Skate Skiing Methow Valley       Skate Skiing

What It Looks Like

Much of the discussion about the “new” vs. the “old” skate has focused on whether to line up with the gliding ski or with the overall direction of travel. The truth of the matter is that effective and efficient skiers do a bit of both. So what are contemporary skaters doing, why are they doing it, and why should you care?
Efficient diagonal stride technique produces the longest stride possible for the least amount of effort. The trick is to blend the body motions needed to pole, pressure the ski for grip and then extend onto the next ski into a smooth and continuos motion that keeps both your core or center of mass and your ski moving forward without interruption. Although a slight side-to-side shift of your center of mass helps with grip, your skis and your center of mass travel on almost identical paths.

Efficient skate technique pursues the same goal—creating the longest skate “stride” possible for the least amount of effort—but within a different set of parameters. The lack of grip wax on the skis forces the skater to angle each ski to the overall direction of travel and to tip the ski on edge for “grip”. This creates a new challenge of balancing on and then moving off of skis that are angled away from the overall direction of travel.

Solutions to these new challenges have evolved continuously from the early 1980’s when large numbers of skiers began to use skis waxed only for glide for both racing and recreation. The “old” skate that is the assumed protagonist to the “new” skate was never a fixed technique, and the “new” skate certainly is not. Ski technique is simply the response of one or of a group of skiers to a need. “The new skate” is simply a collection of the most efficient and effective solutions that contemporary skaters have developed for moving over the snow with no grip wax on their skis. New solutions can and will be found, and skating will continue to evolve.

Here’s a summary of the solutions currently in use:


A. Heel stays on the ski as the leg is extended. The heel lifts off the ski only after the leg has been fully extended and the ankle opens, to complete the push-off through the ball of the foot. The ski continues to move forward after push-off as it lifts off the snow as shown in photos D and E.

 A.     A_XT229                 B.    B_XT199                    C.  C_XT236

B. The next lead ski is set in motion before moving onto it. As the leg swings in beneath the body, the pelvis, thigh, and knee move toward the ski tip, setting the ski in motion. As weight is transferred to the new lead ski, it is almost up to speed, skimming the snow like a hovercraft.

C. Skier moves onto a flexed ankle. The knee and waist are also flexed and the spine is parallel to the shin of the front leg. The front knee leads the foot as weight is transferred to the new lead ski, which glides smoothly forward. Complete extension of the rear leg and foot signals the end of the push-off and weight transfer to the next ski.

D. D_XT241                        E.  E_XT233                F.  F_XT89

D. The ski swings out to the side after push-off and then back in. Skier relaxes the leg after push-off; gravity starts it back toward the body.

E. Pelvis is driven quickly up and over the skating foot. After weight transfer is competed, the standing leg is extended, bringing the hips and torso forward as the knee and waist open. Shoulders stay over or in front of the foot. The hips move up and forward to drive the pole and torso recovery. Poles recovery takes an equal or less amount of time that pole use.

F. The skier’s core continues forward during pole recovery. This divergence of the core and the gliding ski is barely noticeable at speed when the ski tips are close together but is more obvious when the skis are opened into a wider V.

                           G.  G_XT235                                                           H .  H._XT231

G. Arms are bent at the elbows as poles push begins. Pole angle varies with speed, but hands are high and elbows are in front of the torso and outside of the shafts as pole push begins. Effective skate poling mimics the double pole as much as possible.

H. Poling begins and adds forward motion to the ski before push-off begins. To maximize the initial poling force, body weight is placed onto the poles before any weight transfer movement to the new ski. Movement of the ski away from the core progressively tips it on edge during the pole push, with wide variation in timing and degree of edge angle dependent upon conditions and the skier.

Torso compression phase of poling is completed before the leg extension. Poling power is released with the follow through as the leg push is unleashed. Executing an abdominal crunch while extending your legs weakens both movements. The depth and character of upper-body compression matches the time available for poling. More time is available with more glide. With less glide, abbreviated pole strokes may lack follow-through and complete recovery. (Photos A & C). Regardless of depth, elbows swing in such a way as to scribe an arc from in front to behind the torso with each poling motion.

Push-off occurs with weight still on skating ski. The weighted leg supports the skier until the push-off moves the skier off the ski and onto the next. Weight transfer onto the next ski is timed to prevent the skier from “falling off” the ski before push-off can be completed. (Photos A, B, F, and H)

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