Skate vs. Classic Skiing - What's the difference and which is best for you?

By Abby Stanislaw Feb 15, 2024
In this three-part blog series, I sat down with US Ski Team Coach Greta Anderson to break down the cross-country skiing basics.
Skate vs. Classic Skiing - What's the difference and which is best for you?

Considering crosscountry skiing but not sure where to start? In this three-part blog series, I sat down with US Ski Team Coach Greta Anderson to break down the basics. This first part covers all the questions beginners might have about cross country skiing techniques and how to pick the best one for you. Let's kick(wax) off this series and get started on your cross country skiing journey with Greta's insights.

Part 1: Classic vs. Skate - What's the difference?

Classic skiing is most similar to walking with hiking poles. In this style of skiing, you are gliding in a direct line up/down the hill. The stride pattern for this is simple opposite arm/opposite leg, similar to speed walking or running form. This type of skiing is most like ski touring and is the ideal form of skiing if you plan on going off-piste with your nordic adventures.

Skate Skiing on the other hand is more like ice skating than walking. In skate skiing, while you ascend a hill your skis make a V position with the heels of the skis close together and the tips far apart. In this style of skiing, there are multiple different poling/skating patterns (we will break those down later) that one can use to glide up hills or along flats. When skate skiing, you are pushing side to side as you glide up the hill, hence, it is a better technique to perform on groomed on-piste surfaces.

Part 2: Breaking down the Different V's of Skating

There are three different techniques to skate skiing, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

V1 is a climbing technique best for slower terrain. To perform a V1 - Skis in a normal V position. Pick either the right or left leg. Hands move and poles plant together at the same time as the leg is planting. Here's an example: Right side V 1, right hand higher than left, both hands plant together every time right leg plants. If you are interested in a drill to practice this you can perform the Boom drill where you focus on three things touching the ground at one time and then one thing touching the ground in a pattern like this 3-1-3-1-3-1-3.

"Boom!" drill for V1 - say "Boom!" out loud when both poles and one ski touch the ground at the same time to emphasize the timing of the 3-1 contact pattern.

The next technique is called V2 or "Double Dancing" This technique is great for flat terrain. When poling in V2, think of it more as tapping the ground rather than a full pole stroke as in V1. V2 is harder than V1 when learning because it's a shorter poling stroke and narrower base of support with your feet. When performing V2, your body stays square to the trail and your hands come up at the same level and plant at the same time. Each time a foot lands on the ground, poles are planted into the ground. The pattern for V2 is 3-3-3-3-3-3.

V2 alternate or Offset is an "Over skate," used for big powerful movements. This is best performed on flats, gradual downhills, or when maintaining a cruising speed. V2 alternate requires the most balance because it has the biggest range of motion. To perform V2 alternate, pick one side as the poling leg. Kicking off of left leg, when landing on right leg (kick pole, kick pole, kick pole timing).

Sometimes things are easier understood when visualized than read - Greta gave us a rundown of the techniques Here (insert IG video)


Part 3: Mastering Corners and Downhills

Cornering on nordic skis requires small steps, and taking a wider line before cutting into the corner. Downhill technique involves staying balanced, with hands forward and knees bent for effective weight distribution. For speed, stay low and forward; for slowing down, use a slow plow with tips together and tails apart, pushing the inside edges into the snow through your heels.

Ready to ascend in your cross country skiing game? Stay tuned for more insights in the upcoming parts of this series!

And, to learn more about where you can nordic ski in Utah, visit our blog here.