Snow’s here, are you in? -Part 2

So now that I got your attention with the first part of this snow series, let’s look at learning some technique and where to spend your money when getting yourself a ski set up.

Skate Techniques

This video takes you through various training techniques which will help build a solid foundation for skate skiing.

In this video Keith Nicol shows the “step turn”.  It’s a technique to turn faster and without “snow plowing” as most newbies do.

This video shows various balance adds to help with your skiing.

Classic Techniques

This video is great if your just starting out.  It shows you the basics of moving down the track and how to slowly apply more power to your stride, and finally adding poles into the mix.

Where to Spend your money?

Most people would think you’d want to spend the most money on the actual skis.  You’d be wrong.  If you watched the videos above you probably figured out balance plays a big part in xc skiing.  Since this is true, you want to spend the most money on boots.  Good ankle support is key, especially in the skating technique.  Next up would be poles.  Since you push off with your poles so much you want them to be super stiff. The stiffer and lighter your poles the better but also the more expensive.  Over the course of 15k you will be lifting the poles up thousands of times.  A heavy set of poles slows down your arm turnover, and tires out your arms more quickly.  Don’t be cheap, go for the good stuff.

Lastly, get a descent set of skis.

Here is where it is helpful to find someone at the ski shop you visit who specializes in selling cross country skis, as a good fit can make a big difference.  This info below is more appropriate for picking out skate skis, classic skis tend to be longer and have different camber profiles.  Hybrid skis that try to allow for both classic and skating technique, generally don’t help you to excel at either technique.

Flex of a Nordic ski

Skate skis come in different lengths, obviously to accommodate different heights and weights, but also come with different cambers (stiffness or flex).  Picking a ski that is too soft (flexible), all your weight will be located directly under your foot, you will not have much glide, and have trouble keeping the ski gliding in a straight line.

Too stiff a ski, and you will have trouble balancing on it for a whole stroke, getting all the glide you could out of the ski, as your weight is now unevenly balanced on the tips and tails, compounding any inconsistencies in your technique, especially in soft snow.  If you know you will be skiing on fresh snow most of  the time you can go for a little softer, more flexible ski.  Conversely, if you are skiing only on icy conditions like we had last year, you can pick out a slightly stiffer ski.

To keep things interesting (or more complicated), the next thing to consider is the base finish.  Basically there are three types of base finishes: one for warm and wet conditions, one for cold and icy conditions, and one that attempts to have characteristics of both.  If you live in Seattle, and generally ski on the wet snow on top of Snoqualmie pass,  it generally makes sense to go for a base suitable for wet conditions.  These bases have deeper grooves cut into the base material to keep the surface tension of water droplets from acting like little suction cups on your skis.  Cold ski bases have less texture cut into them, and provide a smoother, flat surface that glides over the sharp edges of ice crystals.  If you plan on moving to where the snow is dryer or generally colder, then it would make sense to consider a cold specific base.

Some people don’t stop there, but add additional specialized grinds to their bases to find a base texture specific to particular conditions of each season, like our upcoming La Nina winter, or even a specific event- in case you train here, and plan to do the Birke in Wisconsin.  See for more info.

In general, the more expensive, top of the line skis will be lighter, which will make it easier to have quicker turnover on your skis.  That said, having a higher end boot that helps stabilize your ankle, giving you better balance and power transfer is going to give you performance gains far greater than having lighter skis.  You will be thankful for buying a lighter set of poles when you need to make quick accelerations to keep up with the pack, or when you are grinding up a long incline, and you just need to push through the pain for a few minutes longer, cresting the top of the hill without loosing your lunch.

The info above (which was written resourcing The Master Skier site) was written by John Outterson, a top notch skate skier from Seattle.  I’d also like to thank Keith Nicol for his extremely well made training videos.

Next time we will look at where to ski and present options galore for you to choose from.



Get out there!

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1 Comment

  1. Drewbie says:

    Great info!

    These drills work great!!

    Thanks for the info.