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Going Uphill

To identify degree of difficulty, ski trails are marked: green circle (easiest); blue square (more difficult); and black diamond (most difficult.) Unless you stick to the appropriately marked green trails, sooner or later you are going to encounter a hill. This screen will tell you how to go uphill; the one that follows will provide some tips for going downhill.

Which uphill technique you employ depends on the steepness of the hill:

Shallow: If the hill is shallow (only a few degrees rise), you should be able to walk right up the hill, using your normal ski stride. The wax (or grooves) beneath your boots will grip the snow, allowing you to push off normally. Here's where good technique comes in, because the more you commit your weight to the push-off ski, the easier it will be for you to ski uphill and the steeper the hill you will be able to ascend without taking your skis out of the tracks.

Steep: If the hill is steep and/or the tracks are icy, it may be difficult for you to maintain your straight-forward stride. In that case, move out of the tracks and into the untracked middle of the trail. The softer snow may permit you to maintain your classic stride. If not, open your stance. Start skiing pigeon-toed with your ski tips angled outward. Even a slight shift into this "V" or "herring-bone" position may provide enough traction to keep you moving uphill. Don't forget to use your poles to provide extra push and weight that downhill ski on each stride. Proper weight transfer is essential to practically every cross-country skiing technique.

Steeper: If the hill is steeper still, you may need to start herring-boning. If you take a ski lessons, your instructor will show you how. Now the "V" of your skis is wider: tails together, tips spread far apart. You now need to more aggressively plant your poles for extra push. And ski more upright so that your weight is on the back of your skis. (If you lean forward too much, your skis will slide backwards.) One way to insure your weight is back on the skis is to look up toward the top of the hill. That's not always easy, particularly if you're fatigued, but keep looking up as you ski up. (In instructing runners on proper hill-climbing form, I tell them the same; you don't want to let your chin drop.)

Steepest: If the hill is very steep, or if the snow is deep, even the herring-bone may not work. In that case, you may need to sidestep the hill. Place your skis perpendicular to the slope, plant your downhill pole firmly into the snow, and raise your uphill ski to a point higher on the slope. Plant your uphill pole for support and raise the downhill ski to a point next to the uphill one, then repeat. It's hard and tedious work sidestepping up a hill, but sometimes that's the only way you're going to get to the top. This technique can be used in reverse to get down a steep hill.

Master these simple uphill techniques, and you'll be able to ski comfortably on trails that previously may have seemed too difficult a challenge. The "more difficult" trails often are marked blue only because they present more an aerobic than a technical challenge. You will enjoy cross-country skiing more if you can ski the ups and downs as well as the flats.

Getting Started Ski Technique In Full Stride
Introduction Moving Forward Destinations
Conditioning Going Uphill Racing
Equipment Going downhill Nutrition
Where to Ski Turning Snowshoes
Two Techniques Stopping Downhill Skiing