early ideas for skating for cross country skiing

There's been a lot of discussion among American racers since 2000 about the "new skate" -- a set of ideas that seemed to contradict what was being taught and practiced in the 1990s.  These "new skate" ideas have been appearing mainly in magazine articles by Pete Vordenberg and in training camps.  Unfortunately it has not been easy so far (as of July 2004) to find a full book-length presentation of the techniques by one of the "new skate" coaches.

In September 2003 I came across a book by a Norwegian racer, Audun Endestad, who moved to America and teamed with an American, John Teaford.  They wrote a book called "Skating for Cross Country Skiers" back in 1987 which explains some of the "new skate" ideas in a fresh and helpful way -- see the Resources page for details on this book.  Some ideas seem in opposition to the "new skate" see Discussion.  And they present other valuable and interesting ideas not mentioned in the "new skate".

I've found many of the ideas from this book so stimulating that I've summarized my understanding of some of its key concepts here.  It is possible I may have misunderstood or mis-worded some of these concepts and tips, so . . . 

Far better is to read the clear explanations in the forceful words of Endestad and Teaford themselves in the full context of their actual book -- see book details on the Skate Resources page.

secrets of fast skating

  • Push with your weight through the rear half of your foot -- not with your toe. [ details ] 
  • First bend your knee deeply, then make your leg-push. [ details ] 
  • Push with your leg out toward the side -- not toward the back.  Let the magic take over. [ details ]  
  • The hip on the non-pushing side goes first in the stroke, with a sideways shift -- do not lead with the shoulders. [ details ] 
  • Keep your heel pressed against the ski as long as possible through the leg-push stroke. [ details ] 
  • Work on deep low knee bend. [ details ] 
  • No movement above the waist except what is needed for poling. [ details ] 
  • "Slouch" posture, with a curved back, not a sharp bend at the hips. [ details ] 
  • Pole-push is shorter and more explosive than the double-pole technique in classic-style skiing. [ details ] 

back to Top | more Skating | FAQ | Resources | XCski index


  • The mechanics of the leg stroke are basically the same for skiers as for speed skaters on ice.
  • When you're gliding passively, you're slowing down.  Usually should try to have as little time as possible with no pushing.
  • Higher turnover frequency for slow speeds.  Lower turnover frequency for fast speeds, with deeper knee bend.
  • Dryland technique training:  Top priority is on exaggeration of aspects of technique, ahead of attempts at exact simulation.

back to Top | more Skating | FAQ | Resources | XCski index

specific motions

  • V2 (or "Symmetrical V-Skate" = "SVS") needs lots of balance and confidence.  Watch out for extra upper body motion, or unevenness between the two sides.
  • V1 (or "Asymmetrical V-Skate" = "AVS") -- a common problem is not pushing with the leg on the recovery side.   Make a strong leg-push on both sides.
  • climbing up hills -- of course angle the skis out wider, and there will likely be some push backward.  But keep trying to push out sideways, and trying to keep the heel on the ski.
  • poling:  be careful not to let initiation or completion of the poling move your weight onto your toes, and make the poling motion shorter and quicker.

back to Top | more Skating | FAQ | Resources | XCski index


Try to keep your feet ahead of your hips.

There's an additional move that comes before the main leg-push.  Usually the recovery from the previous stroke brings your hips higher on a straighter leg.  For a more effective leg-push, you need to first drop down with a vertical move to bend your knee strongly.

In the V2 stroke cycle, the pole-push is made at the same time as this vertical down-move with the legs.

This is seems impossible, but skating has some magic in it which can take over wonderfully, if you learn to harness it.  Try some exercises to start feeling this magic.  [ to be added ]

Some backward motion in the push may be inevitable sometimes, like when climbing up a steep hill -- but keep working on getting that sideways push, even when your skis are angled out wider.

Keep the hips square to the overall line of forward travel.  If you held a pole across the front of your hips, each end of the pole would point straight at the side of the trail.  If you had a headlight mounted on your navel, it would point straight ahead down the trail. 

The shoulders and upper body stay in line with the hips.  Minimize twisting.

Do not tip the shoulders or tilt the upper body to initiate the new stroke.  Keep the weight of the upper body centered over the hips -- and directly over the pushing ski as long as possible to the start of the main push of the leg.  Initiating with a tilt of the shoulders may feel like it is helping -- but actually it is weakening the power of the stroke.

The mental picture of "toe-push" messes up the whole mechanics of the stroke.  It ties in with several bad tendencies which limit speed:  cutting out the knee-bend, leaning and turning the shoulders, weighting the tip of the ski, and pushing backward instead of out to the side.

Keep working on exaggerating the feeling of pushing through the heel.  

The deeper the knee bend, the longer the range of motion in the main leg push.  It taxes a special static strength in the legs.  But it's the key way to more speed in skating -- and a necessity for a competing seriously in freestyle races.

For a serious racer, "deep" could be like a 105 degree angle between the lower and the upper leg bones.

This deep knee bend position is hard on the muscles and joints of the leg.  So just knowing the concept is not enough -- doing it too much too soon could result in injury.  You need to follow a well-designed specific training program for it, both on snow and dry land.

Unnecessary moves with your upper body might feel powerful and make you look good, but they do not make you go any faster.

But not with a sharp bend at the hips -- see how a cat arches its back.  Like speedskaters on ice, but not as low.

The idea is to get the shoulders lower, but not shift the weight to the tips of the skis.

Usually start it with the initial knee-bend move, and get it over with quick so it doesn't get in the way of the leg-push.

Start the pole-push lower than a classic-style double pole motion, and be careful not to allow your weight to move to your toe.

Keep the hands in closer to the chest, and not have them go so low passing the legs as in classic-style double poling.

End the pole-push soon after the hands pass the hips.  Don't worry about full extension.

back to Top | more Skating | FAQ | Resources | XCski index

see also


back to Top | more Skating | FAQ | Resources | XCski index