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The Basics: X-Country Skiing at Cypress

At the end of Feb, I took my sister out to Cypress for her first lesson in Skate Style X-Country Skiing. X-Country skiing is true cardiovascular sport that requires physical fitness, coordination and a willing spirit. I say this because it’s far from easy and leaves you completely exhausted in no time.

For those that don’t know, there are 2 types of X-country skiing, classic and skate.

Classic is what most people associate X-Country skiing with. Your skis are parallel, and you legs are making a direct forwards and backwards motion, kind of like the 2 blades on a pair of scissors. Forward movement is maintained as your skis have scales on the bottom to prevent sliding backwards, even when going uphill. At X-country ski centers, there will be indented tracks on the trail for you to place your skis into. Just get in the tracks and go.

Skate is more like ice skating or rollerblading with skis and poles. Your skis are positioned in a V, with the wide end facing forward. From here you push off like you’re skating. By maintaining the V shape, you can ascend uphill despite the fact the base of the skis are smooth. Skate skiing is much faster than classic but absolutely requires smooth, groomed trails. You do not use the indented tracks in this case but instead simply glide along the entire width of the trail. As for arms, you always use with both arms at the same time in combination with your legs to propel yourself forward. This can be during very second stride (as in every right leg stride) or every stride, which is much more difficult. Coordinating your legs and arms together while maintaining balance is one of the most difficult parts of skate.

As far as learning goes, classic is much easier to pick up and learn. After 1 or 2 lessons you’ll be able to understand the principles of the movement. Skate takes more like 3 to 5, or even more, before you’ll feel comfortable on the skis. As you get better, the glide from each stride will last longer, you’ll become more efficient and you’ll go faster. Initially though, just work on balance and getting comfortable with the arm and leg movements.

Like I said initially, X-country skiing is exhausting! Where ever you go, there will surely be lots of punishing uphills and never enough downhills. If you thinking walking or running up hills is tough, try it with 178cm skis on your feet. Despite this, it’s still quite fun. When you get into a good groove and you’re gliding along almost silently through the forest, it’s a pretty neat experience. Plus, you’re getting a good workout and breathing in fresh air.

So, if you’re thinking about it, get out there. If you’ve tried it once and didn’t think it was for you, try again. It truly takes practice and patience to appreciate it but once you figure it out, you’ll keep wanting to go back.

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