Classic Nordic skiing is a fantastic winter sport that builds both aerobic and muscular fitness when good running conditions hibernate for the winter. But as any runner who jumps into the sport can attest, key differences between the two make for a challenging time on the ski trail if you don’t know basic technique.
I came to this sport as a runner who had spent years honing and teaching proper running form, and I still often think about how the two differ to help me find the movement in my body.
How to maximize your glide
Before diving into the nuances— exactly what is striding? Classic skiing uses groomed tracks and a method called diagonal striding for the majority of the movement (the other is double poling, but that’s another article).
There are two phases of a diagonal stride, the kick phase and glide phase. The kick phase is the period in which you get traction and the glide phase is well, when you glide and love life.
How can you maximize your glide? The following three components will help you glide down the tracks with ease:
- Full weight transfer
- A forward leg drive
- Lengthening your stride.
We’ll discuss the first two which, if done properly, result in the third; all three equate to maximizing glide, the fundamental goal in all Nordic skiing, both classic and skate disciplines.
Getting a full weight transfer
If you’ve ever heard the slap of your ski behind you as you meander down the trail, that’s a sign that you’re not fully weighting one ski before moving to the other.
Transferring weight onto one ski before switching sides is crucial to gliding longer.
When your hips are fully over one ski when compressing the wax pocket or fish scale pattern, you get good kick, and, as the ski responds, the glide phase begins, propelling you down the trail. In addition, your other leg is free to drive forward for the next kick/glide cycle.
A powerful forward leg drive
Since there is no glide component to running, it’s most efficient to land close to your body’s center of gravity to minimize impact. For classic skiing, however, you will glide longer by driving your leg forward and bringing your body up to a planted foot in front of you, much like stepping onto a stair.
Driving your foot far in front of you and transferring you weight over to that ski puts you in the best position to powerfully set the wax and maintain better balance while you glide and bring the other leg forward.
While overstriding in running can cause injury or at least unnecessary muscular strain, lengthening your skiing stride gives you better kick and maximizes glide to go faster with less effort—a significant goal in any endurance sport.
Practice on (and off) the slopes
Achieving full weight transfer and driving your leg forward both take practice and require good balance since all of this is done while on skinny skis on a slippery surface.
You can improve your balance by standing on one leg while doing dishes or brushing your teeth. When that becomes too easy, close your eyes. On snow, pick a flat section of trail, ditch your poles, and feel what it’s like to transfer your weight from one ski to the other by bringing your hips up over your foot. Then, see how far you can go by driving your leg forward, transferring your weight to that ski, then repeating on the other side. Finally, when that feels natural, try it on a gentle hill, which will amplify the need to fully transfer your weight.