The ski routes in Norway’s Jotunheim region cross some very long lakes--in fact, you can spend the entire day skiing across just one. After three of four hours skiing on the same lake, you no longer try to stay with your partners or even stop to rest. All you want to do is get to the other end that refuses to get any closer. That's when thought ceases, and the body takes over.
On the way to Eidsbugarden at the end of Bygdin Lake, I found myself out in front, rhythmically skiing in a hypnotic trance. Slowly, I watched a dot turn into the hostel as it began to grow in size. As I came out of my trance, I noticed I was skiing with no distinct or separate techniques such as double pole or diagonal stride. My body had taken over to keep moving forward with the least effort by mixing it up; two double poles and one kick; two kicks and one double pole; one single arm pole with two kicks. Whatever it took to maintain the flow. This was skiing in the zone, far beyond thoughts or concern about technique.
Combining techniques like this requires the ability to both mix and match and to transition efficiently between the diagonal stride and single and double poling. To experience your own zone of efficient transitions, start with the kick (or one step) double pole, which combines the kick of the diagonal stride with double poling. Once you have a handle on that, you can move and switch it up between striding, double poling and everything in between. Working on transitions in the spaces between the designated techniques is fun and will teach you a lot about efficient movement on skis.
Kick Double Pole
To develop an efficient, effective kick double poIe, start with diagonal stride and then add the double pole. For maximum power, complete the kick and extension of the push off leg before the poles are planted. Mimic the timing of the diagonal stride—feet pass, kick ski stops, weight transfers to the next ski, poles plant and poling begins before rear leg is actively brought forward.
As you work on an effective kick double pole, avoid the trap of thinking you are kicking between double poles when all you are doing is reaching a little farther forward by using your rear leg as a counter balance for your arms and torso. To kick, you must be on one ski only. Weight and push that ski into the snow to stop it, and then move over and onto the next ski crisply as you uncoil to extend forward. As a quick check, drop your poles for a while, skiing around without them to tune in to what it takes to kick. Then continue without poles and add a single pole motion to your strides, then a double pole motion. Once you have a feel for reaching forward with both arms as you propel yourself onto the next ski with a well-timed kick, add the poles back and double pole after each stride. With your rear leg as a counterbalance, you should be able to extend just a little bit further forward as you plant for the double pole, but remember the real power boost comes from the kick. As you develop your kick double pole, add in a couple of kicks without poling now and then to keep yourself honest with the kick.
The double pole will extend both the poling and the glide phase as compared to the diagonal stride. As your hands reach your thighs, your rear leg should swing forward and onto the snow. Stop it abruptly as you transfer weight onto it; the forward momentum of your leg and foot will add to your glide.
Feet together is an awkward place to start a kick, so slide one foot in front of the other at the end of the double pole stroke. This sets you up for a powerful kick when you collapse the ankle of the foot in front as you drive that knee forward and over the foot to start the next kick. Sliding the rear foot (the one that was behind after the last kick) out in front each time as the double pole is completed keeps you kicking with the same foot. Sliding the standing foot in front each time will alternate the foot you kick with.
From Stride to Double Pole
Skip a pole plant and stall your hand in front during the kick. Let the pole basket swing forward as you wait for the other arm to recover, then plant both poles and begin to double pole. You can leave one hand back at the end of pole stroke and wait for the other to join it there, or start your next double pole by swinging both arms forward.
From Double Pole to Stride
Move onto one ski as you swing both hands up for the next double pole, but only plant one pole to start the diagonal pole motion. Stall the other pole out in front by letting the basket swing forward as you wait for the rhythm of your feet to catch up with that pole. It just seems wrong to start striding when both poles are behind you, but if you care to do it that way, it works.
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