by Gus Kaeding
The early season transition from roller skiing to snow skiing is an important time. Coming up here to altitude (West Yellowstone, MT) we start with a few days of easy skiing, usually classic because it’s easier to keep the heart rate a bit lower than skate skiing. We generally start with 3 to 4 days of easy skiing, twice a day, no more than two hours per a session. Then we start to mix in some Level 3 intensity. Emphasis is on keeping the intervals relaxed and balanced to gain comfort on the skis. During the first transition to snow you want to make sure that you are comfortable on your feet. We do a lot of balance and coordination drills, no pole skiing is the most important thing you can do in you first week to two weeks of the transition.
The transition to on snow classic skiing revolves around the kick phase. On roller skis there is kick regardless of technical prowess. Thus, we are very critical of a roller ski induced “late kick.” The goal is to achieve good weight transfer and to drive the ski down into the ground (not back). A good way to practice this is a running drill: start running without poles, while running add in poles, then go into a full stride. It is impossible to run on your skis without them being directly under you, which is right where you want them to be when kicking. During the transition to snow, an easy indicator of a late kick is if you find yourself using warmer kick wax than is called for. Additionally, remember that once the kick pocket leaves the snow it is useless. So don’t let the ski come up too high behind you after a completed kick. To fix this, focus on driving the leg forward. As a byproduct, a strong and proper leg drive will also contribute to a correct kick phase.
With regards to skating, a good way to start is without any poles. Feel free to swing your arms to simulate V1, V2 alternate, and V2. You may also keep the arms and upper body quiet, with a focus on the lower body; this really helps for weight shift. We are very conscientious to make sure there is a full weight transfer. Lots of times on roller skis there is a hesitancy to get full weight shift because of the fear of falling. The snow is more forgiving then hard pavement. We encourage skiers to consistently reach past their comfort zone on skis. A couple helpful activities are to set up a challenging obstacle course or ski games which emphasize ducking, dodging, etc. Remember the main goal for the first week on snow is making sure you are comfortable on your skis.
After we feel we have our feet squarely under us, we introduce some intensity in form of a Level 3 workout. Additionally, the first Level 4 sessions should be taken a bit easier than normal. It is important to be ready for the first race of the season but, use your first competition to gain comfort going fast. The most important part of early season skiing is gaining comfort and balance on your skis at all speeds and in all conditions.