Downhill XC Nordic Drill - Twirly Birds & Crab Turns

Master Downhills & Balance With These Fun Drills

There are numerous aspects to becoming a great cross country skier. The difference between an expert skier and an intermediate skier, the expert skier has mastered the fundamentals.

Watch the Drills Here

What are the fundaments?

I think there are three primary skills that you can think of as the very basic fundamentals of both skate and classic skiing. These skills are: push-off, weight transfer and glide. Many skiers practice only the larger moves that make up these three skills, but the expert skier masters these skills not only in large moves, but in subtle moves at high and low speed.

I have two drills that will push you to control and master the subtler side of push-off, weight transfer and glide. These two drills are Twirly Birds/360's and the Crab Turn.

Twirly Birds/360's

Pick a long, steeper downhill that will allow you amble speed and room on skate skis to make skidded 360 degree spins on the trail. Twirly Birds require you to keep a stable, functionally strong core, which means you can't let your upper body and hips get thrown around during the spin.

You need to control your edges, subtly engaging and releasing your edges as skid, spin, skid backwards, spin some more and skid again to regain your original position.

You also learn to stay balanced over your feet with your ankles, hips and shoulders stacked over each other (well, theoretically, as I don't always do it right).

Employ this drill as often as you can. If you're a coach, your athletes will love the sense of play, adventure and competition of getting this right.

Crab Turns

Before, or after trying Twirly Birds, practice engaging and releasing your edges while maintaining a stable upper body and engaged core. To do the crab, start in a regular, downhill snowplow. Next, keeping everything the same (head, shoulders, chest, hips, legs), move yourself to the other side of the trail simply by flattening one ski while increasing the edge angle and pressure on the other ski. Watch the video to see how it's done.

Crab Turns will help you master the subtle skills of push-off, weight transfer and glide that will lead to smooth and effortless Twirly Birds.


By David Lawrence XC Ski