If you're looking for a smoother, better glide as you pursue mastery of those new cross-country skis, here's a tip from the Eastern Professional Ski Touring Instructors, courtesy of John Frado, who directs the Northfield Mountain (Mass.) Ski Touring Center.
Think of your foot and leg as a pendulum as you swing it forward. "Look for an extended leg to the rear and a straight leg coming forward," says Frado --just like that old pendulum of grandfather's clock. One common error of many newcomers is lifting the foot and placing it forward as in walking.
Frado notes a walking motion puts the skier in too upright a position, decreasing forward power and glide.
It's true that the diagonal stride (left leg and right arm go forward, then right leg and left arm) is the closest thing to walking or running on skis. But the thing that makes it skiing and not walking or running -- and, coincidentally , more fun and rewarding -- is the glide.
Getting the legs to work like pendulumns will improve kick and glide. Balance, even if a bit shaky at first, should become steadier with practice. But remember, Frado says, the telltale sign that the foot is being lifted is "the well-bent knee. "