter hit the informal toboggan hill near the main cabin, and the boys headed to a newer switchback trail called “the hills”. We adults couldn’t resist a return loop to run the Red Fox … yet again. 

As time neared 4pm, all Trakkers skiers converged towards the two-storey trailhead cabin.

Outside, some members sunned on the porch. While inside, others sat around the wood stoves. I enjoyed a snack huddle with the kids, while we perched on homey, member-built tree-trunk stools. It was a perfect wind-down to an energetic day.

On the bus home, we continued to snack, in style with our cheese and fruit tray. Then, most of the bus dozed off and I got back into my second read of a fine book set in a fictional country of beautiful East Africa. I enjoyed immersing myself in the sensuously described paysage. Of course, returning from another ski Sunday with Trakkers in the “rugged Canadian Shield at its wintery best” … I couldn’t be envious at all.

Review on Beginner Hill Lessons

Trakkers offers free lessons to members and guests. Lessons range from absolute beginners to advanced skiers, for classic skiing and skating. CANSI (Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors) certified instructors provide lessons on Sunday Trips. Sylvia has been an instructor for many year and tell about her latest Beginner Hill Lesson.

Sunday, January 20 was a cold day for Trakkers who headed to Hardwood Hills Ski and Bike. I was happy to have five keen students for my Beginner Hill Lesson despite the -34° wind chill!

Because everyone was at different levels, we started on a very small hill. Getting the right body stance was important to practise to build confidence. We gradually moved to snowplows. We didn’t move to higher hill until everyone was comfortable.

The benefit of having a lesson dedicated to hills is there is plenty of time to practise.

Some highlights were:

  • learning herring bone technique to get up the hill
  • body position and straight run
  • snowplow
  • snowplow turns to manage turns on trails

In addition to the many skills learned, we all managed to stay warm for the 75-minute lesson!

The special moment came when everyone skied snow plow and snowplow turn on a higher hill.  Applause and cheers rang out for an absolute beginner who clearly made the most progress.

If you’re hesitant on hills, sign up for the Beginner Hill lesson. With the guidance of your instructor, working at your comfort level and having lots of time to practise you will feel the difference!

Learn more about the ski lessons and tips to ski at trakkers.ca/lessons.