V2-One Skate: too fast, too hard, or just right?

In Top Tips for New Skate Skiers I argue beginner and struggling skate skiers should prioritize One Skate (V2) and minimize their use of Two Skate. (V2 Alternate)

It’s not that I don’t like Two Skate. Two Skate is a wonderful technique. It’s fast, fun and dynamic. The problem is that Two Skate disguises balance problems. Skiers who use Two Skate/Offset everywhere usually don’t know they have a balance problem.

Struggling and self-taught skate skiers object to One Skate because they think it’s:

  1. Too Fast
  2. Too Hard

They’re wrong on both counts.

This question from M.K. captures a common sentiment:

“If one is not a racer or someone that can go an entire race in “all-out to the finish line mode”, why is the V2 technique considered so popular or even used for that matter? I find that overall, it is not a very economical technique – if I’m going up a hill I can get more output for less energy in a V1 and if I’m on the flats I can get more output for less energy in a V2 alternate. I see V2 as a nice technique to mix in every now and then and also good for testing balance but I see it as a technique that requires too much energy for the output given the higher poling turnover. Again, I say this from the perspective of someone who likes to ski hard but not a racer – if I’m roller skiing 12 miles on a hot summer day my goal is to simply keep going without ever stopping which means getting good speed on the flats and just getting up hills without taking breaks throughout the session. If I were to engage in V1 frequently I’d be completely exhausted and I don’t consider myself to be in bad shape.”

I have no doubt M.K. is in good shape and has more than enough fitness to manage V2-One Skate, if only his technique was more efficient.

It’s easy to enjoy classic skiing even if your technical skills aren’t developed because you can simply shuffle your skis back and forth in a walking-like motion and move forward.

Skate skiing is different. The way the body works and the way the feet work is quite unique. It doesn’t even relate to ice skating very well.

Eventually, without instruction, the human brain figures out a way to move forward on skate skis somewhat efficiently. I don’t understand the underlying biomechanics or existing movement patterns the brain is working from, but I do know every self-taught skate skier ends up with the same “homemade” technique.

Some people call it V1-Offset, others say it’s Two Skate. Personally, I don’t think it’s close enough to either to be included in the skate ski technique pantheon.

The self-taught technique is efficient as far as the brain is concerned – it’s a way to move forward while minimizing effort – but it’s far from optimal. Skiers who use this technique everywhere can become proficient and cover a lot of ground, but they won’t reach their full potential in this sport.

More alarmingly, continuous use of an asymmetrical technique, like the self-taught technique, exacerbates muscle imbalances and increases the risk of injury over the long run.

Some sports are inherently asymmetrical, like golf and baseball, but Nordic skiing should be a sport that supports the development of a balanced body and symmetrical strength.

So, back to the question, why do skiers find V2-One Skate too hard and/or too fast? A big part of the issue is that skiers have trouble perceiving their instability and understanding that the root of their problem isn’t lack of fitness or high speed, it’s simply balance.

The Gliding Skate Kick

When you have good speed in skate skiing, say because the trail is flat and the snow conditions are fast, you’ll have a longer glide phase.

In this situation you need a Gliding Skate Kick. The ski should land flat on its base and run flat before rolling onto the inside edge for the kick. The hip, knee and foot should be vertically aligned when the ski is gliding flat. Those are hallmarks of good balance in skate skiing.

For new and struggling skate skiers, it’s more common for the ski to land wide of the hips, on the inside edge and for the knee to collapse inward.

Optimal v. Non-Optimal Glide Kick

  1. Optimal (intermediate – expert): The ski lands flat and glides flat before rolling onto the inside edge. The hip, knee and foot are vertically stacked.
  2. Non-optimal (beginner – intermediate): The foot lands on the snow wider than the hip and the knee collapses inward. The ski is angled onto the inside edge when it lands.

Even if we’re talking about tiny amounts – the ski is a few centimetres wide of the hips and angled just a few degrees – the difference to efficiency will be enormous. It’s like you’re cutting off the glide phase completely and getting half a kick phase. Of course it’s exhausting!

(Note: This discussion is only relevant to situations when you have more speed, and hence more glide. This does not apply to uphill skate skiing or skiing in slower conditions.)

What is the problem?

Here’s the situation for the majority of beginner-intermediate skate skiers:

The speed is good enough to sustain a glide kick but as the ski recovers it lands on the inside edge, with foot placement wide of the hips.

What does that that mean?

These skiers are essentially falling off their ski prematurely during the glide phase. They land the ski on the inside edge, with their foot wider than their hips, which means they can’t be stable on the ski as it glides.

Instead, they immediately begin to “fall” back to the center. This forces them to have a rushed tempo. Tempo is your stride frequency, how often you turn over your stride, or how many strides per minute you take.

Because they lack a stable glide phase and are continually “falling” off their ski, they have to rapidly recover their poles to get ready for the next stride.

This is why these skiers think they are “skiing too fast” for V2-One Skate. They are confusing their rushed, high poling tempo, which is the result of instability, with high speed. Speed and tempo are 2 different things.

And this is why so many skiers prefer Two Skate/Offset over One Skate. In the first 2 techniques, you take one pole stroke every two strides and therefore don’t suffer a rushed feeling.

Watch for that next time you’re skiing. The better skate skiers can maintain a slower, more relaxed tempo with V2-One Skate on the flats. The weaker skiers will turn over their stride more frequently or push with their poles every second leg push.

So I stand by my advice: use V2-One Skate as much as possible and leave Two Skate for after you’ve developed better stability. It will serve you well in the long run. V2-One Skate can and should be one of your principle skate techniques.

Regarding developing stability, check out: Don’t Waste Your Time on Stupid Skate Drills.

17 thoughts on “V2-One Skate: too fast, too hard, or just right?”

  1. I think it is important not to confuse Gear 2 and 4. They both have pole pushes every other stride but their rythms are very different. Gear 2 is a movement in duple meter with the pole plant on the first beat; Gear 4 is a movement in sextuple meter with pole plant on the sixth beat. Gear 2 is a stable and balance-wise easy technique because of the simultaneous stride and pole plant on the first beat. Gear 4, on the other hand, has the pole plant before the stride of the first beat and therefore demands more balance. Stina Nilsson thinks Gear 4 is the hardest skate skiing technique. I believe that is because Gear 4 is rythmically very close to Gear 3 but with less support from the poles since the pole plants occur only at every other stride. Here she is teaching a beginner. Note how little energy it takes Stina to start and maintain Gear 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgKHmhCI9nM

      • No, I don’t. I want to ask, but I don’t want to be rude. How do I say, “You are a great example of what not to do. Can I film you?”

      • you ask someone with good technique to demonstrate what they do well and then show you what you do not want them to do. I do this all the time when demonstrating proper technique in all sorts of sports. No need to rudely ask someone who can not do both. Just a suggestion as i think an example of what you are talking about not doing would be of assistance.

  2. Good one skaters can get up to speed faster and recover lost speed faster than someone who offsets into two skate. One skate is great to learn to do well because it’s powerful and if you become good at it, your improved balance benefits the other strides significantly. When you’re going very fast, about the only thing that works is free skating (for me) because your poles fly by your body too fast to plant effectively.

    I do a lot of skijoring with a very fast two dog team and when we’re flat out on a fast stretch, I’m always in two skate before going to free skate. We can easily hit 50 km/hr on good snow, wheee! Up moderate inclines or after a sharp turn I tend to one skate to quickly regain speed, then go to two skate at a speed where I can’t still plant my poles fast enough to one skate.

    I suspect there’s an upper limit in speed for one skate, I’m sure elite skiers know and imagine it’s fairly high. I do know that if I’m skiing at moderate speed with a friend and switch to one skate without deliberately easing off, I pull away immediately.

    One skate has the least dwell time between power applications if your balance is good enough that you can switch from side to side quickly.

    Lesser mortal skiers (me, a few years ago) avoiding one skate have myriad reasons for avoiding it, not the least of which is you look really silly learning it! Bad memories of their first wobbly skating lessons. The even rhythm is confusing; only similar to maybe herringboning and far less secure feeling. One skate’s exhausting at first but definitely worth the learning curve. Knowing different strides makes skiing a lot more interesting and easier; I’d hate to go back to skating many k’s in different homemade forms of offset, skiing’s supposed to be fun, not misery!

    • “Homemade offset” – Excellent! You just solved the problem of what to call that self-taught skate technique. I’m stealing that expression from you! Thanks :)

  3. Thanks, this definitely helps!
    You say “This discussion is only relevant to situations when you have more speed, and hence more glide. This does not apply to uphill skate skiing or skiing in slower conditions.” I am in the situation where I can V2-One Skate when the conditions are very good, but struggle as soon as conditions are slower and have to use Two Skate/Offset (or my non-optimal self-taught version of it) even on the flats. What do you recommend to focus on when conditions are slow?

    • Hi Ivan – you are right to focus on Offset in slow conditions or when you need to build up speed. The Offset kick is wider than a One Skate kick and you should land the ski on the in side edge. We teach a “Climbing Kick” and a “Gliding Kick”.

  4. One thing I noticed in the comment you quoted is that he is roller skiing – balancing on a rounded wheel is quite a lot more difficult than balancing on a flat ski, and, of course, you have a lot more “glide” on roller skis, and thus it’s easier to hit the “speed limit” for one-skate. I’m still a beginner at skate skiing, so this limit is somewhere around 15 km/h for me :)

    • Hi David. Many people find it easier to balance on skate roller skis as compared to skate skis because roller skis can’t slip laterally like a skate ski can.

  5. Hi Kim,
    I think the problem with beginning skate skiers (and we’ve all been there) is we want to fly before we’ve learned to crawl. As beginners poles are a great tool for cheating, catching ourselves when we’re off balance and developing all sorts of bad habits that eventually we have to get around to correcting.
    Poles quickly get us into information overload … flex your ankles like this, and bend your knees like this, get your weight forward, not so far forward that you fall on your face, keep a neutral spine, don’t hunch your shoulders, keep your shoulders set like this, and THEN just before you extend this leg to push off onto your other ski plant your poles like this, and crunch your abs like this to propel yourself down the trail as you skate off onto your other ski like this! It’s just way too much.
    I would argue that beginning skate skiers should leave the poles at home and focus on free skate for however long it takes to reach an acceptable level of proficiency. Then we can think about adding poles. At that time I think V2 and diagonal skate would be the next techniques to learn as they’re both symmetrical. Once balance and symmetry is reasonably good I see no problem with V1 and field skate since at that point you should be able to do them on either side.
    Of course I had nowhere near the patience or discipline to hear or follow such advice so I have spent years unlearning bad habits and learning to V1 and field skate on the OTHER side and just in the last year I am finally getting around to V2. Oh well, it’s still been fun and at times I felt like I was flying.

  6. Hi Kim,

    Among all the useful information presented on your site, I have to draw attention to a segment of technique – and encouragement – for pushing One Skate farther up a hill before switching to Offset. I have struggled with this for a while, and had not found the solution in my quwatioana to coaches and friends. When you asked (rhetorically) “should I/you be able to One Skate up a hill the I/you can Double Poll?”, the lights started flickering. What adaptations do I make to Double Pole up a hill? Stay forward and quicken the tempo! When the terrain steepened, my tendency has been to “grind”: to push longer and let my hips drop back. It seemed intuitive at the time, but in the past couple of weeks I have thought through the connection between the higher tempo climbing by Double Poling, and a higher tempo for Single Skate (V-2). I feel ‘reborn’, and my friends are amazed and mumbling to themselves.

    It took my aging brain to wrap around this powerful suggestion, but I think I’m there.

    Merci mille fois pour tout,

    Mike

    • Haha! Exactly! Yet another example where our preoccupation with gliding in One Skate isn’t doing us any favours. Makes you feel like a boss, right?

  7. Hi Kim,
    Many years ago I skied with someone who was an expert skater…On a break (which I initiated), he said, “You’re pretty good for being self-taught.” Man! I lived on that bread for a long time; thinking it was good enough. It got me around and felt pretty good. But this winter it finally dawned on me (don’t laugh!) . . . why not learn one skate? So here I go again, self-teaching and being homemade; but the difference is I’m asking for help on the trail, and learning from people like you. Thanks. I have never had so much fun skiing . . . I love being wrapped in the details of it and hope to be proficient in it the one skate some day.

  8. Hi Kim,

    I’ve just taken up rollerskiing plus cross-country skating and, being the wrong side of 60 by quite a margin, I need to make up for lack of stamina etc by trying to develop an efficient technique. I have found your site and advice very useful and well explained (many thanks, to you) but I’m having difficulty getting a clear picture of what the various names are for the different techniques. Could you please help me with one detail that is confusing me.

    In the above article you are advising that beginners and struggling skate skiers should prioritize One Skate (V2) and minimize their use of Two Skate (V2 Alternate). I was following the logic until I read the extract you included of M.K.’s view on the matter. M.K. prefers V1 (“up a hill”) and V2 Alternate (“on the flats”). I deduce that M.K.’s terminology is describing your nomenclature: ‘Offset (V1)’ and ‘Two Skate (V2 Alternate)’ respectively. So far so good, but then the M.K. extract throws me, when at the end of the paragraph they state, “If I were to engage in V1 frequently I’d be completely exhausted and I don’t consider myself to be in bad shape.”

    Presumably this is a typo and what they meant to say was “If I were to engage in V2 Alternate frequently I’d be completely exhausted and I don’t consider myself to be in bad shape.”?

    • Hi David – It’s is confusing! The real issue is that, without instruction, skiers naturally skate by poling with every other leg push – call it homemade skate skiing. Two Skate (V2 Alternate) and Offset (V1) both use a pole push with every other leg push. i.e. you either two skate and offset on the right side OR the left side. People naturally prefer one side and use it predominantly. They think they are using two skate on the flats and offset on the hills, when, in reality, they’re simply using their homemade technique everywhere. M.K. is resistant to V2 because he doesn’t yet have the balance required to do it will, but without pushing himself to do it, he’ll never break free of him homemade technique. Homemade skate technique most closely resembles Offset, but it’s still a far cry from optimal offset (V1). Hope that helps. It will gradually start to make more sense…

Leave a Comment