A long, long time ago, back when we only skied classic, former US Ski Team coach Steve Gaskill put out an excellent VHS video containing ski technique drills. There were both dryland drills and drills on rollerskis. For someone with no access to a coaching, it was a real blessing. While no substitute for the careful eye of a coach, the drills helped eliminate problems and led the way to better and more efficient skiing.
When CXC Skiing announced the release of the "Cross Country Technique Progressions" DVD, I had to immediately get one. Was it as valuable as the Gaskill videos? Did it present drills in a way that were useful, especially for folks without a coach (i.e., most of us)?
I knew and greatly respected one coach in the video, Yuriy Gusev. He coached a weekend clinic I sponsored last fall and was just incredible. That increased my expectation that the DVD would be high value. The list of coaches driving the drills include:
There are a number of other skiers used for demonstration purposes as well.
I've spent several nights after work watching the DVD, and practicing some of the dryland drills in front of my computer (receiving many funny looks from my wife and dog). I also did some of the drills as I warmed up for the weekend's rollerski sessions.
Conclusion: Anyone interested in improving their technique - including experienced racers who want to know the latest in technique innovations - should run (not walk) to the CXC web site and get this DVD.
Let's drill down into the dryland drills...
The first section of the DVD covers 11 dryland drills and their variations. Most (but not all) of the drills require elastic bands to provide resistance. You can buy CXC Skiings's Nordic Shock Cords, Armit, Power for Poling cords which have a nice grip and a great core-exercise book, more generic fitness cables, over even inexpensive Thera resistance bands. Just get the bands somewhere, it will be worth your while.
Some of the dryland drills coverd on the DVD. Note the skating, classic, strength and balance drills
The dryland section includes drills for classic skiing and for skate skiing, upper-body and lower body, and exercises to improve general strength and balance. Even if you have rollerski, these drills help you develop strength in ways you can't on rollerskis. If you don't have rollerskis, you really want to do these drills...
Skate drills to ensure even kick on both sides
Specific drills on both rollerskis and snow skis are provide in two skate technique sections on the DVD. The rollerski drills start with some very basic drills for beginner rollerskiers. Ever struggle to turn on your rolleskis or snow skis? There are some tips in here for you.
The skate drills cover V1, V2, V2-alternate, and even a little jump skate (also know as the double-push). Highlights for me where upper body positioning, a discussion of twisting vs. not twisting the upper body, and the angle of the elbow in poling. A very important drill covered "ski loading" - making sure you skate off both skis in V1.
The ski drills do not necessarily overlap the rollerski drills. You will want to view the ski drills as well before you head out on your rollerskis for a little technique work.
Finally! A discussion and video of late kick! In all my years of skiing, I've heard coaches talk about it and articles warn about it, but I've never read a clear explanation nor seen an example. Until now.
There are some great drills for double pole. As Bryan Fish says in the video,
"Double pole is the most fundamental component of cross country skiing. Having a good double pole is critical not only for classic but also for skating. Two things it really develops: it develops the use of not just the upper body but also the lower body, synchronizing the lower body and upper body together, and second is good posture, good body position."
There are a number of drills covering doublepole and kick-doublepole. In a couple scenes, Matt Whitcomb shows a skier with enviable technique - at least you think so. He then has someone rollerski past with today's state of the art technique. It makes you want to grab a video recorder to see how you ski. I highly recommend you view the doublepole and kick doublepole sections with a friend, then head out and watch each other ski.
Although their are diagonal stride drills for rollerskiers, the snow drills are better, simply because you have to deal with imperfect kick. What was really funny about these drills is that I recently say a video of the German National Team doing exactly the same drills. Even top skiers do drills to stay in form.
You will probably view the entire DVD over two or three evenings, but you'll be overwhelmed. Go back and focus on a couple drills at a time. This is, after all, a "progression" of technique drills. Master the early ones before going on the later ones.
Realistically, you'll most likely ignore my advice above and go straight to the drills that interest you most. That's OK. Play around with the the more advanced stuff, THEN go back and see if you can even do the basic drills. You may be surprised.
There are enough drills to keep you busy for an entire year of training.
Few of us have coaches watching to ensure we have mastered technique fundamentals. Here's an opportunity to have a coach at your beck and call, on your time schedule, when you need the coaching. Take advantage of it.