When she's not winning the World Cup overall, Virpi likes long walks on the beach, cuddling by the fire, and never escaping the cloud of doping suspicion.
Alrighty, so we had a little interruption of service back there. I figured with Christmas being totally in your face, you probably weren't reading this, and with rain coming out of the sky you probably weren't that excited to get on skis, anyway. Well now it's the week between the holidays and colder than average (but not snowier), let's finish it off!
There's not too much to say about the poling motion itself; at the most basic level, you want to push on your poles a bit for propulsion and balance. And we aren't going anywhere further than the basic level here.
Luckily, before you go anywhere you've got to put the damn things on, and there's a 50% chance you'll do that wrong, if you don't keep reading.
When you actually do stuff with your poles on snow (as opposed to downhill skiing, where the poles are only for "balance" and "stabbing snowboarders"), you're going to be pushing on the strap, not the pole itself, even though you'll be holding the pole. The pole is slippery and so are your gloves; if you have to keep a deathgrip on the pole, you put your straps on wrong.
You can remember the right way with this "handy" turn of phrase: "the rabbit goes up the hole (strap) and grabs the carrot (pole)." It's a pretty simple thing, just take the pole strap as a horizontal loop at the top of pole, you want to put your hand through that loop from below and then grab down onto the pole, with the strap between your hand and the pole.
Up the hole...
...and grabs the carrot.
Next step, get your straps tight! The pole should be tight against the crotch of your thumb/forefinger (hur, hur, you said crotch). This is because releasing your poles as you push off is a crucial component of poling fluidly. If your straps aren't tight, then your poles won't stay in place when you release them, and then when you go to fluidly grab them again, they'll be missing, and fluidity is the last thing that will happen.
Ok, poles tight, straps on right, let's learn the basic skating strike, called the V1. Our doper friend Virpi up above is demonstrating it -- both poles hit the snow along with your dominant ski at the same time, and then you push off and glide onto the other ski, repeat.
Start standing in place, prepared to look like a big dork. Without going anywhere, start talking to yourself: "3"..."1"..."3"...."1". If anyone around you isn't looking yet, start stepping back and forth between your skis, putting two poles down with one ski and zero poles down with the other, while saying (or thinking, or chanting) 3, 1, 3, 1.
You don't need to do this very long, just long enough to make sure you understand the timing of what you're after. I promise once you start moving, there will be such a ridiculous amount of stuff to think about that you will quickly screw your timing up and start doing "2,1,1" (pole, ski, ski). This works pretty well on the flats, and is actually a whole different skate technique I am pretending doesn't exist for now, but it won't get you up hills worth beans. It's worth it to get the timing right, I promise.
When you're poling, your dominant-side arm (right arm if you pole along with your right ski) will be up high and nearly vertical, while your weakside pole will be more across the front of your body. Once again, refer to the top picture. Note that she is climbing a hill and has PRO pole length, so her dominant pole is up next to her ear. You probably won't do this.
You don't really even need to worry about how your poles offset; the important thing is that they come down along with the ski, allowing you to push off three things (ski edge and both poles) at the same time. It's like having three pedals on your bike! Or something. The push will start with the poles, and then as you compress your upper body, you'll start the ski push, eventually pushing off to your other ski once you've compressed all the way and are coming back up.
Fig 1: Starting to pole; Fig 2: "Fully" compressed, about to push off; Fig 3: Pushed off.
As usual you are probably overwhelmed by a wall of text. Let's look at a video to see what you're gonna look like:
These guys are going so freaking hard that they're actually jumping from ski to ski. You don't have to do that. It's just on of the few videos on youtube showing V1 skate timing (and no other skate technique) from the best skiers in the world.
The reason you can't find many V1 videos is because V1 is actually a slower skate technique; It's basically the small chainring of skiing, and guess what, the best in the world don't spend much time in the small chainring. Pro only V1 on hills, as shown above. But you'll do it a lot... all the time, at first.
We're not even going to talk about the big chainring (V2) because if you get good enough that you need to learn it, you'll take a lesson (right??) and they'll cover it far better than I could in text. Plus we're at what, 6000 words in the series now?
And... we'll be back soon with Part 5, waxing.