what is it

To get up a hill too steep for any other technique, you angle the tips of your skis out to the side, and press the inside edge of each ski into the snow as you push on it.  For each single leg-stride there is a single pole-push with one arm. 

what for 

The main technique for going up steep hills for most skiers. 


(a) If you need more grip to get up the hill, just angle your tips out wider -- provides a much more secure grip than classic stride, without much loss in efficiency; 

(b) The best way to go slow up a steep hill -- and save your muscles for other triumphs later in the day.  


Pointing your skis out out an angle is not as biomechanically effective as pointing your skis straight up the hill.  


There are two basic philosophies about herringbone: 

  • the most commonly held is that herringbone is a separate special "last-ditch" technique -- to walk up a steep hill -- to be used after strength and every trick has failed. 
  • the other is that herringbone is just one more trick to improve grip -- to be blended with hill bound and other classic stride grip tricks -- in whatever mix is convenient at this moment on this particular point on the hill. 

It's interesting to play around with which ideas from the climbing up steep hills "secret" in what circumstances can be helpfully applied to herringbone. 

Here's some ideas I've often found helpful: 

  • try to keep the angle of the skis as narrow as possible without slipping back. 
  • just edging the skis helps grip, even without angling the skis out very much. 

because the snow is deformed by the uneven pressure focused on the small area of the ski's edge. 

  • use the grip wax zone to help -- do not just rely on edging and angling 

and enhance that grip with every other grip-improvement trick from the Classic striding "Secrets".  Including the press the toe "secret"

  • the biomechanical inefficiency of angling and edging the skis is not enormous -- so it's not worth it to work real hard to hold my grip with other techniques, when I could just switch to a narrow herringbone. 

The other grip-improvement tricks have costs of their own.  If I switch between different tricks, I'm less likely to get my muscles and joints stressed out from an over-dose of one kind of cost. 

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usage zone  

  • As the hill gets less steep, point your skis closer to straight ahead.  Once your skis are pointing straight ahead, you are doing some variation of either classic stride (if you're trying to get a little glide) or hill bound (if you're not trying for a little glide). 
  • If the steep hill is real short, and you are feeling strong and athletic, you can maintain better momentum by using hill bounding -- and it feels powerful. 
  • If the hill is extremely steep and you just can't spread your tips any further apart, you'll  have to switch to something totally different:  Face sideways, and side-step up the hill. 

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