Looking for a way to greatly improve your downhill game? The newer and faster cousin of cross-country skiing might be just what you’re looking for.
What is skate skiing?
Imagine speed skating, pushing from one skate to glide onto the next. Now elongate your skates, turn them into high performance narrow strips of wood (41-45mm wide), and stretch your ice rink into kilometers of groomed snow through the woods. Enter skate skiing. Born out of the traditional Nordic cross-country skiing, skate skiing offered a way to cover more ground in a faster and sexier way. Using poles and skis in tandem, good skate skiers zoom zoom by in spandex and make it look easy. Think Olympic biathlon.
Unfortunately, the artistic flow that these guys and gals demonstrate is no easy task. As one New York Times article title puts it “One Problem with Skate Skiing: It’s Hard”, but the boon to your downhill ski game is well worth the effort. Here’s a couple reasons why.
Ever charged hard down a mogul run only to have your weight slip silently into the wrong place and before you know it, you’re flailing totally out of control? Skiing is all about balance, and skate skiing is the ultimate test. If you imagine your balance zone on alpine (downhill) skis as a tire-sized circle around your boots, then the 1.5 inch-wide skate skis are a dinner plate. On top of that, with each push you must then glide on one leg without tipping over. So when you’re tackling big bumps and difficult terrain on alpine skis, you’ll end up in the right position with better balance more easily. Even more, if things go awry and you find yourself on one ski, you’ll be able to right the ship with a little more grace. As they say, when you’re balanced and in the right position, you could ski barefoot.
We’ve all felt it. Every bump, every turn, and every powder day sends your legs through the gauntlet. By itself, a ski run won’t necessarily get your heart rate pumping, but link a few together and ski a little more aggressively and you’ll remember what your heart and legs do for a living. To combat, skate skiing is one of the best exercises you can perform. The obvious target are your legs, but with the use of poles the upper body and core are hardly forgotten. “Double poling”, for example, is a standing crunch used to propel yourself forward with a push off your arms at the end of the motion. Combine that with the rigor of the push-then-glide style of skating and you’ve hit every muscle in your body. The endurance nature of the sport generates long lean muscle fibers that are flexible and long lasting. In other words, suddenly deciding to crush moguls at the end of the day isn’t so daunting. With this kind of fitness you’ll last longer, ski harder, and best, ski more days than ever before.
More Reasons to Get Outside
The health benefits of getting outside are limitless. Whether you’re trying to ease depression, reduce stress, or excel in other parts of your life, there’s something about breathing (lots of) fresh air that yields a therapy you may never find in an office. Also, ever heard of the Nordic center at your local ski hill?
Give it a quick Google search because it will open up an entirely new side of the mountain you’ve likely never seen before, and it’s here that you can really get the “lost in the woods” kind of feel.
So if you’re going to huff and puff, at least be surrounded by something beautiful like a frozen lake, a moose! or even the simple beauty of the woods. Above all, the message remains the same–just get outside. Ditch the gym, buy a pair of skate skis (they’re inexpensive!), take a lesson (important!) and start skiing. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain so get outside!