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Learn How to Cross-Country Ski – The Cross-Country Ski Techniques Explained

Updated on 19.02.2024 in Sports

Cross country ski techniqueCross country ski technique

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 national 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 Nordic skiing is, and if you have skied before you might pick up a few tips and tricks too.

Cross-country skiing techniques – two types you should know

There are two main types of cross-country skiing: classic and skating. The classic technique was developed thousands of years ago in Scandanavia to get around during the cold, snowy months of the year. It is considered the most traditional and aesthetic form of cross-country skiing and continues to be used both in leisure and competition today. The second technique, skating, was developed in the 1980s as a faster and more dynamic style. Again, it is used both by hobby skiers and in competition. The equipment needed for classic and skating differs slightly, so make sure you have the right gear. Most cross-country skiing resorts have trails suitable for classic, skating or both (often side by side). Skating has become the most popular technique in recent years, but there are still plenty of skiers who love the gentle, old-school movements of classic cross-country skiing.

The Nordic skating technique

Skate skiing is best for athletic skiers interested in going fast. You cannot skate ski on the ski tracks cut into the trails. Instead, there is generally a flat surface next to these ski tracks which is reserved for skating. Skate skiing is based on a technique that includes kicking the skis outward diagonally from the body and using ski poles to move the skier’s body forward and help pick up speed. Skate skiing involves a decisive weight transfer from one ski to the other. In many ways it looks a lot like ice-skating. This, of course, creates a challenge of balancing on one ski and then transferring your weight to the other. There are different skate ski techniques, varying according to how often you use your poles and how these arm movements are coordinated with your legs. Unfortunately, the respective techniques have different names in different countries, so it can get confusing. In Offset or V1 skating, the skier plants the two poles at the exact moment one of his skis lands in the snow. This results in the 3:1 ratio characteristic of Offset. One Skate, also known as Gear 3 or V2 skating, means a pole push for every leg push, creating a 1:1 ratio. 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 V1 first, as it will allow you to go uphill and cover any type of terrain. As your balance improves, V2 and V2 Alternate become easier.

  • Faster and more dynamic than the classic technique
  • Weight shifts from one ski to the other
  • Good for all types of terrain

The Classic Cross Country Ski Technique

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.

  • Easier and more gentle than skate skiing
  • Movement broadly similar to normal walking
  • Slower than skating but less hard work going uphill

Nordic Skiing at Lake Achensee: Practicing cross country skiing techniques can be great fun!Nordic Skiing at Lake Achensee: Practicing cross country skiing techniques can be great fun!

Crosscountry skiing vs. skate skiing – which one should you choose?

The bottom line: skate or classic? Choose whichever style you find most appealing. I like having the choice when snow conditions are better for one technique 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 cross-country ski technique videos give an overview of how to do both skate skiing and classic skiing.

World traveller, lover of new experiences, and Tirol aficionado Eckard Speckbacher is out exploring the hidden attractions. He offers insight into places and destinations that are less well known, along with restaurant and hotel recommendations.

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