Nordic ski techniques have yet to undergo the same degree of rationalisation that has occurred within Alpine skiing. Consequently, and because of the explosion of new techniques (namely skating) in recent times, it is not easy to find agreement amongst Nordic ski instructors when discussing terminology. As new techniques appear and mature, so too, do the names that are ascribed to those techniques.
Obviously, for the sake of Nordic ski instructors, there is a desire to have some uniformity in terminology - to avoid potential confusion. In Australia, we are fortunate in being able to draw on the experience of many skiing nations, and chose terminology that is culturally and historically suitable. Agreement already exists throughout the world on the predominant techniques involved, thanks largely to the efforts of the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA) - but not yet on the terminology employed.
This manual has chosen to use the most descriptive terminology where possible, and has avoided the use of confusing (although traditional) terminology. At the same time, an attempt has been made to simplify matters by grouping techniques that are effectively variations on one basic technique. In the context of this manual, the term 'technique' is used to describe a collection of neuro-muscular movements (basic elements or components). The term 'skill', due to its ambiguity in meaning, has been avoided where possible.
Looking back historically, books and manuals have been written from both ends of the spectrum. Some attempt to isolate each individual technique or variation, and ascribe a name and description to all of them, whilst others attempt to isolate some of the very basic elements of all techniques, and then build them into complete techniques, with variations. A middle-of-the-road approach has been followed by this manual, with a trend towards focussing on the basic components of techniques. Dogmatic approaches (generally the former) have a tendency to be more inflexible in that they describe a technique in such detail as to forget the human element (ie. variation of interpretation and application). It is wise to avoid possible confrontation by accepting that there are many ways of performing a given technique - we, as instructors, should be aware of, and able to employ, a host of technique interpretations and applications.
Back to basics
Many students believe that in order to ski well, it is best to practise the technique that they wish to improve. This is especially prevalent with XCD techniques. In many cases, these students would be better off practising the basic elements of that particular technique, or those basic elements within it that are weakest. This generally means reviewing simpler techniques - a backward step in the eyes of many students. Yet spending some time on the more basic techniques will often enhance the related components of a more complex technique.
It is therefore important that the instructor is able to see and understand the important basic elements of all of the techniques that they are likely to teach. A building-block approach to techniques provides enormous flexibility in lesson plans, but has a significant drawback in the eyes of the student: learning components of a technique and building them together is a slower path than that of constant repetition of the whole technique, and may, in some instances, be more difficult than learning the whole technique in one segment - this is especially so in younger students... In some cases, it is possible for the instructor to blend both approaches together within the lesson plan, but of course it will depend on the aims and objectives (and capacities) of those being taught.
Technique application and continuity
Naturally, there has to be a reason for learning these techniques, and it is to be found in the application of them. Ideally, the need to apply a technique should promote the learning of it. This often occurs on a tour, for example when the group arrives at a slope that it cannot climb without utilising a technique yet to be learned. It is these situations that prompt faster acquisition of a technique, and a greater understanding of its use.
However, students are often subjected to a new technique, by way of instruction, without being given the reasons for doing so, or without being given the chance to apply it in an appropriate manner. It is these techniques that are more easily forgotten when the time comes to use them. Therefore, it must be stressed that techniques are only of use in application (think about it!), and must be taught in such a way that they can be applied. To encourage students to use only appropriate techniques in appropriate places, however, can often be a limiting factor in their learning curve. The degree of 'appropriateness' is often dictated by instructors and ski manuals that have lost the ability to experiment. Developments in modern ski equipment and modern ski instruction allow the enlightened instructor to do things not normally considered possible, or practical.
The following techniques are not listed in any particular order, although the more complex generally follow on after the more basic. Naturally, many other external factors dictate the complexity of one technique over another, and it is left to the instructor to decide what should follow what. As some techniques are essential building blocks for more complex techniques, it would be wise, in most situations (but not all!) to teach the building block techniques first.
The techniques - an overview
This is not a complete list of techniques, but merely a collection of the most recognisable ones. As instructors, we are always looking for new ways of teaching a technique, and new ways of assisting the student in becoming a better skier, therefore the focus is primarily on teaching approaches and notes. It is assumed that the reader is at least familiar with the techniques listed, consequently technique descriptions are minimal.
The 'Teaching approaches' section lists a number of exercises and tactics, some suited for a traditional style of teaching, and others for more contemporary approaches. By not classifying each approach, you are then able to adopt those suggestions that appeal, regardless of your preferred teaching style, and depending upon personal interpretation.
Learn to adapt one approach (or exercise) for use with other techniques. Many of the ideas written here can be used with minor variations for a number of techniques. Basic teaching approaches such as closing one's eyes and feeling the skis underneath one's feet can be utilised for almost any technique, and doubtless you will discover new variations not listed here. Rarely does one teaching day goes by without my discovering a new approach to an old teaching method. This has the added benefit of keeping my interest in teaching at an all-time high - both the teacher and student can and do learn together.
©2013 Ivan Trundle
[ Contents | Preface | Organisation | Teaching | Techniques | Equipment | Resources | Appendices | Glossary | Index ]