8. Double pole for more speed on the flats. Double poling (pushing with both poles simultaneously) is a full-body motion. With your hips over your feet, imagine doing a powerful sit-up with each push. Then uncoil like a spring as you reach for your next pole plant. As with single poling, release your grips for a moment behind you.
9. Exhale with every other stride. Concentrate on exhaling with every other push-off. The inhale will happen automatically. Proper breathing puts rhythm in your stride and keeps you in your aerobic zone.
10. Swing your skis across the slope after a fall. To get up gracefully, swing your skis perpendicular to any slope in terrain (so your skis form a "T" with the downward slope). Note: Even the flattest field might have a slight incline. As you pull yourself up, keep your feet parallel to each other and under your hips. It helps to put them on edge to prevent them from sliding until you are fully upright.
Women-specific skis and boots are common in Nordic skiing and a good choice if you want to be comfortable and perform your best on the trail. They are ergonomically engineered for a woman's body and center of gravity.
Skis: Ski lengths are measured in centimeters. Traditional length classic skis should be taller than you. Use this formula: Your height in inches x 2.6 + 25 = approximate ski length.
Skate skis will be 10 to 15 centimeters shorter. In either case, if you are lightweight, opt for a slightly shorter ski. If you're heavier, go longer. In addition, most companies produce "short" skis, which tend to be more maneuverable and easier to control for beginners.
Boots: Both classic and skating boots should allow your ankle to flex forward. Skating boots should also have a stiff plastic panel for lateral support. Whether classic or skating, wear one pair of medium-weight wool or synthetic socks (avoid cotton) for warmth and good feel for the snow. The fit should be snug with your heel held firmly in place, but with a little wiggle room around the toes.
Bindings: There are two binding systems -- NNN and Salomon, which are comparable but connect to the toes of ski boots in different ways. To choose which is right for you, find a boot that fits comfortably and go from there. Always be sure that your boot is compatible with your binding system.
Poles: Classic poles should come to your armpits. Skating poles are longer, usually measuring up to your chin.
Wax: Classic skis are available with waxable or waxless bases. Waxless bases require less maintenance -- just put on your skis and go. Both skate skis (along the entire base) and classic skis (outside the kick area) require periodic applications of glide wax to move smoothly over the snow.
Where to Ski
While you can Nordic ski almost anywhere there is snow, established touring centers provide professional instruction and rental gear, not to mention basic creature comforts like a warming hut and food.
There are more than 350 cross-country ski areas across the United States and Canada. To narrow the choices by scenery and amenities, check out the "Top 10" lists at www.xcskiresorts.com.
For a complete guide to cross-country ski resorts in North America, go to www.xcski.org.