Flying on snow

This winter, I have gotten into the sport of Nordic Cross Country Skate Skiing, aka Skate Skiing. In the winter, the weather limits me from riding my bike. It’s freezing, but also, when there is snow, it can be dangerous. Cross Country skiing is a great winter activity when there is snow; this year, we have snow! Once you have the equipment, it’s all about practice.

I grew up cross-country skiing with my family and friends. We would split the time between going to the ski resort for downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. We would go to a groomed ski track on a flat area like a golf course or go into the backcountry and go wherever we wanted.

Skate skiing is a relatively new version of cross-country skiing. Until the 1980s, all cross-country skiing was done with what is now termed classical technique. A groomed ski track is set, and all skiers ski on the track. They use their poles and a backward kicking stride to propel themselves forward. A particular type of ski wax is applied to the middle of the skis, under the foot, that sticks to the snow and improves the kicking action. It is also known as kick wax.

Then in the 1980s, skiers began using a skating technique to go faster and not have to use the sticky kick wax, which slows the skis down when gliding. At first, this was not a welcome progression in the sport of cross-country skiing, but eventually, the powers that be relented and created two types of cross-country ski competition: Classic and Freestyle (You can use any technique here, but skating is the fastest. Multiple styles of skating can be used. Its a rabbit hole which is why they went with Freestyle.)

Skate skiing is a fun activity that gives me a fantastic workout. It is similar to swimming and running in that technique is essential for efficiency. The big difference is that you have skis on your feet that are long, narrow, and slippery. You also have long poles for pushing with.

There is a lot of technique involved: part skiing, part ice skating, and part pole vaulting. Similar to cycling, there is a glide mode in all skiing styles. Downhill skiing has the most glide cause you ride a chairlift up and ski down. Classic skiing is around 50% glide. Skate skiing varies depending on the slope, but you are trying to maximize the glide and efficiency all the time.

A few years ago, I injured my knee to the point where it is no longer a good idea for me to run. I miss running because you are self-propelled and can feel like flying. With skate skiing, I have found this feeling again, and it is very nice. I have signed up for two races, a 15k on Feb 11 and a 30k on Feb 18. I will be slow compared to the rest of the pack but the entry fees are really small and it will give me a chance to see some other ski tracks in the area.

Overall the physical exercise and mental technique aspects of skate skiing serve as a beautiful distraction from the rest of life. I am beginning to meet more skate skiers and learn from them. The internet is an excellent resource with videos of techniques and drills to help me learn faster. If you can take a lesson, I highly recommend it.


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