Coach’s Corner — By Alan Boraas, for the Redoubt Reporter
The Seven Magic Movements of Cross-Country Skiing describe the posture, positions and movements that are key for efficient ski technique. The same basic skills of balance, core strength and good posture apply to both classic- and skate-style skiing. But the back-and-forth motion of classic skiing is different enough from the diagonal motion of skating to warrant separate sets of magic movements.
The first four of the following movements are the same regardless of skating technique, whether it’s V1 to get up hills, or V2 or V2 alternate to achieve speed on flatter terrain.
No. 1 — Athletic posture. Knees should be bent, with a slight bend at the waist and the back slightly rounded forward, not arched back. Eyes should be forward, with the neck, jaw and shoulders relaxed. The steeper the uphill, the lower you need to be to fully utilize your leg muscles.
Common problem: If your stance is too upright, try strength training. Also consider the length of your ski poles. If poles are too tall they will force a skier to stay too upright. On snow, skate poles should reach to your chin. On a floor with street shoes, poles should hit between your lips and nose.
- No. 2 — Forward lean. Flex at the ankles, not the waist. A forward lean should initiate a kick with a momentary feeling of free fall, then shift your weight onto the other ski with a powerful leg thrust and glide. The steeper the hill, the more forward lean is needed to adjust to the hill angle.
Common problem: If your stance is too upright, make sure your poles aren’t too long. Also practice keeping your feet together, leaning forward, bending at the ankles and stepping onto the gliding ski.
- No. 3 — Kick. As weight is shifted onto the gliding ski with a powerful forward drive (at an angle to the direction of travel), the opposite ski is edged and pushed at a right angle to the direction of travel. Do not rotate your hips to push the ski back, particularly on uphills, which will cause your torso to twist with every step and waste energy. Keep your heel on the ski during the kick and kick with a flat foot, not your toe. As you
get stronger, finish with a “pop” — a little extra thrust, especially on uphills.
Common problem: Standing too upright and not getting enough power on the kick. Try achieving a lower athletic stance (as in No. 1).
Common problem: Hips rotate in a late kick, rather than hips being perpendicular to the direction of travel. Practice skiing with poles behind your back, and check hips for rotation.
- No. 4 — Glide. Weight should be completely
transferred to the gliding ski, but the hips and torso remain perpendicular to the direction of travel. The toe, knee and collarbone should be aligned. Glide on a flat ski and bring your nongliding foot completely in to the center to prepare for the next kick.
Common problem: Can’t hold a glide. Practice no-pole skiing and holding a glide as long as possible, and glide down a gentle hill on one ski to practice balance.
- No. 5 — Compression. Bending at the waist drives the poles backward and the skier forward. This is particularly important in V2 and V2 alternate. On flats, fully extend your poles for maximum efficiency. On uphills, shorten the extension and quicken the tempo.
Common problem: No compression. Practice double-poling without skating to build abdominal muscles
- No. 6 — Pole plant. Arms should be bent at a 60-degree angle or less, not kept straight out. Viewed from the side poles should be planted at a forward angle. Viewed from the front, poles should be vertical or angled slightly to the centerline. In V1, shoulders should not be hunched on the pole arm. In V2
and V2 alternate, the pole plant comes just before stepping onto the gliding ski.
Common problem: Arms are too straight. Bend the arms to a comfortable position, as though pulling down on a rope.
Common problem: Pole shoulder(s) are hunched. Relax the shoulders.
- No. 7 — Arm swing. The arm swing establishes tempo. On flats, use a slower tempo but longer glide. On hills, use a faster tempo, shorter glide and lower posture. Arms should be extended according to the desired tempo with a longer arm extension for a slower tempo and shorter arm extension for a faster tempo on uphills or for speed.
Common problem: No follow-through and arms collapse when poling. Work on strength training and practice pole-only skiing.
Common problem: Poles “flop” or “fly” behind you. Adjust pole straps to make sure they are tight enough.
Alan Boraas is a longtime skier, one of the designers of Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School, and a former ski coach at Skyview.