The art of rollerskiing

Page 1

The Art of Rollerskiing

David George October 2022. Version 2.0
Contents Foreword 6 Audience 6 Introduction..................................................................................................................................7 History......................................................................................................................................7 Equipment 8 Roller Skis 8 Bindings...................................................................................................................................9 Poles......................................................................................................................................11 Ferrules or Points 11 Boots 12 Wheels...................................................................................................................................13 Black Rubber 14 Slow Polyurethane (P.U.) 15 Fast Polyurethane polyurethane (P.U)................................................................................15 The rebound test................................................................................................................15 Speed reducers 16 Brakes 16 Gloves....................................................................................................................................17 Safety........................................................................................................................................17 Rollerskiing Techniques 19 Learning to roller ski 19 Physiology..............................................................................................................................19 The Basics.............................................................................................................................20 Weight Transfer 23 Balance 24 Push/Kick...........................................................................................................................25 Coordination.......................................................................................................................26 First Steps 26 Classic Style 28 Techniques.........................................................................................................................28 Diagonal Stride 29 (Modern) Double Poling 39
Kick Double Pole 46 Skate Style 50 Diagonal Skate...................................................................................................................50 Offset 51 One Skate 56 Two Skate...........................................................................................................................61 Free Skate..........................................................................................................................67 Drills 69 The Scooter 69 One Ski Double Polling.......................................................................................................70 Extra Small.........................................................................................................................70 Frog Hops 71 Steeplechase 71 The Waiter..........................................................................................................................72 Gym Tonic...........................................................................................................................72 Double Pole 72 Figure of 8 72 Double Pole Hop................................................................................................................72 Skip Hop.............................................................................................................................73 One Foot 74 // minimum number of strides ? what to call this 75 Doubles (Trebles) All Round...............................................................................................75 Terrain Change 75 Downhill S turns 75 Sit Ski.................................................................................................................................76 One Foot Slalom.................................................................................................................76 Two Foot Giant Slalom 77 No Pole Uphill 78 Transitions..........................................................................................................................78 Tic Toc................................................................................................................................78 One Leg Squat 78 Diagonal Polling on Classic Skis 78 No Pole Skips.....................................................................................................................80 No Pole Double Poling !.........................................................................................................80
Cross Training 81 Nordic Walking 81 Nordic Jump Lunge............................................................................................................83 Russian Twist 83 Front Plank (bridge) 84 Side Plank..........................................................................................................................85 Burpees..............................................................................................................................86 Kill the Ball 88 Ketchup 90 Windscreen wiper...............................................................................................................90 Steps with resistance..........................................................................................................91 Working with kids 92 Safety 93 Fun and Games.....................................................................................................................93 Cross country rabbits..........................................................................................................93 The Pickpocket 93 Gymkhana 94 Football...............................................................................................................................94 Training......................................................................................................................................96 Energy Systems 96 Training Zones 97 Calculating LT2 and HRmax...................................................................................................99 Cardiac Drift 100 Zones 101 Training Protocols and Intensity Distributions.......................................................................101 .........................................................................................................................................101 Sweet Spot and Threshold 102 Over and under 102 HIIT...................................................................................................................................102 BASE/HVLI.......................................................................................................................102 Pyramidal 103 Polarized 103 Measuring Training Intensity Distribution (TID).....................................................................103 Which Training Intensity Distribution is better?.................................................................104
Discussion 107 Interval regimens 107 Specificity.............................................................................................................................108 Periodicity 108 A Typical Polarized Training Week 110 Weight Training.................................................................................................................111 Core Training....................................................................................................................111 Training Glossary and Abbreviations 111 Racing 114 Rollerski Tracks........................................................................................................................115 Biathlon....................................................................................................................................115 Biathlon with kids 117 References 119 Resources................................................................................................................................120 Up To Date version of this eBook can be found at:


A few years ago I was skate skiing at the Chamrousse cross country ski area. I was slowly climbing a hill when an old guy, retired I guess, came past, seemingly with little effort. He spoke to me at the top of the hill and told me to follow through with my arms more. He then asked what techniques I knew. Well I didn’t, I hadn’t realized there were any other techniques than skating and planting poles every other skate; something I now know as V1 or offset. So I began a long odyssey to discover and improve my knowledge of this sport.

The winter season is short. Some people get a single week away on snow. I live in the mountains but even so the cross country season begins at the end of November and is pretty much done by April unless you visit glaciers. I was finding that I was only skiing well by mid season at best.

Then I saw the French team rollerskiing at Valloire. They were climbing to the mighty col du Galibier. There was very little information about this side of the sport. It seemed something that pretty much only athletes used off season and they kept the secrets pretty much to themselves. After much hesitation, I finally took the plunge and bought a pair of inexpensive rollerskis but I knew absolutely nothing. After an autumn of experimentation I was able to pick up One Skate (V2) technique on tarmac and hit the first snows, well if not skiing exactly like an expert, at least with another arrow in my quiver.

I’ve been rollerskiing now for over 5 years. Most of what I know on snow I’ve picked up during the summer and autumn. So much so that I now feel I’m a better rollerskier than snow skier. Rollerskiing is harder in a number of aspects compared to its on snow equivalent. If you fall, it hurts. If you fall at speed, say descending, it can be pretty dangerous. A lot of the time you are skiing on cycle tracks, on the road or in parks; specialized rollerski areas are comparatively rare and relatively small. This has its own dangers in the form of other road users. Balancing on narrow rollerski wheels is harder than on skis and rollerskis are short making fore and aft balance more difficult. Climbing slopes on skate rollerskis is harder than on snow. Descending is hazardous.

So if that hasn’t put you off it is a great means of improving your cross country skiing outside of the limited time we all have on snow. Skills transfer directly to snow.


Who should read this book?

Well everyone and maybe no-one. It is more a set of notes I put together while learning cross-country and rollerskiing drawing on what resources I could find. Of course you can’t learn a skill as complex as skiing from a book and I would seriously reccommend

you do a course and join a club. The aim of this book is to give some hints and tips and as a memory aid for key points. It may also be useful for instructors to give further ideas when discussing or improving technique.


Rollerskiing is the dry land equivalent of cross country skiing on snow. It is even called “summer cross country skiing”. Skis are replaced with a shaft that is 53cm or longer with wheels at either end. Normal ski bindings and boots are used. Wheels are either thin, like rollerblade wheels, used for skating or squarish with a ratchet or clutch to stop them rolling backwards, used for classic.

Why write a book focussed on just rollerskiing if it is so closely related to cross country skiing, surely the two sports are just two sides of the same coin? Rollerskiing is often treated as an after-thought in cross country ski books. However with variable snow conditions, the desire to train out-of, or pre-season, or for people with no access to snow, rollerskiing has developed as a sport in its own right. Some international level skiers specialize or excel at rollerskiing even though they take part in on-snow competitions in the winter months.

When Adrián Solano from Venezuela, a country more associated with bananas than snow covered alps, competed in the 2017 Nordic World Cup he’d only trained on rollerskis. Okay Adrián’s performance on snow was a bit rock-and-roll and is not the best example but there are rollerskiers throughout Latin America. Over the summer of 2019 there were international (FIS) events in 20 countries including China, Greece, Brasil, Thailand and Iran to give some of the more exotic locations. Countries like Great Britain have a thriving rollerski scene thanks to pioneers such as Iain Ballentine at


Rollerskiing first appeared in the 1930s in Europe but remained somewhat marginal, largely used by competitors for summer training. The first World Championships were only held in 1998. Today there are competitions throughout the summer and it has become a sport in its own right. A number of special roller-ski circuits have opened with shooting ranges and there is increasing interest from recreational skiers as a way of keeping fit and improving technique out of the winter season.


Roller Skis

Just as with snow skiing you have rollerskis for classic and rollerskis for skate technique and as with on-snow equipment there have been attempts to produce gear that addresses both disciplines called “combi” rollerskis. Combi sets can sometimes be found in hire shops as they let beginners experience both techniques. They have thinner, more rounded wheels compared to classic skis that allow skating but have a “ratchet”1 to stop the wheels rolling backwards to allow classic technique like a “kick” on snow. Wheel wear can be an issue when skating. There are also skis for off-road fitted with large, inflatable wheels sometimes called Skike®

Skis can be made out of wood, fiberglass, aluminium, carbon fibre or a mix. Each material has different damping properties. Classic typically have a wheelbase of 650 to 720 mm. 650mm skis would be used by juniors. Skate skis are usually 530mm to 610 mm between the wheels. The short skate skis are more maneuverable. Shafts may be dropped to bring the binding closes to the ground, at the expense of ground clearance. Classic skis may feature guides to help the ski to track when kicking.

1 The ratchet is actually a special kind of bearing race called a sprag or clutch bearing


The last few years have seen a move towards a single binding standard, that of Rottefella’s NNN (New Nordic Norm). Today virtually all racers are on this standard even if the Salomon Pilot system offers some advantages for rollerskiing. Basically the NNN binding uses the traditional method of a rubber stopper at the toe to stop the ski dropping too far at the end of the push phase. Boots have a single bar at the toe. It is not compatible with the similar Salomon SNS system.

Figure 1: Classic rollerskis with guide wheels

The Pilot system uses a hinged latch to stop the ski dropping past a certain angle. This offers more stability in the warm temperatures where rollerskis are used - the boot cannot twist beyond a certain point even if the sole is more flexible in the heat of summer and it also prevents heavier rollerskis from dropping too far at the end of the push phase. However the system is prone to wear after a few thousand kms which means that the latch no longer engages with the bar.

In 2016 Salomon moved to the NNN compatible Prolink system. The only difference is the hole mounting pattern is the same as Pilot/SNS making it easy to migrate existing rollerskis. It probably makes sense to stick with NNN bindings if you are buying today. There are some rollerski specific bindings available. They bolt directly to the frame

Figure 2: Ilenia de Francesco, Val di Fiemme. NNN bindings, a rubber bumper at the toe stops the ski from dropping

rather than using an attachment plate and are more robust to deal with the extra forces involved in road use .


It is very easy to break poles when roller-skiing. The points can get caught in potholes, drains, expansion joints and other hazards of road surfaces and unlike on snow they snap very easily. Unless competing, avoid lightweight carbon poles.

The FIS mandate the maximum pole length for classic style rollerskiing as 0.83 times the skier’s height + 2cm. The skier is measured with boots on and the pole length is from the tip of the pole to where the strap joins the handle. For skating this length is 0.9 + 2cm. The extra 2cm is to compensate for the height of rollerskis but the additional height is offset by the fact that tips don’t dig into the snow.

If you are competing or doing an instructor course these measures can be quite strict.

Figure 3: Pole height

Ferrules or Points

Rollerski poles are the same as cross country poles. The only difference is that the baskets are replaced with special ferrules. To do this simply heat the basket with a hair dryer or dip it in very hot water. This will soften the glue and the basket can be twisted off. Rollerski ferrules don’t generally have snow baskets. These can break or catch on your shoes and cause you to trip. They have a special hardened tip or point made of high carbide steel, are longer than standard points and extend further into the ferruleall this gives longer life on hard pavement.

Keep your tips sharp, especially as you progress through autumn as road surfaces get harder in colder weather. Slipping poles can lead to bad technique and even falls. Tips should be sharpened along the two surfaces as shown in the image below. You’ll either

need a diamond stone as used for sharpening the edges of downhill skis or a bench or angle grinder/dremel fitted with a diamond sharpening disk. A rechargeable anglegrinder can be taken on the road and sharpen the whole team’s points and is much less work than using a stone.


It is quite reasonable to use exactly the same boots you use on snow for rollerskiing. The main factor is the ambient temperature, which is warmer in the rollerski season compared to the winter. Warmth makes everything softer, including boot soles. For skating a boot with some carbon in the sole is a good idea to combat rotation and this is one area where the Salomon Pilot binding system provides better engagement with the

Figure 4: Rollerski tips: Black tip is sharp, yellow tip is blunt.

binding. Beware that the Pilot binding lever can suffer from wear and play and once this occurs it becomes dangerous and should be replaced.

Classic rollerskiers sometimes wear combi boots to provide better ankle support but this may inhibit you from building the necessary ankle strength for the ski season. If you are on a tight budget a combi boot will do for both classic and skate rollerskiing.

Some skiers complain of hot and sweaty feet and manufacturers including Botas, Fischer and Alpina all sell specialized boots which look more like a trainer with some additional support depending on whether they are aimed at classic or skating technique.


Skate skis typically use 100x24mm wheels. Classic skis around 70x40/50mm although some manufacturers such as Nordeex offer a classic wheel that resembles a skate wheel but with a flat profile. These are easier to corner.

The hardness (Shore rating) and elasticity (bounce) are two important factors that govern the grip and speed of a rollerski wheel. For example a slow skating wheel may

Figure 5: Alpina ESK 2.0

be rated as 76-35. That is a shore rating of 76 and elasticity of 35. Increasing either shore or elasticity will give a faster, but less grippy and comfortable wheel.

Slower wheels give a closer approximation to on-snow speeds and are used for training. The very slowest wheels may be good for absolute beginners as they will help stop skis from running away but as they won’t glide as well they can become a barrier to improving technique. Slow wheels are safer where there are downhills although descents should always be tackled with precaution on rollerskis. Wheels are made from a variety of materials. The core can be plastic or aluminium. Plastic cores weigh less but are not as robust, more suitable for lighter skiers. Body weight also has an influence on wheel choice, heavier skiers will tend to use harder wheels. Temperature also plays a role, soft rubber will grip better in colder weather. A softer wheel will wear faster but will also absorb vibrations.

Black Rubber

Skate Classic

They are mainly used for training. The aim is to ski at speeds as close as possible to those on snow. Generally 3 to 5 “speeds” are available, the list below shows typical Shore and Elasticity (rebound) ratings the speeds

1. 76-35: slow, 10-30km/h

2. 76-50: medium, 10-35km/h

3. 85-50: fast, 15-50km/h

With classic style the faster wheels give very good results on rougher surfaces (grainy tarmac). When skating the faster rubbers are less stable and the wheels tend to “hunt” laterally. They provide good braking, either T stops (skating) or snowplough (skating + classic). An expert skier can tackle descents with this kind of rubber and they also have good grip on wet or humid roads.

Slow Polyurethane (P.U.)

Frequently black but sometimes coloured. Again these give ski speeds close to that of snow. Grip on humid or wet surfaces is acceptable. You can find scooter wheels that will work in skate skis (100x24mm) and they can be very cheap, 6 euros per wheel for a Decathlon Oxelo, for example. However scooter wheels tend not to be as durable as specialist rollerski wheels which can mean walking home at best or a fall at worst. Scooter wheels have an elliptical rather than round profile which is less stable and the material tends to be harder than that used for rollerskiing (Shore 85A or greater)

Fast Polyurethane polyurethane (P.U)

Usually coloured, with manufacturers using different colours to represent the various speed options. Mainly used in competition. You can reach speeds of 40km/h on the flat with these wheels. They can also help develop coordination and balance skills in training. Grip on wet roads is limited and braking is less effective. A Shore 74A will provide grip and works well in colder conditions, 82A is faster but suitable for dry ground and warm temperatures.

The rebound test

This is a small test that is both simple and a relatively reliable way to test the speed of rubber. Drop the wheel onto a smooth floor rotating it with the index finger before release so that it flies straight. Observe the amplitude and the speed of rebound. The more a wheel bounces the faster it will roll. Try this with a range of wheels and you will see that the cheap wheels are not that fast. Note that certain rubbers such as C.PU (cast Polyurethane) used in competition wheels harden somewhat after manufacture.

Speed reducers

Figure 6: Front wheel speed reducer

Whatever the rubber used it is possible to install a speed reducer. This is a small metal wheel that can be adjusted to slow the speed of a wheel. It can enable less experienced users to tackle small descents in relative safety or can be used to even up the level of a group. It adds weight to the ski and will wear the wheels more quickly. Reducers are sold by Ski Skett and others.


Brakes are also available which can enable small or medium hills to be descended and give greater safety when skiing where there is a risk of pedestrians or traffic. They have the advantage over speed reducers of being engaged only when necessary but take more skill to use. They generally work by being attached to the lower leg and by applying a pad to the rear wheel. They are commercialized by Pursuit and Fischer. A wireless disk brake system has been developed by Norwegian startup Rollersafe.

Think ahead and avoid terrain or situations beyond your ski level. Scope out hills before skiing them or maybe start from lower down. Practice with the brake at slow speed on the flat before you need to use it for real. Experienced users can stop in a few meters.

Figure 7: Fischer brake system


Gloves are useful to stop pole straps rubbing causing blisters and in falls. We are probably skiing in the warmer months so winter cross country gloves may be neither durable enough and too warm. Two obvious choices are mountain biking gloves - full fingered with some protection but generally designed for summer weather or lightweight building gloves if you are on a budget.


The ideal place to start learn rollerskiing is on a special track. Unfortunately they are few and far between so alternatives are parks, car-parks, cycle-paths and roads. These are all shared use areas so you need to be aware of other people and aim for off-peak periods. Car-parks when shops or offices are closed (pretty rare in today’s 24x7 world), roads in industrial estates at the weekend or parks early in the day to give some ideas. Roads present their own dangers as you are mixing with fast and heavy vehicles on rollerskis that need a lot of room to stop. Any road with traffic should be reserved for expert users only.

The US ski team has the following rollerski check-list:

1. Before leaving the safety of the training area a skier must know how to slow down using snowplough turns and by skiing off the road into the verge. They must be able to quickly maneuver around hazards. They should be able to look behind when skiing and make hand signals.

2. Beginners should wear protection, elbow and knee pads, gloves

3. They must have a suitable helmet (rollerskiing/rollerblading/cycling) that comes up to local standards

4. Use Daytime Running Lights (such as the Bontrager Flare RT). Use flash mode to attract attention. These can be fixed to helmet, poles or shoes

5. Clothing should be high visibility on moving areas: arms, legs, hands as this attracts most attention

6. Single file skiing on roads and cycle-paths where there is traffic

7. Smaller groups are safer

8. Check the route out in advance for downhills, cross or side roads, stops, dangerous bends, road surface, curbs

9. When not skiing get off the road

10.Anyone accompanying the group in a vehicle should have a high visibility vest

11.Accompanying vehicles should have a sign warning of rollerskiers on the road

12.Keep accompanying vehicles to the strict minimum - they cause congestion and can be a source of hazard

13.Accompanying vehicles should obey the rules of the road and park in safe places

14.Wear sun or clear glasses to protect against road dirt and ski pole injuriesespecially the points

Check your gear at the end of each ride: wheel wear, wear on shafts and axles, wheel nuts. Make sure points are sharp, especially in colder weather when road surfaces are harder.

Rollerskiing Techniques

Rollerskiing is less forgiving of poor technique. Skate skis have 24 mm wide, rounded wheels, there isn’t much rubber in contact with the ground compared to a snow ski. Balance is harder and errors dump you on hard tarmac not soft snow.

Good technique enables you to ski more efficiently and to ski both faster and further in safety. Trying to ski fast without good technique will, sooner or later, lead to a crash. Being able to vary your style lets you adapt to the conditions and terrain as well as your own physical condition. It changes your pace and rhythm, breaking any monotony. Good technique leaves you less prone to minor strain injuries.

As with snow skiing there are two styles: classic and skating. It is interesting to be able to ski both and it is usual to start using classic style unless you already have a lot of experience on snow with skating, or come from an inline skating or similar background. For beginners, classic rollerskis are easier to balance due to wider wheels and lower frames. The movement patterns you learn in classic skiing are transferable to skating. That said, classic technique shouldn’t be seen as easier than skating. Far from it. It requires very good balance and coordination.

Learning to roller ski

Protective gear is a must for beginners. This means a helmet - either an inline skate/skateboard lid or one approved for cycling. Knee and elbow pads as used for inline skating can avoid scraped knees and elbows or worse. Wrist guards are impractical when poling. Your rump can also be exposed as it is easy to fall backwards (as is the case on snow). You should also wear glasses, either tinted for sun or clear as there is a danger from ski poles, points and road grit. This is especially true when skiing with others. I’ve even had a point break and a fragment hit me in the face.

For someone in reasonable physical condition, say transitioning from another sport such as cycling, running or football the limiting factors are neither cardio-vascular nor leg strength but:


This diagram shows the principle muscle groups. Cross country skiing is popular as it offers a full body workout. Polling working the upper body while striding or skating uses the legs and buttocks.

1. Balance 2. Coordination 3. Core and Upper body strength

The Basics

Imagine you are standing on your skis, poles attached to your wrists. Unless you are double poling or descending you will glide on one foot or the other, pushing with the opposite leg and pole(s). As you start to ski you will transfer weight to one ski ( weight transfer), you will balance on this glide ski while pushing or kicking with the other leg and pushing with your poles. You need to be able to disassociate the upper (arms, torso) and lower (legs) body movements as different ski techniques require different coordination.

Swiss Snowsports have identified 6 phases of skiing and their associated movement patterns that they believe make a good nordic (and by inference) rollerski competitor. They’ve called these the Racing Basics and we’ll refer to the first three: Posture, Action and Stabilization in particular. These concepts are common with organisations such as the BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) and their Central Theme which aims to take a learner from their first steps right through to mastering all techniques. You need to learn the movement patterns surrounding each phase.

Figure 8: Principal muscle groups

Athletic Posture (Basic StanceBASI)

The body is positioned over a glide leg with a vertical line dropped from the nose through the tummy button, knees and toes. The ski is flat on the ground. Ankle, knee and hips are flexed like a spring ready to react to changes in the terrain, pressure on the toes during the glide phase. Hips are over the heel and not further back. The body is stable and straight with eyes horizontal and looking ahead. See the image below (COM)

Action This phase represents the action of moving from one ski to another.

With classic technique the kick zone is in contact with the snow, in skating the skier is pushing on the inside of the ski. Transfer to the new ski involves a leg extension of the drive leg. Movements should be rapid and dynamic. The upper is body stable and straight.

Technique should be adapted and varied according to the terrain (and potentially) race situation. This will bring together the elements of: balance, weight transfer, rhythm, coordination, body position, as well as strength and power.


Stabilisation occurs during the glide phase. Upper body and hips are stable, weight is over the glide ski, ankles and knees are flexed for balance.

A stable body helps prevent unnecessary parasitic movements that waste energy and unbalance a skier (rotation etc.). Strong core muscles and a good sense of balance are essential. For example in classic diagonal stride the pelvis will remain parallel to the ground during the whole cycle (no major up/down movement)

Propulsion Classic: During the cycle, force moves from the heel to the toes. The pushing movement of the arms is the same for all techniques. The upper body is used as much as possible to support the arm strength. Power is transferred from the trunk to the poles.

Skating:Force moves from the center of the foot to the inside edge via the sole of the foot. Kick with the foot flat on the ski. Pop at the end of the push.

Full arm movements for both skate and classic in a pendulum fashion. Compress the body at the waist to drive poles backwards and skier forwards (skate v2, v2a)

At the end of the stroke arms are brought forward ready for the next cycle.

Weight Transfer The skier should have their body weight on one ski for the majority of the time (the exception is double polling). In classic the body must tilt forwards over the drive ski for as long as possible (on snow this generates good grip); hips forward of the heel.

In skating the body is stacked over the ski with the propulsion leg extended as far as possible. Forward lean, almost to the point of falling, initiates the kick. Weight shift onto the gliding ski with a powerful leg thrust. Going up hill requires more forward lean.

Racing Technique is adapted to the athlete. Big movements in the direction that is followed - hips forward, legs extended, wide skating pushes, hands extended to the rear etc. During the sprint the movements are shorter with the body inclined further forward.

Weight Transfer

In order to move forwards a skier must be able to transfer their weight from ski to ski. A skier operates in a 3D space but to simplify things we typically think of weight transfer as being a side to side movement. Weight transfer is important in rollerskiing as getting your center of mass (COM) over the ski, and keeping it there (balance) enables you to carry as much speed as possible into the glide phase. This is more efficient and lets you ski further, and faster, for the same energy.

Figure 9: COM: nose, tummy, knee is over the glide ski

In classic style the transfer is more subtle as both skis will be touching the ground but is still an important part of moving from the push to the glide phase. In both styles the transfer is accompanied by a push and hip extension in the direction of the glide ski. Don’t overthink this. Just walking or running you are transferring weight from foot to foot, it is completely natural. The main difference with rollerskiing is the COM is directly over one foot or the other. If you can glide comfortably on one ski you’ve achieved complete weight transfer. However when climbing you glide less, will have a higher tempo and will probably not fully transfer your weight from ski to ski.


As the skier moves from one ski to the other the aim should be to get the tummy button over the gliding ski. When skating the ski starts on the outside of the wheels. On rollerskis this feels unnatural at first. You have the impression that you will topple to the outside. It takes some practise. However if you land on the inside of the wheels you will not be able to glide far before gravity makes you fall inwards and forces you to transfer to the other ski. This will hurry your arm movements (coordination).

Figure 10: Similar angle for lower leg and back shares the load

The basic glide position in both skating and classic is the same. The leg is flexed around the ankle and knee. The skier should lean forward at the hip keeping the back straight. Looking from the front: ankle, knee, hip and head should be aligned or stacked. If you’ve done any cross country skiing you’ll know that it is easy for skis to run away and dump you on your backside. Stability is found by keeping the center of mass forward of the heels. A fairly symmetric flex (back and lower leg at the same forward angle) will share the workload across all muscle groups.

Most people are a bit one sided and these asymmetries can affect how efficiently you transfer weight from ski to ski. You may ski further on one ski than the other or one ski may not go as straight as the other ski. When you are skiing are you balanced evenly across your foot?


Pushing with the legs is fundamental to weight transfer and acceleration. You need to bend your legs at the ankle, knee and thigh. The body then acts like a spring. The back should stay relatively straight throughout the cycle with shoulders slightly rounded, not hunched. Arms muscles are relatively weak and tire easily, the skier makes use of the shoulders and upper body to help to push down on the poles.

Figure 11: Same lower leg and back position for classic


The legs and arms work together to maximize propulsion. You need to dissociate the leg and arm movements to move from one style to another. For a highly trained athlete the arms do a lot of work, around 40% but for the rest of us the legs provide the main source of power. The more you can extend the push phase, the more you glide, the less you need to use the arms and the less tiring you will find rollerskiing. Overworking the arms can lead to a shortened and rushed push phase.

Arms and poles are useful when you are occasionally off balance – due to the road surface or technical error. In classic style the ratchets give you perfect grip so the arms are not needed to compensate for kick errors but this can lead to bad technique.

First Steps

The first problem for beginners is balance. You need to get used to putting skis on and standing on them before rolling. It is easier to put skis on if one set of wheels is on a soft or rough surface such as grass or gravel. This stops them tipping from side to side so easily. Something to hold on to is also a good idea. Otherwise balance by holding poles by the shafts with the points in the ground, outside foot on the ground and put on the ski on the other foot. Classic or combo skis with their smaller, squarer wheels can be easier to get started with.

Before you roll away, stand on both skis to get a feel for balance. You should be flexed at your knees and ankles with hips forward of the heel. Like snow skis rollerskis have a tendency to run away from you, dumping you on your backside but rollerskis are shorter than snow skis so require even better balance. Try stepping from ski to ski, balancing on one foot at a time. Step in a circle while stationary. Circle in the opposite direction.

If you have inline skated in the past you may find rollerskis not too different in terms of basic technique. Find a flat, safe area with lots of space and a good surface without drain covers or other obstacles. Begin on one foot (see the Scooter drill below) pushing

with the other leg just getting used to skis, do not use poles. Get a feeling for balance and gliding on one ski. Swap and try on the other foot. Try and lengthen the glide.

Figure 12: Scooter drill, gliding on one foot

If you feel ready to roll, without too many rocks, then put both skis on: skate or classic but without poles. You can wear wrist, as well as knee and elbow protection if you wish. For skating we will use the basic skate technique similar to inline or ice skating. Push skis in a V pattern with the upper body facing in the direction of the glide ski. For classic try diagonal striding, pushing gently with the skis to move forward while moving the arms as if walking. For skating, put some cones down and try making very gentle turns in and out, U turning at the end of the course. All the time focus on increasing the glide and joint ankles to maintain good balance and begin to move arms to aid balance and weight transfer. You can start to improve the arm movements to mimic those used in skate or classic.

Moving onto poles (and taking off those wrist guards) stand on both feet, weight evenly distributed and just double poll (on either skate or classic skis). Try and keep your skis parallel and not too far apart. If they start to diverge, step them back into line. Try lifting one foot, then the other while polling. Now start to add the skiing motions. Skate using a short diagonal stride planting the poles with every other leg action as the new ski

touches the ground. At the risk of stating the obvious, be careful never to plant a pole between your skis at the same time try not to A-frame the poles too much. The body should be fairly upright. Eyes looking in front with the head and body facing in the direction you are skiing - don’t rotate the upper body

Classic Style

Classic is the original cross-country skiing technique. Often beginners will start with classic and at the ski center you’ll see folk shuffling around the trails yick-yacking and enjoying a peaceful afternoon out in the winter wonderland. Don’t be fooled. Classic, done well, requires just as much technique as skate skiing.

In order to move forward the cross country skier has two tools, the poles and the legs. Depending on the technique and the skier’s own strength the proportion in which these are employed varies but for expert skiers up to half the power comes from the upper body and arms.


Three techniques are used when classic rollerskising:

1. Diagonal Stride

2. Kick Double Pole (or One Step Double Pole)

3. Double Pole

These all transfer well to snow.

Diagonal Stride

French: LePasdeClassiqueouAlternatif

Italian: Passoalternato

German: Klassisk,Diagonal

Norwegian/Swedish: Diagonalgang

Diagonal stride is where you put one foot in front of the other swinging your arms. It is a natural movement similar to walking or running. This makes it a popular first technique. Opposite limbs move in synchronisation. A leg and opposite arm drive forward and they are counterbalanced by the opposite arm and leg swinging backwards. Pole planting of the lead arm helps with weight transfer, balance and provides extra power.

Diagonal stride is typically used to accelerate and especially when climbing hills. Beginners may use it on flats as well.

At first you need to find your balance, the non-return wheels will let you move forward. Don't try to glide. To improve you need to focus on your glide by breaking the movement down into 2 parts:

● Propulsion phase that drives you forward.

● Gliding phase that allows you to maintain your speed. This is where things get, well, uncomplicated with rollerskiing. Because the non-return wheels give you grip, every time, it is possible to be lazy and not fully transfer weight to the drive ski. This will lead to bad habits on snow and you will need to pay particular attention to your technique.

(1) Start with feet together (2) Push down and back on the right foot while pushing with the opposite arm. The left hand has just passed behind the hip, the right arm is swinging forwards Figure 13: Start position (skier: Hanna Fine)

On snow pushing down on the foot will compress the center of the ski, the wax pocket, onto the snow. This area of the ski is coated with a grip wax or has some other treatment (scales / mohair) to enable the ski to grip the snow. In rollerskiing this is achieved with special one way wheel bearings.

(3) This is the end of the propulsion phase on the right leg. The foot is still pressing down on the toe, keeping the “grip” zone in contact with the surface. The left (opposite) hand is coming past the hip with the point is still engaged with the surface aiding propulsion. The right arm is moving forward with the elbow bent at 90 degrees. The skier is looking up the road. The back is straight with slightly rounded shoulders.

A couple of points:

1. The left ankle is flexed, at no point does the lead foot come foward of the knee in a “shuffling” motion

2. The trailing leg should push back as far as possible while maintaining downward pressure on the ski. The foot is now as far back as the skier can push while keeping the ski on the ground.

(4) The trailing leg begins to recover, bringing the foot forward which releases pressure on the ski. The rear wheel lifts but this is a consequence of the leg extension and recovery not a conscious decision to lift the heel of the foot. The skier is gliding on the left foot. This requires good balance. The center of gravity is over the middle of the boot.

Figure 14: The leg is 15° from vertical, the body 25°

The same position from behind

Figure 15: Skiers: Juliette Ducordeau and Coralie Bentz

The lead ankle, knee and hips are nicely flexed, nose is over the knee which is pretty much over the toe and the body is balanced over the glide ski.

The back is straight and is at a slightly converging angle with the lower leg (see red and blue lines). The left pole is planting opposite the toes of the right foot. The lead arm

forms a right angle at the elbow with the pole hanging from the hand. The trailing arm is outstretched and not gripping the pole. At this point we are starting to push on the opposite foot.

(5) Left arm and right ski are swinging forward. Note the left leg straightens to enable the recovery leg to swing forward without much bend at the knee and to get the skier’s weight over the “kicking” ski. The right ski is just brushing the road, the weight is over the glide (left) foot. The hips are extended forwards.

(6) The recovery (right) foot lands in front of glide foot. On snow, if you land behind, the tail of the ski will make a characteristic “slapping” sound, the motion is more like sliding your foot into a slipper. The recovery (left) arm is swinging forward, the power arm pushing down but the elbow is still bent more or less at right angles. The shoulders are rounded and used to apply power as well as the arm. On the power arm the strap is used to apply force and on the recovery arm the fingers are used to guide the pole, rather than tightly gripping. The ankle, knee and hip angulation increases slightly to provide power to the leg and arm push. The foot is now pushing down and back with good weight transfer to the ski.

The arm swing is similar to throwing a cup of water down the trail. The upper body should be calm, it should almost be possible to ski with books balanced on the head, motion coming from the arms and legs.

Coaching points

1. Don’t use poles as balance aids by planting them vertically and far away from the body (in front or to the sides). Poles should be angled backwards.

2. Avoid the shuffle, this is a sign of no real weight transfer. The body is upright and it is more like walking. The kick ski never leaves the ground. It kind of works on the flats, not so much on the uphills.

3. Coordination: the opposite arm and leg move together. Avoid the “Genesis” walk. Take a look at skiers walking around without skis to check their coordination.

4. Don’t lunge, this is where the skier pushes the leading ski too far forward. Children can have trouble with balance and often shuffle initially.

Bad Habits - Late Kick

You may hear people tell you not to classic rollerski or not to diagonal stride. The problem with striding on classic rollerskis is that the ratchet allows you to kick no matter how poor your technique. That is you can push back even when your weight is not fully over the ski. You can push too long without enough committment and too late, rather than giving a short, sharp kick. Try this on snow and the ski will slip backwards, especially on hills.

Cross country skiing relies a lot on balance and accurate movements. The techniques are acquired by building muscle memory during training. Rollerskiing, so the argument goes, lets you ingrain bad technique. This can be very hard to correct. Some people suggest only double poling or kick-double poling on classic rollerskis to build much needed upper body strength without the risk of acquiring poor technique.

There is also some debate about whether the ratchet should be on the front or back wheel. Back wheels wear faster and ratchet wheels are more expensive to replace. Fischer claims that a back wheel ratchet helps to prevent late kick - presumably as competent rollerskiers will be lifting their rear wheel off the tarmac at the end of the stroke.

The Invisible Wall

One of the things beginner and intermediate cross country skiers get told a lot, be they classic or skate skiers, is to get their hips forward, and up. We’ve even used the term “hip extension” earlier. For many people, when told this, they will thrust their hips forward probably arching their backs as well. At the same time we’ve said that classic style is really just like walking on skis. If we look at a walker their legs form an upright triangle (the stride triangle) with the back vertical.

If you take a runner the triangle is tilted backwards due to the leg extension to the rear but a significant part of the stride triangle is still in front of the hips. Things are different for expert classic skiers. The upper body is angled forwards and the stride triangle is behind a vertical line dropped from the front of the hips. In this picture the skier’s hips are forward of the stride triangle but relative to the upper body they are further back than those of the walker or runner. This forward body lean is unnatural for beginner skiers.

Ski coach Kim McKenney ( came up with the concept of the invisible wall to help skiers achieve the correct posture. You can stretch your leg back as far as you like but the balance point of your front foot should not extend past this invisible wall (shown by an orange line). Note the closed ankle angle as well as the nicely flexed knee. This keeps the hips over the skis giving good balance and weight transfer.

Figure 16: The invisible wall

(Modern) Double Poling

French: Lapousséesimultanée

Italian: Scivolataspinta

German: Doppelstock

Norwegian: Staking

With the double pole technique the skier pushes down on both poles simultaneously to move forwards. It is generally used on flat or gentle uphills although strong skiers will use it on quite steep slopes.

Double poling has changed significantly over the last few years. it has revolutionized classic ski racing, to the point where elite skiers only use double poling technique. The Lysebotn Op is a rollerski race up a 7.5km climb in Norway. With it’s switchback roads it is often referred to as rollerskiing’s l’Alpe d’Huez. In the summer of 2019 a new double polling only competition was won by Britain’s Andrew Musgrave for the men and Astrid Slind in the women’s event. What was significant was that Musgrave’s time of 30.52 was only a couple of minutes behind the winner of the skate event (28.33) and faster than Therese Johaug skating (31m18).

Obviously Musgrave isn’t relying solely on his arms to power himself up such a steep climb. Researcher Jørgen Danielsen2 says that “about60percentoftheworkloadinlowintensity poling happens in the upper body.But as the intensity and incline increase, moreandmoreoftheworkcomesfromthelegs.Thenthelegsaredoingwellover50 percentofthework.”

Forget about old school double poling where the skier would bend his trunk at right angles with poles far out behind. To increase power the skier stands on his toes, creating forward acceleration and then pushes down on the pole using body weight to increase the force. The arms are braced rather than pushing and the core trunk muscles are used. Hands finish around the hips and the cycle rate is faster.

There are some differences between snow skiing and rollerskiing. Danielsen has studied skiers on various inclines and notes “If a hill is steep and long enough, it’s probably more economical in terms of energy to use a diagonal stride. But depending on the snowandwhattherestofthecourseislike,youmightbeabletogainaconsiderable amountoftime–andglide–bynotusingkickwax”. Because classic rollerskis wheels have a non-return clutch elite rollerskiers will switch to kick double pole then diagonal stride techniques as the hill ramps up. On a long “loppet” type classic rollerski race you’ll see mainly double poling on the rolling terrain but a hill climb like Monte Bondone will be a mix of all three techniques depending on gradient.


Obviously you need a good level of fitness to be able to pole up inclines but many rollerskiers will only double pole during their workouts to build upper body fitness for winter and to avoid bad habits such as “late kick” on snow. The movements of the double pole technique are also fundamental to skate skiing so it is worth learning.

(1) The start position. The skier actively falls onto her poles using body weight. The correct technique involves stiffening the upper body while making a rapid forward poling stroke. The powerful trunk muscles are used to create pressure that generates forward motion. Poles are planted at the front wheels principally by flexing the hips while keeping the upper body stable.

This is a front view of the start position. The skis are parallel and poles are parallel. Elbows pointed out. The skis are the same width apart as they would be on snow. Beginners often have feet wider apart for stability.

(2) Shoulders are rounded with weight forward and the upper body used to push down on the poles. Elbows are still at right angles, arm muscles are not used for pushing at this stage but to form a solid frame. Heels have fallen back onto the bindings and knees and ankles and most importantly the hips are flexed to provide more downwards force.

At this point in the cycle aximum power is now being applied.

(3) feet come forward underneath underneath the skier, the arms are still braced with the legs and upper body generating force on the poles, the elbow angle has hardly changed.

(4) Arms have now followed through pushing to the rear with the elbow beginning to

straighten. The back is rounded and body is compressed to apply upper body force through the poles.

This is a front view of the same position. Hands brush the legs around mid-thigh and note that the elbows are now close to the body

(5) This is the end of the push phase, poles are in the air with arms extended. This hand position is more appropriate for long distances with fewer cycles per minute. In a sprint or climbing hands might finish around the level of the hips. Remember that the end position is variable but the start position is always the same. The hips appear to be a long way back but the front of the hips is still forward of the heel and the skier’s COM is around the front of the foot.

(6) During the glide phase the skier prepares for the next push. Shoulders move up and arms follow through in in an arc via the hips, the skier is upright with weight forward. Note the hips are extended central over the feet but the back is still slightly rounded, not arched.

(7) The skier thrusts upwards and forwards with the legs. Heels are lifted and hips are now well forward of the heels. Even if you keep your heels planted on the bindings, note this hip position. Hands are nearly at eye level. The back convex and the body braced structurally. Elbows still form a right angle but pointing outwards.

Kick Double Pole

French: LePasdeUn

Italian: PassoSpinta

German: DoppelstockmitZwischenschritt

Norwegian: Dobbelttakmedfraspark

This technique combines elements of diagonal stride and double poling. As its name implies after alternate kicks there is a push on both batons. It is an intermediate technique that can be used when speed is too fast for diagonal striding but insufficient, or you don’t have the strength, for extensive double poling. It is often used on gentle up hills or on the flat.

Coordination between arms and legs is important. You can practise the timing without skis. First by making the kicking movement with your legs then introducing your arms. Remember to plant the poles as your kicking leg comes forward.

(1) Begin the kick as the hands come back past the thighs. If hands are already too far forward momentum will be lost. In this example the skier is kicking with the left leg.

(2) The skier is kicking with the left foot while still bringing the poles forward. The right leg is flexed. Pressure the striding ski with a forceful downward kick towards the ground, this will give you grip on snow, with rollerskis a ratchet stops the kicking ski from sliding backwards.

(3) The kick is complete, left leg fully extended. Elbows form a right angle. A forceful push from the upper body with back and shoulders slightly rounded gives more power and is less tiring on the arms.

(4) Once the kick is completed and while the left leg is travelling back, quickly plant the poles to begin the double pole push. As with Double Poling take advantage of the upper body to apply force, not just the arms. (5) The push phase, this is the period of maximum force which is to the rear of the skier 6. Both skis are flat, skier is pushing on both poles Because we’re gliding on both feet

after poling, it's stable and gives a moment of rest End of the push phase. Hands by hip joints. Don’t go too far back. Repeat with the other leg

Note: if you want you can kick with the left leg or right leg for several strokes. There is no need to follow the left/right rhythm to the letter.

Skate Style

One of the reasons for roller-skiing is to improve skiing technique. It is said that great skiers are made during the off season; this is the time to improve existing techniques and expand your repertoire. Good technique means more efficient, faster and less tiring skiing. Skating on roller skis is technically more difficult compared to snow. The contact patch with the tarmac is a few mm rather than the 40+ mm width of a ski on snow. Falling, or fear of falling, is also a big factor. That means that once a technique is mastered on roller-skis it should transfer easily to skis with benefits.

Most snow skiers have one skating technique they use 95% of the time, a (frequently mistimed) offset ski. That is, one push for every two skates. It is fairly easy to balance on skis like this and this is even more the case with roller-skis especially with frequently rough road surfaces. It is a fairly laboured style, and is a bit like driving your car everywhere in fifth gear. They may diagonal skate or waddle up steep hills but that is about it.

For snow skiing there are actually five core skating styles in addition to techniques for downhill, cornering, sprints and stopping. With skating, rollerskis are positioned in a “V” during the propulsion phase, pushing on the inside of the tires. This obviously has the effect of wearing tires more on one side and it will be necessary to swap wheels or skates sides from time to time. The profile of the tires will also tend to flatten with time from a rounded or elliptical shape. As tires wear they will get smaller.

We’ve used Canadian naming conventions for skate techniques and given translations into major languages. In the English speaking world things are confusing with every country having its own, sometimes contradictory names, for example Canadian “one skate” and UK “skate two”. Both are logical for different reasons. The Canadians are focussed on timing, the Brits like the analogy of gears of a car for when to use the technique. For rollerskiing we’ll focus on the techniques of: offset, one skate and two skate. Other techniques are less frequently used.

Diagonal Skate


is used for climbing steep hills. You push with the pole opposite your skating ski. It is very rarely used when rollerskiing because balance is relatively difficult compared to snow and other techniques are normally sufficient to get

Herringboneskate French: lepasdepatineuralternatif German: Norwegian: glidendefiskebeinorkjerringdans Italian: This “duck footed” technique

you up all slopes but it is worth being able to demonstrate the skill.


US: V1

UK: SkateOne

French: Pasdepatineurdeuxtemps(décalé)

German: Asymmetrisch

Norwegian: Padling

Italian: Pattinaggiocortoor simply: Corto

Offset is an asymmetrical skating technique - that is the position of left and right poles is different and there are small differences in the skating pattern. It is primarily used for hill climbing and accelerating from standstill but may be used by less powerful skiers on the flat or false flats particularly when the road surface is rough. Balance and coordination are somewhat easier on rollerskis.

● One push of the arms for two leg pushes

● Your arm push should happen at the same time as your “attack” leg hits the ground

● Left or right handed, according to your preference but as a general rule the attack leg should be on the higher side of any slope (frequently the mountain side) if the slope is not flat

● Second leg push happens at the same time as your arms return (see the tic-toc exercise below)

● Chest faces the slope

● Shoulders and hips remain horizontal and parallel to the slope

● When your feet return try and get them forward

● Use your abdominal muscles to maintain your body relatively straight while pushing with your arms, you should initially use body weight to push down on the poles, this is less tiring than using arms alone

Hips should be over bindings, bottom should not be too far back - flex the ankles to keep the hips forward (exercise with flexion)

Timing is important. The start position is poles and glide rollerski planted at the same time, this forms a stable “tripod” and the combination of a double pole plant plus skate gives the technique its power. Poles are planted just in front of but close to bindings. The stability makes it easier for beginners who may not have perfect balance; you will also see skiers using this technique with poor timing, for example planting when the trailing ski hits the ground or using skate two timing so it is important to master timing.

Shoulders and hips stay horizontal. Eyes should be looking about 10 meters up the track. The glide ski knee should be over binding and pointing in the direction of travel, the shoulders are slightly pivoted in this direction. The lead pole should be near vertical and close to the forearm with the elbow about 90 degrees. The hand is at head height. The trailing pole is held at an angle to clear the ski when pushing and the elbow angle is around 60 degrees. The trail pole will point roughly in the direction of the glide ski. The lead arm is wide of the skiers shoulder but arms are never outstretched. This lets the skier use body weight and strong shoulder and upper body muscles to initiate the push. Around 40% of the power will come from the upper body.

The elbows remain bent as the skier pushes in the direction of travel of the lead ski until the hands reach the hips.

If the slope is not too steep the hands should continue back with the arms almost straight.

Arms outstretched behind, grip on poles released (photo Swix)

At this point the skier transfers weight to the trail ski with an upward motion straightening the knee - this should get a bit of “pop” (shoe lifts off the ski). The poles should not be gripped but the fingers used to guide the poles as they return. Note the trail ski is not powered by the arms but relies on the body extension and leg push to achieve forward movement.

Transfer to trail ski, poles return and are not tightly gripped

The back is relatively straight when the poles are planted and shouldn’t be bent past an angle of 100 degrees when pushing. It is possible to lead with either left or right arm. Practise both to avoid developing a weak side.

In these images from the 2015 Toppidrettsveka Therese Johaug has her lead knee and ankle flexed. Both poles are planted in front of their respective bindings but the trail pole is behind the lead binding pivot point.

The flexing of the ankle and knee helps balance, the back relatively straight, bent at the hip. Right leg extended. Trailing pole is pointing in the same direction of travel as glide ski. The trailing pole hand is about chest height.

Now the science: A study of elite skaters (Three-dimensional Force and Kinematic Interactions in V1 Skating at High Speeds) has revealed some interesting data. Empirically these skiers have arrived at an efficient technique. The lead (upper) pole is set nearly vertical (6-11° forward angle depending on slope steepness and speed and a 3° side angle). The tip is planted around 3-6cm in front of the lead ski binding pivot point. The trailing (lower) ski tip is set 6 to 16cm behind the lead ski pivot point (again depending on speed) and has a 21-24° forward and sideways lean, it follows the angle of the glide ski. This is necessary to avoid the trailing ski. The lead hand is relatively wide of the shoulder with the pole falling close to the forearm and the trail hand is in front of the chest. Ski angle varies depending on the slope, a steep slope needs a wider angle. More efficient skiers had better synchronized pole motion and symmetric leg

motion. Ski angles are not entirely symmetric with the direction of travel.

The British use the analogy of gears in a car and this is seen as first gear for starting or getting up hills. Perhaps illogically Diagonal Skate is not seen as first gear although you would not start up in Diagonal Skate. The British and Canadian terms lead to confusion. In the United States it is known as V1 - 1 arm push for two skate pushes (the V).

Troubleshooting Offset Technique

● Reaching too far forward - this requires more arm than upper body strength.

● Dipping shoulders, tempting when tired and looking for some force when pushing, maybe a symptom of poor hand positioning (above). Look up the track. Maybe poles are too short?

● Rotating upper body excessively in the direction of the skate ski

● Bad Timing: planting poles with trailing ski or in advance of glide ski (V2 Alternate timing). - exercises?

● Gripping poles, use the straps to apply force and follow through to the end of the push

● Lack of ankle flex, the legs produce 60% of the power and a flexed ankle and knee followed by an extension will give more power

● Dropping the butt rather than flexing the ankle - like you are sitting down.

● Bending too far forward as the hands follow through past the hips

● Don’t step up hill. If you step too far forward it puts weight on the heel which acts as a brake, experiment to find the sweet spot.

One Skate

US: V2 UK: SkateTwo

French: Pasdeun

German: 1-1(Eins-eins)

Norwegian/Swedish: Dobbeldans

Italian: Pattinaggiocondoppiaspintaor Doppiofor short

A few years ago One Skate would have been considered best suited to flats and gentle hills, but the trend is to use it increasingly on uphills as well. You will see top competitors one skating on 8-10% grades with a very high tempo and no arm extension. It is used to maintain high speeds, from slight descents to uphills (depending on fitness and upper body strength). This should be your go-to skating technique, both on tarmac and on snow.

(1) One skate is a symmetric technique. A double pole push occurs with each skate. Due to the fast tempo the arm action is shorter and the recovery is quick. At the start of the glide the skier has his weight towards the outside of the rollerski, you should be able to feel this through your feet.. The ankle is flexed and the knee is driven forward over the toes - as opposed to the bottom dropping backwards over the heels.. This helps with balance. The hips and upper body form a soft “C” shape, aka “The Gunslinger” with shoulders rounded. The legs should be open.

(2) The arms sweep forward at the same time as the trailing (pushing) leg while the skier glides on the other ski keeping the center of gravity over this ski which is pointed in the direction of travel.

(3) The poles are planted partway through the glide and assist the glide ski. Note the poles drop vertically from the hands (Fabien ClaudealmosthashispolesinaVheredon’ttriponyourpolestryingtoimitatehim) with the tips planting around the level of the front wheel of the glide ski.

The hands are a shoulder’s width apart, not too far in front of the body and the elbows at around 90 degrees and pointing out. This forms a stable base, the idea is not to push with the arms but to allow the shoulders and upper body to apply force initially. The body is relatively upright, the glide leg is straight and hips will be over the shoes.

(4) As the poles come down the elbows move towards the body but the 90 degree angle is maintained until the hands reach the hips. The force in this initial part of the cycle comes from the body compressing, almost falling, down on the poles. The shoulders and trunk (abs) are used but the arm is not extended. Using the upper body like this gives a lot of power while not over tiring the arm muscles. It is basically Classic Double Poling applied to skating

The flexion / extension is important to get right as well as stable arms to apply force down through the poles.

(5) As the hands pass the hips the arms now extend out backwards applying force. Weight is fully transferred to the new glide ski just as the poles lift off the ground.

(6) The forward motion of the arms are synchronized with the extension of the skier’s glide leg and body. This extension lets the ex-glide ski drop back under the body without lifting the foot.

(7) and repeat on the other leg

Note that the leg action is the same on both sides and the same as skating without poles. If you were to trace the nose it makes a flat ‘U” shape as the skier moves through the cycle.

Troubleshooting One Skate

1. Stance too upright - are the poles too long?

2. Can’t hold the glide - try skiing on one ski, try down a gentle slope

3. Hip rotation (late kick) - ski with hands on hips feeling for rotation

4. Poor timing, possibly balance related, lack of time to recover arms - try skating without poles and extending the glide as long as possible on one leg, then the other. Also watch hips, they should not go back from the heels. Try skating with hands on hips to feel their movement.

5. Leg lifting to recover non glide ski. The skier is not extending enough.

6. Bottom sticking out. Related to poor ankle flex. Because skis want to run away from the skier this can lead to the skier getting dumped on their rump. Not a pleasant experience on the road. Try the “extra small” exercise.

7. Body hunched - body not extending on glide ski - try double polling on skate skis

Two Skate

US: V2 Alternate or Open Field

UK: SkateThree

French: German: Norwegian: Swedish: Enkeldans skoyting


Used on fast flat or gentle downhill terrain. Where One skate would require too high a tempo.


Feet: weight centered over the feet. As the ski is set down it will be slightly towards the toes moving towards heel during the skate but the majority of the force comes off the whole foot.

Ankle flex is essential for a powerful skate, the knees will be flexed in proportion to the ankle to keep the center of mass (fore/aft) over the feet. V2 uses a higher position compared to V1.

Hips are over feet.

The double poling happens on every other skate. Needs good balance.

The ams are fully extended to the rear. Only polling on alternate skates allows more time to fully extend the arms. The glide rollerski is on outside edge. Skiers center of mass is firmly over the glide ski. The knee and ankle are flexed, knee driven forward and upper body in “C” position.

The skier starts to transfer weight to the right ski, the glide ski has rolled over to a neutral position and arms are moving forward

Weight has now transferred to the new glide ski as forced still applied to the left ski, arms coming forward to perform the next polling acton.

The left leg is now fully extended, weight completely over the glide ski, hands are around eye-level. (rise up on straighter leg prior to push)

The body extended over the glide ski. The hips are over the foot foot with the glide ski heel perhaps slightly raised.

poles are planted by the front wheel of the glide ski, the poles are vertical and parallel about shoulders width apart. Force is applied through the shoulders and upper body

with elbows forming a stable right angles.

New slide ski touches down at the same time as poles leave ground behind and are no longer applying any force.

Fault fixing:

1. Movements too fast, work on balance

2. Poor coordination

3. Upper body and head rotation away from glide ski as hands start to come forward

4. Poor ankle angulation putting the COM behind the ankles, drive the knee forward to angle the ankle correctly

5. Folding at the waist intoan “r” position is the mostcommonerrorskierstendtomake.This forces the hips back and generally increases the angle at the ankle

Once you are going too fast for One Skate it’s time to move to Two Skate. It is a great technique once you’ve built up speed on the flats or on slight downhills. It seems similar to V1 in that the skater only polls on one side but it is much closer to V2 with one of the polling phases eliminated. Unlike V1 polls do not touch down at the same time as the glide ski, there is a delay in setting down the ski which allows a longer overall gliding time.

Weight is centered on the foot with a bit more over the ball. At the end of the push the weight will be on the front of the foot. Ankles knees flexed, angles reflect each other to

keep skier centered. Skiers have trouble with ankle angle which pushes skiers weight backwards.

Here is a quick contrast of the three techniques:

● In the V1 technique the skier maintains a lower position throughout the skating cycle.

● In, V2 the skier will use a higher position in general and, especially when moving fast, rise up on a straighter/straight leg prior to the skating push.

● In the V2 alt technique a combination of V1 and V2 leg positions are used. (see timing).

Free Skate

Norwegian: friskøyting

Free Skate is the last of the five core techniques. It’s good for when you’re moving too fast to use your poles.


We spoke about hip extension and the invisible wall with classic technique but what about skating?

(photo: Mansfield Nordic)


Why do drills, why not just ski?

Drills address two areas. They help beginners discover and improve the fundamentals of balance, propulsion and coordination. For intermediates and beyond they can be used to address weaknesses in technique that would only be reinforced with general skiing. Remember that practisemakespermenant

It is true that “stupid drills”, as they’ve been called, should not become an end in themselves and they shouldn’t be laboured. A training session should include a mix of drills and rollerskiing. Repeating the same drill over and over until the skier “getsit”is not going to be very enjoyable, or productive even if you can be more focussed with with higher level athletes. If something isn’t working, take a break, try a different drill or just ski a bit.

Some drills appropriate to snow skiing don’t transfer well to tarmac. Rollerskis don’t skid (well not in the dry) so you can’t do little tricks like reverse snow ploughing on a slope to find your natural attack angle when skating. Classic is problematic as you have the issue of “perfect kick”, so exercises to improve kick on snow will not bring obvious benefits when rollerskiing. Classic skiers have to be particularly mindful of technique on rollerskis

The Scooter

Remember that little scooter you had as a kid. Well we’re going to do the same on classic (or skate) roller skis. It is easier on classic skis as the wheels are wider. This is a very basic skill for beginners but good skiers should master it as being able to balance over one ski is fundemental. Remember the image in the balance section of the skiers center of mass over the glide ski? That is what we are aiming for.

Put the poles away and remove one ski. Start with the leg backwards like at the end of a classic stride with the hand on the same side about to plant an imaginary pole. The opposite arm is back and the non ski foot firmly planted on the ground. Bring the ski leg forwards and at the same time push with the non ski foot, the arms should swing in opposite directions. Finish with the non ski foot outstretched and roll on the ski as far as possible.

After doing a few strides switch to the other foot. You can then try the exercise with both skis on.

If your ski turns rather than running straight it is likely that your weight is not properly centered over the ski and the wheels are running on the edge (classic wheels have a camber on them).

For absolute beginners balance can be a major issue. You can start off on grass with both skis on just shifting weight from ski to ski before balancing on each ski in turn before attempting this drill.

One Ski Double Polling

Extra Small

If you notice your skiers are in the back seat try this exercise to improve ankle flex and forward lean. Skate with poles behind and just above the level of the knees, the upper body should be stable and straight with the eyes looking ahead.

No Pole, Double Pole
Figure 17: Scooter Drill

Frog Hops

Flexion and extension. While skating put your hands on your mid thigh. Push hard on your toes to force you skates outwards in a V. Jump like a frog to return to the start position. Mobilesport:


Improve flexion and extension for both skating and classic. Skate with hands on hips then with a clear flexion/extension jump over obstacles (sticks). This is not an easy exercise. Without a clear extension you won’t clear the gap. Vary the gap and height between the obstacles. see also: skip hop

Figure 18: (mobilesport: Figure 19: Frog hops

The Waiter

Weight transfer from one leg to the other. Skate along the road, each time you change the glide foot serve a drink with the hand flat and upwards and thumb out.

Gym Tonic

Similar to the waiter when classic (diagonal stride) or skate skiing. As you come over the glide ski raise an imaginary glass of drink to your mouth with the opposite arm. This gets the center of gravity over the glide ski.

Double Pole Figure of 8

Perform a tightish (3 meter) figure of 8 circles in both directions to improve turning and to avoid building up a weak side for cornering.

Double Pole Hop

Push with poles and as you slow down do a little jump on your skis.

Skip Hop

V2 skate, either with poles or without a pole push and do a hop or skip on each glide. For propulsion, balance and weight transfer.

One Foot

Skate both with and without poles and see how far you can go on one ski, repeat on the other ski.

Skip Hop, Mansfield Nordic:

// minimum number of strides ? what to call this

Doubles (Trebles) All Round

V2 skate but pole twice on each glide (or three times if you can) to improve balance and weight transfer.

Terrain Change

Find a park or car-park with a mix of asphalt and grass, skate from hardtop to grass and back again. If there are kerbs or obstacles incorporate these by jumping up or down. To transition smoothly onto the grass at speed put one ski forward and run as you slide onto the grass; jump as you come back onto the asphalt.

Downhill S turns

find a gentle downhill slope and practise doing left and right stepped turns down the slope in the shape of an S.

Mansfield Nordic:
// photo

Sit Ski

One Foot Slalom

Lay out a slalom course with cones. Go around the cones on one ski, always the same foot (left or right). You’ll need to hop the ski around the cone.

Two Foot Giant Slalom Lay out a course with cones. Skate around the cones using both skis with step turns.

No Pole Uphill


As you come up to the crest of a hill skating V1 transition smoothly to V2. // good for building upper body + arm strength

Tic Toc


One Leg Squat

Squat first on one side, then transfer to the other while moving forward. You can start off not moving. This is easier on wider classic rollerskis. Weight should be over the skis. This exercise can lead in to telemark turns. It improves leg and lower back strength as well as balance.


Diagonal Polling on Classic Skis

Keep legs aligned and alternate pole with opposite arms. Avoid rotation. Upper body

Breaking Wedge


strength. Diagonal Legs Only
Swiss Cross One legged gliding with raised ski crossing over gliding ski (similar to Javelin turns in Alpine skiing). Improves balance, axis stability and coordination

No Pole Skips
No Pole Double Poling !

Cross Training

There are a number of reasons to train off rollerskis.

Learning movements or a series of movements is easier if it is performed in a controlled environment. For example in running shoes and on a flat, grippy surface. Once the move has been correctly learned it can be repeated with inline skates or rollerskis in order to transfer the technique to that environment.

Strength, power, speed, endurance, agility, and balance, can all be improved via different sports while still doing some rollerski training. This give a mental break from the sport and different activities will work different areas to a greater or lesser degree. For example endurance is very important for rolllerskiing and cross country skiing and the best way to improve endurance is by running.

Having good core strength is the key to making this happen quickly. Without a solid core it is more difficult to coordinate limbs and to get them where they need to go, in as relaxed a fashion as possible. Something crucial to both classic and skate ski techniques.

Nordic Walking

Nordic walking has a bit of an image of old ladies in tracksuits walking around the local park with ski poles but it can form an integral part of off season training for roller and cross country skiers.

Sit-ups and crunches—once the bread and butter of core work—have fallen out of favor in recent years. Why? They can actually cause back pain, partly by focusing only on abdominal muscles.

Walking with poles, opposite arm, opposite leg. - Nordic technic, dynamic armswing with classic skiing style kick

Ski bounding:- benefits – keep impact lower, use poles similar length to classic poles. Dynamic kick, use arms. Mix it up for intervals.

Nordic Jump Lunge

This is the basic lunge exercise but integrating the arm movements from classic stridng. This works the legs and core muscles but also improves coordination.

To do this exercise the knee of the forward leg is aligned with the ankle. The heel and knee of the rear leg are off the floor. The knee of the rear leg should be sufficiently flexed so that a straight line can be drawn from this knee through the back to the shoulder. Shoulders and hips should be horizontal and the abdominal muscles pulled in. From this position transfer to the opposite leg with a small spring. Keep the body upright with eyes looking foward. The arms should follow as in classic striding.

Common errors are the body bent forwards or the reverse, curved in a convex shape with the head lifted.

As an exercise it works hip muscles, glutes, quads, hamstrings, core and inner thigh muscles. You should aim for a dozen reps and if that is too easy add some weights or slow down the movement. There are lots of lunge variants, check online for ideas.

Russian Twist

This is a great exercise for working the lower core provided you follow some basic rules.

Feet and knees should be together. Dont cross your feet as this relaxes the lower abdominals. You need to twist from side to side slowly and reach as far as you can. Later you can add a weight to increase the workload.

Front Plank (bridge)

This is a static (isometric) exercise that maintains a position similar to a push-up for a period of time, typically 30 seconds. It should be high intensity, this means keeping the kneck, back and legs straight and taught, no slouching. Hands and arms are straight ahead. Shoulders and upper back should not be hunched neither should the shoulders (scapula) move inwards. The exercise losing a lot of its efficasity if these rules are not followed.

Although generally staic some movement can be added. Legs can be parted or individual legs flexed at the knee. It is possible to move onto the hands into a push up position or even to move the back into a upside down V. These will engage muscles apart from the addominals.

Side Plank

This exercise is very similar to the front plank but, as the name suggests, performed on the side. The rules are similar,keep the kneck, back and legs straight with the body supported at the heel and via an elbow flexed at 90 degrees.

Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. The upper leg should be aligned directly on top of the supporting, lower leg. If the position can’t be maintained simply stop the exercise. Movement can be added by raising holding the upper leg.


This odly named exercise is nothing to do with exercise flatulence but is named after Dr Burpee who came up with the idea in 1939 as part of his thesis to measure agility and coordination. It is similar to a squat thrust but with a stand between each rep. As a guide 8 burpees in 20 seconds is considered poor, 10 is fair, 13 or more excellent. As with the lunge there are many variants.

There are four main steps. Start in a standing position and move to a squat with hands on the ground. Kick feet back into a plank then return to a squat finally standing from that position. The stand is frequently replaced with a push up and jump as in the diagram.

Image (Fischer skiletics)

Kill the Ball

Medicine balls have been in use since the ancient greeks but became popular in the late 19th century. They are a solid rubber ball about shoulder width diameter and available in various weights. They are used to improve strength and coordination. The following exercise uses the upper body and shoulder muscles and improves double polling technique:

Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and hold the medicine ball directly overhead with the arms fully extended

Initiate the movement by bending forward at the waist and dropping the torso powerfully to develop tension in the arms and shoulders

Drive the ball down to the floor with the arms extended and target a spot on the floor that is at least 12 inches away from the feet to ensure the ball does not bounce back up into your face

Repeat the downward throws methodically, not rushing from repetition to repetition

The exercise is stressful for the shoulders, do not use a ball that is too heavy. Focus on good technique rather than overloading the body.

A rotational variant consists of slamming the ball down either side of the body, turn to one side when you begin to initiate the downward motion. This places a greater emphasis on the oblique core muscles.


This exercise helps you understand the classic basic position. Place your hands on your hips and focus on the lower body. Crush an imaginary tomato in front of you with your toes, applying pressure with both your knee and hips. Hold the position for three seconds. Take another step forward to crush the next tomato. You can increase the difficulty by doing it on uneven terrain (outside in a field or on a slope)


This exercise allows children to familiarize themselves with the basic position and the key movements in skating. Take the basic position on the supporting leg while skating with your hands on your hips (knees and ankles flexed). As soon as the position is stable, jump sideways with the free leg and resume the basic position on that leg. Respect the key position points during the standing phase. Repeat the movement ten times while remaining on a line.

To increase the difficulty try on uneven terrain (carpet, meadow, slope, etc.). Increase


the speed but with the movement always stabilized!. Note: don’t change the basic position as you move sideways.

Steps with resistance

Use a training band around the knees. The resistance this creates makes the exercise more difficult. Repeat the windscreen wiper move above.

Working with kids

Teaching children has its own problems (and pleasures). Children rarely have the patience to spend an hour lesson focusing on a single aspect of technique. Variety and having fun are important aspects of the learning process. Indeed kids don’t even need to be aware they are learning new techniques. Training without having the impression of training should be the order of the day.

The particular audience can have an impact. There is a big difference between a 7 and 14 year old and differences between children who are sporty or members of a sport club, particularly a ski/inline skate background and those who are largely sedentary. You will see issues with coordination and endurance or fitness. Don’t be over ambitious.

There is no minimum age for using rollerskis but for younger children, say under 12 years old, it is wise to master inline skating first. Properly used inline skates are an excellent means to become accustomed to key movements in roller and cross country skiing. They are less expensive, more maneuverable and lighter than rollerskis.

It is an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t do any strength training with children until their bodies are fully grown; however they can still build strength and endurance through exercises and games which will improve upper body stability and leg strength.

Speed should not be an aim in itself but linked to movement via exercises or games like relays. Once children can perform rapid movements through short and intensive games, speed exercises can be introduced on roller skis or skates. The elasticity of the joints, tendons and muscles is very good at this age. Exercises can take advantage of this to train a full range of movement on the joints

Don’t neglect team and competitive spirit in the group while keeping a friendly and sporting environment. The trainer should increase the complexity of challenges to enable the children to stretch themselves and reach their potential. Different levels of difficulty can be proposed depending on the aptitude of the kids. Emulation is an important driver.

The start and end of training sessions should have a ritual and the attitude of children to each other, the trainer and equipment should be clearly explained. Remember that you are in charge, don’t be driven by the children, they can often be over ambitious about what they want to do. The training session can begin with a warm up exercise. At the end involve the children in clearing up and storing equipment used during the exercises.

A theme should be explored without giving the children the impression that they are doing the same thing over and over. Don’t jump around too many divirging exercises in one go but propose variations around a central idea. Start simple. Children are not tiny adults and don’t appreciate long, technical explanations using language they don’t

necessarily understand. Demonstrate rather than explain, solicit feedback from the group where possible but get them started on the exercise as soon as possible. Keep things short but increase the difficulty and features with each exercise with rapid explanations or demonstrations each time. The BASI manual uses the term Maximum Class Activity. Use metaphors, it is easier for children to visualize everyday situationsan invisible wall for not gliding their feet too far forward - than listen to a technical explanation about position.


Safety rules for adults (discussed above) apply equally to children but kids are often less aware of their environment in terms of danger. Mixing with traffic or other users (joggers etc) should be avoided. Scope out the training zone for other dangers: potholes, rubbish, stones, kerbs etc. Protection: knee, elbow and wrist pads (when not using poles) are a good idea. Helmets and glasses should be worn. Think about sunscreen and water. Do you have a first aid kit and know how to perform basic first aid. Can you contact medical help: phone or radio? Are the children clear about the exercise they are going to carry out and what their responsibilities are to their mates. Give them a safety briefing and point out any dangers (a drain cover or broken road surface).

Fun and Games

The following games are without skis. Don’t have too many different games in a session, it can be tiring to understand all the rules. Mix with other exercises, running, mountain biking or ski/inline skate training.

Cross country rabbits

This game improves the cardio-vascular system. Mark out a terrain of 10x10 meters. The rabbits can freely move around this zone but they are chased by two hunters. If they are touched they go to a spawning zone where they have a penalty - 10 windscreen wiper jumps or 10 ketchups before returning to the game. Swap the rabbits and hunters around. You get make the rabbits and hunters move around with cross country ski steps (see exercises above for ideas).

The Pickpocket

Reaction, speed and sense of direction are fundamentals for this game. Mark out a terrain of 10x10 meters. Kids can move around with 5 clothes pegs attached to their clothes. They must try to pickpocket the pegs of other competitors and attach them to their clothes. After a set time, say 5 minutes, the child with the most pegs is the winner. There must be no physical contact. Pegs should only be fixed to a T shirt. You can increase the difficulty by playing the game with one hand behind the back.


You can combine the various exercises outlined previously into a gymkhana. Mark out a track in an area such as a carpark with chalk and cones and get the participants to compete the course. You can use street furniture such as posts, curbs, grassed sections.

Click on the link if you want to know what she’s going to do with the football on the right.


Football is another way to improve agility, balance and endurance. It requires a certain level but is good all round training without having to think about specific exercises.

(photo: Ankara
Team )


The fact that we are looking to target our training rather than just going out (roller)skiing around means that we already have an idea in mind of what we want to achieve and are looking to do this in the most efficient manner possible. Do we simply wish to make cross country skiing more enjoyable? To ski further and faster? To ski a certain trail?. Or are we oriented towards taking part in a major race like the Transjurrassian, Birkie or Vasaloppet? Are we aiming to finish in a certain time, or in the top half of the field? Or aiming to finish on the podium?

Cross country skiing is essentially an endurance activity. Typical race distances range from 5 to 42 km or more although there are short sprint formats.. Races are over varying terrain and changeable snow and weather conditions which will require adaptations in the ski technique. The majority of time spent in a longer race will be aerobic however the race may see a fast initial sprint for position needing good anaerobic fitness, there may be climbs, both short and long and it may be necessary to sprint to overtake skiers or at the finish.

Cross country skiing is similar to cycling and running but the upper body adds up to around 25% of the power for amateur skiers and up to 40% for elite racers. Performance is closely correlated to oxygen intake, top skiers have superior anaerobic power, muscular endurance and muscle power, and high aerobic and endurance capability. Compared to cyclists cross country skiers have heavier upper bodies but there is a lot of crossover between the two sports. Thibaut Pinault and Romain Bardet have both done well in cross country ski races. Katerina Nash was a top cross country olympian before pivoting over to mountain biking and cyclocross. Sepp Kuss’ journey to becoming a cycling pro started on skis before transferring to mountain biking then road cycling.

Energy Systems

Muscles run on ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). This is produced by three energy systems during exercise.

1. Aerobic (Low intensity, endurance). Used from durations from about a minute to hours. This system uses oxygen and synthesizes ATP from stored fat and carbohydrates. It can produce energy until reserves are exhausted but produces ATP at a slower rate compared to other systems. The first hour or so of any exercise consumes muscle glycogen, afterwards fats become the principal source of fuel. In a race you will probably want to eat some sugars before all the glucose is consumed or risk “hitting the wall”.

2. Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic) Energy System. Used for durations from 10 seconds to max two minutes for medium to high levels of activity such as a sprint or short uphill. Oxygen is not used for fuel but lactic acid will build up quickly given a burning sensation in the muscles.

Training Zones

You could go out and exercise, getting the miles in and no doubt you would improve. However different energy systems and types of events respond to more specific training. Just covering a lot of distance at a reasonably high tempo may even be negative, so called “junkmiles” leading to overtraining. Junk miles are hard enough to leave you tired but not sufficiently hard to bring about the necessary physiological adaptations.

To target training a three zone heart rate based system derived from lactate thresholds can be used. This is simpler than the more specific 5, 6 and sometimes 7 zone models used by cyclists training with power meters but is sufficient for endurance training and the simplicity makes following training programs easier. It should be remembered that Heart Rate is a lagging indicator. Think of it like the temperature gauge on a car engine. It will take some time to warm up, or even overheat. Therefore it is not good for tracking very short efforts.

Lactic acid is a byproduct of burning glucose in the muscles. It is measured in millimoles per liter of blood (mmol/L). As you start to exercise the amount of lactic acid starts to increase very slightly. The point where the increase starts to be measurable is called the first lactate threshold or LT1. This occurs at concentrations of around 2 mmol but it depends on individuals. The amount of lactic acid will now start to increase more rapidly, the point where the body can’t clear it out of the system is called the second lactate threshold or LT2 at 4 mmol (this is a similar level to Functional Threshold Power or FTP). The quantity will now increase exponentially until you can’t exercise further.

3. AnaerobicAlactic (ATP-CP) Energy System (High Intensity – Short Duration/Bursts). The system does not use oxygen, but rather your body’s CP (creatine phosphate) stores to create energy for a short duration such as a 100 meter sprint.

The key to endurance events is basic speed. To improve this you actually need to train slowly, below the LT1 level. This is the effort you can maintain for a long period, from a couple of hours a whole day and is fuelled in part by fat reserves. Sub LT1 training will improve fat oxidation and is an important factor in the speed you can develop over extended periods.

Lactate thresholds are determined by taking blood samples using devices that can cost up to a thousand dollars. Beyond the reach of most amateur sportsmen. However we can estimate LT1 and LT2 heart rates from our maximum heart rate, at least accurately enough for training.

Dr. Karel Pardaens3 tested 173 subjects in order to measure heart rates at LT1 and LT2 levels. The first observation is that the maximum heart rate (HRmax) doesn’t vary greatly between untrained to trained subjects and is more related to age. So LT1 and LT2 are best derived from this value. LT1, and to a lesser extent LT2 heart rates respond well to training, there was a 19 bpm gap between trained and untrained subjects, this dropped to 12 bpm at LT2. Improving LT1 and LT2 points means you can ski faster and further before lactates start to build up in the bloodstream.

The difference between men and women was not marked and the women were less well

3 Pardaens, Karel: In search of an upper limit for basic endurance training

trained but there was around a 10bpm difference between running (and by extension cross country skiing) and cycling HRmax refers to your absolute maximum heart rate, HRpeak refers to your maximum heart rate in a particular exercise.

Pardaens noted that the difference in LT1 HR for untrained and trained subjects was 88 to 77% of HRmax. He suggests using a limit of 80% of HRmax for this figure as 88% will be too strenuous for trained subjects and 77% too easy for the unfit who need a bit of a boost at the start of training.

Ave AGE Classification LT1


%LT1 %LT2

43 151 164 179 84.36% 91.62%

44 Cycling 148 161 177 83.62% 90.96%

40 Running 162 172 184 88.04% 93.48%

44 Men 148 161 177 83.62% 90.96%

41 Women 145 158 175 82.86% 90.29%

47 Worst 20 136 153 177 76.84% 86.44%

44 Best 20 155 165 176 88.07% 93.75%

Calculating LT2 and HRmax

Your threshold or LT2 heart rate can be estimated by going out on a 30 minute ride. You need to do this as fast as possible, if you have a long enough hill so much the better. Warm up then go out hard. Take your average heart rate for the last 20 minutes. You could also look at previous rides recorded on Strava that match this protocol. Look for the average heart rate for a 20 minute segment. You could also do this effort on rollerskis or cross country skis, again it is probably easier to get realistic readings on a long uphill section.

However as the above research showed, lactate thresholds will respond to training whereas max HR is much more constant. You can also get your HRmax from previous rides but be careful of random spikes. Your sports computer may also give you a HRmax reading. Otherwise go out for 15 minutes to warm up and then do an all out 3 minute effort, say climbing a hill. Wait for your HR to return to around 120 bpm then do that effort again and note the maximum HR achieved.

For 186 bpm

LT2 = 0.87 x max HR = 162 bpm

LT1 = 0.80 x max HR = 149 bpm


Note: optical armband heart rate straps tend to underread by a few bpm compared to chest straps and your running max heart rate will be a few bpm above your cycling max heart rate. The same should be true for cross country skiing.

Cardiac Drift

For Z1-Z2 exercise there is a coupling of speed or power to HR. For a constant power/speed the HR should settle down to a constant value after a few minutes warmup. At some point the HR may start to increase slightly. This is cardiac drift and it means is the heart is not pumping as much blood (stroke volume) for each beat and as a consequence the heart rate has to increase. One cause is a rise in core temperature, the body directs some blood to the outer body and as a result there is a drop in blood pressure on the return side of the heart. For each contraction the heart fills with less blood and the heart rate needs to rise to pump the same overall volume.

The point where drift starts to occur can be taken as an initial sign of fatigue. It will occur sooner for higher heart rates wrt to HRmax. This brings us around to the question of how long Z1 sessions need to be. At close to the LT1 limit (80% of HRmax) you will be able to train less before getting tired. At heart rates around 60% of HRmax you will be able to train longer but the overall level of work will be similar to the harder session. At some level of work, below say 55% HRmax, the adaptations of the body to exercise will be negligible.

Seiler suggests a target of 60% of HRR (Heart Rate Reserve). So for a cyclist with a HRmax of 185bpm and a HRrest of 52bpm this gives HR = (185 - 52)*-.6 + 52 = 132 which is 70% of HRmax if LT1 is calculated as 148 we will easily be in zone 1 even if there is some doubt about our LT1 HR without laboratory testing.


The chart below shows the equivalence between the zones in different models. In the three zone (Lactate) model LT1 extends to 80% of HRmax and LT2 to 87% of HRmax. The Norwegian Olympic model splits LT1 and HIT into additional zones but is still based around the idea of Lactate thresholds as is the Coggan model. Coggan defines his 5 zones based on the LT2 heart rate. Garmin calculates the 5 zones using 10% differences in Heart Rate descending to 50% of HRmax. This chart uses an LT2 heart rate of 162bpm and max HR of 186 bpm to calculate the Coggan zones.

If you are using a Garmin computer LT1 comprises zones 1 to 3 and HIT the very top of zone 4 into zone 5. LT2 is actually quite a narrow range of heart rates. The Lactate model can be simplified into a binary model by combining LT2 and HIT into a single HIT zone.

Training Protocols and Intensity Distributions

Rather than just randomly exercising or beasting it every time we go out we can use the zones to develop a targeted training programme. Training-intensity distribution (TID) defines how much training we do in each zone during a training programme.

The main protocols are Polarized, Pyramidal, Threshold/Sweet Spot, HIIT and Base/HVLI. Using the three level model for simplicity we mix the quantity of LIT (LT1), MIT (LT2) and HIT efforts.

Sweet Spot and Threshold

Sweet Spot training incorporates high volumes of training at around 75-85% of max heart rate with a focus on the upper end. That is in the top of LT1 to just below LT2. The kind of efforts you can maintain for 1 to 3 hours. Say climbing an alpine pass or a 50 mile Time Trial. Because the training is below LT2 you should be able to do multiple sweetspot sessions in a week. In theory it hits the sweet spot between intensity and volume without overly tiring the body. Proponents claim sweetspot maximizes limited time when training for endurance events. A sweet spot session may consist of longer intervals with some rest in between, say 3x20 minutes in the zone.

Threshold is at 85 to 95% of Max HR, that is above LT2. Seiler calls this level HIT (High Intensity Training) on the three zone model. At this level lactate will build up in the bloodstream and you’ll only be able to maintain these kinds of efforts for shorter periods.

This doesn’t tell us how much Sweet Spot or Threshold we should be doing in relation to other zones but on the three zone scale it is generally accepted that a TID in zone 2 would be the majority.

Over and under

Over/Under intervals involve working just either side of your lactate threshold (LT2) or FTP. The goal of these intervals is to load your body with an abundance of lactate during the ‘Overs’ and then force it to deal with and process the lactate during the ‘Unders’, when you will still be working at a relatively high intensity. Again this could be part of a Threshold TID


High-intensity interval training (HIIT) consists of short, maximal-intensity anaerobic intervals with short recovery periods to the point of exhaustion. A workout will typically be less than 30 minutes in total. There are a number of different protocols for HIIT under various names: Tabata, Crossfit etc.

An interval would be 20 seconds with 10 seconds of recovery. A 2015 study showed that HIIT training led to improved cardiovascular fitness and significantly better VO2 max improvements compared to endurance training.


High Volume executed with Low (LOW) Intensity (LT1) and prolonged duration is thought to be a fundamental training concept in preparing for endurance events. This type of exercise improves VO2peak by increasing stroke and plasma volume and induces molecular adaptations that improve the efficiency of metabolic key components for energy fueling.

This training model has been validated to improve health and fitness for untrained and weight-loss individuals but may not be the best choice for optimizing training of previously fit/athletic populations with competitive sport goals.


The majority of time is spent in Zone 1, a moderate amount of time in Zone 2 with the smallest amount of time in Zone 3. The Zone 3 work could correspond to a weekly long interval season. A lot of endurance athletes do pyramidal training by default during the race season as race efforts are mainly in zone 2.

The 3-week Tour de France as an indicator of exercise intensity during a competition. Analysis has shown that the relative contribution in each intensity zone (3-zone model) was 70%, 23% and 7%, respectively. (Lucia et al (87))


There has been a lot of talk about elite sportsmen and women spending most of their training time pottering around doing very easy sessions with a bit of HIT work. Dr. Stephen Seiler has studied a number of top athletes and claims that their training is organized on an 80/20 model, with 80% of the work below LT1 and the rest well above that level. This kind of training is called polarized because very little time is spent in the LT2 zone.

Measuring Training Intensity Distribution (TID)

How do you actually measure TID? The basic idea is to divide and quantify training time or distance into different intensity zones, over time frames from single sessions, to a few weeks to years. TID can be measured in terms of power, speed, HR, lactate, oxygen uptake, perceived exertion.

There are three common approaches for quantifying TID. For an endurance training session based on heart-rate:

1. Time in Zone (TIZ) The time in zone (TIZ) method uses the heart rate (solid blue line in the chart) as the basis for allocating time in different zones. For each heart rate measurement the zone is calculated and totalled. 35 minutes were spent in zone 3, 48 min in zone 1 and 5 min in zone 2.

2. Session Goal (SG) This approach is based on the intensity during the core section of the session in combination. The example is a zone 3. Seiler & Kjerland proposed this method and argue that it gives a realistic picture of the total TID over the long term

3. Mixed, Session Goal/Time in Zone (SG/TIZ) The modified session goal method uses the dotted line giving 39 minutes distributed in zone 3 and 49 minutes in zone 1. The zone 2 work at the start and end of an interval gets added to the Z3 bin and everything else is zone 1.

Which Training Intensity Distribution is better?

A lot of the early data concerning Training Intensity Distributions is based on diaries of elite athletes rather than scientific studies. There are issues with comparing volumes in each zone between different athletes and also how accurately training is recorded. The data may simply show individual preferences, not what is optimal or applicable to other athletes in different sports. More recently research has tried to quantitatively compare various TIDs.

A study of 48 elite runners, cyclists, and cross-country skiers4 randomly assigned each athlete to one of four groups training over 9 weeks using High Volume Training (HVT),

4 Stöggl T, Sperlich B. Polarized training has greater impact on key endurance variables than threshold, high intensity, or high volume training. Front Physiol. 2014 Feb

Threshold Training (THR), High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Polarized Training (POL). Each athlete was tested before and after the study. POL resulted in the greatest improvements in most key variables of endurance performance in already well-trained athletes. HIIT athletes showed greatest weight loss and also showed VO2max improvements for substantially lower training volumes than POL. THR or HVT did not lead to further improvements in performance related variables.

Esteve-Lanao5 published a randomized training study exploring the effects of increasing or decreasing the contribution of LIT vs. MIT on performance. During a 5-month period, a TID (TIZ-method) of 80% LIT, 12% MIT and 8% HIT (Pyramidal) elicited greater performance improvements than a program where time spent as MIT was doubled to 25%, while the amount of HIT was held constant (Threshold).

Billat and colleagues published research6 quantifying intensity distribution in elite Keynan marathoners and long-distance (5-10 km) runners. The marathoners distributed their training in a POL model (78/4/18). The 5-10 km runners were divided in groups based on different training patterns. The “high-speed” groups followed a POL model (84/7/9%) for men and (88/0/12%) for women. The “low-speed” group distributed their intensity in a PYR model (84/14/2%) and still produced outstanding results.

For elite athletes with lots of time to train it is clear that Polarized or Pyramidal TIDs are better but what about recreational athletes with time constraints?

A study by Neal et al7 took 12 male cyclists from local cycling clubs. They completed two training blocks using a randomized cross-over methodology divided into 6 weeks POL, 4 weeks detraining and 6 weeks THR. The cyclists had previously trained for more than 4 years at around 7 to 8 hours per week divided as (53/38/9%) so broadly THR, typical of club cyclists doing quite a bit of racing.

POL was 6.4 hours per week split as (80/0/20%) and THR 7.5 hours per week split (57/43/0%). The training volume was significantly higher for THR than POL due to the nature of the study which attempted to match the volume of training in zone 1 between POL and THR. During the study Z3 training sessions consisted of 6 intervals of 4 min duration with 2 min rest periods.

Both TIDs showed improvement for 40km TT but the effect was greater for POL despite the lower training volume. The study concluded a critical component for promoting adaptation is the incorporation of zone 3 sessions and reduction of zone 2 sessions, whilst maintaining the volume of low intensity (zone 1) sessions even at training

5 Esteve-Lanao J, Foster C, Seiler S, Lucia A. Impact of training intensity distribution on performance in endurance athletes. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 2007

6 Billat V,

7 Neal CM, Hunter AM, Brennan L, O'Sullivan A, Hamilton DL, De Vito G, Galloway SD. Six weeks of a polarized training-intensity distribution leads to greater physiological and performance adaptations than a threshold model in trained cyclists. J Appl Physiol 2013 Feb

volumes of around 6 hours per week in club level athletes.

On the other hand, an 11 week analysis of rowers8 divided them into POL and PYR groups. A SG/TIZ approach was used. 16 to 18h of training per week consisting of 6–8 rowing sessions per week with Z1 clamped to 93%. PYR including two to three Z2sessions with not more than one session in Z3. POL included 2-3 sessions of Z3 training while avoiding Z2 as much as possible. Afterwards, a series of rowing ergometer tests using internationally recognized measures showed improvements for both TID models but no significant difference between them for national level athletes. The authors suggest that a great level of Z3 is necessary for POL to show superior results to Z2 but also noted studies that showed different findings for cyclists and runners.

A long term study9 of one of the most successful cross country skiers of all time, Marit Bjørgen, showed that over her career she increased her total annual training volume from 522 to 940 hours. That is from 10h to 18h per week. Her TID was polarized from 88/2/10 up to 27 years old but with higher volume the amount of LIT became more dominant: 92/3/5 from 430h to 800h at 35 years old. HIT/MIT volumes were constant at around 60h apart from a 5 year period from 23 to 28 hich saw extensive HIT training in the GP phase. Another change after 30 years was an increase in strength training from 51h (43% core stabilization, 57% heavy strength training) to 90h (50/50) from 32-35. In XC Skiing frequency and intensity are as important as exercise volume.

A study of 16 Male and Female national level Cross Country Skiers during the GP period used polarized training10. That is 70–80% of the total amount of exercise at low intensity (HRmax 65–80%), 5–10% at middle intensity (HRmax 80~88%), and the remaining 15–20% at high intensity (HRmax 88~100%).

The study found that there was an improvement of body composition (fat) and athletic

had a better effect on

than in female cross-country


performance of all cross-country skiers. Polarized training
cardiorespiratory function in male cross-country skiers
skiers. Conversely, the outcomes of the ski ergometer exercise factors were
effective in female athletes than in male athletes. When applying a polarized training program to athletes, it should be planned in detail by sex, exercise amount, intensity, and type of training. IstherealowerlimitforPOLandhowdoesitapplytorecreationalathletes? 8 Treff, Gunnar; Winkert, Kay; Sareban, Mahdi; Steinacker, Jürgen M.; Becker, Martin; Sperlich, Billy Eleven-Week Preparation Involving Polarized Intensity Distribution Is Not Superior to Pyramidal Distribution in National Elite Rowers, Frontiers in Physiology, 2017 9 Solli, Guro & Tønnessen, Espen & Sandbakk, Oyvind. (2017). The Training Characteristics of the World's Most Successful Female Cross-Country Skier. Frontiers in Physiology. 10 Kim TH, Han JK, Lee JY, Choi YC. The Effect of Polarized Training on the Athletic Performance of Male and Female Cross-Country Skiers during the General Preparation Period. Healthcare (Basel). 2021 Jul

A comparison of POL (74/11/15%) And HIIT/Crossfit (48/8/44%) for recreational runners 11 found that HIIT gave similar results to POL for much lower training volumes over 5km race distances but as above POL gave greater improvements in VO2 max. Lower initial baseline fitness may allow greater adaptive potential to HIIT and the lower volume of 3 to 5 hours per week reduces the likelihood of overtraining and running injuries from HIT. It is also possible to do more intensity with this volume of training because there are more rest days. As it is more time efficient it may be attractive to recreational athletes balancing training with other commitments.


A POL or PYR model works better than THR for both elite and club level endurance athletes. Seiler, who popularized the POL model recently suggested the three level zones could be combined into a binary model split at LT1 with POL and PYR basically being treated as the same.

The argument between POL/PYR and HIT may actually be false. The overall amount of HIT volume should remain constant and therefore once training volume drops below 5 hours per week (4 hours LIT, 1 hour HIT or 80/20) HIT volume becomes more dominant and the model naturally moves to HIIT. On average, approximately two HIT sessions per week at around 1 hour total TIZ appears sufficient to induce performance and physiological adaptations without overreaching during the long term. Conversely as training volumes increase LIT will dominate, over 90% at volumes of 20 hours per week. High volumes of LIT improves base and long term fitness, As Stalin is reputed to have said “quantityhasaqualityallofitsown”

It appears that THR leaves athletes tired over the medium term and liable to burn out without bringing the hoped for gains in performance as the body does not have enough recovery time. There is some research showing12 recovery above the LT1 level is much slower but adaptations below LT2 are limited, our so called “junkmiles”. All the pain for little gain.

Pyramidal TID patterns have also been found in a study on elite XC sprint skiers during a six month pre-season period. The World-Class skiers in that study had an intensity distribution in their training of 88% LIT, 7% MIT and 5% HIT (SG/TIZ method).

Interval regimens

Research by Seiler13 shows that intervals of 4x8 minutes at 90% of Max HR gives better

11 Carnes, Andrew & Mahoney, Sara. (2018). Polarized vs. High Intensity Multimodal Training in Recreational Runners. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 14. 1-28. 10.1123/ijspp.2018-0040.

12 Seiler S, Haugen O, Kuffel E. Autonomic recovery after exercise in trained athletes: intensity and duration effects. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Aug

13 Seiler, Stephen. (2012). Training Intensity Distribution.

results than 2x16m or 8x4m. However shorter duration intervals at a higher intensity, as short as 15 seconds, may be even better but more research is needed. These kinds of efforts are too short to measure using heart rate.

Seiler and Sandbakk found that accumulating approximately 30 to 45 minutes at around 90% of HRmax twice per week was a more effective HIIT prescription than accumulating 15-20 min at around 95% HR max . Stepto et al also found superior adaptations to a 4x8 min interval prescription compared to shorter duration protocols conducted with higher intensity.

Studies therefore suggest that higher work intensities are better but a slight intensity reduction in the HIT-range (say from 95 to 90% HRmax ) makes it possible to increase the duration of the effort giving better overall adaptive responses in recreational to welltrained athletes.

Hudson suggests a balanced approach where quantity and quality are given equal weight. He suggests one HIIT interval session and one threshold session per week. This means you must be relatively rested for these sessions. However because quantity is also important athletes should exercise on the other days insofar as it doesn’t get in the way of the quality workouts.


Training should progress from highly general, such as lifting weights and cardio, to very specific so it includes performing that exercise or skill. To be a good cross country skier, you need to ski.

Training mimics the action and skills that will be needed in the game or activity. Over time, you develop muscle memory for specific actions so you can perform them without having to concentrate on them.

To give an example during her career Marit Bjørgen reported that around 60% of annual endurance and sprint training hours were ski specific (skiing on snow or roller skis), while the rest was primarily running with similar coordination and movements to skiing.

The LIT work focuses on technique so large quantities have benefits both in terms of capillary densification, which improves the supply of blood and oxygen to muscles and mitochondrial volume expansion giving improved energy storage, but also in improving skills associated with the activity.


High level cross country skiers don’t train with the same distribution (TID) all year round. A year is split into a macro-cycle of recovery, endurance, intensity and competition.

A study showed that after a short break following the end of the competition phase cross country skiers would start an initial period of general preparation (GP) with around 55 hours per month spent training.

The purpose of the general preparation period is to improve the athlete’s general fitness level and work capacity and to maximize adaptability in preparation for a high level of training. In addition, excessive high-intensity training and a large volume of training during the preparation period can cause muscle injury and overtraining. The GP phases also works a lot on core strength and stability with gym work.

Approximately 60% of the total training time is performed during the general preparation period between May and October. This period typically includes high volumes of LIT and 50–60% of the endurance-training conducted as sport-specific exercise (e.g., roller skiing and skiing), with the remainder mainly performed as running

GP initially follows a Pyramidal distribution. That is more medium intensity (Z2) than high intensity (Z3) work (90/6/4). Note that 90% of training time is still spent at Z1. From August there are more Z3 intervals and less time spent in Z2 (91/4/5). The Specific Preparation for competition (SP) is heavily polarized between Z1 and Z3 (88/4/8) and this continues to the competition phase (CP) but with an important reduction in time spent at Z1 (85/5/10).

Cross country skiing also lends itself to micro-cycles. For example a morning strength building session could focus on the upper body and in the afternoon skate work might be primarily with the legs. Polarized training is, in itself, a micro-cycle as HIT days will be

split by one or more LIT days. A number of different micro-cycles form a meso-cycle. For example 21 days on the glacier at altitude skiing with afternoon in the valley running or cycling may be a VO2max mesocycle. Most XC skiers use a traditional model, alternating between high- and low-volume weeks. Meso-cycles are typically 3 to 4 weeks in length and may be designed differently for male and female athletes.

A Typical Polarized Training Week

The following table presents a typical training week designed for an elite level cross country skier in the general preparation phase. It consists of around 20 hours of exercise per week. This is obviously too much for a typical amateur racer.

Day Exercise Morning Afternoon

Monday Classic Rollerski Trekking Run

Time 40-22-30mins

10 sets of 10s intervals with 120s rest 90 mins

Intensity Z1 (warm up), Z3, Z1 (easy) Z1

Tuesday Rollerski Weigh/Core

Time 40-20-40 mins 90 mins

Intensity Z1 (warm up), Z2, Z1 (easy)

Wednesday Mountain Walk with Poles Rest

Time 180 mins Z1

Thursday Classic Rolerski Other Sport

Time 90 mins 90 mins

Intensity Z1 @ 60% HRres Free

Friday Rollerski Weight/Core

Time 40-40-30

5 sets of 5 mins, 3 mins rest 90 mins

Intensity Z1 (warm up), Z3, Z1 (easy)

Saturday Cycling Rest

Intensity 180 mins Time Z1

Sunday Rest Run Intensity Z1 Time 60 mins

TID: Z1: 820 mins (13 hours 40 mins), Z2: 20 mins, Z3: 62 mins = 902 mins

Weights 180 mins, Other 90 mins = 1172 mins (19 hours 32 mins)

Z1 (70%), Z2 (1.7%), Z3 (5.3%)

Warm up at 60% of HRres

Weight Training

3 set, recovery time 90s

Bench press (put legs on the bench, not on the floor) & pull-down

Triceps pull-downs, deadlift

Rowing/arm-pull while sitting & arm-press with dumb-bells using inclined bench, legs: squats & hamstring curl, single-leg squat, side squat




press-ups, top position, single-leg holds,

motions statically, spine in a neutral position, Swiss

3 sets, recovery 60 s
plank, prone plank, side plank, side plank-leg
ball training(inclined
quadruped motions) Training Glossary and Abbreviations CP Competition period Crossfit A multimodal exercise regime involving resistance exercises, gymnastics, and plyometrics, as well as running and rowing or cycle ergometry, combined in a “workout of the day” CV Cardio Vascular

GE Gross efficiency



HIIT High intensity interval training

HIT High intensity training

HR Heart rate

HRmax Maximum overall heart rate

HRpeak Peak heart rate for a particular sport

HRR Heart Rate Reserve

HVT High Volume Training

LIT Low Intensity Training

LT Lactate threshold

MAP Maximal aerobic power

MIT Moderate intensity training

MLSS Maximal lactate steady state

POL Polarized Training

PP Preparation Period (aka GP)

PYR Pyramidal Training

RHR Resting Heart Rate

RPE Rating of perceived exertion (BORG scale, 6-20)

SG Session goal

SG/TIZ A hybrid session goal/time in zone approach

SP Mean power during a 30 s all-out test (Wingate)



SR Self-report

sRPE Session rating of perceived exertion (1-10)

SST Sweet Spot Training THR Threshold Training TID Training intensity distribution TIZ Time in zone TrV Training Load Volume


As with its winter sibling there are a number of rollerski races throughout the summer and autumn across the globe. These attract some of the same stars as winter but there are also summer specialists. In Italy rollerskiing was managed by the inline skating federation until 2016 ( which allowed the sport to evolve an existence independent of snow. You will also find rollerskiers and local races in hot countries such as Turkey, Spain (which also have a number of ski areas) and even North Africa and Brazil.

The first European Rollerski championships were organized in the Netherlands in 1988 and in 1992 the FIS recognized rollerskiing as a separate sport with the first world championships held in 1998. Races follow the winter model to a certain extent with short explosive sprints, often held on city streets to long distance courses covering 50km or more over country roads. Helmets and glasses (to protect against points) are mandatory.

A number of the big races occur during ski festivals. The long classic Kanalrennet is part of the Sommarland ski festival. The spectacular climb to Lysebotn Op, a twisty switched back road by a Norwegian fjord is part of the Blink festival. In Italy the climb to Monte Bondone during the Fiemme Rollerski Cup.

At 90km the Klarälvsloppet at Karlstad in Sweden is the longest rollerski race in the world. It is tackled on classic skis. The Alliansloppet in Trollhättan, Sweden is a 48km classic race Gautefallrennet at Drangedal, Norvège is a 60km classic race and considered one of the hardest rollerski events.

In the USA the Climb to the Castle is an autumn hill climb over 5miles with an average 8% grade up the Memorial Highway to the summit of Whiteface Mountain – New York’s 5th highest peak with an elevation of 4,867 feet.

Gear is sometimes provided, at least for the top 50 or so skiers, by an overall sponsor to even up the competition - same wheels and skates but there is a move away from this and towards individual gear. This is more interesting from a manufacturer’s viewpoint although there is some worry from competitors that this will lead to higher overall speeds and more danger.

Rollerski Tracks


Biathlon, an exciting mix of target shooting and cross country skiing, is the Number One winter sport in Europe and its popularity is increasing. The European Broadcast Union says that viewing figures for Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and France are up 50% since 2013. The French l’EquipeTVget their highest ratings for biathlon with up to 1.5 million watching events in the 2018 season. Scottish biathlete and Eurosport commentator Mike Dixon says that between 100,000 and 300,000 Brits tune in to their coverage.

It is easy to understand the popularity. A single missed shot means a penalty loop, 150 meters of pain and shame that can turn a race on its head. The various events can seem complicated to the uninitiated. Races consist of 2 or 4 shooting rounds linked by skating around a set course. Shooting is in the prone and standing position. The targets are positioned 50 meters from the skier and the .22 long rifle has simple “iron” sights. In the standing position the targets measure 4.5” (115 mm) and in the prone position 1.8” (45 mm). You may think that makes standing easier but the rifle weighs at least 3.5kg

Figure 20: Dorothea Wierer, Italy prone shooting

and after a hard session of skiing and polling it can seem very heavy after the first couple of shots. The penalty loop takes some 20 to 30 seconds to ski, extra distance on already tired arms and legs and more work to catch up with other skiers. In some events the skier can load single shots into the rifle for each miss but even this is quite time consuming for tired fingers.

World cup biathlon events generally take the form of a sprint over a 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) course for men; 7.5 kilometres (4.7 miles) for women. The skier shots twice. Biathletes start at intervals.

Figure 21: Wiesbaden City Biathlon

The pursuit event is a handicap race over 4 shoots. Racers start based on their time in the previous race, generally a sprint. The first skier over the line wins. The distance is 12.5 kilometres (7.8 miles) for men, 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) for women. The first skier arriving at the range will take the lane furthest to the right etc. If a skier starts a few seconds behind another skier there is a tactical decision to be made whether it is better to attempt to catch that skier for shelter and pacing. This can mean arriving at the shooting “in the red” and missing shots. For the leading skier the choice is whether to hold off the chasers.

In biathlon, shooting speed and accuracy are as important as raw ski speed. To give an example Finish women’s biathlete Kaisa Makarainen (now retired) was the fastest (and

one of the oldest) skiers with an average of over 24km/h. She was originally a pure cross-country skier. Laura Dahlmeier is accurate, she’ll typically shoot 19/20 in a race. Dorothea Weirer is a fast shooter but slightly less accurate, 18/20 is typical. She’ll often overhaul other skiers in the range but she has to, she’s 0.3km/h slower than Dahlmeier and 0.7km/h slower than Makarainen. However Maikarainen’s shooting accuracy of around 17/20 often costs her races.

Fans of most sports may be divided into pure armchair spectators and weekend warriors. Anyone can kick a football around or play five-a-side with friends or ride a bike. Biathlon is not so easy to get into, even in the Alps or Scandinavia it is generally restricted to skiers on the elite competition track. That’s not surprising. You are shooting a target rifle that costs thousands of dollars and the .22 rounds may be tiny but they travel at supersonic speeds and can punch through wood, or bone, and are potentially lethal.

Biathlon with kids

Kids can start Biathlon shooting from middle school age. At first they will use laser rifles but can then move on to air or compressed air guns on a 10 meter range. The equipment is relatively expensive and generally only available as part of a club or ski school. Laser rifles are completely safe to use but air guns require all the safety precautions of live ammunition .22 rifles both in terms of personal behavior and the selected shooting area (usually a shooting range).

Until children are at a high level with both their skiing and shooting there is no need for them to carry rifles around the track as in a real competition. Even exercises such as taking the rifle off and on can be done wearing training shoes.

In the beginning the prone position should be favoured but using the larger standing targets. Be careful about position (feet, arms) from the start. Laser rifles should not need zeroing unless the sights have been disturbed but this may be necessary with air rifles depending on the conditions - this can either be done before the session by the trainer or as part of the lesson. Laser rifles simulate all of the functionality of full size rifles by using various buttons to charge the virtual magazine of five shots and load each bullet. Laser biathlon targets are usually reset by aiming the rifle at the target. Air rifle targets are reset with string and under no circumstances should anyone stand in front of the shooting area.

You can play a number of games with children without launching into the complexities of a full blown sprint or pursuit. Depending on the number of rifles, divide the group up into teams. Each team is allocated a mat to shoot from. With a “patrol” race the children set off together and ski or run around a circuit (poles are not used when skiing to simplify the approach to the shooting mats). The lead from each team fires a single shot, the other skiers continue their “patrol” until their mat is free. This continues until all the targets are hit. This requires reloading the rifle as and when necessary.

With a relay each child will run to the rifle, take one shot then run back to touch the next team mate. Repeat until all the targets are cleared. In a second round each child tries to clear all five targets. For each miss there is a penalty such as 5 press ups or running around a fixed point.

Both games require teamwork and cooperation as well as tactics.


• Sandbakk Ø, Holmberg HC, Leirdal S, Ettema G. The physiology of world-class sprint skiers. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Dec.

• Thomas Stöggl and Billy Sperlich. Polarized training has greater impact on key endurance variables than threshold, high intensity, or high volume training.. Published Feb 2014

• Thomas Stöggl and Billy Sperlich. The training intensity distribution among well-trained and elite endurance athletes. Frontiers in Physiology. 2015 Oct.

• Quantifying training intensity distribution in elite endurance athletes: is there evidence for an “optimal” distribution? K. Stephen Seiler, Glenn Øvrevik Kjerland First published: 27 October 2004

• Espen Tønnessen, Øystein Sylta, Thomas A. Haugen, Erlend Hem, Ida S. Svendsen, Stephen Seiler. The Road to Gold: Training and Peaking Characteristics in the Year Prior to a Gold Medal Endurance Performance. Published: July 14, 2014

• Polarized training: does it really work for recreational athletes? Andrew Hamilton

• Myakinchenko, E.B., Kriuchkov, A.S., Adodin, N.V., Dikunets, M.A., & Shestakov, M.P. (2021). One-year periodization of training loads of Russian and Norwegian elite crosscountry skiers. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 10045/106835/6/JHSE_16-3_18.pdf

• How To Use Training Zones To Enhance Endurance Training 23 April 2020, %20lactate%20threshold%2C%20also,concentration%20above%20resting%20values %201

• Sylta, Øystein. (2017). Sylta, Ø.: Endurance training organization in elite endurance athletes – From description of best practice towards individualized prescription. Doktorgradsavhandling ved Universitetet i Agder. (2017) nization_in_elite_endurance_athletes__From_description_of_best_practice_towards_individualized_prescription_Doktorgradsa vhandling_ved_Universitetet_i_Agder_2017

• Hydren, Jay R.; Cohen, Bruce S.. Current Scientific Evidence for a Polarized Cardiovascular Endurance Training Model. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: December 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 12,



• Why you need to know more than just your FTP Training, March 27, 2021,

• Is The Polarized Training Method Right For You?,

• Zone Model – Don’t Overcomplicate It, October 13, 2020,

• How to Go Easy (and Why): An Introduction to the Polarized Training Model, Ned DowlingJune 27, 2022,

• Training zones explained: how to use heart rate and power zones to fast-track your training, Nick Busca Published: October 18, 2022,

• Macrocycles, Mesocycles and Microcycles: Understanding the Three Cycles of Periodization, Tyrone Holmes,


• - Online ski coaching resources

• Fischer SKILETICS®

• – UK based rollerski training






interesting trouble shooting

● Entrainement_hors_neige_Ski_fond.pdf



Offset Technique







Articles inside