Q: When I ski classic I often hear my ski tails clap when they hit the snow. Why is this? What am I doing wrong?
A: You’ll hear your skis clap when they’re setting down onto the snow too abruptly. I guess that I shouldn’t use the term “setting down,” as they’re actually landing quickly and smacking down hard. An analogy which I heard from my high school coach, John Schauer, is an airplane touching down: You want to drive onto the ski smoothly and gradually transfer your weight onto the ski (like an experienced pilot in good weather hopefully lands your plane), with the “runway” starting approximately where the ski that’s hooking up with the snow is set. When you’re “landing” your ski behind the runway, you often hear that clap; it’s because your weight is too far back, maybe because your balance isn’t great, or maybe because you don’t have your hips high and far enough forward.
A really basic exercise that can help with this is the scooter drill, where you stand with one ski (or rollerski) on one foot, with just a boot on the other. Use the boot as a proxy for the ski you’re kicking from – the goal is to have a solid platform to kick off of. Drive smoothly forward onto the ski/rollerski, and balance on it as it glides forward. Practice gliding with your arms and legs at fully extended positions, with your hips and torso high and slightly forward, as in a good photograph of a classic skier. Once the ski slows down or stops, reset and practice the kick-drive-glide cycle again. You will hear that smacking sound if you set the ski down behind the boot foot (runway) too early, and the noise should settle down as you get better at controlling the approach to snow.
Occasionally, I’ve also heard people’s skis make this noise if the tracks are frozen really hard and they have a big hip rotation while kicking; their skis begin entering the track angled ~15˚ away from the tracks, and as they come down, they “snap” on the snow dividing the tracks before settling in. We generally work on keeping the core/hips somewhat stable, so the ski is traveling more straight forward. Having a stable core allows the legs and arms to work more efficiently, with the side effect of quieting things down.
Jason Cork / Men’s Coach / US XC Ski Team
(source credit: SkiPost.com)