Friday, 19 February 2021

On Line Instruction - A new way to improve any aspect of your cross country skiing

By Keith and Heather Nicol
      The best way to learn a sport is to have individual instruction by someone who has been trained to look for areas of improvement and then come up with drills or exercises to build the skills that are lacking.  I usually teach cross country skiing at a few different areas in B.C. in the winter but through my you tube channel  ( get a number of requests for feedback on people’s skiing. These skiers live in various places in North America and beyond, often where they may not have regular access to good ski instruction. 
Want to glide longer when striding?

Improve your skating
     Often with lessons or clinics, skiers are presented with a variety of techniques that they try to learn in a short period of time. Usually change is slow and unless the skier comes back periodically for lessons through the winter they will invariably revert to their original ski errors once they leave the lesson.  Even if they practice the areas they need to improve , without guided feedback they often won’t know if they are improving or not. 

     With my new on line instructional programme the skier shoots video (using their smart phone or tablet) of the techniques that they would like to improve and then emails these to me for analysis. I review the video and provide video drills and other written feedback for how they can improve. A week or 2 later after more practice they send off some more examples of their skiing for more feedback. Then gradually over time they can begin to improve their skiing through this on line programme of feedback throughout the ski season. If you are interested in learning various aspects of cross country skiing from classic to skating to downhill technique including telemark skiing – contact Keith Nicol for information on how to sign up for this on line ski programme  and current pricing at  Keith Nicol holds Canada's highest ranking in both as a cross country and telemark instructor and has taught 1000's of skiers since 1985. He has taught at Supercamp at Silver Star Ski Resort and Sovereign Lake in BC's  Interior for many years and also represented Canada at 4 Interski events.He was the CANSI Technical Board member for the Atlantic Provinces for many years.
Improve your ability on corners and hills

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Try these tips to stay centred on your cross country skis

by Keith and Heather Nicol

Being centred on your skis is a key aspect of cross country skiing since it will keep you in balance when descending hills, classic skiing or skate skiing. In my lessons I often see many beginner and intermediate skiers who are not centred and this causes them to be inefficient when they stride or skate and they may fall on downhills. In my lessons we start with feeling centred and I do this by simply flexing our ankles, knees and hips over our skis feeling our weight just behind the ball of the foot. A quick way to feel this is to jump in place on our skis. I next get the skiers to lean back and forward to feel  what being out of balance feels like. When students go back on their heels their ankle joint straightens and this is probably one of the beginner-intermediate skiers biggest problems . By not flexing at the ankle they end up getting off balance, putting too much weight on the heel and falling backward.  You can see in the first photo below how I stay centred by flexing at ankle, knee and hip and this keeps me balanced in this skidded turn. Also putting my arms out helps maintain my balance. In the second photo below I can balance on one ski while skating- flexing at ankle, knee and hips to stay centred.  See this video for more information on staying centred on cross country skis-


Monday, 1 February 2021

Tips for Double Poling in Cross Country Skiing

By Keith and Heather Nicol   

 The double pole technique is technically a classic skiing manoeuvre but is also important for skate skiers as well since it is used in the one skate and 2 skate or V2 and V2 alternate for our American viewers. The double pole in classic skiing tends to be used where conditions are a bit too fast for diagonal stride and is a great technique for maintaining momentum. When I teach double pole I start by showing skiers the arm position  - with elbows at roughly at 90 degrees. (See photo below).  You want the arms to be held high to start and shoulder width apart with the poles angled back. You want to feel your abdominal muscles first and then back and shoulder muscles and finally pushing with your arm and wrist.  It really helps to get your hips and torso forward at the onset of the double poling action as you can see in the first photo below. You can see by the blue lines how both my hips and torso are forward.  That way you can use your body weight to help propel you down the track. As you follow through with the poling think about finishing with your shoulder, arm and wrist muscles as seen in the second photo. Note how I extend my arm and release the poles at the end of the poling action. The following video shows many common errors that I see when I teach double poling and how to correct them-   Like many techniques in cross country skiing, double poling appears to be easy to do but in fact is difficult to do well. Thanks as well to our sponsors Auclair gloves and Infinity Ski Poles.


Saturday, 23 January 2021

January sea kayaking at Pt Holmes, Comox Valley

 by Keith and Heather Nicol

     We don’t normally make New Year’s Resolutions but this year decided to try and get in a sea kayaking outing in every month of the year in the Comox area of Vancouver Island.  We normally have our ski box on our car during the winter so putting 2 sea kayaks on is awkward but this year we knew we wouldn’t be travelling outside the region to ski given the Covid 19 outbreak. Since we store our skis in our locker at Mount Washington we decided to leave the kayak racks on and try to get out through the winter when the weather cooperated which would be a first for us. 

                                               Heather enjoying the sun for a January sea kayak outing

    Much of the early part of January was stormy and windy which was great for piling up snow at Mount Washington but it wasn’t great for sea kayaking. With a forecast of snow for the last week of January we decided that we better take advantage of the sunny weather on January 21. With light NW winds forecast we knew that the boat launch at Pt Holmes would be a good place to launch since it faces to the south.  Temperatures were around 5-6 C so we decided to mainly paddle in the sun and first headed to Cape Lazo to see what birds and other wildlife we could see. The snow capped mountains of the BC Mainland loomed in the distance and we paddled past numerous small flocks of Harlequin ducks. Once we had paddled to Cape Lazo we decided to turn around and paddle into the sun to warm up. We proceeded past the boat launch to for another kilometer or so before heading  back to the  boat launch. Overall we paddled about 4 km and we were out for an hour enjoying the sun and being back on the ocean. So if you like to sea kayak think about heading out this winter when the weather and sea conditions permit. 

                                                                Paddling along the shoreline at Pt Holmes

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Developing a solid skating action in cross country skiing

 by Keith and Heather Nicol

  Often beginning skaters have trouble developing a solid push off when they skate. They may push the ski to the side off a flat ski which results in a skidding action and little power. Or they  may push too far back like they are striding and end up with the ski sliding back with little forward momentum.  Remember to flex slightly at the ankles, knees and hips and push through the centre of your foot—not off your toes or off your heels-- to develop power .


     Note how I am pushing off an edged ski                                Track left by an edged ski in the snow
    Also when conditions are right I tell my students to examine the tracks left in the snow to help them figure out how well they are skiing. When you free skate on freshly groomed trails you should see a section where the ski leaves a flat imprint on the snow followed by an edged mark. This is because as you skate you want to initially place your ski down flat on the snow to maximize glide and then when you push off this creates an edged pattern in the snow.   Skiers who don’t edge their skis enough when they push off may find the skis slides away from them. Skiers who ski like this will leave this sort of skidded track in freshly groomed snow (see photo below). So to improve your skating try to bring your feet underneath your body and land first on an flat ski to maximize glide and then push off an edged ski . So next time you are out check your tracks in the snow to see how well you are skating.  The following video looks at what your tracks say about your skiing--  Thanks to Auclair gloves and Infinity ski poles for their help.


Saturday, 9 January 2021

Cross Country ski trails in Strathcona Park are now open at Mount Washington Ski Resort

By Keith and Heather Nicol

    With all the recent storms that have hammered Vancouver Island, this has meant that the snow has been piling up at Mt Washington Ski Resort in the Comox Valley. This has meant that the cross country ski trails in Strathcona Provincial Park are now open. This opens up lots of very popular beginner and intermediate ski trails which wind through Paradise Meadows and adjacent terrain. The open forest means that there is lots of sun on these trails and since it is early January here is my suggestion for those wanting to stay in the sun. (Although many of these trails are loops the south side of the loop is often in the shade at this time of year.)  After entering the Ponds trail take the north side of Paradise Meadows and the north side of Jackrabbit trail. 

                                                            The north loop of the trails get the sun

     The junction of Far East and Jackrabbit makes a convenient turn around for your return ski tour. This will keep you mostly in the sun give you a good workout at the same time. Another bonus of skiing the trails in this direction is that it avoids a hill on the Paradise Meadows trail that might intimidate weaker skiers. We have found that with all the fresh snow classic skiing has been the technique of choice since skating is more challenging in softer, fresh snow. So if you are looking for a great covid 19 activity, then have a look at cross country skiing. It exercises all muscle groups and it is easy to stay socially distanced on the ski trails. Here is a link to one of my cross country ski instructional videos that reviews some basic skills for classic skiing -     See you on the trails. 

                                                         Classic skiing has been great

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Learning to make parallel turns on cross country skis

 By Keith and Heather Nicol

 The ultimate turn that most cross country skiers aspire to is to make smooth rounded parallel turns on their cross country skis. If this is your goal then first learn to make skidded turns to the right and left. Note that classic skis (without fish scales or skins or too much grip wax) will work well and skating skis will also work. In the photos below I am using classic skis with the grip wax removed.  Work on steering the skis smoothly into a skidded turn and focus on keeping your skis parallel throughout  the turn. Once you can make skidded turns in each direction then try to combine them into a series of linked  turns as I show in the video below. Many people use a pole plant to trigger an unweighing of the skis which aids your ability to steer them into the next turn. Note in the first photo below that I am flexed at ankles, knees and hips and then  after the pole plant I will extend or rise up (unweight the ski) the skis through the top of the turn. I will gradually flex the joints again as I finish the turn.  Also as in all alpine turns remember to keep most of your weight on the outside ski and keep your arms out for balance. This will help in your ability to control your skis. See this video for more information about how to make parallel turns on cross country skis:

 Thanks to our sponsors Auclair gloves and Infinity Ski Poles.

                                               Start your turn with a pole plant to trigger an unweighting of the skis 


                                                                      Continue to steer your skis through the turn