Winter, On Speed

Make skate skiing part of the season's regimen and you'll start the year with fitness to spare

Dec 26, 2006
Outside Magazine

If you think "nordic skiing" is Swedish for "go slow," you haven't tried skate skiing. It's related to classic cross–country, but only in the sense that both require snow. Skate skiing is faster—pros reach speeds of more than 20 miles per hour on flat terrain—and it's more fun, too, as a growing number of athletes are discovering. Equipment sales of this category now dominate the high–performance nordic market, and at some races officials have had to turn away excess skaters. Get in on winter's best cardio–and–strength workout with our guide to technique, training, races, gear, and more.

Skate This Way
Like chess, skate skiing is easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master. To oversimplify: Imagine ice–skating on skis while simultaneously propelling yourself forward with poles and you have the basic concept of skate skiing. But to get the most from the sport—and go really fast—you'll want to perfect the following movements, or strokes. Practice on flat, well–groomed tracks before graduating to hills and rougher snow.

V1: This stroke is simple to grasp and, once you're proficient in the faster strokes, is typically used for climbing hills or battling a headwind. Think of it as a car's second gear. (1) Push off with both poles while pressing out against the inside edge of the left ski and gliding on the right ski. (Your left arm and pole should be slightly ahead of the right.) (2) Bring your body over the gliding ski, keeping your knees and toes aligned. (3) Before the glide slows, bring poles forward (the recovery). (4) Push off the inside edge of the right ski and glide on the left. (5) Repeat the original plant/push/glide motion. (The V1 uses offset poling, which means you plant poles when pushing off with either your left or right ski, but not both. Experiment with each side to find which gives you better balance and power.)

V2: Use this quick–tempo stroke to reach high speed (like fourth gear). The key here is that you use double poling—planting your sticks on every skate/glide motion. (1) Press out against the inside of the left ski while pushing off with both poles. (2) Move your weight over the right ski and glide; recover poles for another push. (3) Before speed decreases, double–pole again, pushing off with the right ski and gliding on the left. (4) Repeat Step 1.

V2 ALTERNATE: With a longer glide and more reliance on skating power, the V2 alternate is best used for covering long distances at a fast pace (fifth gear). The plant/push/glide movement is similar to the V2, but the motion is quicker, with arms pumping between poling and body driving forward, core muscles engaged. At the fastest speeds, this becomes no–pole skating—you simply use arm swing, since your pole plants can't keep up with the skating action.