Saturday, December 29, 2018


At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics we saw the best waxers in the world struggling with the wet coastal snow.  So I give you what I've learned over 20 years of waxing for this variable, wet snow.

The three variables you need to pay attention to are:

1. Snow crystals - do the snow crystals have any sharp edges or are they rounded?

2. Moisture - try to make snowball.  Does it pack to make a snowball or is it impossible to get snow to stick together?

3. Freezing level - I check to see where the freezing level is currently at and which direction it is moving to in the next day.

If you can't make a snowball then it is BLUE glide wax.

If you can make something resembling a snowball then it is RED glide wax, preferably with some fluoro in it.

If your snowball is a wet snowball then it is YELLOW glide wax, preferably a high fluoro glide wax.

If the snow is so hard and icy that you can't grab snow then BLUE glide wax.

If the snow is sugary (rounded crystals) and you can't make a snowball then BLUE glide wax if freezing level is below the elevation that you are skiing at or RED glide wax if freezing level is above the elevation that you are skiing at.

If you can't make a snowball or a crumbly snowball then it is HARD grip wax and you can use the temperature ratings on the canister.

If you can make a decent snowball or a wet snowball then it is KLISTER, based on the temperature rating on the tube.  If the snow crystals are sharp or broken then you should apply a layer or two of HARD grip wax over top of the KLISTER.

If the snow is so hard and icy that you can't grab snow then BLUE KLISTER or ICE KLISTER.

If the snow is sugary (rounded crystals) and you can't make a snowball then KLISTER, based on the temperature rating on the tube.

Knowing the freezing level and the direction it is trending (higher or lower) helps you identify the best wax to apply.  For example, if your ski area is about 840m and the freezing level is currently below 800m and is forecasted to rise over 1000m then you will find that the snow you are initially skiing on is hard (moisture is locked into the snow so it may feel icy/crusty) but will soon soften (moisture will be released from the snow).  This is what all the waxers were struggling with at the Olympics.  If the conditions remain consistent during the day then waxing is a breeze but when the snow changes its characteristics in a few hours then it becomes a challenge.

In the above scenario I would go with UNIVERSAL KLISTER (or a KLISTER covered with a HARD wax).

Everyone always asks which wax I prefer.  My answer is simply, find a brand you like and stick with it.  Until you get really good with waxing and/or have the time to test a lot of waxes, best to stick to one brand.

I've used a lot of different brands and I find the simplest one to use is Rode.  Rode has a waxing chart that I find easy to use and has always given me good grip - see chart on page 13 of waxing guide. I rely on this chart rather than read the temperature on the canister or tube.

Note Rode wax chart mentions "Nord Europe Snow" which is drier snow similar to what we would find in the interior, so you want to use the coloured line that is not "Nord Europe Snow" as our wet coastal snow is more like Southern Europe Snow.

I am not sponsored by any manufacturers so this is my unbiased opinion.

People have been asking me about the YesWax system.  This is the glide wax system that does not use an iron.  This non-iron system is used by the Canadian National Team on dirty snow.  If you want to keep your waxing simple, stick to the hot waxing system.  If you can afford to purchase the YesWax system then go for the warm, high fluoro wax.  (The iron in waxes are paraffin based and thus are soft and dirt will embed itself into the paraffin wax; the YesWax is a very thin layer of wax that sits on the base of the ski so dirt does not embed itself into it).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I was recently surprised by a comment from a skier as it indicated a total misunderstanding of what dryland training is.  So in this blog post I will strip dryland training down to its bare components!

2001 Calendar of Canada's National Ladies Ski Team

As it's name implies this is ski training when there is no snow.  Stripped down, dryland training is essentially three things: No Sweat, Light Sweat and Heavy Sweat.

No Sweat workouts are any sessions that will improve your ski mechanics.  The item that will pay off the biggest is balance.  A summer of yoga classes will vastly improve your balance, core and posture. At least it did for me.

ESPN Body Issue: professional golfer Camilo Villegas

Other No Sweat workouts are in the gym improving weak joints.  For example, the ankle joint and its corresponding proprioceptors so that you can improve your balance. The idea isn't to increase absolute strength but to increase power.  As a coach I'm mildly impressed if you are, after a summer, able to leg press 400 lbs whereas your previous record was 300 lbs.  But how is that directly translating to improved ski (race) performance?  I would be more impressed if you increased your box jumps from 40/minute to 60/minute because this kind of strength will translate to improved race results.
ESPN Body Issue:  Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman

A final type of No Sweat workout is one that stimulates or challenges you to move your body in complex ways.  The golf swing, for example, is a highly complex and unnatural movement.  The golf swing and the diagonal stride are probably two of the most complex movements that you will ever learn.  Expert skiers will tell you it takes 7 years to master the diagonal stride.  After a lifetime of swinging a golf club, very few have mastered it.

2009 World Golf Championship Round 1

Golf not of interest to you?  Then learn to dance or swim or some activity that requires you to move your whole body.  The point is to challenge your body to move in more complex ways (or at least in ways you have not moved it before) and to improve your fundamental movement ABCs - agility, balance, coordination.  And possibly kinesthetic awareness and rhythm too.

Light Sweat workouts are aerobic endurance workouts.  They can be any activity that maintains your heart rate between 60 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate and do so for a long duration.  If your workout is near 75% max HR then at least 1 hour in duration; if your workout is closer to 60% max HR then at least 2 hours in duration.

Light Sweat workouts should be done daily so vary the activities to keep it fun.  Cycling, power walking, Nordic striding, swimming, hiking...but it must keep the heart rate in the aerobic zone (60-75%) the entire time.  Stop and go activities where the heart rate drops below 60% are not aerobic workouts at least not for the purpose of improving your cross country skiing/racing.

Heavy Sweat workouts are workouts that will improve your maximal oxygen intake.  Heavy Sweat workouts are intense bouts of work where the heart rate is in excess of 90% of max HR.  Because it is difficult to maintain such intensity, the way to do this is interval training.  A typical interval workout would be 3 minutes on and 3-5 minutes off, repeated at least 5 times.  The hillbounding workouts at the Capilano Dam are a prime example of this.  Two components of Heavy Sweat workouts is that the total duration of the intensity must exceed 16 minutes otherwise the physiological changes you are trying to improve will not come about.  And the other component is the rest/recovery stage.  You need to have adequate rest/recovery to be able to push the intensity again.

ESPN Body Issue: Paralympian Amy Purdy

Heavy Sweat workouts should not be done every workout.  As someone who does only a few loppets a year then the number of Heavy Sweat workouts per week should be one or two.

If you are serious about training then talk to a coach about a training plan that breaks these three categories into more defined and measurable objectives.  Know that there is a direct correlation between the yearly training volume (hours of training in the Light Sweat and Heavy Sweat states) to race performance.  And follow Norwegian team's rule of thumb of 80% Light Sweat and 20% Heavy Sweat.

If you are a weekend warrior then follow these stripped down basics so that next winter you are skiing better and faster.  Stick to the fundamentals and make working out fun!

Friday, March 18, 2016


Which picture best exemplifies the way you bring your hand/pole forward when skiing?

In blog post #1, I described lifting the leg without any forward motion of the body's mass is a waste of time and energy, so to is the arm lift (the male lifting the dumbbell).  If you are experiencing shoulder pain then you are lifting from the shoulder rather than pressing forward by driving from the hips (like the female with the resistance band).

When the pole(s) hit the snow we want to have our body weight on top of them so that we can maximize downward pressure.  Effective and efficient poling is based on the principle of leverage.

The further you can get your body's mass forward of your feet, the more force you can apply downward on the poles.  The beauty of leveraging your body's mass is that it means you don't need to have massive shoulder muscles to double pole up a hill.

One of the best ways to learn how to get your body weight forward (i.e., bring your hips forward) is by doing kettle bell swings.

The kettle bell is brought forward to shoulder height by the hip swinging forward, not by the lifting the arms.  In double poling you would snap your hips forward of the feet and fall onto the poles.

Leveraging should only be done in the forward direction (body ahead of the toes).  There is an old school version of offset that says to lean onto the uphill pole (shoulder goes way outside of the ankles).

I call this the "wobbling top".  The upper body mass is being thrown all over the place like a spinning top that is ready to topple.

Your spine should stay vertical.  The shoulder blades should never extend laterally past the hips.   Look again at picture of the girls offset-ing and you will see that one pole is not contributing to the forward propulsion of the skier.  Compare the girls to the skier below where both poles are coming forward so that both poles will be used in forward propulsion.  The modern offset poling resembles the double pole technique.

If you are experiencing elbow pain the most likely culprit is you aren't locking your elbows and initiating with an ab crunch.  Like the gym exercise on the ab rocker, you want to let the abs initiate the downward push onto the poles

and then finish off with pushing with the arms.

If you are not using your abs during poling (double poling or single poling), then you are pushing  solely with your arms and you will experience tennis elbow (inflammation of the tendons of the elbow caused by overuse of the muscles in the forearm).

Saturday, March 12, 2016


A Swedish study revealed that the majority of recreational cross country skiers suffered back pains.

As someone who has broken his back and now lives with back pain, I have spent a lot of time studying the cause of back pain in skiing so that I can avoid it.  The number one cause of back pain in skiing is hyper-extending of the back.

Personal trainers do a butt toning exercise called Donkey Kicks.

You can see that her back is arched when her right leg kicks back and up.  Diagonal stride technique, if done incorrectly, is very similar to this movement.  Worse yet, cross country skiers will do hours of hyper-extension as opposed to a few sets of donkey kicks in the gym.  The end result is lower back pain.

The correct posture in skiing, both classic and skate, is not to arch the back but to do the opposite, to be in a soft "C" posture.  The soft "C" means the tailbone is tucked under slightly and the shoulders are rolled forward.  When you are lying on the ground doing crunches, you are actually in the soft "C" posture.

With your lower back flat to the ground and your shoulder blades off the ground, you have the ideal power ski posture.  If you took the drawing of the ab crunch and rotated it so that the lower back was parallel to the skier's back angle, you can see, particularly in the middle frame, that the skier has the ab crunch posture!


The single move that causes back pain during skiing is pulling the shoulders back.  As you bring your poles forward (double pole, diagonal stride, one-skate) do not stand up tall and bring the shoulders like the Nordic walker pictured below.  It is this move that creates the hyper-extension or arching of the back.

Look again at the 3 frames of the diagonal stride skier and you will notice that his spine angle (and thus his shoulders) is forward through the entire stride sequence.  He never arches his back!

The soft "C" posture is maintained in both skating and classic.

Enjoy pain free skiing by maintaining the right posture!

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Ski balance is not inner peace that one finds from being on a corduroy track with the sun shining and the crisp air flowing through your hair as you effortlessly glide.  Though that is a type of balance but I am talking about physically balancing on a moving ski.

Many skiers fail to achieve balance because they do not set themselves up for success.  Inanimate objects, like domino tiles, will stand up if the centre of mass is over the base of support.  If the centre of mass is not directly over the base of support, it will topple over.

Your body's centre of mass is located just behind the belly button.

So if your base of support is your left foot, you need to get your centre of mass over that foot.  In the picture below there is no question as to the ski balance of racer #2.

But notice that there is something very different about ski balance and say yoga balance.

We are in motion!  We are not static!  As you push off one ski to stand on the other ski your new catchphrase should be "landing in balance" or more specifically "landing in alignment".  In Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) I talked about getting the centre of mass moving so that when the foot lands on the step, the body is already over it.  So if you are mindfully practicing your FMS then the next progression is to do it in alignment.

Alignment means keeping the points of the spine - belly button and sternum, in particular - over the foot.  It doesn't matter which way your body is facing (I won't go into the rotation/no-rotation debate) as long as the "chakras" are aligned over your base of support (foot or ski)

Look at the earlier picture of the ski racers again.  Did you notice that all the skiers' shoulders were level?  That their "chakras" were vertical and over the foot?  

One of the best ways to learn to do this is with a slide board.

If you have a slide board you can practice this action by pushing off one guard (in the picture below the hockey player is pushing off his left foot and moving towards his right) and as you slide across to the other guard, you keep your weight over top of that foot.

When you hit the opposite guard your centre of mass should be over the foot already.  This is what we call "landing in balance".  Don't let the fact that the push leg (in the picture below it is her right leg)  is still on the ground because all the weight is on the glide leg (that is her left leg).

If you don't have a slide board but have linoleum floors then you can create your own "slide board" by wearing socks that will slide on the linoleum.  

Tip: you will find it easier to land in alignment if you recover the leg under your body so that the leg and torso slide across already in alignment!  Ignore the arm position but look at this hockey player's alignment as he begins to push to his right.

Do not let the foot lead or get ahead of the torso because that will result in vaulting!  If the young man in the picture below was an XC skier he would never achieve balance on his skis because like the domino tile his centre of mass is not over his base of support, i.e., his foot.  His centre of mass is stuck between his feet.

Even though all these pictures are of skating, the same concept of landing in alignment applies to all techniques that require weight transfer to stand on one ski.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


"What do I need to do to glide longer and ski better?"  I was recently asked this question by a long time skier who had felt he was wasting too much energy trying to keep up with the pack. 

If you seriously want to improve your skiing the one thing you should invest 20 hours in learning to move your centre of mass!  

Most people climb stairs by raising the leg, putting the foot down on the step and then bringing the body up over that forward foot.  We call this movement "vaulting" because your centre of mass moves forward after the foot has planted in front of you.  You wasted energy to lift the leg but you didn't actually move yourself forward!

In the picture below you can see how the body is in motion right from the start so that when the foot hits the step, the body's centre of mass is already up over that step.  This is what separates novice skiers from great skiers - more efficient use of their energy expenditure and body motion!

What's the best way to re-program or re-train your body to move in the expert skier way and to stop vaulting?  I suggest starting off with dryland drills before tackling this on skis.

Uphill ski striding with poles

Stair climbing (or Grouse Grind)

Box jumps or mini hurdle jumps

What's 20 hours got to do with it?  According to Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours, by completing just 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice you’ll go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well.  

Deliberate mindful practice means you dissect and analyze your movement so that you can repeat it over and over again in a consistent fluid, rhythmic motion.  Don't just climb stairs but think about how you are moving your body to climb the stairs.  The focal point should be your body mass being in motion right from the start of the stride/step.  (Watch his TedX youtube video at

You will not become a ski god in 20 hours but you will have laid the foundation for skiing excellence!