Skaters Get There Faster

The Heart-Pounding Rewards of Skate Skiing
By Natalie Bartley
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A blur of yellow lycra streaks by as you kick and glide at the Nordic track. It is your bicycling buddy on skate skis. Skate skiing, a type of Nordic skiing, expands the miles that a skier can cover in an outing. It is fast, fun, and a dynamite full-body aerobic workout.

"The skate skiers who kept flying by me looked so graceful," said Leslie Freeman, a mountain biker and classical skier who recently experimented with skate skiing."The first time I tried skate skiing I was frustrated. It was really hard. The next time I went, I had brief moments of when I felt I was actually doing it. That was enough to get me hooked. Skate skiing has become wicked fun."

You may have already tried skate skiing maneuvers at the alpine ski area. It is similar to what you do to get into the lift line. Perhaps on your touring skis you have mimicked the skate skier who just sped past you on the groomed trail. Actually, skating requires specialized equipment to perform the technique comfortably and efficiently. The joy, the freedom, and the rush of a high speed aerobic workout can be yours!

Getting Started

For your first experience on skate skiing equipment, you might consider trying out the short skis, then moving into mid and standard lengths as your balance and skills improve. Skate skiing requires one-leg balance. With each push you are committed to one ski during the glide phase.

It is inefficient to try to learn the technique on your own. You will develop speed killing habits. The thrill of the fast flight on flats and uphills is what skate skiing is all about. Start out on flat terrain and spend a lot of time perfecting your technique. Nordic Centers can help you with a skate ski lesson from certified PSIA Nordic instructors. The following descriptions briefly cover some of the skills you will be working on. You will be surprised how these motions propel you quickly down the track.

Body position: Start by learning to skate without your ski poles. Take a low stance with ankles and knees bent. Relax your upper body. Keep your elbows bent and your hands in front of you.

Edging: As a beginner skater, you will be pushing off with the inside edge of your ski, with your ski tips pointing outward in a V position. To get a feeling of the use of your edges, start without your skis. Experiment with turning your feet on to your little toes on the outside edges. Then roll your ankles inward onto your big toes. Repeat the motion. Put on your skis and repeat the outward to inward motion.

Skate Motion: The leg motions resemble roller blading, ice skating, and the herringbone ski position. To learn the motion on skis, start with a stationary balance drill. Practice pushing your right ski straight out to the right side, using your whole foot. Remember to turn your right ski edge inward as you push to the side. Then bring your right ski back under you and stop. Next push with the left foot to the left side, then back to center and repeat thepattern. Your skis need to be flat when they are under the center of your body. Keeping your poles off, move forward by pushing off from your right ski edge, glide on left, push off from left edge, and glide on the right. Off you go for your first skate! Work on increasing your glide and shifting balance fully to each ski. Try to line up your shoulder over the weighted ski that is gliding. Then shift your balance over to the next gliding ski. Think of it as lining up your toe, knee and shoulder, which helps to move your weight completely from ski to ski.

Using Poles: The basic pole pattern that you want to start with is called the V-1 Skate (photo 3). It has a 3-1 count pattern. There are three points of contact with the snow when the two poles hit the snow at the same time as one ski. Then there is one point of contact when only one ski is on the snow. Pick your stronger side to start. You will hear a crunch sound as three piecesof equipment contact the snow- CRUNCH! Then a quieter sound as theother one ski touches the snow-crunch. CRUNCH, crunch. That is the 3-1 rhythmic pattern. CRUNCH as your one ski contacts the snow at the same time as the ski poles. Then crunch and glide on to the alternate ski. Repeat the cycle. The V-1 is like the first gear in a truck. It is always there to get you started or keeping you going up steep hills.

As you develop balance and strength, there are other skate patterns to master for use on different terrain.

The V-2 Skate is useful at higher speeds on open flat stretches or fast snow. A double poling motion occurs on both sides with each skate with a"pole, glide, pole, glide" pattern.

The V-2 Alternate Skate is another high speed maneuver for high velocities on flatter terrain or fast snow. It is similar to the V-2 Skate, except you push with your poles on one side with every other skate, with a "pole, glide, glide; pole, glide, glide" pattern.

With the V-2 and V-2 Alternate, there are a variety of timing variations. Generally, at lower velocities and higher tempos, you finish the poling motion after skating onto the other ski. When you are at higher velocities, you will complete more of the poling motion before skating onto the other ski.

The Diagonal V-Skate , sometimes called the flying herringbone, is a handy one to have in your repertoire. When you are dead tired on an uphill, yet want to keep your momentum, shift into the familiar herringbone poling motions that you use for going up hills on your other gear, holding your arms further out from the sides. Be sure to ride a flat ski and keep your momentum moving forward.

It is helpful to practice and use a variety of skating techniques, adapting to the terrain, the speed, the snow conditions and your aerobic conditioning level. Each type of poling uses slightly different muscles. Alternating your poling side helps prevent muscle fatigue caused by the overuse of one side of the body.

A knowledgeable buddy should observe you as you practice skating, to be sure your timing and rhythm are correct. Be sure to be proficient with the use of your poles on each side and strive for equal glide length on each ski.

Work towards improving your efficiency by working carefully on your gliding and poling. Each and every time you skate ski, you will get better and better, go further and further, and be faster and faster. It will be aerobically challenging and high speed. But isn't that why you are doing it?

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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