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The experience of Nordic skiing

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I reflected on the similarities and differences in the experiences of Nordic skiing versus Alpine skiing tonight as I was ski skating. Does anyone else have thoughts on this topic?

Both sports “feel” best when a rhythm is developed. This rhythm is coordinated between the movement of feet, legs, arms and hands. But the pole plant is more varied in ski skating – offset for climbing, single pole for cruising, and double pole for power and speed. The pole is not used for propelling in Alpine, but is used for establishing rhythm and turns, and can be used powerfully in the bumps.

In ski skating, especially on long days, pace becomes important – going fast enough to have fun and holding back a bit to keep from going into the red (heart rate) zone on hills. This reflects the endurance nature of the sport. Alpine skiing, on the other hand, often requires explosive power in addition to eccentric strength for absorbing the terrain.

Both sports require balance, but Nordic seems somehow more controlled. Balance allows flow as the single ski runs between each kick. Balance in ski skating is also needed because a 2 inch ski waist attached to a pivot on a light boot provides only a little external support. While balance is needed to respond to variations in terrain while ski skating, the terrain variations in Alpine can be large and require quick response. While Alpine equipment is more powerful, strong balance can focus that power, while lack of balance makes one fight against the equipment.

The physical experience of Nordic is also different. At times, I have to dig deep to meet the aerobic demands ski skating and push through pain. This occurs when you are 15 or 20 kilometers out and have some big hills to climb on the way back. Alpine skiing, on the other hand, has a bottom to the hill and a lift for rest.

Nordic, to me, seems more peaceful. Tonight there was a gentle snowfall. A Buck appeared in the middle of the trail. We both watched each other for about 5 minutes and then he disappeared into the woods. For me, Alpine is more charged and intense. I love the energy of jumping into something steep and challenging.
post #2 of 6
Alpine skiing is much more work to me. Cross country just flows.

I raced both in college. When my legs were all beat up from icy rutted slalom training I'd go for an XC ski to loosen up and recover.
post #3 of 6
XC is all rhythm. Nothing else feels like it. Road biking comes close, but it doesn't involve the whole body in the same way.

When your rhythm is good, and you nailed the snow/wax conditions, and just go....you don't even realize what a total body workout it is. It's just fun.

Alpine does require strength and some conditioning, but nothing like XC. Can't compare. To me, alpine is about the rush, the precision of picking a line, and mastering the technique of managing speed/gravity. It's demanding and fascinating, especially when you take it to race-level. I only wished I had discovered XC when I was racing alpine in college.

Skate skiing gives a lot of the same thrill of speed, but maybe because XC (skate & classic) require the whole body, that sense of rhythm and pace becomes internalized in a way that is impossible with alpine.
post #4 of 6
I agree the Conditioning for Nordic( classic) having skiied XC for 20 yrs BEFORE I took up Alpine . I found it to be much more of a workout than Alpine . I luv teh rush of ALPINE -- absolutely nothing like it BUT man u want a "burn" try herringbone up several steep race courses in skinny skis .
post #5 of 6
Originally Posted by faber View Post
Alpine does require strength and some conditioning, but nothing like XC. Can't compare. .
Alpine does not require the aerobic conditioning, but the plyometric power requirements are vastly greater. Ingamar Stenmark had one of the greatest vertical jumps ever measured.

Put a world class Alpine skier and a nordic skier in the weight room and see who performs better.

I've seen more good bike racers come out of Alpine skiing than XC.

Given the choice of get up off the sofa, say with two months of basic sloath, working, travelling, eating and drinking and given the choice of a hard day of Alpine skiing, say 20,000 vertical feet of ice, moguls and crud, maybe a few runs through some gates, or a hilly 40 km XC ski, I'd take the XC ski. I'd feel less worked over after it.

I skied a day of Alpine one spring with a friend who had won several world cup XC races and an Olympic medal that year. She said her legs were shot afterwards.

I recognise the XC skiers as the best aerobic machines on earth, and great all round athletes, but I don't think you can say one type of athlete is better than another. I can say I find Alpine skiing harder on my body.
post #6 of 6
You're right, Newfydog. Didn't mean to imply one was superior over another at the WC level.

You would probably choose the XC and not feel worked over it because you have good technique. And if you're skiing in the circles of Canadian medalists--I can guess who--you're definitely no noob. Cheers

Still, I think it's easier to be an out of shape intermediate alpine skier than XC. Well, it's easy to shuffle along in tracks, I guess, but skating?

I flailed along behind Thomas Alsgaard once. He wasn't impressed.

AT/BC-tele skiers, though.....those guys do it all.
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