Beginner Cross-Country Ski Instruction

Short cut to On-the-Snow videos

Link to 2020 Classroom session

Each winter the ski club offers free lessons for beginning cross-country skiers. Everyone is welcome, so rent some skis, bring a friend and get started! Basic cross-country ski techniques are not difficult to learn. Later in the winter, there's usually a trip where beginning skiers can practice in good snow. This usually means traveling to Chama or Red River. Other members are welcome, but beginning skiers are especially encouraged to join to enjoy the great snow and beautiful scenery at Cumbres Pass near Chama or Enchanted Forest Trails near Red River.

The 2021-2022 Beginner Instruction Winter Schedule

Cross-Country Ski Instruction

  • Beginner Classroom Instruction, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 4th, 2022. Zoom meeting. Email to receive the zoom link.
  • On-the-Snow Lesson,  Saturday, January 8, 2022, Backup date January 22. Contact to sign up. If these dates don’t work, sign up anyway, we’ll try to accommodate you.
  • *NEW* Advanced Beginner Clinic with professional Nordic ski instructor Jon Dellios. Improve your technique, ski better and have more fun! Sunday, February 13 at Ellis Trailhead in the Sandias. A nominal fee of $10 will be charged for this clinic. Limited to 10 people. Email to sign up.
  • Class 1 Tours,   Join a Class 1 Tour to practice and build your confidence.
  •  XC weekend trip,  More beginner practice. TBA.

What to Expect: These lessons provide you with the basic techniques to cross country ski on gentle terrain and have fun. With more practice on your own, you will develop stamina and technique so that you can go several miles with ease and will be able to climb and descend moderate hills. If you haven't skied in years and feel rusty, or started but never took a lesson, consider reviewing with beginner instruction.

Beginner lessons include: In a 90 minute classroom session new skiers learn about winter preparedness, clothing layers, ski equipment, ski rentals, basic fitness and logistics for a day on the snow. Anyone is welcome to attend the classroom session. Outdoor lessons are free, but one must be a ski club member to attend. Outdoor lessons focus on learning balance and control, kick and glide technique, side step and kick turns. Participants also practice herringbone steps up hill, and the snowplow.  See the calendar for dates and the PDF documents Beginner On-the-Snow Lesson, XC & BC Terminology and Equipment Tips & Rental Information linked in the blue Beginning Instruction Documents box at right.

Get Prepared: Fitness, Clothing, Food & Water

Beginner Lessons, January 2015
Beginner Lessons, January 2015

The better shape you are in, the better you will enjoy learning and skiing. Cross country skiing in New Mexico and Colorado is at relatively high elevations in all sorts of weather. In the Sandias we ski at about 9500-10,500 ft and air temperatures can be in the teens and 20s. Wind chill can make it feel colder. Beginners also have a chance to ski near Chama, NM in the Rio Grande National Forest, or near Red River, NM, at elevations between 10,000-11,000 ft.

Start to get yourself in shape. Hiking or snow shoeing at the higher elevations or other aerobic training, weight lifting, pilates and yoga can contribute to leg and upper body strength and balance. When you take your first lessons you will fall down (that's normal) but getting up can wear you out. Many ski club tours spend the entire day outside, traveling miles into the wilderness. Fitness is a safety factor.

Clothing layers are best for active winter sports. A wicking inner layer (long underwear), an warming middle layer and a water and wind-protection outer layer make the best combination to keep you warm and dry. Hats and gloves are essential. No cotton! No blue jeans. Cotton gets wet, stays cold and can induce hypothermia.

Cross-country skiing in the cold takes a lot of energy. It can burn a lot of calories. Eat snacks, bring lunch, drink water! At higher elevations, altitude sickness is a possibility. If you feel ill during a lesson, let the instructors know and feel free to excuse yourself from the day's activities.

Classroom session 2105
Classroom session 2105

Curriculum: What Are Beginner Skills?

Note: see the full curriculum document in the blue sidebar to the right.

The following are the basic skills of cross-country skiing. See the Beginner On-the-Snow Ski Curriculum in the sidebar to the right for "How-To" details. See the Intermediate Instruction page and PDFs for additional skills.The document What are Beginner Skills? may help you decide which class to take. Also, below are some links to videos on each topic.

On the snow videos

(Full play list of all videos)

We have now posted videos of each outline. I hope these will help new comers learn some of the basics. As always a video is not as good as a real live instructor that can give direct feedback.

Tips: Balance & Control

Beginner tour at Enchanted Forest, Red River, NM 2015
Beginners at Enchanted Forest, Red River, NM 2015

Beginners have to counteract several old habits. Focusing on these new habits will keep you from falling down as often while you learn. The new habits will become second nature, but must be deliberate at first. 

Balance & Stability: Feeling wobbly on skis, you'll react automatically by straightening your legs and posture. This is how we balance while standing still. But, on moving skis, you must deliberately counteract this to retrain your brain. While sliding you are more stable with bent knees and low center of gravity. So, bend your knees, lean slightly forward, lower your center of gravity, use your knees to absorb changes in topography-keeping your upper body level. Poles help with balance, but you must to learn to use your body for balance in order to ski, not to rely on the poles. Excellent practice is to ski without poles or hold them immobile either horizontally in front of you or pointing straight back rather than planting the poles as you ski.

Lifting your skis while touring:  Skiing isn't walking. Because there's only one attachment point, your ski pivots from your toe. When you lift your foot the ski doesn't follow the angle of your foot and boot. The tips or tails drop and the ski will flop. To keep the tip from sticking in the snow, get used to providing a little push to lift the tip up. When you lift a ski, raise your knee high to bring the entire ski off the snow surface before planting the ski back down so the tail won't stick in the snow. To keep one ski from crossing the other, you must be alert to the entire ski, tips and tails, not just your foot and boot placement.


On-line Resources

Note that many YouTube videos are oriented to racing (made by ski racers), not oriented to touring. The following videos are made for those interested in touring.

How to Cross Country Ski Part I

How to Cross Country Ski Part 2 (Up low hills, double poling, step turns)

How to Cross Country Ski Part 3 (ski touring/striding on flat terrain)

How to Cross Country Ski Part 4 (uphill techniques)

How to perform an uphill Kick Turn

Skating on skis

How to Recover from a Fall


How to Recover from a Fall

Wedge (snow plow) Turn

Step Turn

Stem Christie Turn

Updated December 2019

For more information

Contact Instruction Chair at


Sign up online by going to the Membership tab in the menu at the top of the page.

The cost is $20 for individual  and $1 for first year memberships for those under 40 years of age. There is no charge for children under the age of 18.  We no longer offer a paper newsletter option or a household membership.