By Charlotte Ogden
Snow fell in early December in Richmond and the office morning runs transitioned into skis at the local nordic center, Sleepy Hollow! As a recently retired member of the Middlebury nordic ski team and new member of the Bivo team, these group skis are helping me settle into my first winter skiing entirely for fun and my own joy! I’ve been shuffling around on nordic skis since I could walk, and growing up in Vermont instilled a deep love of snow and all winter activities in me that will last a lifetime. I know that a lot of the Bivo readers are big cyclists, so I figured that a blog with some skate skiing tips for cyclists could be a pretty good idea. I’m no expert, but I hope that with 8+ years of being coached by the best in the biz (thank you AJ and Sverre), I will have picked up a few essential tips that I can pass on to anyone looking to get into the sport!
Images courtesy of Steve Fuller and David Brams
Tip #1: Hips forward!
The key to skate skiing fast is preserving your forward momentum and letting gravity do all of the work for you, even if you are heading up a hill. To do this, you’ve got to bend at the ankles and knees to get your hips forward. If you are interested in trying out some drills, here is one to master keeping your hips forward: station yourself at the bottom of a gradual hill, put your skis in a V, your hands on your hips, and get into an athletic stance. Next, start to lean forward with your hips and upper body and notice as your skis move forward. As you go forward, do a little hop and bring your skis back to a V, but this time you have some momentum so you are gliding up the hill. Keep repeating the V to hop progression as you gradually pick up speed. That forward body position is what you want to bring into your everyday skating, keep thinking about how the body position helped you glide up the hill as you bring arms and upper body back into the equation.
Tip #2: Crunch with your core and arms!
I was probably told this tip on nearly every ski I’ve been on in the last 8 years, but I like to think that by the end of my final racing season I started to actually listen and use my upper body as much as my lower body, and boy, did it change things! As you are skating along, it’s easy to push yourself forward using only leg strength with your arms going through the motions of skiing without actually doing anything, but by not using two big muscle groups your legs are getting tired quicker and you are not going as fast as you could be. As you shift your weight from side to side, you want to be activating your core to put maximum power into the pole plants and pushing out with your biceps and triceps. A good progression to run through to get the feel of this motion is the lock and load drill: point your skis straight forward and bend your arms so your elbows are pointed down at your side but your hands are up by your shoulders. Keeping your arms curled up like that, plant your poles and crunch with your core so that you slide forward using only that motion, no arms or legs. After moving like that for ten meters, stand straight up and propel yourself forward using only your arms. Lock out your stomach and use only the arms to get you going forward. Both of those are going to feel pretty bad on their own, so after ten meters of only using arms, meet in the middle and see how it feels for the two to work together and help each other out. As you find a happy medium with the arms and core, add in your legs and you should be set to jet!
Tip #3: Keep your body steady!
So by this point you have some things to think about regarding your upper body and your lower body, this last tip ties the two together. To maximize the power that you can create from your legs and upper body, you need to keep your upper body steady. It’s helpful to imagine a box between your hips and shoulders that keeps you facing forward. It’s easy to start twisting your torso around, but keeping your hips and shoulders pointed forward puts all of your power into moving down the trail as quickly as possible. A good way to practice keeping your hips quiet is to take your poles and hold them across your hips and start skiing. With the poles across your hips, it’s easy to tell how much they are wiggling around, so just try to keep the poles flat.
I hope that these tips help you all with your skate skiing, but if I really had to be honest and say what I think is the most important factor, though, I would say the only thing that really matters is that you get out there and ski! Just getting outside and having fun is always more important than having perfect technique.