Beginner's Guide to Skating a Flat Ski

Beginning skate skiers can waste a lot of energy by spending too much time on their inside edges. Here are three exercises to help you learn how to ride a flat ski.

One problem that you see a lot with beginning skaters is a tendency to spend a lot of time on their inside edges, rarely riding a flat ski. The problem is that every second you spend with your ski on edge, you are slowing yourself down dramatically. Slicing into the snow like that burns a lot of energy and is like skating with the brakes on. In many cases, this is caused by a lack of balance. In others, it's just poor body sense. Both of these can be fixed with a couple of simple exercises.

To see if the problem plagues you, go to a flat spot with few tracks (early morning right after the groomer if possible) and skate across it. Then go back and study your tracks. Do the inside edges appear to make contact with the snow first? If so, here are some things to try.

Giant Strides

Find a flat place on the trail or even ver slightly downhill, but it must in any case be flat enough that you won't move without skating. Mark a spot with a snowball, hat, glove or something like that and skate about a hundred feet away. Now drop your poles and try to make it back to your mark with as few strides as possible. Taking these long strides will require a few principal skills: a strong push, a flat ski and the balance to ride that flat ski as long as possible. Focus on landing on a flat ski and staying on it as long as possible. Make several runs and see if you can't reduce the number or skates it takes to reach your mark.

Note that this is just an exercise. In real skiing you want to land a flat ski, but actually you want to keep your turnover speed relatively high because that means you spend a greater percentage of your time on a flat ski. A long stride tends to have a long finish, which means too much time on edge and too much energy wasted on huge pushes, so in the long run you need to speed it back up, but this exercise will help understand the body position by slowing it down so you can focus on getting it right.

Cowboy Skating

I know cowboys aren't all bow-legged and, the truth is, being bow-legged is probably not an asset in skate skiing. Nevertheless, a bit of play with being bow-legged can help improve your skate efficiency quite a bit. Again, on a flat stretch of trail, skate at a normal cadence, but focus on landing on your little toe. You don't want to exaggerate this, but do just enough so that the outside edge makes first contact. Again, this is just an exercise. Long term you don't want to be on any edge except during the push-off phase, but by exaggerating it will help you break the habit of landing on the inside edge. Keep studying your tracks until you see a noticeable outside-edge first pattern.

Once you've got that, finish with some free skating on a flat ski