Monthly Archives: March 2018

It’s The End of The Snow as We Know it ……

While a decided notable proportion of the Noggie population are off to the pearly white painted hills and plateaus, yours truly is packing away his skis for the season. Other plans for easter involving visiting folk, so rather than do a half hearted dash for snow, sun and kvikk-lunsj, it is time for washing off the clister from the familiy’s skies.

Now the snow at sea level is slushy and sticky and you really need to mill the soles with water channels, and for me treat my furry middle bits with special, expensive spray. The bint’s skis need a yard of universal clister, now coloured a horrid silver, and the whole thing becomes more of a palava than a decent training session. The middle lane is like a treadmill of porridge for those who would attempt skate-skiing after 10 am. Qauntity there is though, so we may have skiing for a week or two given a cold snap materialises. Up in the hills at Kleivvann in Gjerstad kommune, there is well over a meter of compacted snow on the trails, with fresh snow when we had rain this week. They are talking about skiing through to mid May up there!

This season has been a little different than all seasons before. I have a certain wry self satisfaction with my skiing. Finally i am keeping ahead of most all the pensioners, and been able to ‘keep the wheels turning’ in my classic kicking style, with a much improved poling with single kick and more stamina for poling alone. I see myslef reaching for longer ski tours of 25 km and more and doubling up some of the tours I currently do most often as social ski’s. The other main difference is in my attitude. I accept my failings and look for points where I may be doing things wrong.

A bit like other sports I have taken up with, XC skiing needs to be deconstructed once in a while, and for me that has meant thinking about silly mistakes and weaknesses, and then using specific exercises to make up for them. One is the wobbly free ski and the uneven landing. Here I have looked at stadning a little more upright while I warm up, and trying to ignore the ‘kick’ backwards, while on the return swing, I try to land with a little more weight on the ball of my foot, rather than it being a little vague over the whole foot, which tends to wegfiht up the outside edge.

In skate-skiing I have then thrown away the poles so to speak a couple of times and now at least I know how weak I really am on my left side, and how I can perhaps improve my overall style. Classic then has alos had the odd minute or two of legs only, or a pole movement with only a kissing touch bails on snow. In skating and in downhill, iI still have to learn not to rush things and thus loose concentration. Better to spill a little speed than to go outside my abilities to focus and react.

So it has come to small things to fix and work on, and the bnig thing is to keep on loosing weight and in turn take longer ski tours on classic, while concentrating on fluidity and intensity in skate style. I can laugh a little at how far back I was those days in Kvamskogen when i first lashed skinny planks on my feet. My impression is that the apprenticship is over and the plan is clearly to focus on mastering skills, speed and distance while enjoying my sport all the more.

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Zen and the Art of Skate-Skiing

Skate skiing is by no means as simple as skate skiers make it look!

Having my first season with the correct length of poles, which seem like terribly long implements to spear fish at great depths with, I am discovering that there is a lot of perspiration and panting for me to ‘keep the wheels going round’ and thus sustain forward motion. I have a lot of ‘puste pauser’ , I catch my poles inside my skis, i catch the odd outside edge and get whipped over, and I loose balance and tumble most often after a lapse in concentration while i consider taking one of those ‘puste-pauser’.

After a good deal of effort to learn and what felt like much progress, I realised I am putting too much energy into motion and thus not really skiing efficiently. it was time to deconstruct my skiing,. Firstly, set small goals over stretches of trail. Paddle up a small, steep gradient. Do it again if you stop half way or fall. Double dance down hill on long glides. Single dance to the right instead of my comfortable left. Skate downhill without using poles.

On that last point I decided to really deconstruct my skating and took up with a video I have had in my electricYouTube play later list for many years, and keep coming back to without actually doing much of what my namesake, keith Nicol, advocates. Free skating.

(embedd media later)

That just means without poles, but it is a technique in its own right, which shows how close it is to roller blading and old fashioned ice skating. Skate skis are ahem, inherently slippy. There aint no grip govenor. So getting going up a slight hill, a teensy weensy gradient, is at first daunting. Down hill is the opposite, the ski will glide nicely with only your weight as encouragement. But up hill is the challenge to test your locomotive efficiency in your legs and torso.

I learned traditional XC with poles, and it is a bad thing. Poles become like crutches for the man who has suddenly developed some form of atrophy of the entire motor nervous system. They are used to strike out to recover balance and to push in absence of proper traction down below. Poles seem like your best freind, saving you from the capriciousness of plastic planks which have taken control of all direction and speed from the waist down. I should have dumped the poles.

It seems more intuitive in trad’ to dump the poles and let your legs and feet propell you, thus giving you both a feel for how much pressure to lay downwards, and also a much better attention to balance. Skate skiing seemed not to quite work on the flat and uphill atelast without poles, and now that I can do a 5 minute warm up without poles in ‘kicking skis’ I reckoned there was no need to drop them for the ‘easier’ skating technique.

But finally I decided to follow the Guru, Keith Nicol, and go where I had no dared go before, into a realm of armless naievity, taking once again pure infant steps on the snow. Tentatively at first. The very slight uphill on the first anticlockwise trail section became like a slipper higher slope of Everest to ascend. it was a kind of duck walk on ice, struggeling to hold on as gravity was sudddenly perpendicular to its normal predisposition. Then I turned at the top of said tiresome ascent, and low and behold! I skated like a prince to a snow white, with nice long glides, and a good push off on the right hand side. My left side leg is the obvious weak point in terms of a non existent push off.

Turn and do it again. This time a little hip-paddling uphill when it felt right, and focuis on pushing off with the left. Too far backwards a push, as Keith Nicol adivses, the tip drags. Too bent a leg when trying to get a push off, forgetting to rise up on a near straight leg. Ah the penny drops, it is difficult to do the dobuoble spring thing !!! Leg bent, then straight on the rise, then bent to push off again. A little counter intuitive modulous no less. What happend next, well all day my right side got sronger on the push, and I was cutting perfect flat to edge tracks in the snow on that side. Thanks left for the tips, knew I was doing something right, bye for no!!

Keith Nicol has a cure for that, side to side hopping, which teaches balance , poise and muscle contraction for the push, which has a large side elemetn. At speed, the forces resolve themselves to forward motion vector, whereas if you push too far back, your tip and your body balance are lefta little behind too.

Another couple of token tootles without poles, Then I was strapped onto them again, with a feeling of control gained over the elements. But i perciveered and feathered my poles often. This gave me a new found confidence , as I could rely on poles for immediate propulsion while then going poleless to improve my various bads.

And that was a good focus. On the bads. I have come of an age when I now see that polishing away mistakes and working on weaknesses is like the slow and purposeful turning of a key in a lock. it is no longer the case that failings lead to frustration. Instead I listen to my betters. oft be they younger now, and the Keith Nicol Canadian Guru and understand how to spot my weaknesses and embrace them, rather than leaving them behind while putting focus on self satisfaction in my stronger sides or apparent progression. Like my sailing, the joy is in recognising faults and pondering , then practicinsg and then polishing them out. The road to perfection perhaps has no end, but one thing is for sure, short cuts past the small faults or over what should be the fundamental simplicities of an art, will never take you to your destination. Being watchful of our faults, like a master viewing a child, makes us eventually the master.

Today’s session was finished off with two goals. One to complete a circuit without stopping or falling or pondering in a pause, The other was to paddle up a short hill which is offset, and has defeated me before. I managed both with only minor faults , but knew i was far from perfect.

New Furry Soles Defying the Laws of Waxing

Like many I was sceptical to furry soled skis, the new inbuilt mohair skin style of skis which came on the market in this modern incarnation about 2010, but apparently their origins back in short skin ski adaptations in the days of hickory and pine. I wanted to suck it and see though, so jumped in at a bargain sale ofAtomic skintecs pre owned.

Today I set out with newly replaced skins on my Atomic 4000s. The old ones had become as patchy as the centre rear of my head is for hair, and I was just amazed at how much they had lost when the new set were glued in. We are talking the relative difference of bathroom carpet tiles to shag pile ! Today would be a real test because in theory, skinskis are not good at high altitude style cold snow, and the glide will be reduced by all that friction detractors talk about, No , no, like today’s Birkebeiner run, a good pair of blue wax skis with a soft pre spring in their bow should be ideal.

The only adjustment I made was to move the binding forward, on that other big innovation of the last few years, the NIS sliding system. This in theory gives better grip, while glide can be reduced relative to a middle to back placed binding. You can say though that no propulsion no glide though. So you need traction.

Immediately I noted that double pole with kick was a lot easier despite the cold and slighly loose snow in the tracks. Once again this technique could be taken as a kind of ‘keep the wheels rolling’ easy gear, to kind of scooter along to using all the main muscle groups in light, dealt out packets of energy, strung together in the three elements of propultsion. It used to be a common technique on the flat , but now doubel poling alone has proven more speed/energy effective for the pro level. It is a very powerful technique for the amateuir when they want to hold up a good speed or counter slight uphills on a flat or downhill course. It can be tuned up to the full combination of a dramatic thrust on the one ski, it being slifd forward prioer to the max loading and kick under the hips, with the weight on the poles and draw down with the body core., to the arm proopulsion from the knees or thighs backwards. It can also be a nice, light understated affair which can get you home if you have a slght injury or a loose binding on one ski. Today I found I could apply light pressure and get a nice extra propuision over doubel poleing along the flat.

Drivheia is then a course with a lot of uphill, most of which is luckily diagonal in techniuque applicaiton, with some short stretches of fishbone, and some contouring to get you around obstacles rather than over them. It presents a skier who has a season or two under their belt, with the challenge of a sustained climbing period, plus some exciting downhills with torturous corners and cambered traverses, all be these nicely driven and combed by a machine. My skis performed admirably in the conditions they are accused of not being good in. I could just raise my gate at the middles steep sections and jog a little, while my pace on the flattish contouring was realy good. No whixxing noise downhill neither.

Skating is often dooable on skin skis, witha quick over to paddeling to effect a climb over the top of something boring or with back slip in the tracks. Today though they did grab a little, is suspect a bit of icing going on, but when I took my nail brushg to deice them, they had almost none on tm.

Usually on this route in sub optimal conditins I get a few little back slip injuries or just some straining on the down hills, but today all i had was a crampy foot from a loosely tied boot. This took a lot of the joy of the long downhill section from the top fh hill away from me, but it was the fact I got back and felt l.ike I had done just a light little trou that was testimony to the kins working very well.

I like to Ski

I like skiing and skiing likes me. Me Gusta. Kross Kontri.

I have discovered that my so called training sessions are, well, pretty mediocre while I can count on a social ski being much rewarding in terms of plain enjoyment, and in fact technique development. I said before I seem to drop my shoulders and let myself go at a pace which is lower than my actual fitness level. But perhaps I am showing off when I try techniques, egged on by company, or perhaps I feel safer with someone to scrape me off a pine tree or limp home if I broke both skipoles?

I think in fact that I over concentrate when I set out to train. I try and push myself cardio wise, and then get lost in impatience with technique as I try and hack up ‘bakkeglatt’ ( slippy , wheel slip so to speak) hills or my poles disappear into deep snow ont he soft verges and i face plant during enthusiastic poling.

I have a level then at which I can either focus on technique or alternatively huff and puff. The latter is basically interval training then, while the former is kind of pushing the envelope of technique nice and gently while taking an easier training session. The hope is then that the latter then informs the former and I get a speed benefit.

Over time this is true, Those die hard pensioners with their sports skis and old style upperbody ‘staking’ and slow rythm diagonal, arms slung far ahead of their noses, are now a species I either overtake, or turn and take another round while they scurry homeward, The 60 kg rtacing snakes pole away from me, and usually make a point of accelerating but at least I go as fast as most of the other middle ages skiers and a good few of the new found 20 something skiers who suddenly are back into the sport, having meant it was naff through their teen years.

Skiing skate style across country is the big thing for me. That and, non unrelatedly, the advent of a much better type of waxless ski. In reality, skiing int he tramlines using diagonal technique, the kicking, striding classic style, is actually a kind of skating only completely parallel. The weight is pushed off one ski, not really kicked per se, and then you glide on the other ski with 100% weight helping ‘oil’ your way, on the sheen of water which allows an other wise crystaline phenonemon to melt and permit low friction progress.

This year I have been able to sew together a lot of the small bits of skate technique and built confidence in tackling different manoevres, and most importantly that critical ‘duration of glide’ feeling. I am far from competent in skating, having a left side paddle which is plainly wrong, and a right leg bias in powering off the skate. However it informs my whole experience and gives me more confidenceto free myselfof tramloines and, as I set out to do 15 years ago, take up mountian tour skiing.

The thing is that I appreciate my flaws, and see them as challenges to be overcome, with each little ounce of progress, or successful step turn, or speedy , fluid section of single dance skating, being a little triumph. Had I stuck to only classic I think I would not have developed skills and , like a pal of mine, been back in pensioner stuyle, my body refusing to unload one ski completely of my weight.

This year there has been some good snow, as with much of Northern Europe, which means that we have had little of the old track issues, where the base of the tramlines is always glassy and needs a real dump of snow to cover it up so fresh tracks can be made. So the soft snow has helped because it is more forgiving on a poorly placed ski, easier to ploough down your speed, softer when you fall, and of course it is slower in itself. So this and working only part time now, has been a boon to my skills and probably fitness.

Tours out with the family are often seen as pretty low input -output in terms of training. Folks, back up here, there is win-win. Firstly, pick somewhere with circuits and plenty of down hill. Then the focus can be on fun, and you can let the kids play

on the slopes or sledge as well as xc ski. A circuit means you can take off a bit at speed and know you can lap aroiund and come bCk to the kids. Join them then for the downhills , matching pace with them and egging them on, having races, and showing off a bit to set a role model.

On the subject of fitness, I think a lot of middle aged folk seem to think they can whizz out, and do some new fomr of training which gives maximum output for intense small packets of input. Some natrually high VO2 max people with a light , atheltic body type can get away with interval training and train at a once a week long tour, peaking then at some event such as the 70 km odd Birkebeiner at a longer distance than they have actually done in taining up. For many of us we forget that our youthful fitness was based on many hours of varied training, and we would build up fitness after injury or at the start of a new season. All that blood in the back of the throat, aching muscles and wincing blisters, and sore joints. Now it seems a little uncormforatable to go through this pain barrier. We dont egg on each other for fear we will be calling for the nearest heart-starter. We rationalise away performance as we do at work or with our marital success or abscence of it.

So stop and prioritise skiing and dont comprimise or try and cram in hard sessions, when most bodies need long, low intensity training.Buy a head torch and get out in your local ski runs, after the kids are in bed, all 1km loop of it. It is meditational and totally absorbing , and cheaper than therapists or career burn out.

,ncepercdtt ugmoh coenttoe.

, hdogotu lhbloneco tot nstiff painfgu uceandit, whle

Wonderful 12km of Skiing in Vegarshei

I find more and more that the days I set off to go on a social tour at a light pace end up being the days I am most satisfied with practicing technique and testing some little high intensity nano sprints. Thursday was a day off this week, and the sun threatened to shine, although the combination of -13c and 25 mph winds was always going to be a bit of a challenge when we got up to the exposed moor.

Vegarshei has not been my favourite place, while I have been there quite often because it is other people’s favourite. It provides what you could call a varied tour, but they run it clockwise so the hill climbing is nearly all fishbone. You then have short and few opportunities for diagonal technique (aka kicking) after the stadium is behind you, until the breif 2km round the boggy moor, which so often has defied the piste machine by not freexing deeply enough in recent years. In winter it transforms to a fast section, a ribbon of sensibility on an otherwise ‘rollercoaster’ style route.

A tour at 11am in Norway risks just what I had anticipated, someone wants to start a bonfire and grill hotdogs, and eat oranges and the kitkat copy KwikLunsj. I am not a fan of this with any km to do at all, and the lean to hut is about 2/3rds of the way round with the longest hill of the day being the sting in the tail1500m or so before your reach your terminus.

The steepest hill, where the skate skiers had reverted to ‘labbing’ up in fish bone too.

It had really dawned on me that my skintec skis would fall short of gripping – they are a little balding like me, and lucky for their middle age, a new set of skins is on order. They dont like the cold, loose snow, and the softness of the snowbase does not suit my hard bow tension skis. So I elected to take my older touring skis, which have three season old (applied but little used in this case) Start Grip tape. It gave some grip, but the new snow hadnicely drifted in a kind of micro catastrophe for the nicely lain tramlines. The skis dont track or rather I dont track well on the harder, rilled mid lane, and we all reverted to skating as often as possible to keep a pace on. Infact the conditions were ‘green wax’ with blue picking up too much , and my grip tape being like velcro gathers nasal fluff!

The skating and ski control in corners went very well, and i even did some paddeling ( a much nicer and appropos name for what is V1 Offset in English circles) Also I managed some fast fishboning and concentrated on relaxing my upperr body and arms a bit , an area I often find tires me. Down hill the tramlines were still like going on axminister deep shag pile carpet, with the need to rock back onto heels to keep the skis floating, and that not being very satisfactory in the soft base conditions. It was much more fun to come out of the spor and go downhill in the Frans Klammer style! ploughing worked well, which is good because there are a few really tight spots with very steep drops into corners. This all went satisfactorily. Only the first rollercoaster prove problematicon a fuill stomach , three sausages and some scoff sweeties. Here I strayed into a drift and canned out on my back side. Which disappointed me, but those steep and twisty sections made up for that as I managed to keep control.

It wasnt long, and in time elapsed on skis it was shorter, to get back tot he car. I had set out to have a bit of a plodding, classic diagonal day, and it had ended up being all about skating, feeling of fitness gained this last month or two, and downhill control. Oh and just the fun of dropping shoulders and not getting too seaty on what was a splittingly cold day as soon as you had the fuillbrunt of the wind in your face. Man Friday and Lady Satruday emjoyed it a lot too, and I was ratherjealusof them both having bath tubs at respective homes to sink into, me havbing only a shower cabinet and inch of depth max possible.