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Need skate ski advice - skiing in Maine

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Don't laugh.  I went xcountry skiing last year for the first time.  We were on Maine Huts & Trails going between Poplar and Flagstaff and back.  We all had on heavy packs, probably 45 lbs or so.  I had rented some classic skis.  Trails are groomed.  I was not at all comfortable in the grooves.  I felt like my feet were too close together and I wanted to fall over sideways.  Pretty soon I was out of the track and feeling much more comfortable and I said "hey, I can kind of skate."  (I really knew zero about cross country skiing.)  A few days into it I did much better after dropping the pack.  I found I was MUCH more comfortable with a skating motion than the classic. 

 

I decided to buy skis this year and figured I might as well buy skate skis.  I bought a Peltonen outfit and had about 3 hours to try it out the other day on a golf course in Deep Creek MD.  Geeze.  They are skinny, light little buggers.  Eventually I got my balance and I discovered:

 

*  I was MUCH faster than my cohort on classics.  If we went down hill I can to go first or run him over.

*  these things are really lousy trying to herringbone up hill

*  mine don't seem to have any brakes

 

This last part concerns me the most.  Even with the classic ones I rented last year I had a heck of a time stopping in the danged things.  There are places in these back trails that are windy, twisty and steep.  I would snowplow for all that my old body was worth and still wasn't able to control things like I wanted to.  Now I'm afraid with these new greased lightening skis I'll simply fly into a tree.  I tried calling the Maine Huts & Trails place and several ski shops before I bought skate skis, but nobody at any of these places actually did skate ski, so they couldn't offer any advice.

 

Questions for your experienced skate skiers:  I know I'm a big time newbie... 

 

1)  Is it dumb for me to try to cut my teeth on skate skis?

2)  Are there some trails, even when groomed nicely, where skate skis just aren't appropriate?  That is, if a trail is going to be hilly, twisty and steep in places are they not appropriate, or is that simply a matter of experience and skate skis can go down hill anywhere classic skis can?

3)  How does one stop on these danged things??!!!

 

Thanks,

 

Russ (47 y.o. male)

post #2 of 10

Much like a road bike and pavement, skate skis are generally designed to be on a relatively smooth, firm surface like a groomed skate track or corn on crust snow. Without metal edges and stiff boots turning, controlling speed and stopping comes with experience. Ice is super tough if not impossible. If in doubt on speed, use a wedge before you pick up speed. Over time you will gain better balance and a comfort level for running faster and step turning around corners. There are tons of videos you can search for to see and hear about techniques.

 

XC skis come in many forms and more versatile. From track specific to rugged alpine touring, but are not as efficient as skate skiing on a skate track.

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

Roger.  I think I've convinced myself to go ahead and use the skate skis.  The trails are very well groomed and wide.  As I look at the topo maps of the 24 miles we will cover it is mostly flat.  There will be some ups and downs and if I don't like the looks of things I'll simply pop out of the skis and walk down it. 

 

1) Regarding the wedge, is it your experience that the skate skis aren't too effective at that?  I've only played with mine for about 3 hours but it seemed like they were about worthless in really trying to slow down. 

2) I used a universal skate ski wax.  These are my first wax skis.  Could I maybe change the wax to something more grippy and less slick to help me up the hills, or is that not done on skate skis?

 

Thanks

post #4 of 10

The pack issue puts on a substantially higher level of difficulty to your trip. Typically, skate skiers wear/carry as little as possible. Is the trip about speed or enjoying the tour safely? I'll bet you'd wear out much faster skate skiing than with a skis designed for touring and carrying a pack. Stepping off on a track with a pack and post holing/trashing the track is very bad form. So is walking like many blissfully ignorant people do. A lot goes into preparing a nice skate track and XC tracks.

 

I'd use sturdier, edged touring skis, boots and bindings if I were you.

 

Skate skiing is about maximizing your glide. Grip wax is for classic XC skiing (kick and glide).

post #5 of 10

You certainly can skate ski on hilly, twisty groomed trails.  The Women's Olympic 5k course in Lake Placid is ALL hills.  Once you learn to skate uphill (don't "herringbone" up hill as on classic skis, SKATE).  It will certainly get your heart pumping, but God, it's fun.  There are several different poling methods to use when skating, and some are better for uphills.  What I suggest you do is take a lesson.  You're in MD?  That might be difficult, unless you go north.  The best place I've found for skating, and for lessons, is Lake Placid....Mount Van Hoevenberg.  Awesome instructors.  That's where I cut my teeth.  You can learn a tele turn for the downhills that can give you some control.  The best skaters can turn as if on downhill skis. And, you can do a hockey stop, too. It just takes practice.....lots of balance involved on those skinny, slippery little buggers!

 

Skate skiing is my FAVORITE thing to do.  After a hiatus, and lots of time spent on alpine skis, going back to skating always takes some practice.  However, skating will help with alpine skiing as well. 

 

DO NOT use grip wax (or any stickier, warmer wax) on your skate skis!  Use a glide wax that is appropriate for the temperatures.  Once you improve, you will not want a universal wax, it simply doesn't offer the performance of temperature-specific waxes.

 

Good luck!  I happened into skate-skiing sort of like you did...found I didn't like being in those "tracks" and that skating suited me better.  However, for carrying a pack, skating will not cut it, and it's best to use wider backcountry skis.

post #6 of 10

xrbbaker:  I just happened onto this discussion.  Listen to the advice here -- it's all good.  Skate skiing is really fun, but it's not really a "do it all" technique.  Wearing a pack will throw off your balance, center of gravity, and momentum.  Also, skate skiing is more tiring than classic technique.  If you are going to be going 24 miles with packs, it is NOT the right answer.  Skate skiing is really best suited for fast recreational skiing.  If you were zipping around NYC, you might want to drive a Smart car, but would you choose to drive cross country on interstates in one?  

post #7 of 10

One more thing: This video has been referenced elsewhere, but here it is again.  It is w/o doubt the very best instructional video on skating I've seen.

Best,

tch

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brGZlZkCwyk 

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by tch View Post

xrbbaker:  I just happened onto this discussion.  Listen to the advice here -- it's all good.  Skate skiing is really fun, but it's not really a "do it all" technique.  Wearing a pack will throw off your balance, center of gravity, and momentum.  Also, skate skiing is more tiring than classic technique.  If you are going to be going 24 miles with packs, it is NOT the right answer.  Skate skiing is really best suited for fast recreational skiing.



xrbbaker: I too would agree with much of what has been said here, but I'm not sure all skaters would agree that skating is more tiring than classic technique. It hasn't been for me.

 

Much depends on how solid your technique is either discipline. My own experience--I skied classic and raced classic for five years before discovering skating--has been that adequate skating technique is much easier to pick up than classic technique. Sloppy classic technique is punishing. Much less so with skating (except on hills). And skating is faast...A perfectly waxed skate ski flies. I found 50-60 km classic races grueling and hard on my lower back. The same distance on skating skis can be a breeze, if you nail the wax and the terrain is gentle and the snow not too soft.

 

In Canada there are races where one class of racer is carrying rather heavy packs, in an attempt to emulate the spirit of the pioneering 'courier du bois'. So skiing long distances with a pack is some people's cup of tea. Not mine, though.

 

Most important--find a good instructor. Don't teach yourself. I was extremely fortunate to have been introduced to skating by Bill Koch. What a sensationally good skier he was..

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by xrbbaker View Post

2)  Are there some trails, even when groomed nicely, where skate skis just aren't appropriate?  That is, if a trail is going to be hilly, twisty and steep in places are they not appropriate, or is that simply a matter of experience and skate skis can go down hill anywhere classic skis can?

3)  How does one stop on these danged things??!!!

 

Thanks,

 

Russ (47 y.o. male)



Taken to extremes, we once ran into a US Ski Team (nordic team)  friend in the Mt. Bachelor parking lot, who was up for some spring skating.  We were all on AT gear, getting ready to climb Bachelor.  We talked him into joining us to the halfway, where he could take a blue run down.  By the time we got there, we were in such an animated discussion he kept going.  At the top we clamped down our boots and bindings and headed down the cirque, a double black diamond, which, at least at the start, actually is pretty steep.

 

He sideslipped off the cornice, and soon switiched to good parallel turns.  He did a 3000 ft descent with no falls, and kept up with us, all on a pair of straight 44 mm skis, which have no metal edges and  are weighed in ounces.  The only thing which looked awkward were the chin high poles.

post #10 of 10

Your Post implys that you are new to skating. Most non olypians will find skating up steep or very long hills very challenging if not impossible. The upside is if you can keep your skate going, you will go up the hills much faster than on traditional gear. You do not need groomed trails if the conditions are right. Skating was developed to travel on rivers and lakes. Maine has these in abundance. You didn't say where you are in Maine, but when the conditions are right, Acadia has some fantastic skiing and it is free. Handling down hills on skate skis is similar to traditional skis. The stiff boots and often shorted lengths make parallel turns possible. You usually will "hockey stop" just as you would skating. Hope that gives you some Idea. I'm no expert, but I skated a good deal on groomed trails near my home in Glens Falls. Waxing properly is important. The faster those skis are, the easier the skating motion will be. Hope this helps,Frogge. 

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