Improving your Offset (V1) Skate
The offset or V1 skate is a technique for all skiers to learn, as it is the “go to” technique for climbing hills for the average skier. Although World Cup racers often climb hills with the 1 skate (V2 for our American readers), it demands quite a bit of strength and stamina that recreational skiers usually don't possess. The offset skate gets its name because the poles are offset – with a lead pole held high with elbows at 90° and the lag pole held in a lower position, as shown in photo 1. This offset position allows a three-point landing of both ski poles that hit at the same time as the lead ski (in photo 1, this is the left ski). This timing difference makes the offset-skating technique different from the “double-poling” style of the 1 and 2 skate (V2 and V2 alternate).
For skiers just learning this technique, I usually have them simply walk through the timing on the flats and then up a gradual hill. I often have skiers say “crunch” and “skate,” – where “crunch” means a three-point landing of two poles and the lead ski, and “skate” means free-skating with the other leg. Once skiers have the timing, I then have them perform the same actions, but this time adding some power to the poles and glide to the skis. At this point, it is important to think about keeping the arms bent at 90° and to ensure that your leg action is a strong free-skate. Try to keep your torso facing up the hill and avoid any unnecessary swaying of the body. It is important to look up the hill – many skiers keep their head down, looking at the tips of their skis.
One of the problems that I see with many skiers who perform this technique is that they offset on one side only. In photo 1, I am offsetting on my left side, since the two poles and left ski hit the snow at the same time. Knowing how to offset skate on both sides allows you to switch as arm and shoulder muscles on one side become tired. I change sides frequently so that my arm and shoulder muscles don't become fatigued. In photo 2, I am getting ready to offset on my right side, and you can see me pushing off the left ski and both poles are ready to be planted as my right ski hits the snow. Notice that I am looking forward in photo 2 and that my right ski is being placed down flat to maximize glide. Often skiers don't bring their feet under them and end up trying to glide on an edged skis. Since edged skis are very hard to balance on, the end result is a short choppy offset skate, common among beginners.
Another common error occurs when skiers hold their hands very wide, as shown in photo 3. This is a very weak position for poling. Since you use the offset skate for ascending hills, you want all of your muscles working as efficiently as possible so you don't tire prematurely. So think about keeping your arms at 90° and closer to your body (see photo 1 or 2). Another indicator of a wide pole plant is that these skiers often end up bringing their arms too close together as they follow through (see photo 4). Other skiers keep their head cocked to one side or the other when they climb hills with the offset skate, as seen in photo 5. When I see skiers doing this, I usually have them simply look up the hill, and this seems to quickly fix this error.
A great test of your ability to offset skate is to try the technique without poles, as seen in photo 6. This requires a strong freeskate to be able to skate up the hills with legs only. If you can freeskate up hills without poles, imagine how fast you will be when you add them. For help with any aspect of your Nordic skiing, seek out the assistance of a certified CANSI or PSIA instructor. Contributor Keith Nicol has been on four Canadian INTERSKI demonstration teams for Nordic skiing. He holds CANSI'S highest instructor ranking in both track and telemark skiing.