January is New Hampshire’s “Learn to Ski and Snowboard” Month. Ski New Hampshire states, “There’s no better time to learn to ski and snowboard than in January. Skiers and snowboarders of all abilities agree that taking a lesson your first time makes a huge difference, and our Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month special is a great and affordable way to try a new sport. Offers include a $39 lift, lesson and rentals beginner package for alpine skiing and riding and a $19 trail pass, lesson and rentals beginner package at cross-country ski areas.”
For more information, go to tinyurl.com/rnjpv89 or ask at your local alpine or Nordic center.
With new snow on the ground and great conditions, what’s your excuse for not taking a cross-country ski lesson? The following reasons might be one of your answers, but none of them hold any “snow.”
It costs too much. Not really, even when there aren’t January Learn to Ski specials, a cross-country group lesson for adults is around $20 for an hour lesson. Seniors and children pay less. Many centers offer a “Learn to Ski” package which includes rental equipment, trail pass and a group lesson for less than $50. It’s a great deal. Start your day with a lesson to learn the basics, then enjoy the rest of the day, practicing and enjoying what you learned.
Private or semi-private lessons or “Learn to Skate lessons” may cost more — $40-and-up — but are worth it for the individualized attention and custom-made lessons with a professional instructor.
It takes too much time. Is spending an hour learning correct techniques and more efficient ways to ski a waste of time? It makes more sense than spending hours being frustrated, figuring it out on your own. Lessons give you a head start on having fun, rather than frustration, on your skis.
I already know how to ski. What could I learn? Anything and everything! Even if you’ve been cross-country skiing for years, there’s always something new you can learn, skills to tweak or bad habits to correct. Even Olympians have coaches!
Many lifelong skiers come in early in the season for a “tune-up” lesson to make sure they’re skiing efficiently and comfortably as they get their “ski” legs back.
I’m too old to learn new skills. If that’s your mindset, get over it! Learning or improving skills help you ski with more confidence, ease and satisfaction. As we all age, there are issues that rear their ugly heads — balance, stamina and fear of falling. A good instructor can help you navigate and deal with those issues.
I’d be embarrassed about taking a lesson with other people. I’m such a klutz! It’s normal to feel self-conscious in a group lesson. Skilled and caring instructors will work with each student to calm their fears, build their confidence and offer encouragement along the way — you can do this. They work to make the lesson helpful and pertinent to all, and never push someone beyond their limits.
Lessons are boring. Hopefully, not. The first goal of the instructor is for students to have fun. If you don’t have a good time, laugh a little, then you’re not going to enjoy cross-country skiing. That’s the instructor’s second goal — that you discover cross-country skiing is fun, great exercise and a super way to get out and play on snow.
I don’t have the right equipment. No worry, most Nordic centers have the equipment to rent for classic or skate skiing. You have the opportunity to try out different skis, boots and poles before you buy. Equipment rentals are relatively cheap (less than $20) and you get them for the whole day. Combine rentals with lessons and trail pass Super Saver packages, and you get them even cheaper.
Ski shops also have demo equipment to try so you can further dial in what you want from your ski experience and equipment.
I’m scared of falling. That’s the No. 1 issue people have about skiing. They don’t want to fall and they’re worried they can’t won’t be able to get up, if they do. Instructors are sensitive to these issues and will try to allay those fears by teaching students proper body position to maintain their balance. They’ll even get down on the snow to show students the way to get up more easily.
If a student is very tentative, the instructor will take them on the flats, teaching skills along the way, while working on getting the student to relax. If hills are an issue (they usually are), the instructor will avoid big hills until the student is ready for them. The student always has the option to say, “I’m not comfortable with that.” The instructor then can give them another option or skill to practice. The lesson goal is for the student to have fun and build confidence.
What’s in a lesson? A lot of information and skills practice are packed into an hour lesson. The instructor explains how the equipment works and shows students how to use both skis and poles efficiently. Through a series of drills on the flats, they learn how to transfer weight from ski to ski while sliding them forward. Students are shown how to put on poles and use them for pushing. When they are ready, the instructor will demonstrate various ways to go downhill with control and uphill with success. Students will have a chance to try each.
Trail etiquette will be discussed so you know what to do on the trails when you encounter another skier. Instructors take the time to answer your questions. They’ll make recommendations appropriate to your abilities about where to go skiing to try out your new and improved skills.
Whatever your instructional needs or excuses, there’s a lesson plan for you. Take a group or private lesson or even a series of lessons to learn or improve your classic or skate technique.
Afraid of hills, try the “enjoying the downhills” lesson. If you want individual attention, private lessons are the way to meet your needs. Whether you’re a “newbie” or a seasoned skier, lessons will help you enjoy your skiing experience more. There are lessons to be learned and skills to improve. No more excuses.
Series: January Learn to Nordic Ski Month — check with local touring centers to see what deals they’re offering for first-time skiers during January.
Great Glen Trails Bill Koch League Kids’ Ski Program — Sundays, 1:30- 3:30 p.m.
Great Glen Trails Nordic, Snowshoe and Fatbike Meisters Race Series — Tuesdays, through March 10, skiers 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., snowshoers at 1 p.m. and fatbikes after 3:30 p.m.
Jackson Ski Touring Sliders and Gliders Social Ski —Fridays through March 27, 1-3 p.m.
Jackson Ski Touring Toddlers and Tots Program: Tuesdays, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Jackson XC Nordic Speed Camp: Tuesdays, Jan. 28, Feb. 4 and 11. March 3, 3:30-4:30 p.m., grades 2 and up, timed course.
JSTF’s Freeman Frost White Mountain Classic 30K Race: Jan. 26.
Kennett High School Nordic Team Race at Whitaker Woods: Jan. 29, 2:30-5:30 p.m.
Fryeburg Academy Nordic meet at Stark’s Hill, Jan. 30, 3:30 p.m.
MWVST 31st annual Inn-to-Inn Chocolate Fest — Feb. 23, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Great Glen Trails Bill Koch League Festival, Feb. 29-March 1, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Bretton Woods Mount Washington Cup 10K freestyle race on March 7, and Bretton Woods Nordic Marathon 42K classic race on March 8.
Great Glen Trails Ski, Shoe and Fatbike to the Clouds 10K, March 8.
Jackson Ski Touring’s Long Trail Loppet Freestyle Race on the Hall, Ellis and Kellogg Trails, March 14.
Great Glen Trails Winter Charity Day, March 14, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., make a $25 donation per person to your favorite charity and ski and tube free. Buffet lunch included.
Sally McMurdo is currently a cross-country ski instructor at Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. For almost four decades, she has explored New England’s groomed and ungroomed trails on all kinds of skis.