technique for Classic cross country skis


[ under construction ] 


Getting a little glide in every stride 

Gliding is enjoyable, so it's great to learn to make it part of every stride, even on a flat trail. 

Before you learn this 

Here are some pre-requisites for learning and practicing this technique: 

First learn solidly everything listed on the 

Getting Comfortable on Skis page 

Get skis that are suitable for this technique: 

  • waxless base is usually simplest. 
  • but not with the waxless ridged or fish-scale pattern covering the entire base from tip to tail. 
  • flex of the ski not too stiff:  using "the paper test", the paper should be solidly held under the wax pocket with your body weight center over your whole foot on one ski -- see the Fit of Skis "secret"
  • but flex of the ski not so soft that it's hard to make one ski glide with all your weight on it.  Don't use skis that are only good for shuffling. 

Find a flat wide trail with a Classic track on it where the track is set far away from the sides of the trail -- so that there is no danger of you hitting trees or rocks or other obstacles, or falling over a steep drop-off or cliff -- in case you fall or lose control. 

How to learn it 

First, check back on the main How to Learn page, and be sure that this technique really belongs on your best path to your goal. 

Start by just reading the description below on this page.  Some of those steps are just what your muscle control reflexes will do instinctively anyway.  

You likely do not need to take a lesson from an instructor to learn this.  In fact, many instructors would refuse to teach it to you, and insist that you take a different path for learning technique instead.  Maybe some advice from a more experienced skier friend. 

If this technique is your goal, getting videotaped is not likely to be important, since the key steps are either instinctive (using poles and second ski for balance) or else are based on feel (the "stomp"). 

But do choose a day and time when: 

- - it's not snow conditions where nothing works (see FAQ

- - your chosen flat wide trail is not crowded with other skiers. 

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Basic idea 

The basic idea for getting glide on a flat trail is to 

  1. Make your leg-push off one ski a bit stronger and quicker. 
  2. Step onto your other ski, 
  3. Hesitate, before you make the next leg-push. 

If all goes well, that first leg-push generated more energy than was needed to make the step -- so when you hesitate, the left-over energy is available to make you glide on the other ski. 

But there are two problems to overcome . . .   

Problem 1 -- tricky balance on one ski 

When you glide as part of your stride, you are gliding on only one ski -- unlike in gliding down a hill where you have both skis on the snow.  

Clearly when balancing on one ski it's trickier to stay in control and more likely to fall down to one side or the other. 

So one tip for "how to learn" is to first get solid balance and control gliding on two skis (see Downhill techniques), before taking on the one-ski situation.  But even with that, gliding on one ski is just a tricky thing. 

The obvious solutions to this are: 

(a) make that tricky time on one ski as short as possible:  Put your second ski down back on the snow quick. 

(b) lean on your pole as needed for balance. 

Solution (b) can feel awkward and sometimes takes a lot of arm strength.  Just touching the second ski down is normally pretty smooth, and it effectively uses the stronger leg muscles.  So lots of skiers use (a) as their main approach for every stroke, supplemented by a little (b) in every stroke -- but hold the full power of (b) in reserve for special recovery moves.  

But these obvious solutions to the first problem end up making the second problem harder -- and that's the big puzzle of Classic striding technique. 

Problem 2 -- losing grip for the leg-push 

When you make your leg-push stronger and quicker, sometimes your ski can slip back. 

The main solution to this is to push the ski down into the snow with more force -- and that way it will usually grip better. 

Now there are two methods to push the ski down into the snow:  

 - - put more of your body weight on it; and 

 - - stomp down on it. 

The body weight method is what we normally do when we walk and stride on dry land.  We step off one foot and onto the other foot.  No surprise -- usually works fine.  

But a new problem comes when we try to add glide to our stride, and then deal with its balance and control trickiness by the "obvious solutions" -- see above in the previous section.  The new problem is that when we either (a) touch our second ski down, or (b) lean on our pole -- that takes some of our body weight off from the ski we are trying to push on.  For more on why this happens, see under Why this is critical in the Balance and Weight Commitment "secret"

So just when we were hoping for more down-push help from the body weight method, we're actually getting less. 

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Solution:  "stomp and glide" technique 

The obvious solution is to make up for the loss in that first body weight method by getting more from second method, the "stomp": 

Use your leg muscles to stomp your foot down on your ski -- at the same time that you are pushing forward against the ski. 

I call this technique the "stomp and glide".  Lots of folks ski this way, and are having fun with it.  

Getting to a solid "stomp and glide" is a good achievement in classic striding technique. 


Is this a good fit for me? 

That depends on how you feel about the "stomp" -- since I assume you love the "glide" part. 

The advantages of the stomp are that it feels powerful, delivers grip needed for the leg push, and adds to exercise intensity and calories burned. 

But the stomp has disadvantages:  takes more work, tires you out sooner, not as smooth. 

So if you don't care about the disadvantages -- or you've lost interest in learning more techniques -- then this is a good place to stop worrying about technique, and instead focus on all the other interesting and valuable parts of cross country skiing. 

But if you're bothered by the disadvantages, or you just want the option of stomping when you want, but not when you don't -- then check out an alternative . . . 

Alternative:  Committed weight transfer  

The idea of this alternative is to avoid most of the need to stomp, by avoiding most of Problem 2 above (not enough grip) -- by finding a different, third solution to Problem 1 above (tricky balance while gliding on a single ski). 

That third solution is:  Learn and practice other subtle moves to keep balance that do not require you to touch the snow with your pole tip or your second ski. 

The big advantage of this alternative is more efficient skiing, so you don't get tired out as fast.  And once you've learned it, you can even combine it with the "stomp", and get some of the benefits of both. 

The big problem is that the balance and subtle control moves needed for this committed weight transfer approach are difficult to learn:  Lots of practice with special exercises. 

But if you like learning new things on skis, you will find the process very interesting.  

And you don't have to master it fully to get the benefits -- 40% better balance and weight transfer yields a 40% improvement in grip and efficiency.   

For more on this, see 

the Balance and Weight Commitment "secret" 

How to Learn -- add fun + speed 

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