Top Tips for New Skate Skiers
Get Good Gear
Buy gear for the skier you aspire to be, not the skier you are.
Skate skiing is hard. Skate skiing on poorly fitting, heavy, cheap gear is brutally hard. Buy the best gear your budget allows and don't look to economize unnecessarily.
I know this is hard to appreciate when you are just starting out, but trust me when I tell you that the quality of your gear will greatly influence how rapidly you learn to skate ski.
It's noticeably easier and more enjoyable to ski on good gear.
Don't Join Club Offset
There are five skate skiing techniques. Technique are suited to different terrain and speeds of travel, similar to the gears on a bike.
Of these techniques, Offset (V1) and One Skate (V2) are used the majority of the time in ski racing, but all skate techniques are important to master. (Perhaps except Diagonal Skate, which truly a minor technique.)
If you don't learn these techniques you will naturally fall into a sort of homemade version of Offset (V1 Skate).
You can always spot a self taught skate skier because they use Homemade Offset everywhere - up hills, downhills and everything in between.
The Nordic Ski Lab video libraries have videos to help you learn everything you need to know about all the skate skiing techniques, including expert demos (slow motion), video technique analysis and many excellent drills. Join us.
Did you know we have ski technique videos?
For skiers just getting started:
- Classic vs Skate Skiing. Which is right for you?
- Refer to this video course for instructions for learning the beginner Nordic Downhill Ski Techniques (Skate or Classic Skiing).
For Skate Skiers: The One Skate Dance Drill
For Classic Skiers: Learn Diagonal Stride - this will benefit you even if you've been skiing for years as this teaches competition technique.
No More Walking Feet
How the pressure works across the sole of your foot in skating skiing is completely different from anything you've learned before and is one of the secrets to success.
In walking, you strike the ground with your heel and roll forward through the ball of the foot. I call this "walking feet".
Rolling your weight through the ball of your foot in the forward direction is one of the most hard-wired movement patterns you have and one of the most difficult habits to overcome, but it's key to making your skate skis work.
You must cure walking feet to skate ski. You have to stop rolling through the ball of your foot and start rolling through the inner line of the foot.
This, btw, is why ice skating doesn't translate particularly well to skate skiing. In ice skating you can roll through the ball of the foot without penalty.
In skate skiing, rolling through the ball of the foot drives the tip of the ski into the snow and trips you up.
A skate kick (leg push) is in the sideways direction.
Ski Uphill, No Poles
You’ll hate this, but you'll be glad you did it.
A common mistake is using the upper body and poles to haul yourself uphill. You feel like your arms are dying but you can’t access the power of your legs. In Offset, approximately 60% of the propulsion should come from the legs.
Put down your poles and learn how to ski uphill, legs only. Use a wide, low stance and make a wide v-shape with your skis. Practice this often, more often than you want to.
The goal is simple: try to make it easier. How can you create glide with every step? Experiment with tempo, step size, stance width, and other factors.
What happens when you put your poles back on? Pay attention to the V shape your skis are making. If your V became a lot narrower than it was when you were working with poles only, and you started to feel like you're hauling yourself up the hill with your upper body, then put the poles away again.
Many common skate ski drills emphasize "standing tall" on your ski. The idea is to develop your ability to balance on your gliding ski.
If I were your coach, I would not use these drills with you. In fact, I'd do the exact opposite. IMO, standing "tall" is the last thing you need to do.
I would work to get you into positions that were easier for you to balance, not harder. I’d want you to succeed, not fail.
The key things I’d work on are:
- Lowering your centre of mass by maintaining some soft flexion at the ankle, knee and hip joints at all times.
- Helping you stay compact by minimizing the range of motion in your arms and legs.
- Trying to keep your weight mid to forefoot.
We’d build a success zone, where you enjoyed reasonable stability, comfort and control, then we’d gradually expand it by increasing your range of movements, skiing with greater forces and on more challenging terrain.
If you want a single tip to accelerate the process of learning to skate ski, it’s SKI SMALL. Maintain some soft flexion in the hips, knees and ankles.
Avoid sudden forceful movements that throw you off balance. Gradually build from there. You can apply the same advice to classic skiing as well.
Yes, double poling is a classic technique but you can do it in skate gear.
Some of the advantages of double pole practice for skate skiers:
- It simplifies things, so you can focus on your arm mechanics without having to worry about your kick.
- The way you bend at the hips, knees and ankles in Double Poling is similar to One Skate and Two Skate.
- Double Poling teaches you how to create full body tension; how to be both braced and activated throughout your core, but still make movements that are fluid and smooth.
- It teaches you how to transfer power from your upper body into your poles and into your lower body and skis.
Join Nordic Ski Lab
I know this will seem self-serving, but if you enjoy learning with online videos that break down and clearly demonstrate what you need to do, you can't do better than subscribing to Nordic Ski Lab.
With our extensive collection of skate skiing drills, expert demos, video technique analysis and technique explainer videos, you will greatly accelerate your learning curve.