Nordic Skate Skiing

:date: 2023-03-04 19:47 :tags:

I am currently in the northern mitten of Michigan which is an excellent region for my favorite sport of Nordic skiing! A lot of people have misconceptions of the sport and I thought I would do what I could to demonstrate what it is I am exactly doing when I "go skiing". When conditions are bad (e.g. where I currently live, and this winter in general) I will ski with what is called "classic" style. This is the one most people think of when they think of cross country skiing where you basically shuffle along on skis. Nothing wrong with that. It's what I learned as a kid in Alaska.

However there is a more modern form of Nordic skiing called skate skiing and it is just like it sounds  —  propulsion is achieved with a skating action. This type of skiing can be very graceful and elegant when done well. Since I've got a pretty strong in-line and ice speedskating background, when I heard about skate skiing I knew I would love it!

There are some difficulties with skate skiing however. First, it is faster partially because it generally requires a higher wattage than classic skiing. I know what it's like to skate ski while dead tired and there is definitely a wattage threshold necessary to avoid clumsiness.

The other problem is much more challenging for me: skate skiing generally requires a wide groomed track. On some very special days it can be possible to ski on natural snow that has formed an icy crust, but if there is more than an inch of low density (< 150kg/m^3) snow, skate skiing is not really fun. (And if you only have that inch of low density snow, it turns out that is a good way to destroy the edges of your fancy new carbon fiber skis!)

In the following short video I'm demonstrating one of the counter intuitive aspects of this kind of skiing: it is possible to ski both down and up hills. YouTube link.

The hills in this video are relatively minor (though note I am going around a switchback on one). However, yesterday I experienced what may stand as my greatest skiing feat ever. I was at one of Michigan's many small but popular Alpine (downhill) skiing resorts called, amusingly, Nub's Nob. Many of these places, including this one, have groomed trails for Nordic skiing. One of their "difficult" trails is routed up one of their Alpine runs. I'd always wondered how I would do going up an Alpine skiing hill and this was my chance to find out! The "trail" went right up along their Purple chairlift. As I started up the mountain, I could see and hear some kids next to me on the lift. I don't know if they were talking about me but I was going to be happier when they'd gone by. Only they didn't. At about the halfway point I started to sense that I was pulling away from them  —  beating the chairlift! Once I realized that beating the lift was a possibility, I gave it everything and I actually did it!

I mention that little story because A. I will enjoy reminding myself of it, B. to convey idea that climbing on skis can be a pretty high energy sport, and C. to let my hill climbing ace brother know where the bar has been set for climbing on skis.

However, I actually most enjoy skiing longer distances on faster terrain. This morning I was at the most excellent Forbush Corner Nordic Cross Country Ski Center in Frederic, MI doing exactly that. Nordic skiing is a difficult sport to film but I did my best by recording a pov run that lasts about 40 minutes. Youtube link.

Hopefully that seemed fun and gave you more inspiration than motion sickness.