Learn Diagonal Stride
Step by step video lessons for learning the classic cross-country ski technique called Diagonal Stride.
Reference Video (silent demo)
The easiest way to get started in cross-country skiing is to begin with classic skiing. Classic cross-country skiing is the style where the skis are parallel and run in the tracks.
The other style is called skate skiing. In skate skiing the skis are in a V-shape and you ski on the flat groomed snow, outside the classic tracks.
There are five classic cross-country ski techniques:
- Running Diagonal Stride,
- Diagonal Stride,
- Kick Double Pole, and
- Double Pole.
Additionally there are downhill techniques, some of which are shared with skate skiing.
The easiest cross-country ski technique to get started with is the classic skiing technique called Diagonal Stride.
In Diagonal Stride the arms and legs swing in opposition, in the front to back direction. It’s the same timing you already know from walking and running.
Diagonal Stride is more closely related to running than walking, but it’s also unique in several ways.
Kick and Glide
In cross-country skiing, in both classic and skate skiing, we use the words “glide” and “kick” to describe how the legs and skis work.
In walking and running, when your foot lands on the ground, it sticks in place. You push off with ease, because you have a solid connection between the bottom of the foot and the ground.
In Diagonal Stride technique, when the ski touches down it doesn’t stick in place. It glides against the snow.
So a key skill for you to learn is to balance on a gliding ski. When you start, you will glide with both skis on the ground, but as your balance and coordination improve, you will learn to balance on a single gliding ski, because that is more efficient.
As the ski glides, it slows down, so the next phase is the kick. The word “kick” is confusing because it conjures up a forward leg swing, like you would use to kick ball.
But the word “kick” actually refers to a down and back pushing action of the foot against the ski. The kick is how you push yourself forward along the track. "The kick" is referring to the propulsion phase.
A classic cross-country ski is flexed into a bow shape. In the region under the foot, there’s some sort of sticky material on the base of the ski. It might be kick wax, fuzzy mohair or a fishscale pattern imprinted into the base. Its purpose is to stick to the snow so the ski stays in place as you push against it.
But, because the ski is flexed, you have to push down extra hard to flatten the ski and make it stick to the snow.
In walking and running you can keep your weight more or less cantered between your feet, but in Diagonal Stride you have to move your body weight over each foot to help you flatten the ski. You need your weight over the ski in order to compress the ski.
That means there’s more side to side movement of the body in diagonal stride than in walking or running. We call that side to side movement, where we bring our body more directly over each foot, “weight transfer” or “weight shift”.
Many people who take up classic cross-country skiing will simply put on their skis and start walking around on the snow with a sliding, shuffle motion with their skis.
You can get around like that, but it’s more fun to classic ski more in the style used by competitive skiers. It’s highly efficient, fun and graceful.
It’s also faster. If you are just starting out, you might not want to go fast, but eventually you probably will.
We teach use videos of top level skiers to break down and teach performance style skate and classic skiing. If you want to start right in cross country skiing and avoid the many traps that await a beginner, join Nordic Ski Lab. You will get access to our extensive collection of top rate videos for a very modest fee.
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