Bliz Cycling and Nordic Sunglasses

Q: What is the difference between Bliz Cycling and Nordic sunglasses?

A: The key Bliz cycling glass are the Velo XT and Velo XT small face. Cycling is considered by Bliz a High speed sport where you want most to all wind going around the lens and face. So the Velo XT wraps the face completely and tightly and also the top brow of the frame sits high on the face so you do not see it when you are deep in the drops.

The Force (for larger faces) and Rapid (for smaller faces) are the key Nordic sunglasses. Cross country skiing and (running) are considered by Bliz to be medium speed sports where you want a bit of ventilation between the lens and the eyes to eliminate fogging and reduce face heat. So these frames are positioned slightly farther off the face than the Velo XT with lens shapes that allow a bit of face ventilation.

All of the Bliz Glasses have adjustable nose pieces and temple arms so you can micro adjust the position for your ideal fit and ventilation. You can wear the Velo in Nordic, they will just not be as fog free at the Rapid and Force even when positioned close to the face. You can wear the Rapid and Force for cycling, they might not be as wind free even when positioned closer to the face.

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Longer vs. Regular Length Classic Poles and Double Poling

Q: I’ve seen that classic seems to be going to poling entire races. I wonder if it’s worth using longer poles in classic races where poling may not be the best approach (hills at 8000 feet…)

A: It is typical to use longer poles (about skate-pole height) for courses where double-poling is primary. On courses where striding is more prevalent, it is best to stay with regular length classic poles. Note that in races that are being scored for points, there is a height restriction for classic poles to be 83% of body height, but if you are not participating in races that are regulated-this requirement would be a non-issue.

Here is an article talking about pole height that you may be interested in:

Karmen M. Whitham
CXC Development Coach

Study Looks At Different Pole Lengths For Double Poling

Norwegian Professor Thomas Losnegard recently published a study comparing different pole lengths for double poling.

Nine athletes were subjected to two 1000 m tests at a 2.5% incline on a roller ski treadmill, one with poles that were 84% of body height, the other with poles that were 88% of body height. With the longer poles, the subjects consumed less oxygen, however the difference translated to only about 1%, which, according to Losnegard, one could not see or feel.

In comparing this study with two other studies which looked at different length poles on varying terrain (as opposed to just a gradual uphill, which was the case in Losnegard’s study), the general consensus is that slightly longer poles are best for double poling at low to medium speeds (i.e. on uphills and slower flats), while the shorter poles are better on faster flats and downhills.


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Sergey Ustyugov About Training


Sergey Ustyugov gave an extended interview to the “Ski Sport” magazine. is publishing the most interesting answers of Sergey about strength training, abnormal racing heartbeat levels, distance tactics, proper nutrition and selection of correct length of poles.

Is it necessary to control the heartbeat rate during training?

— Before I joined our regional team, I was training with my personal coach and we didn’t pay too much attention to the heartbeat rate, but we were still measuring it occasionally. When I finally joined the regional team, they gave us personal heart rate monitors and we were training, strictly controlling our heartbeat rate. We were severely criticized for any violation of heartbeat zones… Today main principles are pretty same, i.e. we pass an examination, which allow us to identify heartbeat zones, which we have to observe during training sessions in future. So, I think that it’s necessary to observe your heartbeat rate and use it as a reference point.

What is your opinion about training at high altitude?

— Each person has one great altitude value, which allows him or her to show amazing results and feel the pump after reaching it, but there is also altitude, which simply kills all your feelings when you reach it and you literally feel nothing. To tell the truth, I like to run after high altitude training camps and competitions, and all my best results were shown exactly after such high altitude mountain training camps. For example, before I won four out of four races during the World Junior Championship in Turkey, we were training in Bulgarian Belmeken. I was feeling great, even though Turkey had a pretty high altitude too. Another example, before winning the sprint race for the first time during the World Cup in the city of Nove Mesto, we were training at “Khmelevsky Lakes”, which is a mountain range located next to the “Laura” mountain ski complex in Sochi. It also has high altitude, which gives me great pump effect. I was also going down to Sochi from there and I felt great difference, even though the altitude change was somewhere around one hundred meters.

Which length of skis and poles do you use for classic races? Are these values different for long distance runs or sprints (or the same)?

— If we take just a classic ski race, without taking city sprint into account, poles have to be 157,5 cm in length and skis – 207 cm. And if we consider such things as sprints in Drammen or Stockholm, I can say that I use a little bit longer poles. This year during the Stockholm sprint race, Nikita Kryukov discovered that I was going to use longer poles, thus he asked me to give him my old ones, which were slightly longer than his own. I gave him my poles; he used them in race and even won that competition.

What is your normal heartbeat rate at standstill state (in the morning) and in the peak condition (before competitions)?

— I can’t measure my heartbeat rate every morning, but usually it’s around 38-40 beats per minute. Sometimes, my heart rate monitor is showing 42-43 beats per minute right before I start my training.

What is your average and maximum heartbeat rate during 10-15 km races?

— It always depends on my current state of health. Values during one race can reach 195-196 for the average heartbeat rate and 207-208 for maximum, like it was this year. But usually my average heartbeat rate is 185 and maximum one is 203-204 beats per minute.

Do you train on the bile during the off-season?

— I was using it last year, but this year my knee started to disturb me during such workouts, thus I switched to cross running.

One more question, what do you eat right before races start?

— We eat a lot of macaroni and pasta. We were eating it all summer and autumn. Probably, I will remember that forever. We were eating, eating and eating… Of course, there were different products, but the main part of our diet was taken with pasta (he’s smiling). If we are talking about special sport drinks, then I can say that during multiday races we use special carbloaders. We have no restrictions in our nutrition program. Isabel and Reto explained us that it’s much better to eat properly during our breakfast, lunch and dinner than come back to our rooms and eat something sweet or go to a café in the evening to have a cup of coffee with donuts. We have to be full before starting our training.

Isabel prepares a special drink for us during races. I can’t tell its name for sure, but I think it’s Vitargo Electrolyte. I was always telling her that I didn’t want to drink it, because it was making my mouth extremely dry, but she was telling that it was a normal reaction. During long distance races you have to drink a lot in order to avoid “drying” of your body and maintain maximum performance. And in 10 kilometers before the finish line we drink Coca-Cola. Many athletes are drinking Coca-Cola with activators during marathon races.

What do you mean “with activators”?

— Those are special substances, which we add to our drinks, e.g. guarana.

Sergey, what do you think is the secret of an overwhelming superiority of Norwegian skiers these days?

— Skiing is in their blood.



How can I tell if I am using too long of skate poles?

General rule of thumb that I use and I have seen others use as well. Take your height in cm and multiply it by .92

So I am right around 182 cm which means I ski a 167.5 pole. I tend to like a little taller pole so there is a little bit of personal preference to it but I would say if you are around 2-3 cm of the number you come up with you should be in a good position. I would start on the higher end of the range and see how they feel because you can always cut shorter.

Hope this helps and good luck with training going forward.

Andy Keller
CXC Team Head Coach

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Photo credit: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation©2016


Lighter Swing Poles = Faster Skiing

Why should skiers care about their ski pole selection?

Ski Poles are often the most overlook piece of a Nordic skier’s equipment. But ski poles are the only piece of your ski equipment that you actually hold, swing and lift the entire way. Racers average between 30-45 pole plants per minute. Over the course of a marathon like the 52 km American Birkebeiner the winner may have lifted his poles more than 5,000 times.  A skier completing the race in 3 hours could have poled 7,000 times and a 4 hour skier might have lifted her poles 10,000 times.

But how much difference can a few oz. make?

Extra weight is not fun! If you and a friend ski a 3-hour Birkie and the friend uses their new Start Race 1.0 and you use your old CT4’s, you are lifting an additional 3 oz. per stroke. If each stroke moves your pole 5 feet. This equates to lifting an additional 6,500 ft lbs during the race! Like curling 1 gallon of milk in each hand 375 times. Will you still beat your friend?


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Kyle Bratrud

The most important shaft properties are overall weight, swing weight, stiffness, and strength.

Swing weight refers to the pendulum motion of a pole plant and that more weight near the pole tip requires more energy from the skier. The stiffer the pole the more of your energy goes into forward movement and the less into bending the pole. Strength refers to the durability of the pole.

What is the Recommended Pole Height?

Start recommends skier’s body height in cm, less 20 cm for skate, and less 30 cm for classic as our Norm for most Recreational Racers. In most cases, this will, for adults, result in classic poles that reach the center of the shoulder bone.  For skate the pole will reach around your mouth.  This is measured with normal shoes on.

Do advanced skiers use taller poles than beginners?

For shorter races such as sprint; definitely yes. World Cup skiers can use 5-7.5 cm longer poles than recommended above.  We have also seen a trend that World Cup skiers in general have increased their pole lengths the last decade. The reason is most likely the much stronger upper bodies for professional skiers these days, and shorter (sprint) tracks with fewer long sustained climbs. There are of course individual differences, but in general World Cup skiers use 2.5 cm longer poles than determined by the Norm above. But if you are a weekend warrior classical skiing long sustained climbs like at the Birkie be careful about chasing what World Cup skiers use in length. The norm is good.

Does technical ability change this?

Not really, but skiing with longer poles than recommended requires good technique.

Why do classical skiers use shorter poles than skaters?
In skating, bigger movements, greater speed, and always using two poles simultaneously allows you to use longer poles.

How is a ski pole length measured?

For most pole brands the length is measured from the tip (spike) of the pole to the top of the grip (not including any building height of the locking cap/wedge).

What makes Start poles special?

Start’s pole deliver minimum swing weight and maximum durability at every price point. With 8mm at the basket Start delivers the lowest swing weight plus thicker sidewalls for best durability.



Skate Ski Flex for Dummies (aka the rest of us)

By CXC TEAM Member, Andy Brown

I would like to preface this article by saying that having me writing about ski flex is similar to a freshman physics student lecturing about quantum electrodynamics. It’s going to be crude, and will probably cause vomiting, hair loss, and general malaise in anyone who knows better. If I can pass on a tidbit of knowledge, and give some general rules of thumb, I’ve more than exceeded my pay grade. Also most of this information was learned via osmosis from my roommate and flex guru Josh Doebbert.

Countless years have been spent collectively by the ski community worrying about which wax to choose for the next upcoming citizen race. Skiers will argue back and forth about brands, hardness, mixing, layers, graphite, fluoro, et cetera ad infinitum. I know, I’ve done it too. You just can’t help it. I once shouted to my friend across a parking lot before a race which fluoro I corked in and had 20+ master racers stare open eyed like I had just prophesied buying stock in Apple in 2005. While it is true the wax does matter, the flex characteristic of your ski is a more important and often overlooked parameter in determining overall performance. The fastest 130% pure-fluoro-holy-water-unicorn-blood uber wax in the world won’t save you when you take a squirrely powder ski out on an ice rink and fly face first into a pine tree. Do you want to fly face first into a pine tree? Didn’t think so; better learn how to choose a ski appropriate for the conditions. Moving on. We agree that we want a ski that will provide the best performance for a given day, What is the best performance? Obviously the ski that helps us ski a certain course in the minimum amount of time is the best. To do this we need a combination of stability, floatation, and moisture control. Since the memory (or lack there) of our recent encounter with a conifer is fresh, let’s begin with stability.


Ski stability is achieved by edge force and contact zone spacing. Unstable skis want to rotate under your foot like the hand of a clock.


To counter this an opposing torque needs to be generated to prevent the rotation. Sideways force is generated when the ski’s edges dig into the snow near the tip and tail. Since where these edges contact the snow are spaced apart from the foot, this creates a lever (moment) arm and a stabilizing torque which we need to avoid running into another tree. The spacing of these contact zones is often referred to the ski’s wheelbase. For the edges to dig in, the ski needs enough torsional rigidity to prevent twisting of the tip and tail of the ski. Grab the tip of your ski and try twisting it clockwise, if it twists a lot it will make it harder for a ski to hold an edge in icy conditions. The good news is most higher end skis have good stiffness in this dimension and there is relatively little harm in having “too much” torsional rigidity if you ride your skis flat like your coach was yelling at you to do. Shamless plug, Rossignol skis are known for having some of the best torsional rigidity on the market. High school skiers take note; this is an excellent way to talk your parents into buying you a more expensive model of ski, “I really need this ski so the added torsional rigidity will generate more edge force and prevent me from crashing into a pine tree. You wouldn’t want me to crash into a pine tree would you?” When things get icy the force generated at the contact zone edges goes down. To counter this, hardtrack skis have longer contact zones (increases edge force) that are spaced further from the foot (increases moment arms) and thus restore the torque that was lost by the harder snow. Great, so to not hit the tree we just need good torsional rigidity and two long contact zones way the heck out near the tips and the tails and everything will be hunky-dory. Well not quite. Notice how the optimal answer to any problem is never an extrema (politicians I’m talking to you). The same is true here. Stability is often traded off with our next performance attribute, floatation.


Flotation is a pretty easy concept. Floating over the snow takes less energy than sinking in and plowing through. To float over soft snow we need as low of base pressure as possible and a soft tip and tail to conform to the snow.

Problem is when we were optimizing our ski for tree avoidance we intentionally limited the contact to near the tips and tails reducing the total contact area and increasing the pressure. Worse yet in making the ski bridge stiff enough to hold those distance contact zones, we unwittingly stiffened the tip and tail making the ski less compliant. Sure we might not hit that pine tree anymore, but the skis are stiff and have high pressure. The hardtrack skis are going to dig into soft snow faster than a ice auger running on nitromethane. Also the stiff tip will make climbing about as enjoyable as a root canal. Okay, so we really still don’t want to hit the tree, but we’d rather not punch into level 5 every time there’s an uphill or fresh snow. We decide to compromise a bit. We keep the long contact zones which will give good edge force and low base pressure. We soften up the camber and tip little bit so it doesn’t plow but still has enough contact zone spacing to give stabilizing torque. There, we’ve made the one ski quiver killer, and we ski happily off into the sunset avoiding trees the whole way…and then it gets warm.

In the Midwest the stable-floaty ski we built is actually pretty darn good for most days. It can do a lot of conditions well and coupled with a fine grind is great for typical conditions. When it’s -15 we tend to forget that snow is actually water and when it finally gets warm enough that you can distinguish the gender of a skier from more than three feet, that snow starts act more like water. When a ski exerts pressure on snow that is warm enough, it causes partial melting. This is a good thing most of the time which is why skate skiing is more fun when it’s warm enough that you only need one pair of wind briefs. Too much water however creates a suction effect. A coarser grind can help with moisture management, but at a certain point our ski just can’t keep from getting sucked down. To beat the moisture we need small contact points and a camber that rapidly rises from the snow to break the suction. Well that stinks. If we do build a ski for stability and flotation, the low riding camber and long contact zones will literally suck in moisture. If we build a hardtrack-wet ski, the high tip and tail pressure and short contact zones will kill us in cold soft snow, and finally if we build a floaty-wet ski we lose our contact zone spacing and stabilizing torque and we run into that stupid tree again. It’s an impossible problem to solve…Wait why are all those world cup skiers traveling around with vans full of skis?

No ski can do everything perfectly. There are great skis out there that can do many things quite well but adding skis improves performance especially in extreme conditions.

Two or three well chosen pairs can do almost everything (if you structure appropriately). Sure skiers on the world cup have 40+ pairs, but a small well thought out quiver will serve 99.9% of skiers just fine.

Rossignol makes this really easy with three condition specific models. The S1 for colder soft conditions, the S2 for universal conditions and more hardtrack, and the S3 for wet.

Knowing all this the next time on the trail we look at the snow before we pull our skis out of the bag. We grab a ski with enough flotation that we don’t plow, enough moisture management to prevent suction, and enough stability so we don’t run into that damn tree again.