One decision to make when you first start cross country skiing is whether you want to classic ski, skate ski, or learn both at the same time. Martin Tauber, cross country ski pro and four-time Austrian Champion, breaks the two cross country skiing techniques down into easy understandable parts. Learning how to cross country ski is a great way to find a fun activity that keeps you healthy and in good spirits over the winter. If you’ve never skied before we’ll show you just how easy it is to get started and if you have skied before you might pick up a few tips and tricks too.
Skate skiing is best for athletic skiers interested in faster movement. You cannot skate ski inside the ski tracks cut into the trails. Skate on the surface of the trail itself, next to the ski tracks. Skate skiing techniques are based on a motion that includes kicking the skis outward diagonally from the body and using ski poles to move the skier’s body forward and to help pick up speed. Skate skiing involves a decisive weight transfer onto one ski angled and then the other, supported by the inner edge of the ski on the snow, which looks similar to an ice skater. This creates a challenge of balancing on and then moving off of skis that are angled away from the overall direction of travel. There are different skate ski techniques, varying in poling frequency and timing. Unfortunately, they have different names in different countries, so it can get confusing. At Offset or V1 skate, the skier plants the two poles at the exact instant as 1 of his skis lands in the snow. That gives Offset its characteristic 3:1 timing. One Skate is also known as Gear 3, or V2 Skating. In One Skate there is one poling action for every leg push; there’s a 1:1 ratio of pole pushes and leg pushes. This technique is ideal for gentle terrain: slight uphills, slight downhills and flats. In Two Skate, also known as Gear 4 or V2 Alternate skating, the skier poles on every second leg push. Most skiers learn to V1 first, as it will allow you to go uphill and cover any type of terrain, in a pinch. As your balance improves, V2 and V2 Alternate become easier.
Classic Cross Country Skiing
Most people begin with this traditional, original style of cross country skiing that originated as a means of transportation in cold winter climates. Skiers can proceed at their own tempo and the technique is more forgiving in terms of skills such as balance and weight transfer. Classic cross country skiing involves body mechanics that approximate walking down the street. That is the skiers arms and legs move in equal and opposite directions and the skis slide parallel along packed-down, groomed tracks in the snow. Shuffle one foot forward, then the other, finding your balance and experimenting to see how much force you should use to push off on each shuffle. Without even thinking about it, you’ll be pushing off with a kick stride, moving forward with a glide stride, and vice-versa. Push forward as you glide on one ski, then the other, shifting your weight from side to side. Once you get the rhythm, bring the poles into the equation. Bring the arm opposite to the kicking leg forward to plant the pole in the snow and push back to increase the power of your kick. Classic skiing is easier than skate skiing and requires less physical effort, especially for going uphill.
The Bottom Line: Skate or classic skiing? Choose whichever you find most appealing. I like having the choice when snow conditions are better for one style or the other. I like the way my skills cross-over between the two styles. I like the variety. You probably will too.
Still more questions? These videos give an overview of the two cross country skiing techniques.