Me doing a Martin Clunes Impression on Skate Skis, with Bent Poles
Today my old mate had wanted to get out on his new skate skis, and knowing I would have someone who is actually worse than me in this form of the art of XC, i jumped at the chance for a Sunday morning jaunt.
Upon arrival it was clear they hadnt pisted the ‘spor’ and there was a good few centimeters, ahem at least, of every so pretty and light as a feather new snow on the tracks,. The classic diagonal skiers had no great joy though, there being a soft set of tramlines making life hard for them. The feathery snow was delicate as babies’ breath, and the base below was really good for skating in fact.
It aint hard if you do fall, and after hitting submerged lumps or trapping my tips down in hidden depths of this powdery top coat, I did indeed hit the deck. Including getting a pole on the isude of the ski, I fell ove rin fact around every 200m or so. Ploughing our way through the flakes of wonder, was though a lot of fun and it kind of gave a natural breaking to those sometimes rather aggressive skates when you end up gldiing faster and faster off on one leg slightly out of balance due to the unexpected gain of speed.
It was a giggle = ,me and my pal Iain have had many silly trips of skis, espceially at night when we ventured out with puny head torches in masses of minus degrees, to bash through woodlands or freeze to death on courses. We have had our mmissions and this was a one of them too, his first 7 k or so on skate skis.
Perhaps because I did drop my shoulders and had a buddy as an excuse for slow progress and a sociable tour, I was able to concentrate on a few of my failings on XC skis.
1. The Right Time to End a Glide
Well this is as mentioned above, sometimes harder to know. The ski can fly off on harder pisted areas, or the waxing can suddenly work better in the shadowy areas, or you can just give a little better thrust and balance at a little too wide an angle from the centre line of travel. Alternatively you can find that your ski brakes up, judders even, or sinks deep and you lose glide.
The main cure here is not in correcting the glide itself, it is in placing the ski down correctly, and as far forwad an angle as poissible. You see that the biatheletes in particular, place their foot down after what looks like a little heistation, with the ski hanging over the ground more or less parallel to the over all direction of travel. So the right time to end a glide with a ski a little forward in driection before your slide off in a skate movement, is kind of obvious to you. It does not surprise you by taking you way off to one side on a big Zig making the returning Zag harder or skew wiff.
I practiced today a little long glding until the ski actually stopped and a little straight gliding, when you dont really get that weight transfer boost but do get a good movement right forward to start with. Also a little extended glide by poling twice on the same ski glide, which makes for a better feel to the duration of the glide,.
As then you go a little down hill, the skis make a vee which is more forward, and eventually you may parallel and double pole or make long, biathelete style gl;ides without using the poles, body tucked down, ski going almost straight forward. As the skier moves onto a flatter area or slight uphill, the glide needs more power putting into it from poling and sliding away the ski in the skate motion. Eventually you move over to paddling, and most amateur day skiers do this a little early, and would be better served by double dancing (V2) which makes for less distancelost in side to side movement of paddeling.
To me this seemed a little difficult before today. Today I cracked the code, by doing it first really slowly and not forcing the ski too far out with my leg thrust,nor using a lot of poling, Instead I focused on gettin my footdown with a bent ankle and knee, and moving my weight oversidewars on my hips.
Before today I found paddeling became too rushed, and that takes me back to it being a reserve first gear for the steepest gradients while double dancing serves a more efficient VMG veloocity made good, ie foreward motion towards goal. Before when I felt the skis wanted to fly off either side when paddling, in fact the snow was fast enough to permit double or even single dancing with just a little more power, and if I did want to use first gear, then I should just cool it, use my body weight and ease of on arm and leg thrusting, like being on a mountain bike and chosing a super low gear to get up a hill while also getting your breath back.
Paddeling is typified by planting the pole at the same time as the ski, leaning the body into the slope, and using a marked side to side weight transfer across the hips at an oblique angle to the fall=-line of the hill, pretty much 90 degrees it seems to me.
Paddeling fast takes a lot of concentration, but you can get carried away with it and end up shooting off to one side into the ‘rough’ or over the nicely laid tramlines for the classic skiers. The youtube videos you can look up yourselves, often break it down into head, hand, knee, ankle and then hip movements in that order, because it is the hip which transfers off onto the new ski.
Hte beauty of it being a low gear is that you can practice it very lightly on slight inclines and then you can use it quite lightly on steeper short sections where the first ski side down is really just an anchoring ski, with the pole helping nail this side down, until you slide off at a better glide angle onto the other ski ie angled a little more away from the fall line than the first ‘Anchored’ ski was.
Today I just got it together and remembered to pace myself, keep a little cool on the leg rythm and power, and concentrate on getting to the top and suddenly it clicked in place and I flew up the hill, my weight being an advantage for once, being sliung over on my hips on the interchange of skis.
3. Weight Right Over NOSE KNEE ANKLE
Further to this pointon paddling, you want to use your weight to advantage as they always go on about on Youtube vids on the topic. According to some you wont fall over your outside edge, but of course that edge when overloaded in my experience, can catch a rut and throw you ‘high sider’ to the ground!
A good rule of thumb is to gety your k’nose ofer your k’nee ., which is bentd like the ankle. You need all your weight on that leg and can then rise up m,oreupright as you glide and thrustoff the skii, then moving all your weifght over to the other ski,. which is placed as near parrallel to the line of attack as possible. This is the big difference between competitive skate skiers and out for a jaunt skiers. Oout for a jaunt skiers make far too big zig zags, and that is in part because they are using too much weight transfer and not enough thrust !
In paddeling, you use your weight to effect a decent zig zag from side to side, in order to counter the resistance of the hill, while remaining in motion. It is ‘holding the wheel in motion’ and very muych like being in a sailing boat, tacking up wind in order to keep motion on, while making some progress to the goal otherwise straight ahead where the wind is blowing from., The gradient being the resistance not ht ewind in this case of course.
Some Skiers dont progress in fact from kind of paddelig, placing htie pole at the same time as the ski lands, and using a lot of sideways weight transfer on a well angled ski even on the flat or downhill, rather than getting their weight forward and up on the new gliding ski. They cut big zig zags and look like those dancing dolls you used to buy at fairgrounds, when you pull a string the legs fance out to each side.
4. Drop Your Shoulders and Giggle
Dont learn to ski on ice with skate skis. I tried to repair one at the weekend and it just sprung open today, having had an earlier ding with the ice of parallel tramline spor. Instead do go out on reasonably soft days, where the ski edge can get a good grip as you skate off each ski, and when you fall, well just giggle, you have L plates on.
As with all snow sports, hard, icey conditions are not good for learning on,. Your skate skis will jitter and track badly down hill at speed when skiing parallel out of the tramlines, and they wont plough well eigher when compared to a longer classic ski. However in soft conditions, they will feel much more responsive to steering and easier to step turn on, or enter a full snow plough position. In fact you could have a good laughh on the first day out, just fishboning up a steepish hill in soft snow on a pisted trail, and then skiing down, pracitcint skate style in the run out section as you start to slow down.
Breathing technique is different from classic skiing which seems to come more naturally with both diagonal, double pole and also running Klaebo stylye up hill! I forget to breath in skating, or dont breathe enough until today, when I dropped my shoulders and took smalkl bites at it all. I foudn then that during my paddelign sprints I did, I could get breathing going without having to concentrate on that alone, it was coming of itself finally.
Skate skiing is more fun that classic in many ways, but like riding a fixie bike, you feel obliged to keep it moving and it is easy to get a pace you cannot aerobically maintain. You oftem see in fact, couples out together where the one is trad and the skate skier skis alongside them, usuaklly taking it a little easier than the classically kicking spouse.
So drop your shoulders and take it a little easy to start with. One big thing if you are a very experienced classic skier coming to skating, is that your arm, shoulder and chest muscles wont be used to the higher pole position and may get very tired easily. That can be avoided by concentrating on a good thurst from the legs and good use of weight transfer, and in fact of course , you can practice witout poles or with them ‘feathered’ upwards behind you,in order that you break any lactic acid build up in those new wee muscles you never knew you had never trained before.
Today I had a bag of fun, and managed to sew together a few of the basics of paddeling which I had felt were at odds with each other, like the spark plig not firing until the exhaust valve was open before. I also learned to relax my breathign and take deep breaths, and to use my weight to extend a more forward angled glide.