More ways to master the cross-country skiing trails

Cross-county skiing tips

To complete your cross-country ski lessons in classic technique, here are the proper ways to herringbone and double-pole.

Just like using the snowplow to slow or stop your forward progress, the herringbone is your key for climbing steeper hills that you can't ascend by staying in the track-set trail with a higher tempo and shorter steps. (Don't herringbone in the track.)

In fact, for your skis, the “V,” or wedge herringbone, is the opposite of the snowplow. Your ski tips are apart and your tails are together. The steeper the hill, the further the tips are apart. Like the snowplow, your skis should be on their inside edges so they push against the snow. If they are flat, you will slide back.

Like the diagonal stride, your poles should be at an angle behind you to stop you from sliding back. And like the diagonal stride, your right arm (at a right angle) moves forward at the same time as you lift your left ski and step forward (diagonal). Then, left arm (right angle) and right ski. It's important to step forward enough that your stepping ski doesn't land on the stopped ski. Like the diagonal stride and snowplow, ankles should be flexed, knees bent, leaning forward and your weight centred on each ski.

The double-pole technique is nicknamed abdominal crunches by some but the Sheriff prefers the Dippybird, so named after a plastic bird perching on the lip of a glass of water. With the flick of a finger, its beak dips into the water and back out like a pendulum, thanks to the counterweight in its tail.

"Hands on either side of the face. Arms folded and tight to the body. Poles vertical and parallel to your forearms. The arms unfold. Poles go to the rear. Hands end up next to the thighs as you do a half-stomach crunch and bend your legs. And the little finger of each hand controls the direction of the poles. The power comes from the crunch and legs bending," says instructor John Davina, president of the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club.

The abdominal muscles are the strongest muscles in the human body so it's better to use those than just the triceps in the arms which will quickly tire. Several racers have told the Sheriff they have double-poled up to 80% of some races. Double-poling can produce four to seven metres more glide per push compared to the diagonal stride.

The secret to an extra 15% thrust, pros say, is opening the palms of your hands at the rear of the push as if you are trying to throw the poles behind you and down the trail. Remember straps have to be adjusted so the pole grips still sit in your hands ready for the next push.

Once you have practiced the double-pole, add leg power through the kick double-pole. You practised shifting all of your weight onto one ski, then the other. Now, it's crucial.

Begin by moving one foot forward as you finish a double-pole which takes your weight off that foot and onto the other foot. As you double-pole, kick down the foot that is behind to get a good grip and propel yourself forward, just like striding.

The right leg is easy for those who are right-handed but you should switch legs back and forth once you teach your left foot what it is supposed to do. The key is often watching someone else do it properly.

When you are comfortable with the diagonal stride and the two double-poles, your next assignment - should you choose to accept it - is transitions. Your goal is to make the transition from diagonal stride to double-pole and back, from double-pole to kick double-pole and back, as smooth and seamless as possible to maximize the amount of energy transferring your body movements to travel across the snow. You also look really cool.

(This is the third lesson column on cross-country skiing. The first lesson column, about- on your skis, poles and boots, and the second, about the diagonal stride down the trail and snowplow, can be found here.


Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club will hold its fourth annual Stride and Glide for KGH from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 10 to support cardiac care.

"This will be our last year as we take on the task of finding over $600,000 for a new grooming machine and work on the variables of climate change," said coordinator Lyle Nicholson.

The event grew out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the club had no events and wanted to do something for the community, especially Kelowna General Hospital, which was on the front line. More than $50,000 was raised through that virtual no-human-contact event, he said.

"The next year, during (the) Omicron (variant), we raised another $50,000 and last year we added $45,000. So we're asking members and the community to come together for one last effort to fund a critical heart pump machine to keep patients alive before, during and after critical cardiac procedures."

Registration (includeing a cool ski buff) cost $20, with distances of 10 kilometres, 15 kilometres and 20 kilometres for cross-country skiing, and five kilometresand 10 kilometres for snowshoeing, followed by a barbecue with bratwurst, samosas, beer and soft drinks.

Those who raise more than $100 will be eligible for prizes, plus a fun prize for the best-dressed team of six raising more than $500. More information can be found here.

Meanwhile, the second session of Masters Social Ski Lessons will go Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25 at 10 a.m. each day.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

J.P. Squire arrived in the Okanagan Valley from flatland Chatham, Ont. in the middle of the night in the spring of 1980. Waking up in the Highway 97 motel, he looked across the then-four-lane roadway at Mount Baldy and commented: "Oh my God, there's mountains." Driving into downtown Kelowna, he exclaimed: "Oh my God, there's a lake."

The rest is history. After less than a month in Kelowna, he concluded: "I'm going to live here for a long time." And he did.

Within weeks and months, he was hiking local hillsides, playing rec hockey at Memorial Arena and downhill skiing at Big White Ski Resort. After purchasing a hobby farm in the Glenmore Valley in 1986, he bought the first of many Tennessee Walking Horses. After meeting Constant Companion Carmen in 1999, he bought two touring kayaks and they began exploring Interior lakes and B.C.'s coast.

The outdoor recreation column began with downhill ski coverage every winter as the Ski Sheriff but soon progressed to a year-round column as the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff.

His extensive list of contacts in Okanagan outdoor recreation clubs, organizations and groups means a constant flow of emails about upcoming events and activities which will be posted on Castanet every Sunday.

You can email the Sheriff at: [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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