Teaching & outfitting the adult beginner classic cross country skier

  • Posted on
  • By Brad Hiebert, CANSI Level 3 Instructor
Teaching & outfitting the adult beginner classic cross country skier

I consider myself pretty fortunate. I’ve got a job that allows me to spend a great deal of my time outdoors in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I love teaching students of all ages and abilities but my favourite teaching assignment is when I’m given the opportunity to work with an adult beginner. These are typically people who are very excited and motivated to learn. The importance of their first lesson can’t be overstated. I need to do my best to see that this student learns, has fun and feels safe and respected. Whether or not I do my job well may determine if my student embraces this new activity or never comes back. No pressure.


This first lesson is largely about getting my new skier feeling comfortable and confident. The equipment is new, the environment is new and its natural that the student may be feeling a little anxious. They might be frightened of falling or often unsure of their ability to get back up after a fall. I want to help my student find a stance and body position that lessens the possibility of a fall but I’m also going to show them how to fall safely and how to get back up efficiently. A relaxed, athletic stance is the foundation for all of our skills and should be our primary goal. From here we can progress to confident movement on the skis and further skill development.


Assuming that this is a classic lesson and for our beginner adult it should almost invariably be, I will want my student to learn an easy, efficient diagonal stride and double pole. I will also want them to descend and be able to stop safely both in and out of the track. Will we accomplish all of this in that first lesson? Maybe or maybe not. All of my students are unique. The success of the lesson is measured by the students enthusiasm.


Very often after a successful lesson my student will ask me what sort of equipment they should purchase. When making my recommendations I am considering equipment choices that will give my student the best tools for their skill development. The following products would also be appropriate for any skier wanting to own just one set of versatile classic equipment.


Boots; I will list specific brand name products here as examples of the type of boots that provide the features that I feel are most important. Features that I am looking for here are comfort, warmth, water resistance and stability. Each of these boots have a cuff and ankle strap which can create a little bit more of a stable feeling with the result being greater confidence when descending. I have personal experience fitting and selling the following boots and know that they offer different fit characteristics but similar overall features:

Fischer XC Comfort Pro, Alpina T15, Salomon Escape Plus Prolink


Skis; Predictable and stable. Predictable with respect to grip and glide. I want this pair of skis to provide consistent grip in the widest variety of snow conditions with no surprise grabbing that may throw the skier off balance and cause a fall. Effective glide means less energy expenditure. Stable by being slightly wider than a racing ski to inspire confidence and provide greater control when descending.. Oh yeah, I want all of this with minimal maintenance.

My go to ski is the Fischer Superlite Crown EF IFP. Fischer recommends these skis for those looking for all-around skiing enjoyment. EF (efficient forward) gives skiers an easier, more forgiving kick action and smooth gliding. What more could you ask for and once again great for the beginner or any fitness skier wanting to own just one pair of skis.


Bindings; The bindings to a large extent are going to be determined by both the boots and the skis. The binding needs to be compatible with the sole of the boot. For many years there were two competing binding systems that were incompatible. That has largely changed with more and more compatibility between boot and binding brands. For example all of the boots listed above would utilize the same binding. Most of the bindings being sold currently are installed by sliding them onto a mounting plate on the ski rather than screwing into the ski itself. This provides the ability to fine tune the grip and glide of our skis. Moving the binding forward increases grip. Moving the binding back increases glide. Lastly a step in binding can make the whole process just a little bit more user friendly. Put your skis on the snow, step in and go.


Poles; Poles are not just an afterthought. There are important features to consider here. Reasonably light, strong and if possible an ability to swap straps easily. A good benchmark would be the Swix Quantum Six. Reasonably priced and very durable. Many skiers like to wear a larger, warm mitt. Being able to easily swap the Profit 3D strap for a simple loop strap can make the poles easier to manage.


Thank you for reading.

For any questions regarding lessons or equipment please contact us at Trail Sports.