How was your first ski of the year? Was it a bit awkward or did your skiing form feel just like you left it at the end of last season?
Sometimes no matter how fit you are a new activity can feel awkward. I chatted with lots of people out for their first ski of the season, and many of them complained about feeling out of shape. A few had run fall marathons, raced bikes all summer, etc.. so they weren't really out of shape, just out of practice for skiing.
So here's a few tips to get you feeling comfortable on skis again...
Relax: No matter who you are, you will probably be tensing the shoulders, squeezing the poles too tightly, or flexing your calves and shins too much during your first ski. It's the excitement of skiing for the first time with muscles that aren't yet accustomed to skiing that cause tensing. To prevent it, take a short break once you've skied for 10-15 minutes, stretch lightly, and shake out the limbs. Then try to ski the same section of trail again, but more relaxed and more fluidly.
Slow down! Along with being relaxed, you should avoid the first ski pitfall of going too fast and ending up too sore to enjoy your second day of skiing.
Sprint: Contradictory? Not really. Allow yourself to go faster, but only for a short time. It will feel good, loosen you up and prevent you skiing too fast the entire time.
Stop, turn around: By this I mean literally practice your ski handling by stopping and turning. Remember what it feels like to have those long awkward things attached to your feet? Be cautious at first, but as you get comfortable on successive attempts, try being a bit more aggressive and doing things a bit faster.
Balance: Climb a hill, go down while making turns, then repeat gliding on one ski.
- Ski without poles: This will help you with balance too. Early in the ski season poles are often treated like training wheels stabilizing wobbly legs rather than being used to propel you forward. Skiing without poles will help you find the body positions and balance needed to use your poles effectively.
Double pole: It is a fundamental movement in both classic and skating. It also works the abs, back and arms. Doing a bit will provide a break from skating or striding, and remind you of skiing's base movement.
Glide: Skiing is about glide. If you rush the glide by shuffling from one ski to the other you're missing the point! If skating try to maximize how long you glide on each side before shifting your weight to the other ski. If doing classic, stretch the stride length out on more gradual terrain, and try to spend more time standing up tall during each stride.
- Ski with a friend but don't race. If your friend wants to ski fast let them get ahead of you. You shouldn't rush things on your first ski. Have a sprint with them at the end of the ski; you'll crush them and they won't do it again!
Classic Specific Advice
If you're a classic skier, your first outing might be more frustrating if the waxing is tricky, like it was this past Sunday. A general rule is to try not to over wax by thinking "I want LOTS of extra grip so I'll use much warmer wax or add many extra layers". This can lead to your skis icing up, which reduces your grip and glide and leads to jerky movements, as the ice slips and the wax grabs. These movements can be injury causing at worst and just plain frustrating at best. Better to start with a conservative wax and number of layers, and carry a few waxes with you to add as you go.†
Spend some time skiing without poles in and out of the track to help shed those rollerskiing habbits.† Rollerski always have perfect grip, but skiing never does so you have to stop being lazy with your kick and spend some time getting the feel for skis again.
Skating Specific Advice
For skating you should think about being fluid and smooth in all motions. Try to stand tall and glide on each ski as long as possible. Play with 1-skate, 2-skate and offset. Spend some time "free skating" (skating without poles) downhill.
Also try to be snappy in your motions without using a lot of extra energy or pushing the pace.†
Early Season Race Preparation
It used to be coaches advised skiing easy for 20-50 hours before doing any intensity on snow. That's just not practical these days when races start in November and dryland training is so effective at training ski specific muscles. If you've been bounding and roller skiing you're probably ready for intensity with only a few on-snow sessions. For those looking for a more advanced set of early season on-snow workouts checkout what we did in Montmorency.