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Winter E-Digest: Balance Is The Skeleton Key (Feb 2015)

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 11:22 -- JD

The following is a translated and summarized from an original article by Inge Scheve originally appearing on SkiAktiv.no in October 2013. Reuse rights exclusively for AXCS membership.

Balance is something that everyone has. You just have to find it, says Paal Gunnar Mikkelsplass. With balance, efficiency, rhythm and propulsion fall into place. The former Norwegian national team racer and national team coach points out that without balance, all ski technique becomes difficult.

“Balance is the skeleton key to everything,” Mikkelsplass says, noting that weight transfer – a well-known term in cross-country ski technique – is nothing other that balance.

“So what is balance? Its something you have. You just need to position yourself to be in balance,” he says to www. SkiAktiv.no.

Mikkelsplass believes a lot of masters and recreational skiers are a bit confused about the term, and make it more difficult than it is. But balance, or weight transfer, is as simple as being able to stand on one leg, he explains.

Balance is the prerequisite for good technique

And what you do with your balance is what develops and improves ski technique, regardless of technique.

“Whether classic or skating, you have to be 100 percent in balance when you place the kick in classic or push off in skating,” Mikkelsplass says. To make that happen, your foot needs to be directly under your body.

“If you look at good skiers, their foot is never in front of their nose when they kick or push off. But I estimate that for 95 percent of masters who ski the Norwegian Birkie, the tip of their boot is in front of their nose at the most forward position,” Mikkelsplass says.

Drills: Keep it simple

Balance and weight transfer is nothing other than standing on one leg. So do that. A lot.

“Practice standing on one leg with your ankle, knee and hip flexed, and get a feel for what good balance is,” Mikkelsplass suggests, noting that this drill can be done anywhere and doesn’t require any toys or even changing into workout gear.

“Do it while you brush your teeth, while you cook dinner, while waiting for the bus. Whenever. Look at yourself in the mirror and aim for a good ski position where your ankle, knee and hip is equally much flexed,” he says.

Make it harder by doing the drill on an uneven, wobbly surface, such as a soft mattress, a BOSU ball or foam roller. With good balance, almost everything else will follow: A firmer push-off, a better, more precise kick, better efficiency and more speed down the track.

“You see good skiers: Their bodies are mostly very quiet. Arms and legs are doing the work. But to get there, they need to keep their foot under their body when the move is initiated,” Mikkelsplass points out.

“Keep that in mind when you work out: Your foot needs to be under you when you want to get forward. This is true whether skiwalking, roller skiing, moosehufing, or skiing. And it’s true for classic as well as skating. You have to be in balance to ski technically well,” Mikkelsplass says.