Coach’s Corner: First climb up, next glide down

By Alan Boraas, for the Redoubt Reporter

Uphill and downhill technique between classic and skate, or freestyle, cross-country skiing is much the same in some respects. Gravity is gravity, and exertion is needed to overcome it. But the devil, and differences, is in the details.

Uphill

Skate skiing technique for skiing uphill is modulated depending on the angle of the hill. The steeper the hill, the quicker the tempo, the shorter the arm swing and the shorter the glide.

Soldotna High School skiers crouch into different degrees of tucks to get down a hill during the Homer Invitational ski meet on Dec. 16.

Soldotna High School skiers crouch into different degrees of tucks to get down a hill during the Homer Invitational ski meet on Dec. 16.

The same, step-glide technique holds true for uphills as it does for flats — step up the hill, then glide on the opposite ski. The pattern is just sped up into a quicker tempo with shorter steps and glides to maintain speed

.

Step wider and squat lower to get more leg power, and bend at the ankles to create a forward lean into the hill to compensate for steepness.

The steeper the hill, the more you should repeat this mantra: “lower, shorter, quicker.”

Downhill

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. A Kenai Central skier lowers into a high tuck Jan. 12. during the 2013 Skyview Invitational high school ski meet at Tsalteshi Trails.

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. A Kenai Central skier lowers into a high tuck Jan. 12. during the 2013 Skyview Invitational high school ski meet at Tsalteshi Trails.

With going downhill, master the tuck. A lower tuck, in a low crouch, is faster, while a higher tuck with knees not as bent, is slower. The tuck position lowers the center of gravity and makes skiers more aerodynamic. Keep a wide stance for more stability.

  • Step turns: To turn while going downhill, a skier can modify a snowplow. But to turn quickly requires a step turn. To execute a step turn, bend your legs to lower your center of gravity. Look in the direction you want to go, which will turn your torso and cause you to edge your skis. Shift your weight to the outside ski, turn the inside ski and drive it in the direction you want to go, pushing with the outside leg. Then quickly bring the outside ski parallel to the inside ski. Repeat as needed and practice on gentle hills, working up (or down, in this case) to steeper slopes.
  • Control speed: If need be, use a snowplow or half snowplow to control your speed on the straight part of the downhill, and then step the turn.
  • Kelty Fair, Skyview, steps around a corner in the Skyview Invite on Jan. 12 at Tsalteshi Trails.

    Kelty Fair, Skyview, steps around a corner in the Skyview Invite on Jan. 12 at Tsalteshi Trails.

    Other turns: The snowplow turn is slow, unstable, becomes automatic and causes the trail to deteriorate, so use it only when absolutely necessary. Another option is telemark turns, but those tend to tear up the trails and when the snow sets up, makes grooming difficult. There is no reason to telemark on groomed trails.

Lastly, don’t worry so much about technique that you forget to have fun.

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

SoHi skier Dillon Jensen step turns around a corner during the Skyview Invite Jan. 12. Below is Travis Cooper, KCHS, at the same spot.

SoHi skier Dillon Jensen step turns around a corner during the Skyview Invite Jan. 12. Below is Travis Cooper, KCHS, at the same spot.

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