Cross country skiing photo by Swissimage

Five tips to make you a better cross-country skier 

According to several everyday athletes, it’s all about rhythm and timing

BY : MARK COHEN • Photo credits: Sportograf, Swissimage  • Ski • 15.01.2023

Enticed by the serenity, isolation, full-body workout and lack of lift lines, I was among the hoards who tried cross-country during the pandemic. This, after two decades on a snowboard and ample running and cycling miles accrued over as many years; I was pleasantly surprised at the symmetries between the sports, but also the uniqueness of a sport now 5,000 years old which is enjoying an ongoing renaissance. 

With interest in cross-country skiing high, and events like the 2023 Engadin Skimarathon two months away – the second biggest mass participation cross-country skiing event on Earth held each year in the Engadin region – we asked a couple skiers around the office for some lesser-known tips on how to get better at cross-country skiing. Tips that will land with avid and beginner skiers everywhere.   

Cross country skiing photo by sportograf

 1.      Consistency is key

Nothing gets results faster than simply showing up consistently. Even on days when you’d rather be at home in your base layers, feet up, watching Netflix. That’s actually when it matters most.

If the weather is bad, for example, try to get out there for at least an hour or two. Or as long as it takes to complete a full circuit of the track. Finishing a session builds confidence and fundamentals like endurance, strength and comfort in snowy conditions. And with those skills in hand, you’ll free up capacity to focus on other basics like classic or skate technique. 

2.      Skiing’s fun, remember?

Everyone has tough ski days now and then, especially when you’re still learning. Maybe there’s a strong headwind. Or you’ve forgotten a key piece of cross-country kit back at home. Or your motivation just isn’t there.

Unless you’re racing — and maybe even if you’re racing — just remember to keep things light. Try to be present and appreciate your surroundings. The majesty of the mountains, the technique and fluidity of nearby skiers, the simple joy of stopping for a cup of tea at a local café.

Not every day can be exceptional, but most will be. Especially if you can live in the moment and focus on the joy of learning or conquering an activity you love.

3.      Brains, on

Before competitions, some athletes like to do a mental warm up. Exercises like reaction-time tests. Tapping flashing lights on a wall to stimulate the brain. Sounds pretty pro, right?

If you’ve got the essentials down and are ready to take your performance to the next level, warm up with your own mental jumping jacks. Perhaps some juggling or visualisation exercises? Both have been linked to improved performance. They could get you that one glide closer to completing the Engadiner. Maybe even with a personal best time.

4.      Feel the rhythm

Whether classic or skate, cross-country requires a massive amount of effort and coordination. If you want to improve your technique, watch experienced skiers. Study their motions. Get a sense for their timing and balance. How do they shift their weight? How do they use their poles? When do they breathe?

Now get out on the trail and try it for yourself. With time and commitment, you’ll soon be the one onlookers are mimicking.

5.      There is no off-season

Many skiers spend the summer trail running, cycling and Nordic walking. If getting faster and stronger is a goal for 2023, build on the running, cycling and hiking you do when there’s no snow on the ground.

If you have a target event in mind, build out some training blocks before the race. Start by working on endurance, then shift to periodized intensity as the event nears. You’ll thank yourself later when that combination of endurance and speed sets you up for success at the start of your goal event. 

ODLO x Engadin

Looking for some kit for a great day out? We have a full range of base layers, jackets, pants and accessories for cross-country skiing. Everything you need to find your rhythm.

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