The most common step in Cross Country Skiing is the diagonal stride. The right arm moves forward at the same time as the left leg like in walking. Bend slightly at the knees. You will let your arm and pole follow after the pole has been planted. You can release the pole after each backswing for a fuller motion. Relax and the rhythm will come along with the momentum.
I teach this to insure that when you fall, you will fall safely. You don’t want to do a face plant, because it is not fun. Plus it hurts! If you become out of control, lower your body close to the ground by bending your knees, bring your hands closer to the body, and sit down to one side. Either side is fine. Never go straight back. Favoring one side will protect both your spine and your head.
So now you look like spaghetti after you fall. Get untangled. The easiest way is to draw your knees up and roll onto your back. You are going to get up across the hill. Roll up into a kneeling position with your hands on the snow beside your ski tips. You can kneel on both knees and push up one leg. Then stand up using your pole for balance.
Just walk around in a circle by spreading your ski tips out. Just take smaller steps than you normally would.
Double poling is a great technique for gliding on flats or gentle downhills. It gives your legs a breather. Plant both of your poles far in front of you, push down on them, and pull yourself forward. Your skis will go along for the ride. Your arms, shoulders, and upper back will be used for this. You will be less tired using your upper body and not just the arms. Keep elbows slightly bent. Your stomach muscles get into the act too.
You can do the diagonal stride up the hill and use your upper body and poles for your forward momentum. Lean forward and take light shortened steps like jogging. Bend your knees a little more to give more spring to your steps.
If the hill is too hard for the diagonal stride, you can use the herringbone. You will look like a penguin waddling up the hill. Spread your tips out while your tails are together in the shape of a “V”. Bend your knees, use your poles, and start stepping edging the inside of your skis. Really dig that edge in while using your opposite pole. Put your head high and look forward.
You can also do sidestepping up the hill. Turn your skis across the hill. Make sure the upper edges of the skis grip into the hill. Step one ski at a time up the hill and use your poles. The skis should not be flat but dig them into the hill.
The key to going downhill is to relax. Bend your knees, take a deep breath, and relax your whole body. Look down the hill, raise your poles, and let your skis go. Use a tuck position to go straight down the hill and feel the speed. You curl your upper body into an egg shape. Place your elbows just in front of or right on your knees and take off down the hill. Tuck your head down close to your knees.
If you need to slow down or stop, you can do the snowplow. Put your heels out and tips close together but not touching. Your skis look like an inverted “V”. Bend your knees toward each other. Keep your back straight and have your head look down the hill. The inside edges of your skis will dig into the snow which will control your speed.
Get into the snowplow stance and bend your knees even more to lower your center of gravity. You will be digging the inside edges of your skis even more, which act like brakes.
To turn to the left, drop your right shoulder and turn your torso to the left. Your weight will shift to the right ski. In other words, you will put your weight on your right ski to go to the left. Your weight will come off the left ski as you do this. You will be carving a turn. Then to turn to the right, your weight comes off the right ski, which is called unweighting, and you put your weight on your left ski. You can stop by following thru turn all the way around until you reach an uphill angle. Think about controlling your inside edges of your skis.
Remember to never ski beyond your ability. Never underestimate the elements. Always wear or carry more clothing than you need. Bring food and plenty of water no matter how long you go for. If you go alone, tell someone where you are going. Have a great skiing experience!