Evje Ski Week
This week was the first time I had ever stepped foot on Cross Country skis! believing that I would be a competent skier due to my experience downhill skiing I was in for a surprise!! (Len was right about the many falls I would have!!) The first day started off travelling up in the morning from Kristiansand to Evje, where we only had half a day to learn the basics to enable us to withstand the amount of ground skiing that week.
Before we got started, our group was split in two leaving one half under the instruction of Len and the other half with Tim. I was put into Tim’s group and after introducing himself he asked everybody if they had any experience cross-country skiing. The majority of the group put their hands up which gave him a rough idea on who would need the most attention (definitely me). When Tim was talking, people were starting to get cold because of the conditions at the time so he waited no time in getting us warmed up. We started to descent upwards away from the other group in order to keep us warm until we reached a point in which he taught us some basic skills that would help us considerably. The first turn we learnt was the ‘Star Turn’;
A document published by Nordic (2016) simplifies the star term as the most common way of moving yourself from a static position; and Tim instructed us to lift up our ski, and step around to the position you want to go. He then emphasised us to keep the tail end of our skiis and one pole in the snow to maintain balance, which is important when trying to avoid any setbacks, especially when you are turning on a steep hill with a heavy rucksack. To make matters easier for us and more enjoyable (breaking the ice); Tim at random was picking people out to show of their skills to the whole group for a bit of fun which allowed us to feel less nervous as everyone was laughing and joking.
Secondly, we learnt how to Kick Turn correctly. This is utilised in situations when you are climbing a steep hill in deep snow. Nordic (2016) emphasises that the kick turn is used on a single trail, where there is next to no room to move. The turn itself requires a lot more balance and coordination as you need to shift the majority of your weight onto one leg to allow you to swing your other leg in the correct direction. The correct process is to place one pole behind your ski and your other pole behind the tale. You then have to raise, turn and lower the front ski. This is then followed by your other ski which meets the parallel position with the first ski. I personally found this movement easier to handle.
We took a little bit longer to learn how to kick turn correctly because others were quicker at picking it up than others but eventually we were able to put this into practice. We started of by doing a couple of short circuits where we all skid down-hill and back up again, working on our kick-turning, balance and coordination. This was really important because quite a lot of the time others along with myself would place too much weight on one ski when kick-turning and this would result in many falls! Once we had done this to a stage, Tim believed we were competent enough to move onto the next task.
We slowly Skid to a hill in which we would spend the next hour on learning how to construct two specific techniques; Herring Bone and Snow Plough. To be able to get up the hill there were two options, but Tim wanted us to use the Herring Bone technique. To construct this technique correctly the diagonal stride is widened and you use the edges of your skiis to form a break in the snow to prevent slipping, especially when you are carrying a heavy rucksack on an excursion and have other group members behind you. Getting back onto your skis may prove difficult. You have to then keep your weight mainly on your heels, and from their it is all about climbing, one step at a time ensuring that you have control of your skis and maintain your coordination and balance. In some situations, you are required to use this technique depending on your ability levels but the technique itself causes a lot of stress on your legs whilst your poles are assisting the motion (Nordic, 2016). A solution to this would be to use another technique which we will come to at a later point in this assignment, as today we were only learning the basics. Once we made it to the top of the hill, and the slope being reasonably steep for first timers, Tim taught us a technique called the Snow Plough.
With the bindings being very different and having having less support as opposed to Cross-Country skis, I found the Snow Plough difficult to do. Fortunately, Tim placed himself halfway down the slope after giving an example, keeping a close eye on everyone’s technique and providing constructive feedback. This technique is very useful to keep a nice steady speed when going down hill, mainly in narrower trails. You start off by adopting an angle with the tips remaining together, applying pressure to both Skis. Secondly, keep your heels down and knees bent at all times in order for the edges of your skis to make contact with the snow to form a break. All of this can easily be controlled with the width of the angle from the snow plough, and to slow down to a stop you simply apply more outward pressure to the edges of your skis. At all times your arms should be in front of your body, as if you were holding a tray! (Nordic, 2016). Once we had done this technique for a long period of time, Tim moved on to teaching us how to turn slightly whilst on the move.
This was very interesting and challenging to a point where it became to difficult for the beginners. But we understood why this was essential to know in case you had to make any sudden movements whilst in motion, this could be if a fellow colleague fell over in front of you and you had to move out of the way quite suddenly. Tim explained that the simplest way to do this is look where you want to go and keep eye contact at your destination, because you have more chance of falling over if you keep looking down. Shift your weight in relation to the direction you want to go on your outside ski and let your inside ski lead you to your desired way (Nordic, 2016). One we had finished practicing these techniques, we progressed to flatter ground where we were able to learn two techniques which would help us move consistently on flat ground without using too much energy (lack of technique used up too much energy).
The first technique we learn was the Diagonal Stride; and this stride is used on the greatest variety of single track terrain. From a beginner’s point of view, it looks like they are just walking on Skis, but that shows that this technique can easily be done to a poor standard. The general mechanics of this technique require a good amount of power efficiency and that came with practice (Nordic, 2016). The movement that Tim showed us involved a push from one ski and glide onto your alternate ski. This motion was supported by opposite arm movements; which is slightly similar to double polling but both your legs and arms work separately and move alternatively. In the general scheme of things, the characteristics of diagonal striding is the kick, weight shifting from one side to the other, glide and finally the leg recovery. Maintaining good posture and balance, as I found that 70/30% weight balance did not work in my favour (fell over, A LOT). The kick which is notably referred to as the stride requires a lot of compression with the snow so that the ski gets a sufficient amount of grip to enable you to pull back and move your body. Tim said that it is always useful to over exaggerate your ‘hips’ in order to get a good amount of glide, and that means that with the longer stride conserves a lot of energy, especially when your skiing far and learning! It is noted from Nordic (2016) that good a good amount of grip in the kick zone is really important to achieve maximum traction, which is a result of Ski wax and this will be Noted at a later point in this assignment.
Once we had got general idea of how to do this, Tim moved us onto Double Poling. This technique was pretty simple and required good upper body strength. This involved using both of your poles and at the same time whilst your body and skis are forward, use your upper body to push you forward into a glide, and this should be a repetitive motion.
After we had practiced this it was time to head back which was the end of day 1.
This day consisted of a day tour around the area and putting all the skills we learnt into practice. Tim took us off-piste which is something I have done before but on down-hill skis, and this became difficult for most of the group. Tim approached this session using a variety of different teaching styles in order to get the best out of his participants due to the differences in ability, as it seemed pointless to teach skills to someone who can already perform them (basic skills). Mosston and Ashworth (2002) believe that applying different teaching styles should be performed to achieve specific learning objectives, which is a process that Tim was aiming for. Tim started off with ‘Self Check’ which according to Morgan, Sproule and Kingston (2003) is when pupils are provided with the opportunity to evaluate their own performance. So yet again when we were practicing Diagonal Striding, this is something that Tim wanted the advanced people to do so they could understand for themselves the minor mistakes they are making in order to improve, whilst Tim could concentrate on the beginners. He then used a more Guided Discovery approach towards the beginners. Guided discovery is viewed as a target which is planned by the tutor which leads the participant to discover it (Morgan, Sroule and Kingston, 2003). Which allowed me to use problem solving as a way of identifying what I was doing wrong which was then followed by constructive feedback provided by Tim. Tim at all times remained positive which allowed Myself and others to enjoy the learning process a lot better, which was a key factor with the week we had ahead.
Later on in the day Tim took us to a point on the excursion where he could introduce us to a new technique called Telemark turning. This technique proved very difficult for me as it requires a good level of stability and weight distribution from one side to the other. Telemark turns are identified as the technique most commonly used to turn right/left whilst skiing down-hill in thick snow. It states on Nordic (2016) that the technique offers stability when done correctly due to your centre of gravity and weight being closer to the ground in order to perform the turns more efficiently. Your upper body should always be upright, and one leg in front of the other depending on the direction you are wanting to go (right leg for turning left; left leg for turning right). In order to make these turns or come to a stop, the majority of your weight should be over the ski you wish to use for a turn. Hands must be out in front of you as if you were holding a tray, knees bent allowing a lower centre of gravity. But, this did prove difficult for me because of the weight on my back and the lack of balance and coordination. Also, we were using this technique to help us stop because we were unable to make it to the bottom of the hill on first attempts (as we were going diagonal).
Towards the end of the day before we were reunited with the other group, we concentrated on constructing Snow Plough turns. I felt reasonably comfortable with this as I had previous experience doing this on down-hill skiis, which meant that I had a general idea on the foundations of this skill. To do this correctly I had to firstly start proceeding down the slope in a snow plough position and shift my weight on the edge of my skis to turn, whilst keeping one ski flat to the ground (Weight on the left edge ski to turn right, and the same on the right ski to turn left). Once we had finished this we reunited with group two and had a bit of a fun after ski session which allowed us all to practice techniques, have a bit of a laugh and joke and take part in some competitions which alone improved group cohesion and this made everyone feel more comfortable falling over and showing off their skills to one another!
Not a lot happened on this day due to the bad weather in the morning up in the mountains which will have made skiing difficult for the group. The bad weather did not change for the rest of the day so the leaders made the decision of skiing at a different location in the town. On this day I was able to withstand the track a lot better which resulted in less falls and a boost in confidence leading up to the rest of the week. As a warm up we started skiing up and down on some moguls which really helped me understand weight distribution, because I noticed that when I was going down and up a lot of my weight was shifted forward which resulted in more falls. But, when I equally distributed it in relation to going up and down I found it more comfortable, but still struggled to stop at the end :O!
This day mostly consisted of a tour of the local area, working on basic techniques when going up and down-hill, where Len emphasised the importance of keeping your body up-right, knees bent and keeping your weight over the bindings in order to stop falling backwards. This made matters easier for me and I found that at this point I started to improve a lot more, I was falling over less and I was a lot more stable going down-hill, maintaining posture. After a short while we headed back to the mini bus.
After a few days of coming to terms with cross country skiing, we took this day to work on our navigation skills. Everyone had the opportunity to participate in this and it required working in pairs to get the group to the destination that Len pointed them to. I noticed that certain people in the group were using different behaviours whilst we were orienteering. Due to the amount of experience within our group, a variety of people performed traits of a specialised in Belbin’s theory (1981) as they brought depths of knowledge to the field of orienteering. This was important because contributing like this meant that there was no waiting around in the cold weather and they were able to help people that were less experienced. It was also noted that because of the cold weather and some colleagues struggling with skiing and the conditions it was important for our instructor and certain advanced individuals in the group to use traits of a ‘shaper’ in Belbin’s theory (1981). As this provided the group with necessary drive to make sure that the team maintains drive, focus and to not lose momentum that can have a knock on effect on the group.
Orienteering itself proved difficult in winter conditions because of all the features on the map being covered in snow, which was like trying to find a needle in a haystack! Whilst this proved problematic, always keeping track on your map in winter conditions was also a challenge, because of the equipment we were wearing like gloves, because this sometimes meant taking your gloves of to get a proper grip of the map.
Later on that day, Len told us to keep an eye out for our surroundings; surroundings such as animal tracks and various objects in the snow which were hard to identify. Len stopped us as he believed to have found Elg tracks in the snow. After this we were constantly keeping a close eye out for more animal tracks.
Our day was finished of when unfortunately, on our trail back to the van, Conor skid over a lake which gave way and resulted in his right foot getting covered in freezing water. This was a challenge which the group had to work together to solve, and whilst Len was helping Conor, the rest of the group was thinking of an alternate route (quicker route) back to the van in order to get Conor back as quick as possible. In the meantime, Conor was provided with new woollen socks which he happened to have in his bag, and shows the importance of going on these trips equipped with spare pieces of clothing to change into in emergencies. Fortunately, Connors foot warmed up and we were able to proceed back to the bus safely via an alternate route. This day proved how important it is solving problems as a team and thankfully Conor did not catch frostbite.
This was our final day which consisted of a short day tour at Hogas, in order for us to set of in good time to return back home. I was able to put the 4 days learning techniques into practice and Len taught us how to perform step turns and practice Telemark turning. When we were step turning Len emphasised the importance of looking forward and not down at your skis, as this resulted in an abundance of errors.
Later on in the day before we headed home, Len identified an area which could be used as an emergency shelter if needed. That concluded our first ski week!
Personal Outcomes: This was a brand new challenge for me as I have only ever down-hill skid before, which meant I was able to learn new skills and techniques, practice them consistently in the hope to improve my development for future trips. I also found navigating in a winter environment very challenging but felt as though I adapted quickly which allowed me to understand certain aspects of orienteering in winter terrain.
With this being our first trip together as a group, I felt that group cohesion improved drastically, which is important when we have loads of other trips to attend in the future. Everybody enjoyed themselves, I enjoyed myself personally, we were all able to bond on another level (during the day and evening) which allowed the trip to be successful and enjoyable.
Lectures held in the evening on Ski week
Health and safety
Len held an important lecture on health and safety which gave us an insight on the different injuries that can occur while in winter conditions.
Frostbite; This occurs when a part of your body is exposed to cold temperatures. This is typically common with your hands, feet and face. This can not be treated in the mountains; you are required to go somewhere inside with warmth.
Deep cuts; which require antiseptic wipe to clean the wound with, tweezers to get bits out of it and a plaster to cover it.
Normal cuts; require an antiseptic wipe and a plaster.
Snow blindness; which is damage caused by snow reflecting UV light. You are required to cover up the eyes with either goggles, glasses or a bandage with holes in to prevent it from getting worse.
Hyperthermia; is elevated body temperature and to treat this you are required to stop and warm up, eat food and drink plenty of warm fluids. Also having someone with you to keep you warm.
Broken Bones (fractures); stabilise affected area and take them to hospital to get it treated professionally.
Lens second lecture on waxing your skis
Waxing your skis
Your Skis are firstly split into two sections; the gliding zone and the kicking zone. The only part of the ski that needs to be waxed is the kicking zone which is located in the middle part of your ski. This is to allow you to get full control of your skis when you apply weight to them when you are going up-hill. This allows us to glide more efficiently when weight is not applied.
When you apply the wax on your skis you have to consider the wind temperature and the snow conditions. The different waxes range from soft to hard and the hard waxes should be applied when the snow conditions are cold and dry; and soft wax should be applied for wet and warm snow. Once you have selected the correct wax for the daily conditions, you apply it a couple of times, we usually did this three times to withstand the day and then use a cork to rub it in. We had limited time to do this in the morning so I decided to use a iron which melted the wax and made it easier to rub it in which formed a smoother surface on your skis.
An alternative to this if the snow is wet and icy is to use ’skins’ which are synthetic animal skins which are used to put on the bottom of your skis. Their role is to provide good grip an allow the ski to slide forward and not backwards!
References to this can be found on (Swix, 2016)
OnionRiverNordic. (n.d.) Applying Skills: What to Teach and How To Teach It. Available from http://www.onionrivernordic.org/sites/default/files/Skills%20Intro%20-%20gettingup%20-%20tuck%20-%20star%20turns.pdf [accessed 21st March 2017].
Morgan, K., Sproule, J. and Kingston, K. (2005) Effects of different teaching styles on the teacher behaviours that influence motivational climate and pupils motivation in physical education. Available from http://www.spectrumofteachingstyles.org/pdfs/literature/Morgan_Kingston_sproule_2005_%20Effects_of_different_teaching_styles.pdf [Accessed 21st March 2017].
Belbin, R. M. (1981) Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail. Oxford, Butterworth Heinemann.
Xczone (n.d.) The Fundamentals of Cross Country Ski Technique By Xczone. Available from http://www.xczone.com/techvid.pdf [Accessed 21st March 2017]