“Fighting” the Skis When Classical Skiing Downhills

Q: I have over 30 years of skiing and racing, but starting last year, and beginning again this year, when classical skiing downhills I have to “fight” the skis as they want to drift out, or the tips of each ski to cross each other. Don’t have any issues when skating, I’m thinking it’s because the skating boot has a more rigid feel on the ski while classical boots have a looser feel because the heel needs to be off the back of the ski more. I’m doing something wrong because I could ski downhills with no problems in the past. I consider myself a really good downhill skier.

 

A: I can try my best to answer your question from a few different possible areas. 

1) THE SKIS

It could be possible that your current classic skis are too soft in terms of flex. This can happen with skate skis as well, and the most common term I’ve heard (and used) is “squirrely” to describe skis that wander. 

Essentially, if a ski is too soft it means the tips and tails will not have enough contact pressure with the snow…I suppose a metaphor might be the balance required to ride a unicycle versus a bike. It’s easier to balance on a bike (or well-flexed skis) because of the larger contact area distributing pressure over a bigger space, whereas on a unicycle everything is right under you. 

It might be an interesting experiment to swap skis with a skiing partner or two (COVID-concerns taken into account) to see if you feel the same type of experience on other pairs, which could rule out or confirm this theory. 

2) HIP AND ANKLE STRENGTH

In terms of your body and being able to respond to downhills and ski control, two critical areas are the ankles and hips. The ankles, most directly, impact ski control through their strength and coordination. You’re correct that without skate boots there is a bit more control needed…this is great on the climbs because when classic skiing you really want to feel the full range of motion when rolling the foot through the kick. However there’s less support for descents. 

Ankle strengthening exercises are numerous if you look at some PT sites for rolled ankles…lots of common ones include writing out the alphabet with each foot, or using a long sock with some weight in it to make “foot circles” in the air for strengthening. 

People often underestimate how much the hips can impact the stability and control a skier has, too. Even if you weren’t writing-in about this topic, I’d still suggest taking some time each week to incorporate hip strengthening through the use of resistance bands which are cheap and generally easy-to-find. 

The stronger the hips and ankles, the more you should be able to control the skis without using too much extra energy! 

Hope those are, at the very least, some helpful starting points. Happy skiing-

– Adam Terko, Mt. Mansfield Nordic Coach

Source: SkiPost

Straight Ski or Skating with Linear Ski Placement

Q: So often I hear this recommend in one skate technique, that one should try to point your ski straight down the track as possible. However, I never hear how to do this… thinking last night in bed, that if your body is not in a significant forward position with good hip flexion then this is impossible. Can you recommend other ways to achieve this ideal ski placement?

 

A: There are two major reasons why this style of skate skiing is gaining traction. First, pointing your skis more in the direction of travel while skate skiing will help you cover more ground with more forward momentum from each push and second, having your foot, knee, and femur stacked and driving down the trail will help you generate a more powerful push that better recruits the glute muscles. (check out some Klaebo skating video).

If we think about V1, V2, and V2 alternate the V our skis make underneath our feet will get more narrow through each one of these techniques… V2 alternate having the highest speed and most narrow V. Furthermore, as a skier moves down the track with more velocity their V should narrow within ALL these techniques as well. (Think of someone doing a skate sprint start from a standstill. They will start with a wide V and barrow as they build speed)

Instead of thinking about pointing your ski tips in a specific spot I like to think about rotating my femur and foot more inward as I build speed. This takes a certain amount of stability and strength in the hips and glutes to glide on a ski in this manner but you will feel the gains both in forward gliding speed and in how much power you can generate in your push. Just remember, even though we are narrowing our V and have a less dramatic lateral weight shift at speed, we still need to have a full weight shift and commit to each ski without getting stuck in the middle.

 

Andrew Newell
US Ski Team // 4x Olympian
Nordic Team Solutions LLC
social: @andynewellskier
www.nordicteamsolutions.com

Center of Gravity In Diagonal Stride

Q: This comes from a skier of 40 years trying to finally get it right and is a technique question. In the diagonal stride, when the weight is transferred onto the the glide ski should the center of gravity be over the heel, over the ball of the foot, or in between (meaning, do you land on your heal, ball, or in between)?

 

A: The short answer is ball of the foot. I would discourage the a focus on “getting your knee over your toe” as often alluded to because you can have your knee over your toes and still have your hips too far back, in fact, that would be the body’s intuitive response. This will transfer your weight into your gluteus. For a visual this would be as in a “sitting on the pot” position. Overall that is bad because your weight will be behind you acting as an anchor, not propelling you down the trail where you want to go (forward and with efficiency).

To help you get into the correct position:

1. Start in the basic athletic body position, weight is distributed equally on both skis.

2. Softly flex your ankles, they should be supple, like “little shock-absorbers”, knees should be similarly light and loose, core stable.

3. Gently roll your weight from your heels and mid-foot until all the weight is in the ball of the foot by way of pressing your hips forward. The weight transfer should be initiated by the hips with the legs, knees, ankles to follow.

It may help to watch video clips of the World Cup (like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ei-oSh9CyA) and look at their feet as they diagonal stride the climbs. You’ll notice they remain on the ball of their foot, but also watch their hips and how much of the power and propulsion comes from there.

Source: The Ski Post

Launching Technique Video Analysis

Looking for ways to improve your ski technique? Consider a video coach for personalized technique analysis.

We work with individuals just beginning to ski, seasoned skiers looking to improve, and all levels in between. It’s good to have another set of eyes to offer guidance, – a personalized ski technique analysis could get you past a roadblock.

 

 

You don’t need a professional videographer to submit a video for critique; just a friend with a video-recording device who has time to capture your ski.

Sending a video of yourself skiing to a respected mentor can feel intimidating. The key is to view mistakes caught on film in a positive light. Just to make it clear: you don’t need to practice for a video. We want to see the first take! We want to see your major mistakes. That’s how we can talk you through it and help.

A coach will have comments recorded over the video footage of you skiing or roller skiing. Some sections will be rewind and watched in slow motion with frame-by-frame advancement providing feedback with the draw and commentary tools. A video lasts just a few seconds, but the advice will extend beyond the videoed segment.

We guarantee that all videos submitted will be analyzed and ready for review within 48 hours of payment. We accept all major credit cards and PayPal online. CXC staff will follow up within one business day (24 hours) of requesting analysis. You can also contact us at support@cxcacademy.com with any questions.

Skate Technique: new vs old?

Q: Having learned the original skate techniques back in the day, then re-learned the “new” skate (hips and shoulders square to the direction of travel), I still struggle with proper skate form. From my own experience, it seems like the new skate only works at high tempos or going uphill (when the glide phase is short). Otherwise, the old skate (toe-knee-nose) provides the flattest ski with the longest glide. I can’t see how you can ride a flat ski for very long if your torso isn’t aligned with the direction of ski travel. Can you shed any light on this?

A: If it makes you feel better, I think there has been confusion in how skating is taught over the years. It’s tempting to try paint with broad strokes when we discuss technique, but as your questions and experience show, we usually miss some important distinctions when we do that.

One principle of skating is that the faster a skier’s velocity, the more acute the V of the skis can be. Meanwhile, the slower the velocity, the larger the angle will be. We can see that for ourselves: when we V2 fast, the angle of the skis may be around 30˚; and when we’re casually skiing uphill, the V expands to 90˚ or more. There are some laws of physics at play here, but in general, we figure this concept out ourselves – it’s really hard to skate up a steep hill with a tight V.

Another concept is not exclusive to skiing: The quicker you try to do something repeatedly, the less time you have between efforts. That is, if you’re skiing 40 strokes per minute, you have 1.5 seconds to move from ski to ski, and if you’re skiing at 90 strokes per minute, you only have 0.66 seconds to shift your weight.

As you mention, “it seems like the new skate only works at high tempos or going uphill,” and I basically agree with that. When the tempo is high, you may not have enough time to shift completely over to each ski (into the “old” toe-knee-nose) – especially if you’re going uphill using V1/offset, with a wider V. It’s also a safe bet (hope?) that your high tempo is also making your ski speed faster, so the V in V2/one-skate is more narrow; you may actually be getting completely over each ski, but it’s a less obvious weight shift.

I’m not sure why there are “new” and “old” skates being taught, as both are valid. There’s a continuum of how much weight shift and torso alignment you can effectively achieve in different conditions, and you need to figure out what works best for you. Ski speed and the terrain contribute to making this decision, but so does your strength and balance. If you look at this video, we can see that Sundby (leading, red bib) is able to stay squared up to his skis more effectively than Sveen (bib 17), who is using more of a toe-knee-nose approach – but they’re skiing at the same velocity:

To summarize: You’re fine, you’re right, just keep doing what you’re doing.

Jason Cork
US XC Ski Team Coach

(originally posted in SkiPost)

Featherweight Downhiller

Q: I am tired of being passed on the downhills during races after crushing many people on the uphills! As a lightweight person, I cannot maintain my speed and all the skiers I passed on the uphills end up passing me on the downhills. Since I do not have body weight to my advantage, how can I get faster on the downhills to be competitive? I try skating, use the classic track, and double pole with all of my force but everyone passes me! Do you have any advice? Thanks!

 

A: I have not seen you ski so I do not know exactly what you are doing. Remember all objects in a vacuum fall at the same rate. So we need to get you downhilling like you are in a vacuum.

First of all, use your small size as an advantage, so get small and aero.

Secondly, I see many people on gradual downhills skate like crazy, but very ineffectively. Try pushing harder and longer on your skate motions but less frequently. Do not just skate for the sake of skating.

Thirdly, Make sure you are riding flat skis and you have your weight on youR heels and not your toes when you are tucking.

Practice makes perfect. Practice downhills behind a faster downhill skier. Tuck in behind them and see if staying in their draft will allow you to keep up.

Make sure you are on skis fit to your weight. A ski matched to your weight will allow you to skim across the snow when larger people are plowing through.

There are snow conditions where a downhill glide resistance will be effected by skier’s mass. If the tracks are nicely groomed corduroy, skier’s size should not affect glide much if at all.

In some rougher track conditions with hard under-layer a larger skier can plow through the snow and maintain speed better than a lighter skier. In other deep snow conditions the lighter skier could float through the snow better than the larger skiers.

 Stay relaxed and think about glide.

– Andy at SkiPost.com

 

***

 

I read with interest your reply to the skier who felt that her light weight was holding her back with respect to down hill glide. You made a lot of good points — flat skis glide faster; get into a tuck, don’t skate ineffectively. But there is one key that I think you overlooked: one’s speed downhill is directly related to how fast you are going when you start gliding. I have passed many skiers on the downhills of the Birkie. Frequently, I watch them as they pull away from me on the uphill portion. Then when they reach the top, they stop skiing, let their shoulders slump, and glide downhill standing up straight.  I try to conserve my energy while climbing, then when I reach the top, V2 aggressively in an attempt to sprint to top speed before getting into a tuck for a fast descent. I’ve found that a tuck is usually faster than the relaxed skating that a lot of skiers seem to favor. 

– Skier

 

About SkiPost

Cross-Country skiing’s community lodge. Where knowledge and stories are shared. The goal of SkiPost is to make the sport of Cross-Country skiing easier and more enjoyable for all who choose to participate. If you have questions on Cross-Country Skiing email us weanswer@SkiPost.com and visit SkiPost.com

Enjoy Winter,
Andrew Gerlach
Director/Editor- SkiPost

How do you go around a corner?

I watched my Olympic biathlon brethren go around turns. Some cranked the inside ski around before accelerating into the straightaway. Others put weight on the outside ski and pushed off into the turn, almost like alpine skiing. What is the best form?

 

Sorry to say but this all depends on every turn, the snow surface and your capabilities. As with all skiing you want to maintain momentum and minimize effort. You want to avoid hockey stop turns that scrub speed. Generally, the fewer steps you make the better. On real sharp turns you can pull your inside ski back and then push it into the turn and then follow that by skating off the outside ski.

Best way to learn is to follow a great skier and copy what they do, or follow a not so good skier and try different techniques and see if you are gaining or losing distance on them. sorry that I could not be more exact via email.

– Andy @ SkiPost

SkiErg Ski Technique Form

Q: I’m a big fan of the SkiErg. When I workout I do a full crunch, bend at the waist and keep my legs straight, is this wrong? I notice from the videos that the demonstrators bend their knees and only half-crunch, so more arm involvement.

 

 

A: When using the SkiErg, following the description you outlined from the demonstration videos is the correct way to go. You want to have a slight bent in the knees – never locked legs. The legs and ankles should be soft and supple and the feet placed at hip-distance width. You want to initiate the crunch from the upper abdominals, so eliminate the bend at the waist.

It is important to use the core and arms in unison. Most of the power is going to come from the initial “pole” down when your hands are high, then follow through using the core (including the back muscles), lats and triceps. This is a more efficient way to double pole and will save you from back injury that can occur when you bend at the waist/hips. As you transition to this new technique, you may feel more involvlement from the arm, but over time you will become stronger and more efficient in the upper body.

Slapping Skis

Q: My skis slapping the track when I stride. How do I fix it? I do it the most during easy classic skiing, not so much in races.

Short answer: this is due to “late kick”; try thinking about driving the ski forward rather than kick backward.


A: Slapping-skis can often be an indication that a skier’s hips are too far back. The slapping sound you hear may be caused by the tail of the ski hitting the track too early because the “recovery” foot is landing behind the standing foot. Ideally, the recovery foot would be landing parallel/beside the stance foot, or even a few inches in front of the stance foot. If the hips are too far back, a skier is more likely to plant the foot too far back to gain balance, and in effect the tail will hit the track and make the clapping sound you are referring to.

As you ski, pay attention that your weight is in the front-portion of your foot. Before you start moving, gently transfer your weight from underfoot, to the front of your foot by leaning your body forward, making sure your hips come forward too. This is good basic positioning for classic striding. Also, watch that you are not “sitting-back” with your hips. A side-view of yourself taken on video will help give a visual indication of weather or not you are victim of “sitting back” with your pelvis and hips.

Karmen M. Whitham
CXC Development Coach
karmen.whitham@cxcskiing.org


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How to go fast downhill? Pointers for proper body position, pressure on the foot, etc.

Q: Here in the east we have had very limited snow and have been racing at Alpine areas. The descents have been quite difficult. How to go fast downhill? Talking about situations in which skiers are essentially on alpine grades at very high rates of speed.

A:  As a whole, Midwest skiers suffer from these same problems due to a lack of terrain. There is a very simple answer- go ski some downhills.

The best downhill skiers (on cross country skis) aren’t masters technicians, they are simply more comfortable on their skis. This part of skiing can certainly be learned, but it can’t really be taught.

Our suggestion would be to go to an alpine area with your cross country skis and simply ski for a day. Take the lift up the mountain, ski down (but stick to the easier trails).  You will certainly get some odd looks (and maybe a few black and blues) but by the end of the day you will have gained a very important trait, confidence.

General downhill technique reminders include bent and supple knees, staying forward on your feet (towards the balls), and using your arms to generate balance and flow.

Without getting too into physics, drag is affected by many things — the fluid you’re going through (air), how the fluid is approaching the object, friction between the object and the ground, length of the object, frontal surface area of the object, shape of the object, velocity and probably some other things.

You can’t really change the fluid, but you can change other things. Getting out of an aerodynamic tuck changes your body shape, and generally increases the frontal surface area and body length — which should slow you down. A snowplow will increase friction and decrease velocity as well. So, those are things to consider — getting more upright will slow things down.

On a more practical (and maybe less “yeah, no kidding” note), keeping your body and mind relaxed helps greatly on sketchy terrain. Definitely keeping the legs supple and relaxed is very important. Though it sounds stupid, while mountain biking, someone once told me that if you whistled to yourself when you’re tense, you’d relax — you can’t do it when your jaws are clenched, and if you’re grinding your teeth, you’re probably tight in your legs. Whatever the reason why it works, I’ve used it to good effect on descents. If you keep your knees and ankles relaxed, and your weight slightly on the ball of your feet (basic athletic position), you usually are able to react when things get out of control.

Practice breeds success. Good luck!

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