Cross Country Ski Advice from a Pro
Meet Edmonton Athlete Sarah Hanstock
Cross country skiing is a much-loved Alberta activity. With those thin, gleaming planks beneath our feet, we can slide through snow. We can find a way to embrace winter.
Let me introduce you to an Edmonton athlete who’s been cross country skiing since age 5. Meet Sarah Hanstock, a competitive nordic ski racer with the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club.
Jane: How did you first get into skiing?
Sarah: My dad did lots of backcountry and cross country skiing when he was younger. My mom was a skier too. My parents were skilled before I was born, so at five years old, I started! I got going at the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club in the Jackrabbits program, then worked my way up the levels. Then I started racing. I’m in my second year of University and I still find time to train and race.
Jane: Can you tell us what your racing life is like?
Sarah: I race most weekends. I race at the Alberta Cup and local races around Edmonton. I also race at the Western Canadian Championships. Usually I race at Nationals too, but this year I have finals.
If there’s no race, my coach does timed trials to keep me in race mentality. It’s so psychological.
Jane: You obviously spend lots of time and effort skiing. What is it that you love about the sport?
Sarah: I have good friends who ski, and it’s fun to hang out with them. And I love skiing as a sport because not only do I get to race, I also coach kids and adults. I love skiing with my parents, too. Cross country skiing isn’t like soccer. It’s something you can do together as a family.
Jane: Can you tell us about the different styles of cross country skiing?
Sarah: Sure! The most common form is classic skiing. This is where you ski in a set of parallel tracks. It’s what you usually associate with cross country skiing. For classic skiing, you use grip wax, fish scales, or a skin.
There’s also skate skiing, where you don’t use any grip wax, just glide wax, so they go fast. It resembles ice skating.
Jane: What is it like at the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club?
Sarah: Well, my dad (Chris Hanstock) is the president. (She laughs). My family is really involved. We are a big club and offer lots of programs, from kid to adult lessons, to racing, to adventure ski groups and biathlon.
At ENSC we make snow and groom the trails. [Side note: This is all done by one course keeper extraordinaire named Dave Storey, who used to work at Campers Village!]. This means a longer season and more time on the snow.
Jane: So how about manners and etiquette? What should we know when skiing on the tracks?
Sarah: Well, just make sure you’re going the right direction if it’s a one-way track! If it’s a two-way track, stick to the right. Just like driving. If you need to step out, move, or stop, shoulder check.
Faster skiers coming from behind might yell out “Track!” Basically, that means they will stay in track, so you should get out of the way. If you hear that, step to the outside of the trail. Finally, if you are going to be walking near the track, don’t step on it.
Cross Country Ski Waxing Tips from a Pro
Here are Sarah’s expert tips:
- If you have skins or fish scales on your skis, don’t wax them.
- There’s a difference between grip and glide wax. Grip wax just goes on the middle of the ski, a bit longer than your binding length. Not the whole ski! Go to a shop and have them mark the grip zone. It will make your ski experience so much nicer!
- If you haven’t used glide wax in awhile, get it professionally done. It makes your skiing much faster.
- Choose the wax that’s for the right temperature.
Sarah’s final tip, which she was adamant about sharing:
“To make skiing even better, bring hot chocolate or tea! Sometimes I sit in the Goldbar Pavilion, and when I look out and see people who ave snacks and a warm drink, they seem so much happier.”
Don't forget to have fun out there!
From the ENSC website:
“Founded in 1978, the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club is now one of Canada’s largest nordic ski clubs with around 650 members. Over the past 20 years, the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club has developed the trail system in Goldbar and Goldstick parks. The two adjoining parks feature 10 kilometres of interconnected, illuminated ski trails ranging from the very easy to the more challenging.”