While writing away I came to the conclusion that a bit of a summary of my own top tips on techniques, equipment, types of route and the all important waxing should be done.
To be most summative let me take my tips for technique for both the new beginner and the intermediate skier who are fun & fitness skiers who maybe want to maybe race one day or do some organised tour time trials , 'skirenn' to an amateur time class. This is mainly not about equipment but you cannot avoid discussions on skis and waxing in particular when improving technique.
Summary Points Explained More Further Below
1) Book instruction
2) Learn in good conditions , in the valley floors, avoid icey lower level conditions or high wind and so on
3) Learn to brake and stop in plough and with a single foot out of the tracks ploughing
4) Don't over do it to begin with. A coouple of hours on your first few days if you are not very fit and a qucik learner!
5) Start without ski poles to begin with under instruction and later the first ten to twenty minutes of each tour or session
6) Learn a bit of both style-arts from the beginning ie a little ski skating as well as kciking in the tracks.
7) Learn then the fundamental of unloading one ski and being completely weight committed and balanced on the other in your striding technique and with some ski-skating
8) 'It is a STRIDE and not a SLIDE ' Appreciate thereafter the importance of the classic technique being a stride onto the new ski which then glides as long as you can for the conditions. Try doing classic diagonal stride on a down hill section where you would normally propel yourself with just poles.
9) Use a circular route or short back forward two way route to build up your stamina such that you can push yourself longer without getting exhausted with a long way back to the car and the hot bath
10) warm up both on and off your skis, using some jogging on skis and some loosening limb and back exercises
11) After warming up, concentrate the first portion of your session on technique over intensity. This can be just 5 minutes after warming up or it may be a half hour out of a three hour training session. Try once more without poles as part of this, especially if you have waxed skis, to get a feel for the conditions.
12) practice control on down hills of both steering and braking out of the tracks using plough and a wide alpine stance. Be able to get into full plough quickly
13) practice your in track down hills by building up speed or choosing more challenging routes progressively. You can really let go on down hills where you see there is a long run out or uphill at the end, and assume a full tuck with your knees over your toes or even slightly infront, and your bum and body crouched into the tuck, poles feathered and hands infront of you. Be most cautious on blind corners on steep sections and either stay out the tracks or brake hard to go round them the first time and try to learn them if they are on a regular route.
14) It is best to start with waxless , scale patterned skis. Howevver If you enjoy the classic style and are doing four or more hours training a week pluis longer tours at the weekends and holidays, it is time to consider better quality skis which are matched perfectly to your height, weight, ability and type of areas or routes you ski. It is also time to book more instruction to get the best efficiency out of your technique.
1) Book instruction with hire of good waxless touring or training skis. Choose a venue with good conditions or locally wait for good conditions ie good snow cover, no thawing and refreezing, well preparted 'tram rail' tracks.
b) safety first> At this first instruction learn to snow plough effectively on a hard pisted slope, Then also how to brake using one ski out the track in a half plough> ask to be shown the latter.
c) more safety> many resorts have now graded routes, stick to green and blue and be cautious on any down hills with blind corners. Allow faster skiers come past you and move to the side out of the tracks if you fall on a steeper area or round a blind corner so no-one runs into you. Do not plan to do any more than 10km on your first ventures and avoid any routes which are on the high mountain sides or high plateaus, sticking to the valley runs if you are not with experienced and patient friends.
c) safety again> don't start with any ruck sack or even a bum bag, leave it at the side of the instruction area or at the first lean/to or handy tree up the course. Never start a season with a ruck sack tour!
2) build up slowly in terms of time exopended and intensity. Do not plan around distances or routes to begin with, be prepared to turn back if you get tired or sore. Avoid long one way routes then. Start with an hour or two's instruction followed by half an hour a little intense and then half an hour light warm down.
3) Begin without ski poles. This is very likely from any good instructor, but if a capable friends is teaching you, ask them to teach you without poles first.
Even pro skiers begin the season with many without poles sessions and warm ups. I use it at start of season and whenever I change the wax on my skis or the conditions look a little challenging. It is a good way to test new waxing, and find a hill you would expect to walk or diagonal stride up without herring boning and see how the grip is without using poles. See my previous blog on top videos which has at least two without poles
4) Ask the instructor or your skiing companion to teach you to a little ski skating too. If conditions are a firm base with new snow on top then you can skate easily on classic kicking skis.
This will help you become more confident in placing all your weight on one ski and balancing as you move. Later it will help you develop step-turning and in outset it will help you get out of the parallel tracks quickly when you need to avoid children in particular!
You may actually find you prefer skating, and given your companions also ski skate and you have access to well groomed runs in your home area in winter, then you may as well go the whole hog. Also it is an easier sport to train for out of season using roller blades.
5) Learn how a classic ski works. Start with a waxless ski and understand how you press the 'spenn' ie the prebend, down to gain traction as you thrust forward and how the bend otherwise reduces your contact with the snow and lets you ski fast on the glide zone in the short kick, down hill and when skating or step-turning.
Later this will inform your choice of ski > a ski must do both these jobs well in order for you to enjoy efficient motion and keep up with your Norwegian freinds ! Also it can inform you on your waxing area which you may want to extend or reduce over the recommended length for your weight and height.
6) Absolute key > It is a stride and not a slide.....free that trailing ski ! The classic kicking motion is maybe better described as a thrusting off one leg to kick the gliding leg forward and the a complete committment to wait on the forward ski, with the trailing ski unloaded and just dragging lightly. Eventually you will learn to lift your trailing leg having placed the weight on the new gliding ski quite far forward.
b) To learn this fundatmental try jogging on the skis up gentle slopes where there is little or no glide. Do this both with an without poles. Choose then to do this on the flat without poles and turn the jogg into a stride and see how far you can glide on one ski once you have gained a little speed. Keith Nicol shows some very good glide-extension training techniques, one with only one ski on which is ideal and a good instructor should show you this in the first lesson!
c) when you are getting a bit of the hang of this weight transfer committment and achieving some good glide on your waxless skis, try doing diagonal striding without and then with poles on a gentle down hill. Diagonal striding is not efficient down hill, but this training method will teach you to trust the weight on the leading ski and enjoy the glide which will be very much extended over the usual flat efforts.
7) for downhilling on steeper sections to begin with come out of the tracks if conditions are not icey, and plough in the middle groomed lane. Control your speed and then you can adopt a traditional wide alpine, tucked stance to get the feeling of speed. Try steering in plough and in the wide alpine tuck by transfering your weight from one leg to the other, zig/zagging a little down the pisted area.
b) for in track practice make sure you can half plough to break your speed and be prepared to hop out into plough in the mid section or bail out into a bum slide if you are in danger of loosing control or running into someone in front of you
c) practice building speed up in the tracks either on a more gentle hill or by braking less. hninja turtkles felix. Bend your knees so much that they are over your toes and no further to begin with, dropping your body and bum into a tuck as the speed gains. Keep your wieght evenly distributed on the shoes, they will feel neutral and if you feel you are rocking forward bend your knees more and sit back a little, just a smidgeon. Learn not to go with your weight on your heels to begin with. Later this is used as an acceleration technique but you will fall over backwards often.
d) Practice on a good down hill corners which you can see round, with wieght on the outside foot about 60%-75% while the body leans into the corner, which is a bit counter intuitive and needs practice.
e) ski runs are usually prepared with respect to safety such that long down hills usually do not terminate abruptly or at a junction. Be cautious the first time you do a route, pausing at the top of descents. Also you will quickly note that the steepest sections or those with steepness and sharp turns usually have no tracks laid in or they are worn out by people ploughing. Learn to drop into plough quickly by going on the middle flat section with your legs in normal track width apart. Take some down hills as said cautiously, staying out the tracks such that you can use a wide alpine stance, raise yourself up and drop down into plough quickly and stabily.
8) Build up your training on a circular route or short two way route which is has little herring bone and little free down hill. Build up then the number of circuits you do per hour and extend your sessions to over 2 hours if you can.
b) After a 20 minute warm up including some ski jogging, slow striding, poling and so on, step out your skis and do some shaking out, loosening off excercises for a couple of minutes and stretch.
c) Then use the next circuit to focus on technique and learning where you need to put in most effort, where you can glide most and where a little extra effort will hold your speed higher. Extend then your number of ciircuits and note both the distance, time and conditions in a log book. Then you can plan longer tours for the weekends or holidays with more confidence in your stamina.
9) Learn to pole more advanced as you go along> firstly get used to placing the pole end near your foot in the diagonal stride. Then learn to place them further forward to propell you on good gliding sections, down hill or when ski skating. In classic then for poling only , start to take them even further forward along the ski and lean into them , putting some body weight onto them, and then swinging through with your hands swinging actually below your knees. Later on you will need instruction to get the more advanced technique where the poles are verticle and planted near the tips of the skis with the body raising onto tip toes.
10) If you are up to four or more hours per week training plus some longer tours, it is worth then getting better quality skis and considering if you will go over to the easier gliding wax skis or high quality waxless skis such as Fischer RCS or Atomic Skintecs. You may also want to consider if you want to do more mountain skiing or if you like ski skating best in which case you can buy equipment and get the related instruction while keeping your old waxless skis for local fitness training.
That probably leads us to the next summary of tips on equipment, with the last topic of the very good Fischer RCS or the Innovative Skintec from Atomic being worth combining into your requirements for a higher performance ski.