Learning how to negotiate flat ground is something that’s often overlooked by ski beginners. However, learning how to skate on skis can help you gracefully glide through the sections you used to dread.
In this article, we are going to give you the skills needed to ski on flat ground. We will break down the technique, give you our top tips and point out the most common mistakes; helping you to achieve perfect skating.
If you follow the steps in this guide, you will never get ‘flat land fatigue’ again!
Why It’s Important To Learn How To Skate On Skis
Although alpine skiing is a downhill sport, much of the time we spend on the mountain will actually be on the flat. Whether you’re in a long lift queue or negotiating the bottom section of a ski slope; you are going to need to pass through flat ground.
If you’ve ever tried crossing flat ground with poor technique, you will know that it can be extremely tiring. Many skiers will just resort to walking, resulting in a loss of valuable ski time.
Skating is the fastest and least tiring way to ski on flat ground.
Here, we are going to teach you how glide across flat sections. This will help to save your time and energy for the skiing you live for – going downhill!
What Is Skating On Skis?
The ski term ‘skating’ comes directly from the sport of ‘ice-skating’. This is because the action used when skating on skis is almost exactly the same as the one used by ice skaters.
The ‘skating’ technique involves pushing with alternating feet and allowing the skis to glide across the snow. As you pick up momentum, each push will become easier and allow you to glide for a longer distance.
How To Skate On Skis: Step-By-Step Guide
- Start by standing on flat ground, facing in the direction you wish to travel.
- Offset your skis to create a ‘V’ shaped angle.
- Use one of the skis to push off, allowing the other ski to glide along the snow. Your weight will naturally transfer to the gliding ski.
- While gliding, bring the ski you have just pushed from forward towards the direction of travel.
- The ski that has been gliding now becomes the new push-off ski.
- Use your leg strength to push away on the new push-off ski, causing you to continue gliding.
- Continue to repeat these steps in a rhythmical fashion.
In order to help you visualise these steps, you can watch the below instructional video by Level Nine Sports.
Using Your Poles When Skating On Skis
Using your poles can be a great addition to the pushing power generated when skating on skis. A well-timed pole push will not only act as additional power, but also help to improve your balance and co-ordination.
Your pole push should match the timing of your ski push, working as an addition to the power generated by your legs. Use both poles in tandem for maximum power.
Using your poles should be viewed as an addition to skating with your legs, not as a substitute. If you prioritise using your arms for power instead of your legs, you will travel significantly slower and fatigue much quicker.
How To Skate On Skis: Top Tips
- Use Your Legs. Focus on the skating power of your legs, rather than the pushing power of your poles. Pole pushing is an addition to skating, not a substitute.
- Find A Rhythm. Rhythmical skating is effective as it allows for a good push and glide technique.
- Don’t Hold Back. Skating on skis takes a lot of effort, especially when still new to the technique. Don’t be tentative, summon your strength and use maximum power!
- Practice Makes Perfect. Finding the right technique can be frustrating. Continue to practice your technique on any flat ground you encounter until proficiency is achieved.
Common Problems When Skiing On Flat Ground
Standing On Your Own Skis
If you are new to skiing, your equipment can often feel cumbersome and difficult to use. Whether you’re sliding down the hill, or skating across the flat, it’s easy to get your skis in a tangle.
One of the most common mistakes when learning to skate is standing on your own skis. Since your skis are now offset to allow your ‘push-off’ position, the backs of your skis will be closer together.
Make sure you adopt a wide stance when you are skating to avoid the backs of your skis getting ‘crossed’. Remember; the more you offset your skis, the wider your stance will need to be.
Not Getting Enough Angle On Your ‘Push-Off’ Ski
When you offset the ski you intend to push off from, you need to make sure you have created a wide enough angle. This means that ideally, the ski should be at roughly a 35-degree angle.
If your push-off ski is too straight, you wont have the required angle to generate any power. Essentially, the ski you’re pushing against will just slide backwards.
The bigger angle you can create with your push-off ski; the better platform you have to push against, and therefore the more power you will be able to generate.
Put Simply: Make sure the ski your pushing against is not facing forward too much.
Relying Too Much On Your Poles
It’s a known fact that your legs are stronger than your arms. This means that if you are looking for maximum pushing power, you need to use your legs.
Although it might be tempting to use your poles as your primary source of pushing power, this is a sure fire way to fatigue. Additionally, it’s almost impossible to generate sufficient power without using your legs.
Think of your poles as an addition to the skating action of your legs. If you are new to skating on skis, it can be worthwhile practicing without holding your poles at all – allowing you to concentrate on your feet.
Getting Tired Easily
Skiing on flat ground is not an easy task. In fact, it is arguably the most tiring thing you can do on the mountain!
Skating on skis will really demonstrate your athletic ability. It uses a mixture of cardiovascular and muscular fitness that can leave many people gasping for breath.
If you have a high level of fitness, you will notice that your skating capability will be dramatically increased. However, as with all types of skiing (and most sports in general), being physically fit is not a substitute for good technique.
If you can master the skating technique outlined in this guide, you will find that the physical effort needed to glide across the flat will be significantly decreased.
Learning how to skate on skis can make a significant difference to your on-slope experience. It conserves energy, saves time and can add a level of enjoyment to otherwise boring flat ground skiing.
Although not the most exciting part of skiing, take the time to master this skill. If you can learn to ski on flat ground, it’s sure to enhance your overall mountain performance.
Do you find skiing on flat ground exhausting or have you mastered the required technique? Either way, leave a comment and let us know!
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.