Q: My question concerns foot (ski?) turnover speed. As a long time runner, one of the areas I often work on is maintaining a high foot turnover, which is important whether running sprints or a marathon. I’ve read that one of the reasons Usain Bolt is as fast as he is because, even though he is relatively tall for a sprinter and therefore has a longer stride length, his turnover is the same as or better than his shorter-limbed competitors. Therefore, even though his foot speed is roughly equivalent to the competition, each stride is longer so he travels further at the same turnover rate.
How does one approach turnover speed versus glide in skiing? Is there a point where moving your feet or skis too quickly reduces ones glide length to the extent it reduces efficiency or speed?
A: In short, yes. There is a point where moving your skis too quickly reduces glide efficiency. This is often why coaches advise against “coming off the ski too quickly”. In essence, you want to create enough initial power immediately prior to the glide phase so that you can ride the ski with the remains of that initial impulse of energy. Executing that preliminary power phase too timidly results in a dead ski, which is often over-compensated by transferring your bodyweight over to the other ski quickly. Pretty soon you are going from foot-to-foot like a hot potato without allowing yourself to travel along on-top of the ski with minimal effort. Of course, there are times when it becomes more efficient to increase your tempo, transferring your bodyweight more rapidly, such as on a steep uphill.
On the flip side, you don’t want to over-extend your glide. Simply put, you want to avoid letting the glide of your ski become too slow before you initiate the next stride, a bit of momentum needs to remain. The trick is in the timing; after enough practice you will gain an intuitive sense for what the best turnover rate is according to terrain and conditions.
Good luck, happy trails!