Skate into better cross-country ski technique

By Alan Boraas, for the Redoubt Reporter

Editor’s note: This is part three of a series of columns explaining the techniques of cross-country skiing. Part one, Dec. 5, and part two, Dec. 12, focused on classic skiing. They can be found at http://www.redoubtreporter.wordpress.com.

To say one is skating through life means they are taking it easy, not putting forth much effort and coasting along through whatever twists and bumps come. That is decidedly not the case when the term skating refers to a style of cross-country skiing, but for those who master this speedy, smooth technique, they will fly along the trails, looking to others as though they just might be coasting through the air.

Skate, also called freestyle, skiing utilizes a “V” or diagonal stride, similar to ice skating or in-line roller-skating. It uses lighter, narrower skies, longer ski poles and more reinforced boots and is best done on wide, groomed trails. Skate skiing can be a faster and more glide-efficient means of motion over the forward foot kick motion of classic skiing.

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. Jonathan Jessup, of Skyview High School, demonstrates the skate-skiing V1 technique, particularly useful for climbing hills.

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. Jonathan Jessup, of Skyview High School, demonstrates the skate-skiing V1 technique, particularly useful for climbing hills.

There are three primary techniques to skate skiing: V1, V2 and V2 alternate.

  • V1 is used on uphills, especially steep climbs, though can also be used on flats. This is the first technique a beginning skate skier should learn. In V1, both poles and one ski hit the snow at the same time and the skier follows through and glides. One arm plants a pole a little forward of the body, and the other a little farther back, so that the arm planting the forward pole is higher — known as the “hang arm” — and the farther back arm is the low arm. The ski on the same side as the hang arm hits the snow in conjunction with the poles, and the skier then steps onto the opposite ski and glides without poling.

    Sadie Fox, of Soldotna High School, uses the V1 skate technique to climb a hill at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview.

    Sadie Fox, of Soldotna High School, uses the V1 skate technique to climb a hill at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview.

  • V2 is primarily used on flats and gentle downhills, and strong skiers use this technique on uphills. In the V2 technique, the shoulders are perpendicular to the snow and the direction you are going, unlike V1 where one shoulder is higher than the other at the pole plant. The skier plants both poles with each stride, starting the pole a moment before the ski hits the snow. The rhythm is pole/step…pole/step…pole/step. With each pole there is significant compression using abdominal muscles. This technique requires you be able to glide equally well on both left and right skis and hold the glide until the moment you start to slow. This is the fastest technique because it is most efficient at high tempo. It’s also the most tiring. Only strong skiers can use it going up hills.

    Dillon Jensen, of Soldotna High School, launches down the finish chute using V2 technique, good for speed on flat trail.

    Dillon Jensen, of Soldotna High School, launches down the finish chute using V2 technique, good for speed on flat trail.

  • V2 alternate is used on rolling terrain and uphills. V2 alternate is similar to V2, with the exception the skier poles every other (alternate) stride. If you are right dominant, you would pole a moment before stepping onto your right ski, hold the glide, then skate onto your left ski without poling, hold the glide, then pole/step on the right side. The rhythm is pole/step…step…pole/step…step… .

Next up, we’ll continue our tips on technique with a look at the Seven Magic Movements of Cross-County Skiing, skate style.

Alan Boraas is a longtime skier, one of the designers of Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School, and a former ski coach at Skyview.

 

Mika Morton, of Skyview, plants her poles with her shoulders level, a stance used in V2 and V2 alternate.

Mika Morton, of Skyview, plants her poles with her shoulders level, a stance used in V2 and V2 alternate.

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