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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.