Nordic Skiing 101 For the Triathlete or Cyclist

As a long time ski instructor and coach, I recommend a few things to get started. First, make sure you have the correct equipment for what you are trying to do! The number of times I’ve seen athletes trying to skate on heavy, scaled skis are too many to count.

Quick Tip

Visit your local shop or rent for your first few times.
Once on snow, find a flat, open area to practice. Before ripping down the trail, you need to learn how to balance. Set the poles aside and simply start moving forward, shifting your weight fully, thinking about lining up your toe, knee and nose with your shoulders squared over the ski. This will help you exaggerate the motion needed to skate. Don’t add in the poles until you’ve mastered this weight shift. Be brave here. Falling over is part of the learning process. Take risks here and it will pay off later. Once ready for poles, make sure the straps are properly placed on the hands.The simplest way to start skating is with the V1, which involves polling on one side and gliding on the other. Power, glide, power, glide—continue to make a complete weight shift and refer to the list above. Here is a short video that is helpful.


One of the most common questions I’ve fielded over the years is: How do you stop without edges? Simply put, your ski has an edge, it just isn’t the metal edge most alpine skiers are accustomed to. You are able to drive the inner edge of the ski into the snow on downhills for a snowplow stop. The key to Nordic skiing on the downhills: relax, keep the weight forward, knees slightly bent, arms and poles to the sides of the body with the tips behind you. Don’t try to use the poles to slow you down by sticking them into the snow in front of you—but it’s okay to drag them behind you.

Technique is a big part of Nordic skiing. Be patient at the start, get the right equipment, relax, and take some risks, and soon you’ll be ready to sweat out some workouts in the fresh winter air. Part of the fun and benefit of skiing is that the uphill or flat work is balanced with the thrill of speed (and recovery) of going downhill. This allows for all kinds of training, from natural fartlek intervals, to hill repeats, to speed training and VO2max efforts. It can also allow for a long, steady, endurance effort on an undulating course for hours. Get inspired and get out there while you can!

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