The skating technique allows you to move quickly when cross-country skiing. Amélie, Nordic ski instructor, and department manager at Quechua's Domancy store, explains how to develop your skills and improve your skating technique.
> Amélie, can you explain the basic principles of how to improve your skating technique ?
First of all, here's the technical definition of the skating technique as described in the French Ski Handbook: "a series of lateral leg pushes to the side, with skis pointing outwards. Aided by the driving action of alternative or simultaneous arm pushes."
In order to perfect the skating technique, it's important to master the different variants which are:
- the one skate: each push of the leg is aided by a simultaneous push of the arms on the poles.
- the two skate: two pushes of the legs correspond to a simultaneous push of the arms on both poles
- offset: same action as the 2 skate except there is a slight delay between the leg and the arm push
- diagonal stride: the arm movement involves pushing with one arm and then the other (the pole is planted next to the driving ski)
> When you've acquired the technique, what exercises can you do to improve ?
Once you've acquired a good basic technique, you then have to learn how to adapt your action to suit the terrain. It will be much easier and more enjoyable. The leg movement remains virtually the same but by changing the arm action and the rhythm we can move from one technique to another.
Example of the diagonal skate: This technique is used for gradual inclines; the aim is to climb using a herringbone step and then gradually add a slide phase which you try to extend as the incline becomes steeper. The alternate arm action makes it easier to transfer body weight.
> How do you tackle sections with steep ascents (bend the knees, lower your centre of gravity etc) ?
During a steep ascent, you can either use the 2 skate or, if you get tired or if the ascent is too steep, the diagonal skate.
Whatever stride you're using, the important thing is to keep your lower limbs bent and position your skis as flat as possible, so you can maximise the glide phase. Your arms aren't just there to look pretty; it's important to use them to propel yourself forward and reduce the stress on the lower body. Direct your gaze towards the top of the incline which will help keep your upper body lifted.
> What final advice could you give us to help improve our skating stride ?
Whatever your level, put your poles to one side and work your legs: poles often allow us to hide our poor technique. Without them, we have to concentrate on positioning the ski flat on the ground, transferring body weight from one leg to another and so improving balance and slide.
Then, when skiing, imitate the arm movement corresponding to the step you want to learn. It's all about coordination. Bear in mind that it's always important to match the terrain and technique, to position yourself properly for each movement and to repeat it again and again.
If you're determined and patient, you will succeed!