Marathon Skier Magazine

Telling stories about people, events, phenomena, training and tools. The Marathon Skier Magazine gives its readers the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of marathon skiing.



Find out about Finnish marathons JÄMI42, TERVAHIIHTO, exotic USHUAIA LOPPET and MARCHABLANCA in Argentina, largest DOLOMITENLAUF and SAPPORO INTERNATIONAL, as well as ultra marathon NORDENSKIÖLDSLOPPET.

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How to Peak for Racing for Beginners

by Karmen M. Whitham, CXC Skiing

My suggestion for any relatively new cross-country ski racer is to build the endurance foundation first, with A LOT of true level 1 volume. The time to do this is in the spring and summer and then come back to it for a short period after the fall intensity block. This allows you to put in major hours on snow and absorb the work you’ve just put in from your intensity training. Paying attention to the aerobic foundation is paramount at the beginning of your skiing career because it builds a foundation of fitness that acts as a spring board for anaerobic training. It’s the difference between building a house with a cement basement “foundation” vs. just sticking some plywood and drywall into the dirt. You’ve got to have something to keep you strong and stable.


There is a caveat of losing speed however. Therefore, it is advised that you add simple speeds (fartlek) to your distance workouts. For junior athletes I like to surprise them with 15-30 second sprints during distance or over-distance workouts. I like this method because it also creates playful competition which reminds us why we love to mess around on skis in the first place. Alternatively, you can strategically plan sprints into distance workouts, for example, add 5×30 second speeds (take a minute between each to get the heart rate back to level 1) in the middle of a 2- hour ski or run.

If you keep distance workouts (with speeds) as the foundation of your training (4-6x a week) and add level 3 and level 4 workouts 2-3 times a week, you should not jeopardize your endurance capacity. In training blocks where level 3 and 4 are the primary focus, make sure you are still doing one over-distance workout per week. These workouts are designed to be at true level 1 in order to build mitochondria for oxygen transportation thus maintaining your aerobic fitness.

As for sprint workouts that are effective, I’m a big fan of “mock-sprint days” where you have a qualifier, and three more sprints after that with about 5-minutes of active recovery between them. Not only does this help build anaerobic fitness it also sets an environment for mental preparedness that will get the athlete ready for sprint competitions. Otherwise 1-km relays, time-based ladders, and distance based ladders are other ways to construct sprint, level 4 and level 3 intervals to promote anaerobic capabilities.

To train to be a cross-country skier means you are creating fitness in every aspect of human performance. You should think of training as an interplay between strengthening the aerobic and anaerobic systems as opposed to training either exclusively. That said, you may shift your attention to simply emphasize one system over the other, to coincide with the goal of your respective training period.

CXC’s Center of Excellence Seeks to ‘Study Latest Innovations in the Sport’


A glance into any one of the glass windows lining the east side of Central Cross Country (CXC) Academy’s Center of Excellence building might give the impression of the average athlete gym. But if you step across the front threshold or take a peek at the academy’s 360-degree virtual online tour and sport science page, you’ll find much more than treadmills, stationary bikes and medicine balls.


Located in Madison (WI) the CXC Center of Excellence also houses a 10-by-12-foot rollerski treadmill, SkiErgs, and an in-house-made, power-pole machine. For many, though, equipment is not the most powerful tool in the center. Rather, it’s the center’s capacity to evaluate and educate its members and non-members alike about Nordic skiing.

Currently, the Center of Excellence offers performance evaluations, as well as fitness testing for lactate and VO2max using the oversized treadmill. Recorded and individualized technique coaching sessions on the rollerski treadmill are also available for those willing to pay $150 dollars per hour. To help athletes gain a better understanding of their body within sport, the center is also presently working on developing a biomechanical analysis software.

img_9639The rollerski treadmill at the CXC Academy Center of Excellence

And CXC recently hired a sport development and education director, Egor Akimov, CXC head coach Andy Keller explained on the phone.

“He’s got a bachelor’s and PhD from the Russian State University in physical education and sport, majored in human physiology, and competed over in Russia, and then he served on the Moscow Center of advanced sports technology as the head of the science department,” Keller said. “He’s done a lot of research over in Russia on the biomechanics and things of that nature. He’s leading our center [in Madison], doing a lot of the sessions down there and the technique work.”

According to the CXC Executive and Athletic Director Yuriy Gusev, the Center of Excellence is approximately 90 percent complete. Anyone from CXC club members, to donors, to CXC team members, and the general public, can access the center at no cost. Rollerski treadmill evaluations cost CXC clubs $250 per day, $150 per hour for all others.

“We are finalizing a few more partnerships on the sports science program and equipment but will start performing studies in cross country skiing this coming fall,” Gusev wrote in an email. “Our goal is to have top sports science facility to study latest innovations in the sport, potential application in cross country skiing to improve training, recovery and performance.”



Cross-Country Skiing at Passo Dello Stelvio (Stelvio Pass)

Passo dello Stelvio is strongly associated with the annual multiple-stage bicycle race  – Giro d’Italia. The Grand Tour route regularly passes through this legendary 2,758-meter pass, which is one of the highest in Europe. It turns out that Stelvio is also a summer resort that is endowed with a marvelous small glacier and excellent conditions for cross-country skiing on three routes.


Stelvio Pass connects Bormio (Valtellin Valley) with Bolzano and Innsbruck at a total of 180 kilometers from Milan along the border with Switzerland. In addition, from Bormio, one can reach Livigno and Santa Caterina – both well-known alpine ski resorts. Despite the availability of relatively inexpensive accommodation at the pass (with rates starting from as low as 35 Euro), skiers mainly choose to take up residency near Bormio, namely in Valdidentro. This point is situated at a height of 1350 m above sea level, and has a 2.5-kilometer ski roller track, with a single room costing from as low as 15 Euros per night.

Stelvio Pass itself is open to drive-through traffic only from late May to early November, since it receives significantly heavy doses of snow during the winter. Here, one can also go skiing on a 6.5-kilometer ‘Folgore’ track` that is located at an altitude of 2700-2750 meters. However, this is possible only near the end of June, when the snow finally begins to melt here, and from October to December, when it begins to snow again. This treat of a lifetime costs a mere 7 Euro.


Skiers can later get on top of the glacier and ski there until November. They need to be lifted up on two hoisting devices up to the 5-kilometer Livrio (3170 meters) track, or up to the 7 kilometers Cristallo (3,250 meters) track. Here, the cost of skiing is significantly higher, and may vary between 20 to 31 Euro per day.

Stelvio weather can be capricious. Therefore, it is important to monitor the forecast, because chances are one might have to ski in wet snow, or the pass may be completely closed for travel. In addition, the ski service should be notified only if there are more than five people preparing to go out and ski, so that the trails can be prepared accordingly.

A little history of the pass.

The original road was built around 1820-25 by the Austrian Empire, in order to link the former Austrian province of Lombardia with the rest of Austria. The project manager was an Italian engineer by the name of Carlo Donegani (1775-1845).

Due to the harsh weather and environmental conditions under which the road was constructed, the project was accompanied by a large number of victims among the workers. The number of people employed in the construction of the road during the busiest periods easily reached 2500. It took 63 months to complete the project. A commemorative tablet was erected in front of the entrance to the first tunnel near the Bagni Vecchi, in memory of all those who died during the construction.

Since then, the road has undergone minor changes. It has 75 sharp turns, of which 48 are located on the northern side (in the direction of Prato Allo Stelvio). Most of the stones are numbered, challenging motorists’ skills.

Before the end of the First World War, the road actually served as the border between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. Switzerland also had its outpost and the hotel (which was destroyed) at Dreisprachenspitze (literally, “the peak of the three languages”).

During the First World War, the fighting forces engaged in fierce battles with artillery fire in this area, often encroaching on Swiss territory. Afterwards, the three countries signed an agreement not to fire a single round of ammunition on the territory of Switzerland. This treaty was signed between Austria (in the north) and Italy (in the south). After 1919, with the expansion of Italy, the pass lost its strategic importance. Currently, the Stelvio Pass remains an important place for sport and tourism.

On the way to the top of the pass from Bormio are four houses that were built during the construction of the road in the nineteenth century. They were open all year round and provided food and firewood, acting as a kind of hotel for tourists, where they could find shelter on their way. Near one of the houses is a memorial dedicated to the fallen heroes of World War I.

Source: Перевал Стельвио открылся для лыжных тренировок

Related: If You Go: Passo dello Stelvio (Faster Skier)

The Benefit of Bringing Heart Rate Down Between Interval Sets

The recovery period between intervals is an extremely important part of the workout. It allows us to focus on pushing that race pace without overstressing the body. By breaking up that workload we are able to spend more time in that Level 4 zone without the lingering effects of a full length race effort.

The 120 bpm mark is set to be solidly in Level 1 territory for athletes of all abilities and is used as a mark to show that full recovery is attained between interval sets. One sign of potential overtraining is an inability to recover between sets (an elevated heart rate for many minutes longer than expected). That being said, the 120 bpm mark is arbitrary and not specific to you. We would expect that you take at least 2 min to recover between each interval or until your heart rate is back to Level 1.

Swapping Out Ski-Specific Activities for Alternative Exercise Modes

Q: It’s difficult to get a rollerski in after work. I would like to swap out ski specific activities for running. Is there a percentage that I should scale down the amount of activity time?

A: We do not believe that you will need to scale down the workout between skiing and running, unless however you have a problem with handling the load of running for that long. For example, during one of the running interval workouts, with warm-up and cool down, the workout should take between 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes, depending on how long it takes you to recover to 120 bpm. If you are able to handle a run of that length, keep it that way. If not, drop a few of the interval workouts (about 2-3) and that should bring the workout length down.


Q: I see you mention a bike workout as substitute on the weekends even though you label the weekend as specific Over Distance. Is this in case you can’t rollerski somewhere?

A: The alternative workouts are given as another option for people to do if they would rather bike or ski. Obviously, doing more ski specific training will be better for skiing, but keeping a variety of different modes of exercise in your training is a great way to keep working out exciting and not overworking the body in the same way. We would suggest maybe every other weekend, if you would like to, switching up the mode in which you do your long workouts.

Specific Strength Workout Pick-Ups

Specific Strength – Building strength and power using ski specific activities (i.e. double pole, single pole, Concept2 Ski Erg, etc). Specific strength is almost exclusively done on skis/rollerskis, and the movements are always ski related. The workout is often done on an uphill to add resistance.

To understand specific strength, think of it as a strength workout on skis. You will perform a certain number of sets and repetitions and progress to harder resistances (inclines) as you become stronger.

Specific Strength Workout Pick-Ups – Pick-ups done during specific strength workout. Those are not race pace or higher intensity.

Intensity and Recovery Period – Proper technique is the most important component in specific strength, not intensity. If you feel good, go a little harder. If you feel tired, go a little slower.

For the specific strength workout we want you to complete (for instance 11x3min of double pole pickups) with equal, active recovery. What that means is that you should continue to ski easy during your rest using double polling as well as striding for three minutes in-between sets. Be sure to do this workout on rolling terrain. These are not meant to be top end speed drills, they are meant to increase your ski specific strength. Doing these on a gradual climb can be very beneficial.