You hear a lot of conflicting ideas about ski technique.
In some cases it’s the same idea expressed differently. That can be useful. One description might resonate perfectly with you while the next suggestion is meaningless even though it really helped your friend.
In other instances, the ideas you learn about technique and how to ski are contradictory and you’re faced with a decision about which to try and which to discard.
There are good and bad reasons for the variability.
A bad reason is that outdated ideas take a long time to disappear. They can persist for decades.
A good reason is that techniques continually evolve. You can approach the topic from many angles: biomechanical, anatomical, physiological, even psychological. There are trade offs between various technique adjustments and the interplay between movements is complex. Add to that, we are all individuals and necessarily won’t all ski the same way.
No one has all the answers about efficient technique. If someone claims to, it just means they stopped asking questions.
I used to find the lack of consistent information about cross-country ski techniques confusing and annoying. Initially, I only trusted our club coaches and ignored conflicting information I heard elsewhere.
Then I went through a phase where I tried to be completely open minded. The problem with that approach is that some ideas are truly not worthwhile and need to be filtered out.
Ultimately, I found many of the answers I was looking for beyond of the sport of nordic skiing.
Healthy and Efficient Human Movement
With strength trainers, kinesiologists and physiotherapists leading the way, there’s been a tremendous rise in our understanding of movement science.
While there’s still room for debate, there is a broad consensus about what constitutes healthy and efficient postures, positions and movement patterns based on human anatomy and physiology.
Learning more about this topic has been the single most helpful thing I’ve done to improve my skiing, my coaching and my health.
I use what I’ve learned about movement as a boundary to define acceptable technique ideas. If a technique suggestion falls within that perimeter, I’m more willing to try it. If an idea violates what I know about safe and efficient movement, I’m not going to waste my time on it.
Establishing a movement-based framework for ski technique was liberating. I know I’ll continue to be confused and challenged by new technique ideas – hopefully forever – but by defining this boundary, I’m no longer buffeted by a continuous flow of contradictory ideas where the only compass I had was my trust and respect for the coach advocating the idea.
The other major benefit I’ve gained from this approach is it I can work on my technique anywhere, anytime. Improving my posture, aligning and setting my core, setting my shoulders properly, learning how to be more stable through the hips, understanding how to improve my positioning when practicing balance – these are things I can work on every day.
From my years coaching I can tell you that people carry their daily movement patterns onto the snow. Improving the quality of your movement off snow, increasing your body awareness and control – these things will have an enormously positive impact on your skiing efficiency.
Where to find information
As I mentioned above, kinesiologists, physiotherapists and strength trainers are all excellent resource people to learn from. I continually turn to professionals in these fields for help with my questions.
I’m not entirely sure why, but I find that professionals with a strength training background are better informed than those who are more focussed on endurance athletics.
We talk a lot about posture and functional movement in our courses at XC Ski Nation. This is a major area of focus for our High Performance Director, Chris Jeffries’s, and his athletes. It’s one of the biggest drivers behind his evolving ideas about technique.
We believe that by bringing our ideas about ski technique into closer harmony with the principles of good movement we’ll enjoy greater efficiency and better health.
Because this is such a high priority for us, we invest in content to help our members learn about functional movement and how to assess and improve their bodies’ biomechanics.
We have courses where Hugh Simson, a physiotherapist and movement specialist with extensive experience working with biathletes and cross-country skiers, explains the basics of anatomy, physiology and biophysics and relates that to nordic skiing. Hugh also shares self-assessment strategies to correct and improve your own movement patterns.
These courses and many other video resources are available to our website subscribers. As far as I know we are the only people who have tied this information together within the context of nordic skiing. Learn more here.