onsdag 12. februar 2014

Misconceptions for the New Beginner and Intermediate XC Fitness skier

Going back over my own experiences with xc skiing and reading tonight through forum and expert- or shop- blog posts, I find an interesting way of looking at technique, training and equipment.

It is hard for a new beginner,  who is also new to Norway or actually even to snow, to  think about what type of skiing they are going to be doing. Really the question is what do you want to get out of your time skiing?

Think Both Inspirational and Perpspirational before you buy skis...

For me it was firstly about being in the high valleys and maybe the mountain tops, while also eating some miles in the tracks. All very back country dreamy.  It has though, ended up that i like to use skiing as cardio vascular training with some meditative focus on technique : this makes it a bit like swimming rather than finding my soul midst the high peaks.

So with my initial goal in mind, I have been resolutely on light touring skis which are narrow enough for laid tracks while broad enough for soft snow. On my mini mountain favourite, Drivheia in Aust Agder, the soft snow at the top and running alpine tucked out the spor are what get most benefit from in the tourski. However now i find they cramp my style a lot.

For a sporty immigrant to norway then you want to say to yourself if you are going to be doing any mountain touring, carrying any weight or living in a place where it is often other skiers trails you are following in rather than machine-prepared tracks, then touring or even fjellski with steel edges are what you should consider.

Avoid the 'Easier with a Tour Ski ' Misconception....

If however you know that you are going to be fitness training at a hard pace in nicely prepared local and weekend spree trails, then go right for training skis or even racing skis.

The former are reasonably priced and better for track based training. The latter are pretty expensive but you may get a perfect ski for your weight and power. I would edge on caution though and hire skis or ask to use different types at the ski school before getting any ski over 2400 kr bare ski.

It is just a myth then that you need to start on wide tour skis and that they are the cheapest option, being a good compromise for the new beginner.

Training skis are often very difficult to see the difference to racing skiis while lined up on the wall. They are a smidegon wider , around 43 to 48 mm mid sole, and heavier. Usually the range of legnths is less than with racing skis, and the prebend or mid spring is only available as a standard to that length (or as with Fischer, they test all skis and there is a variance in that so they can send out a warehouse ski hot off the presses which is nearest your individual needs) . Racing skis are narrower and have availability to order in a greater range of preload spring and legnths.

Key difference With Straighter Skis, made for those white tramlines....

The one key difference between both of these types of skis and touring skis is that the in-swing, or side cut profile, is virtually absent.

Lacking curves on the sides of the ski's legnth /edges means that you follow the parallel tramlines better and the ski is both lighter and you apply a greater force per square mm when you push down as the ski gives overall less support on the snow and resistance in its material.

This apparently renders training skis far more suitable for someone who is going to be scooting round nicely prepared ski runs.

Stability is not a big issue in nice tracks, and you can maybe learn to plough more easily, due to the greater pressure you can get on the inner edges. Furthermore it is much easier to step turn because they are light and do not self steer by the side cut like tour skis do.

Tour Skis with a Mind of Their Own.....

One other key thing I now notice as a down side of light tour skis is that they tend to self steer while in parrallel tracks - the better my technique and waxing is for the day now, the more i notice this. Also in step turning at speed, the tips offer more resistance and the side cut gives an unpredictable steer.

Step turning is essentially the same between classic, skating and any type of fatter ski you care to mention. However I am of the opinion that classic technique is a lot closer to skating in general than one may believe, especially as a light hearted tourist or fun & fitness skier. My opinion is due to weight transfer to one ski and using your hips. My style aim is to actually skate in parallel this year ie classic with a focus on launch, balance and glide rather than power.

Everyone Else is Doing Skinny Skis Why Not Me?

When living in Kristiansand and finding the enthusiast's training routes in the surrounding hills, I was surprised that I was pretty much the only skier doing reasonable classic technique on tour skis. Nearly all the Noggies had slim-line skis from fischer or madshus. Only plodders walking and clapp- kicking their way round had tour skis, and then often actually fjellskis.

So now i am looking into going into the modern racing inspired training ski, while also going back to waxless in considering the Atomic Skintec with the glued in insert which is on offer now.

I will then have a very nice set of tour skis which can tackle mountain side paths and skidoo run treks across plateuas, as well as the days when the machine was out yesterday evening and then it snowed.....

Sensible With Price and Use of  Time ....waxless and cost - benefit analysis

But back to the new beginner: waxless under 2000 krone in a boot-ski-binding combi are likely to be your first purchase. And why not? You can get either tour or the skinny trainings ski in package deals this very minute.

The forums are full of detractors who hate waxless and condemn them to amateur walking skier use. However the skintec and Fischer RCS waxless show that very serious skiing can indeed be done on textured kick zones. The problem is finding budget ones which are a sensible risk investment trade off.

Key in Ski Quality and Match to Your Weight...

The real key for getting good waxless is the exact same as for buying standard smooth soled xc skis: if they will support your weight for gliding while still allowing you to kick down and back with good grip. Atomic have a super advanced system for this, Fischer and the likes of Åsnes just make a really good ski design and put a patterned area on its sole.

Waxless is a lot less hassle, and in some really slippy or cladding stuff you can use wax, clister or anti cladd spray to really get good grip again.

If your budget is under 2000 kr then do not despair, just find a shop with a proper preload metering tool. This loads the skis up in a vice like way with a column pressing in the midfoot area of the binding side. This is wound up to  a kg scale and then a feeler gauge is used to confirm that you will get good enough glide by supported length,while the ski will not be too hard under the sole such that you wont acheive good kicking contact with the snow.

Once you then find a waxless ski then which will do this then check the other main chainstores but in paticular your smaller local shop, likely to be part of Intersport or Mx Sport here, to see if they have a better offer or can do better quality boots in a package.

Often a smaller shop will be willing to do an overall discount if you buy skis, bindings, boots,  skipants, a jacket and socks etc at one time. They may however need to order your exact best legnth and preload from a supplier but you will get more personal service and ski tips, quite likely with an invitation to join the club and enroll in their ski school.

Some small local shops and real fancy specialists will include a lesson with sale of skis, and that could be worth a cash amount of up to a thousand krone, but be worth far more to gyour enjoyment of the skis. Also if they prove to be incorrect for you then you will get a change to a correct type from outset.

Wax fri apart from Atomic Skintecs, have a longer area textured than that you would wax ( pretty much the same though on Fischer RCs if i remember correctly) and this will annoy you becuase it makes a hissing noise in hard or corned snow in particular. But believe me, waxing and applying clister on mild days is a lot more annoying relative to spending time out doors doing all that puffing and panting, kicking, striding and gliding that you should be focusing on.

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