Dialing the V2 Skate

We've laid a foundation with a strong V1. Now it's time to have some serious fun with the V2. Here are a few drills

fast skate skier

Flying down a fast track in a strong V2 is one of the great feelings in skiing. For me, it's right up there with dropping a steep powder chute in the backcountry. It feels graceful, powerful and free.

As I said in part about dialing the V1 skate, the V1 is the foundation. Once you've got it down though, the V2 will make skate skiing more fun. Learning the V2 is both harder and easier. It's easier because the timing of the stroke is more natural: you push with your poles at the same time you push with your skis. But it's also harder because it requires a quicker cadence, better balance and, let's be honest, a bigger engine. Because of this, many beginning and even fairly advanced skate skiers have trouble getting the V2 to really work for them. Here are a few tips and exercises to improve your V2.

The V2 Timing

V2 timing is relatively easy, in the sense that it's what you want to do. As we did for V1, let's start the cycle from the point where you're gliding on the right ski.

  • At the start of the cycle, you're on a flat right ski, your left foot is up in the air and in under your hips, fairly close to the right leg, and your hands are up and poised for the pole stroke.
  • As you step out with the left foot and start the push stroke with the right foot, you match that push stroke with a strong double pole. It's important to bring your core into the stroke and to make the stroke quick. At a high cadence, your hands won't go a lot past the hips (as opposed to double poling in the track, where your hand will often follow through fairly far, because you're not under the same time pressure to recover for the next stroke).
  • Whereas your V1 pole stroke begins when the left foot touches down, your V2 pole stroke ends when the left foot touches down.
  • As you glide on your flat left ski and bring the right ski in under the hips, you bring your poles forward to recover.
  • Now you're ready to push and pole on the other side.

It's simple and natural, but it can be hard to keep up.

A Bigger Motor

The V2 will generally take more horsepower than doing V1 on the same terrain. Obviously, that's a matter of building up your stamina both in and out of season. Don't get frustrated if you just don't have the engine to power the V2 for a long time. It will come if you keep at it. If you don't have much time to ski, simulating the poling movement on a cable pulley machine in the gym will help with that very specific arm strength that you need for poling. And of course, laying a strong aerobic foundation is essential. Finally, a bit of plyometrics for the legs or, much more fun, alpine skiing to build up power in the legs, won't hurt either.

Learning the Stroke

Here are a few exercises to try to help dial the timing of the V2 cycle. I have put them in order of difficulty, but since they actually tax very different capacities, it might not be the order of difficulty for you.

Downhilling on One Ski

One of the challenges of the V2 for many people is simply standing on ski long enough to make the stroke. Practice going down a gentle hill, lifting one foot and counting 1001, 1002 and seeing how long you can keep one foot in the air. Having strong one-footed balance will reap huge rewards for the V2. This can be especially challenging on skate skis. My skis have a reverse sidecut, meaning if you get slightly out of balance, you pretty much have to put your other foot down (as opposed to my alpine skis with solid sidecut, on which I can ski one-footed pretty much indefinitely). Again, don't get frustrated. This is tough on skate skis. Just try for one more second than the previous day each time you work on it.

The V-Slow

Once you have a bit better balance, see if you can V2 at an abnormally slow cadence. This exercise is to get you comfortable being on one ski a bit longer so that your stroke and cadence are determined by fitness and terrain, not balance. Start out somewhere where it's easy to V2 (fast flats or slight downhill) and after each pole stroke, once your hands have recovered, count 1001, before you begin the next stride. So it's "Left push. 1001. Right push. 1002."

The V4 Skate

Huh? What in the world is V4? Well, as the name implies, it's four pole strokes for every V the skis make. So in other words, you pole twice on each side. Why in the world would someone do that? Well, the previous exercise slowed the cadence down far too much. It simply is not effecient to V2 like that. If you want an effective V2, you need to get a faster cadence, and it is typically the pole stroke that limits cadence speed. So to get used to a fast poling cadence, pole twice on each side, so it's kind of like this

---------------------------------       Left Stride --------------------------------------------------------------->
Pole -------------------------> Pole ------------------------->
----------------------------------     Right Stride ------------------------------------------------------------->
Pole -------------------------> Pole ------------------------->

Now Go Skate

Now you've skated with an overly slow cadence to work the balance end, then an overly fast cadence to work the pole recovery piece of the puzzle (as well as the balance). Now try your V2 skate and see if the nice, efficient rhythm described at the outset doesn't feel easier and more natural than before. I'm very curious how this works out for people, so add a comment about how it went, or suggest another exercise.