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Five cross-country essentials to guarantee a great day out
Focus on rhythm and timing, says Swiss biathlete Aita Gasparin.
BY MARK COHEN 05.01.2022
After 170 world cup events, two Olympic Games, three podiums and an 11-year career as a professional biathlete, at 27, Aita Gasparin already has a lifetime’s worth of skiing experience.
In recent conversation from a training camp, sitting in a typical Alps-style hotel room, she is warm and affable, smiling brightly as she tells her story – how she took to skiing at age three, getting her first rifle at 14. She talks about qualifying for Beijing, her career goals, and her favourite bits of kit, all with the trained ease of a professional.
With more people discovering the beauty of cross-country skiing, we ask Gasparin about essentials to help make every ski day bright. From beginner to intermediate, tips she’s learned that have made her a stronger, more competitive athlete who, good day or bad, always manages to have fun.
1. Stay on track
Many people’s first day on skis is humbling. They linger in one spot, then call it a day. Instead, Gasparin says, stick with it. Make your way around as best you can. By finishing the circuit, you’ll paint a mental picture of the terrain. From there you can put the focus back on learning technique.
2. Skiing is fun, remember?
When you’re learning and even at intermediate levels, don’t forget to keep things light. Stop and enjoy the surroundings now and then. Have a sip of tea from a thermos. Don’t expect perfection on day one. Keep it fun and the day will be a lot better, even if you have no idea what you’re doing.
3. Brain, on.
Before she competes, Gasparin does reaction time tests. Tapping flashing lights on a wall, for example, to stimulate her brain. If you’re at that point where skiing performance is important, try something similar. Mental stimuli can dramatically impact overall focus.
4. It’s all about rhythm and timing
Classic or skate, cross-country requires a massive amount of effort and coordination. A lot can be learned simply by watching experienced skiers. Study their motion. Then try to emulate what they’re doing. Technique really matters and learning through observation can help.
5. Strong skiers are made in the summer
Gasparin spends the off-season trail running and Nordic walking – how biathletes are made in summer, she says. If cross-country is a big part of your winter routine, take a similar approach come June. Build out one block of endurance training, then as the season nears, another focused on strength. The combination of the two will set you up for success once the season starts.
Find out more about Aita Gasparin here. Looking for some kit for a good day out? Try our Silsand jacket – the cross-country jacket with zippered ventilation, light mulesing-free merino insulation and a breathable, water resistant shell.
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