Nordic Ski Instructor

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Equipment: [ viewpoint | waxes | skis | bindings | footwear | poles | clothing | extras | novelties ]


Much has been written about skis, so much so that one would be led to believe that they are the most important element in Nordic skiing. Periodicals (ski magazines) are equally responsible for this prevalent attitude, judging by the huge number of ski test reviews and correspondingly small number of binding and boot reviews.

This may well be because of Alpine skiing influences, where the binding, and to a lesser extent, the boot, is considered relatively 'static', and exerts a minimal influence on the skier's performance. Nothing could be further from the truth when considering Nordic skiing, as both the binding and the boot are 'dynamic', and in most instances, more so than the ski. Therefore, the conclusion to be drawn from this is that boots and bindings require equal, or greater, consideration.

Without discussing the merits and demerits of skis for specific activities, the length of a ski is an important element in skiing performance. A long ski will perform very differently from a short ski, and the method for determining the 'correct' length is open to considerable debate. Rough and ready guidelines are well-known to most skiers - ever since skiing began, people have been suspending their arms and draping wrists over an upright ski in an effort to find the right length of ski. This was considered accurate in the days of wooden skis, when a ski of a certain length was needed to support the mass of the skier (also taking for granted that thin people would chose a shorter ski, and fat people a longer ski).

Now that few skis are made entirely of timber, and are instead manufactured from composite synthetic materials, the length of a ski is not necessarily determined by a skier's mass. A skier may find 220 cm skis sitting alongside 190 cm in her/his bag, both suited for very different purposes.

Conventional dogma would indicate that one should follow accepted practice and use the 'draped wrist' method. Although often considered a reasonable compromise for absolute beginners, this method is no longer suitable in the age of power skating and XCD techniques, and allowances must be made to compensate for the diversity of techniques. Ski manufacturers have assisted the purchaser by indicating the mass range that the ski was designed for to give optimum performance, however this courtesy has not yet been extended to other than track racing skis, primarily because racers are more demanding of their equipment.

A longer ski will always run faster and truer than a shorter ski, but other than that little else can be said. Tourers carrying heavy packs will argue that long skis will support them and their extra mass in the deep powder snow we so often (?) experience in Australia (although a greater surface area is better achieved by a wider, not longer, ski). Experienced tourers will argue that slightly shorter skis are more useful when carrying a pack, as the ability to turn easily, and glide a little more slowly, is of more importance than the fear of being swallowed up by the deep powder. XCD fanatics will rave about the ease of using short skis, whilst other more 'cruisey' XCD fanatics will wax lyrical about extra-long boards. Skaters, too, have differing views about the best ski-length, and width. The technology of ski manufacture is such that most of us are unable to keep up with current developments, and resort to individual experimentation.

Not all of us have the luxury of being able to experiment with different lengths of a given ski to determine which is the best compromise, but those who have will tell you that each ski has advantages and disadvantages - so how can you make the right choice, or offer constructive advice to your students?

Just when you thought that you might be getting to grips with the problem, consider the recent developments in ski technology that have allowed manufacturuers to make extremely short skis, down to 145 cm, suitable for beginners of all sizes and mass. This could be seen as a real time-saver for rental shops when fitting out clients!

The answer to this question is to remain open-minded, and accept those differences by down-playing the importance of ski length. A good skier will use whatever skis are underneath the feet with an understanding of its characteristics, and ski accordingly. The difference between 5 cm, or even 10 cm, is minimal in most conditions - unless, of course, you are pushing your skis (and yourself) to the limits. Ultimately, for the sake of the students who need an answer before making a purchase, it is best to err on the short side rather than the long side. More people are sold skis that are too long than too short, and the consequences of coping with a long ski (difficulty in compressing the skis flat onto the snow and thus losing grip, difficulty in turning the skis quickly except at speed, won't fit in the car boot without folding), outweigh the advantages (gliding faster, more stability, less drag).

Those wishing a more definitive statement on 'correct' ski lengths should refer to Appendix V for assistance.

Equipment: [ viewpoint | waxes | skis | bindings | footwear | poles | clothing | extras | novelties ]

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[ Contents | Preface | Organisation | Teaching | Techniques | Equipment | Resources | Appendices | Glossary | Index ]