V2-One Skate: too fast, too hard, or just right? – Cross Country Ski Technique

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.

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