Cross Country Ski Lessons - Are They Worth It

Cross Country Ski Lessons – Are They Worth It?

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Let’s get one thing straight. I’m a Nordic skate skier who really never had an interest in classic cross country skiing. Instead of traditional kicking and gliding, I preferred the robust style of skating. And to be honest, I thought that skate skiing was more aerobic and certainly more fun since you moved at a more rapid pace than traditional Nordic skiing. Until I took a Nordic ski lesson and learned one all-important truth. Classic skiing is hard. Really hard. In fact, it kicked my skate skiing butt.
Classic Skiing vs. Skate Skiing
For those not familiar with Nordic nomenclature, skate skiing refers to the style where skiers push off in a lateral motion. Classic skiing, on the other hand, is most often done in a set track where the skier propels forward with a kick and glide motion that, to the untrained eye, looks more like walking. If you can envision the NordicTrack machines of old, you’ve got the idea.
As an admittedly snobbish skate skier, I had the mistaken impression that classic skiing was easier than skate skiing. Not so, according to my instructor, Betsy Bothe from the White Pine Nordic Center. “Classic skiing is more challenging,” says Betsy. “It’s easier to learn how to classic ski, but harder to master while it’s harder to learn how to skate ski and easier to master.”
Why Take A Classic Ski Lesson?
As an avid skate skier, I probably wouldn’t have taken a classic ski lesson had it not been for a friend of mine who was forced to switch from the skate discipline to classic based on a knee injury. Having been on classic skis exactly twice in my life prior to the lesson, I can honestly say that learning from a seasoned instructor made all the difference.
My previous classic ski experience had resulted in both my husband and myself shuffling along at a snail’s pace and overheating because we had dressed in heavy alpine ski clothing instead of the light layers required for Nordic skiing. And we certainly didn’t feel like we got a workout.
Not so, after my classic lesson.  My glutes, thighs, calves, arms and shoulders were all sore for days afterwards, proving that classic skiing is not only a good workout, but an excellent complement to skate skiing. Betsy agrees, “Taking a classic lesson is a new challenge for skate skiers and it’s good to have both in your repertoire. When you take a lesson right out of the gate, you start with good habits and don’t develop bad habits from the get-go.”
What to Look For In a Classic Lesson?
Since not all Nordic ski lessons are created equal, how do you make sure that you get a classic lesson that teaches you the proper technique in an effective way? Betsy believes in teaching in a progression that she has dialed in over her years as a Nordic ski instructor. This means starting with the basics of body position, stance and timing and progressing from there.
In my class, Betsy had us start in the teaching area of the White Pine Nordic track and focus on almost falling forward onto our poles to get our hips high over the forward foot for the proper body position. “High hips are the hardest thing to teach since people tend to get really stiff and often cock their hips back,” cautions Betsy. “For balance, I get people to relax in their ankles, knees and hips. I have them stand in place and kind of bounce with their knees and hips, then glide forward in a more natural, less stiff motion.”
Once we had the proper body positioning down, Betsy had us simply stride in the classic track without poles. We then learned how to coordinate the timing of our kick, while maximizing the glide, by standing on the forward ski and getting our weight over it. One of the most important things for an instructor to teach in a classic lesson is that the ski is an integral part of snow, so that the ski is engaged and not being lifted. This means standing on your whole foot and pushing your center of gravity forward in the direction of travel. “A lot of people can just walk around on classic skis, but to get good glide, that takes some learning,” says Betsy.
People can fake their way using strength when skate skiing, but when skiing on classic skis, you have to be in just the right spot. One drill that Betsy uses to drive this point home is having students jog up a hill with shorter steps to engage their skis with the snow. Not only does this engage the wax pocket, but it also ensures that you don’t slide backwards. She suggests that classic skiers think of going uphill like changing your cadence when you’re tackling hills while cycling.
Nordic Ski Lessons in Park City
So where is the best place to take Nordic ski lessons in Park City? The White Pine Nordic Center, located at 2001 Park Avenue, is staffed with expert instructors, and offers both skate and classic ski lessons in either a group or private format. They even offer performance coaching for athletes looking to refine their technique. If you want to learn how much ski lessons cost, click here on your preferred style of lesson. You can also book directly online or call the experts at the Nordic Center at 435-649-6249 to find out more information.
So after taking a classic lesson, am I ready to become a full-fledged classic skier? Not quite. Skate skiing is still my first love, but I’ll definitely mix in a few days of classic every now and then. Not only is it great cross training, but I’m pretty sure that becoming a classic skier will make me an even better skate skier in the process.
, Senior Editor