If you’re lucky or obsessed, you’ve already been on snow by the time you read this. But a lot of skiers only get out once or twice in December, and some don’t get out at all until after the Christmas rush of family events.
Whichever group you fall into, that first time on snow is like seeing an old lover a month after you’ve broken up with someone else: exhilarating but risky.
The following is the first in a series of conversations about Nordic skiing technique between Charlie Dee, a Central Cross-Country Skiing Association (CXC) master skier, and Igor Badamshin, CXC Head Coach and former Russian National Ski Team member.
Charlie Dee: So, Igor, what should a skier be aware of the first time on snow?
Igor Badamshin: Take it easy. Don’t push yourself, relax, go slowly and have fun. In fact, the first three or four days on snow, ski as easily as you can.
CD: But I’ve been roller skiing for four months. Shouldn’t I be able to start pushing myself faster than that?
IB: When I was on the Russian national team, we roller skied all summer, and then we’d go to the Kamchatka region in far eastern Russia in October to train on snow. Our coaches wouldn’t allow us to race at all for a month. Just ski easily and feel the snow.
CD: What do you mean by “feel the snow?”
IB: Roller skiing is much easier than snow skiing. Unless you’re a fool and roller ski on wet leaves or ice, roller skis aren’t slippery. Rubber wheels and asphalt produce a lot more friction than snow and waxed p-tex. Also, think about how much longer skis are than roller skis. Your balance is significantly different and pushing off is different. So and it takes quite a while before your body feels the snow. Don’t worry about your technique those first few days. Just get comfortable being on snow.
CD: Does double poling and skiing without poles help?
IB: I’m a great fan of both, but not the first three or four times on skis. Just go easily until your body adjusts to the feel of snow to an extent that you’re skiing without your core muscles constantly firing to keep you steady.
Here’s a good way to test yourself: On either classic or skate skis, try standing on one ski, balancing on the ball of your foot. That, after all, is what you do when you glide. I’ll bet you tense up your abs, hips and back in order to keep yourself from wobbling or falling off the ski. You shouldn’t do any drills or try to go fast until you can stand on a single ski with all these core muscles relaxed. So even if you feel like a colt in the spring, remember the saying some New Englander stole from the Cossacks: “Hold your horses!”
The entirety of the conversation between Charlie Dee and Igor Badamshin appears in the January 2014 print edition of Silent Sports magazine. To order a copy, call 888/706-4045. Or subscribe online here and never miss an issue!