Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing has grown exponentially in Fernie the past five years. The Elk Valley Nordic Centre and Montane Network have been developed, adding to the existing Golf Course, Fernie Alpine Resort, and Island Lake Lodge trails. There is something for everyone (and dog) and every ability now in the valley. Local ski shops have also gotten onboard stocking classic and skate ski equipment for all sizes.

I was recently talking to a “newbie” Australian patient about going cross country skiing. She had never heard of it! I was kind of blown away by this. She went on to ask, "Why not just walk on the groomed snow?"

“Well, a guy named Pat will suddenly appear and explain why!”

Joking aside, this got me thinking… why do we cross country ski? Why not just walk or run? My conclusion is it’s the simple joy you get from sliding on the snow. Something like catching a wave to the Aussies.

This slower motion sliding sport rarely sends any people into Physiotherapy. In fact, it is usually the first sport we recommend people do in the winter to get back into skiing after injury. However, it is a sport that many people LOVE doing and yet most are shockingly terrible at. I can count on one hand how many good cross-country skiers there are in Fernie. Generally, cross-country skiing Fernities struggle with the balance needed to ski smoothly and instead look like they are just trying to sidestep out to Snake Ridge! When assessing patients in the physiotherapy setting, I am always shocked at how poor most people’s balance is. In order to glide on snow, you need to be able to balance on one foot. If you are interested in making your cross country skiing a little smoother, and possibly a little more enjoyable, give these exercises a try.

Disclaimer: If you have pre-existing medical conditions/injuries, pain with these exercises and/or uncertainty on how to do them, please seek help from your Physiotherapist.

Exercise 1. Single-Leg Roman Dead Lift
This is a great exercise to train your balance as well as strengthen your feet, hips and core. Throughout the exercise keep your weight evenly between your big toe, little toe and centre of your heel. Start by moving your right leg back keeping tension in your core and hips. Aim to make your spine and moving leg one straight line. Moving slowly and controlled move into a marching position on your right hip to finish. Performing ten repetitions per side without touching the ground is a good goal. Add hand weights or kettlebells to increase the challenge.

Exercise 2. Side Plank Raise
In order to have good single leg balance, you need to have strong hips and core. This exercise will challenge both! Start position should feel relaxed, raise up into side plank and hold for 3 seconds before lowering. Aim for 5 to 15 repetitions per side.
And for those of you who may actually be overdoing the cross country skiing, below are a few stretches to keep you limber throughout the winter.

Exercise 3. Inner Hamstring Stretch
The adductors and inner hamstrings do a lot more work in skate skiing than in classic skiing. Give this stretch a try if you have been skate skiing frequently. TIP! Bend forward from your hips, avoid rounding your back. Aim for holding this for 1-2 minutes. Slow down your breathing and relax into the position.

Exercise 4. Lats/triceps stretch
The lats and triceps are muscles heavily used in cross country skiing. Tightness in these muscles can affect your low back and shoulders. Using a strap or towel assist your upper arm coming down your back. Then lean into a wall to get your lats more of a stretch. Hold each side for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times per side.