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Downhill Cross-Country Skiing 101
By:  Liza Rozina   (2014/07/30)

As someone who started competitive cross-country skiing later than a large population of ski racers, I have always struggled with downhills. Going downhill on cross-country skis is acompletely different sport for me. Every downhill is a whole different challenge: be it steep, gradual, icy, twisty, tracked, untracked . Snowplowing (or my favourite thing to do down a hill) in a race can cost precious seconds, sometimes even minutes, so learning to go downhill in a fast and controlled manner is very important for any successful racer.

Me getting ready to tackle another downhill...that is my face of fear.

Along the way, I have come across various helpful tips and advice, and I have learned a few things along the way. Here is some of the bits of wisdom I have collected over the years (listed in no particular order), for those of you who may have the same problem:

1. Take small steps. If a specific hill is giving you trouble, don't start from the top of the hill. Go up half-way (or wherever feels comfortable), and then go down. Next time, go up a little further, then come down. And so on, until you reach the top.

2. For any twisty downhills, start side-stepping early. When you see a corner, start side-stepping before hitting the corner. Which brings me to another point. Learn to side-step really well and move your feet quickly. Practicing on flat corners helps.

3. Follow an experienced skier down the hill. Try to stay as close to them as possible, and follow everything they are doing. To step it up a little, try racing your teammates to see who makes it down the hill the fastest.

4. Stay in a tuck. In a race, I have definitely been passed by someone who has stayed in a tuck longer than I have. For good tucking technique advice, Megan is your best bet! Hitting the gym regularly helps prepare your quads for the really long hills.

It would have helped if I had stayed in a tuck after this hill.

5. Become familiar with the race course. Ski the race course several times before the race. Focus on the downhills especially. Try to get to the point where you are not snowplowing at any point in the course.

6. Stay in the tracks. Trust the tracks. In classic skiing, tracks are your best friend. Most of the time, it is faster to stay in the tracks during a race.

Holly (XCOttawa Alumni)tuckingon a difficult hill in Mont-St. Anne.

7. Go to Nakkertok. Both Nakkertok North and South have a wide collection of a variety of different kinds of hills. If you can go down those no problem, you can do anything!
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