So You Wanna Be One Of Them Skatey-Skiers, Part 1b

This is part 2 of probably... 5 in the "nordic skiing for bike dorks" skiers. Part 1 is here.

A few years of practice and you'll look like this guy, "obviously flawed but moving pretty well." Excited yet??

Equipment, Part 1b: So you're gonna ignore me, and get some used stuff

Alright, I did my best. If you're hell-bent on getting some used gear that only kinda fits you, maybe I can help. Just a bit. Still though, used boots? Really?

Where are you gonna get used gear? You have a few choices. #1 is probably your local craigslist, where you can find other cyclists giving up on the gear they bought last year. #2? Ebay is always good for a few "used the skis 3 times, moved to a warm climate" deals as well. If you're in a location that still has stuff like a "ski swap" (aka "not Boston"), that's always an exciting crapshoot. And of course, choice #4 is "borrowing/buying from some dude I know."


Two things to know: Your boots should fit. You spend the whole sport on your feet. There's no saddle to put weight on. Boots that don't fit lead to blisters. And blisters lead to not using anything you bought, which leads to reselling your equipment to some other cyclist and getting fat next winter.

Second order of business: Boots need to match the bindings. It's not like cycling where you change the cleat. If you have Salomon bindings you need Salomon boots. If you have Salomon Pilot bindings, you need a Pilot-compatible boot, not just Salomon boot. And NNN bindings need NNN boots. It's not rocket science, but if you're cobbling stuff together from mixed sources, you need to check this.


Skate skis are going to vary in length from about 170cm to 195cm depending on your height. More important than their length is their stiffness; a very rough rule of thumb for checking this is the "two hand test" -- hold the skis base-to-base and grab them in the center (at the bindings). If you can make the bases touch with one hand, they're too soft. If you can't make them touch with two hands, too stiff. If you can make them touch with exactly two hands... look out for the three bears.

For length, stand with the ski next to you and put your arm straight up. The tip should fall roughly at your elbow. If you're an experienced skier, it will probably be a few inches above, if you're a total noob you can go a bit shorter than that


For an experienced skier, skate poles are going to come to your lower lip. Seriously. These bastards are tall. If you're a beginner, then you can position them more around your chin. This will still seem really tall... just wait until you're on skis and they hit the snow at an angle. It will be the right height. Trust me on this.
If you can find non-stank used boots that fit you, this will be your reaction.


GCDavid said…
Can I wear my cx skinsuit to race in? Or do I have to buy another one that doesn't quite fit but I hope fits by the start of the season?
Colin R said…
GCDavid: Your cx skinsuit will work perfectly. Just make sure to put lots of embro on those bare legs. And if anyone asks why you're wearing a chamois, punch 'em.
Luke S said…
I laugh really hard when people race in cycling jerseys. I was running a feed station at the Sugarloaf Marathon last year and someone stopped and asked me to take his food out of his back pocket for him. Then there was HillJunkie rockin the Camelbak, which is just a whole other deal.
matt said…
Fortunately, the 30 seconds per year where I wish I skiied nordic has passed already. whew... that was close.
Colin R said…
Matt: Yes, you're lucky I had no equipment you could borrow, and that if you were to check Luke that would be "wrong."
James Scott said…
Enough with ski selection, I want to hear how easy, quick and convenient it is to wax them.
Hill Junkie said…
Waxing skis is way easier, quicker and more convenient than cleaning a cross bike after a muddy race. Not that I would know this season.
Anonymous said…
If you're a bike racer skiing for fun and you bother to wax your skis you're doing it wrong.

I figured out pretty quickly that my technique wasn't good enough to even notice the difference between when my skis were waxed or not, and stopped. Hours of my life I got to do something else with.
Colin R said…
Adam and friends: ski waxing is like, part 6 or 7 of the series. chill. We'll get there. And yeah, you don't need to do it that much.
Toby said…
Colin, if you race in a bike jersey is it okay to wear ski goggles? I hope you have an apparel post to clear all this up.
Kurt P. said…
resultsboy let me know if you need me to guest right any of this for you...

BTW, poles to the upper lip is WAY long. with the "new skate" method (hunched back, deeper knee bend, deep ankle bend) poles should be no longer than lower lip.

(note, in the last 8 years I have gone from 165cm to 157cm skate poles).

see you at a winter event or 2.

Colin R said…
Wow, I really am going to have to write an apparel post, aren't I?

Ski goggles for xc skiing make as much sense as ski goggles for xc mountain biking. Hope you like SWEATY FACE.

Kurt: my lips are pretty close together (aren't yours?), and I lack the core strength to hunch all new-school style. But I'll amend it.

Do you ever race non-winter-tri ski races?
trackrich said…
What if the height to my elbow is like 467cm?
Colin R said…
Rich: then you're gonna want the longest skate skis you can find. I think ~195 is the biggest most brands go.
Kurt P. said…
that 1-2cm difference is huge when V1 uphill and the skier has to "reach" that much further to pole plant.

yea I will do a few ski only races.

(Masters Nat 10K, Rangeley Loppet and maybe the race here at Pineland)
Brian said…
uh oh, I heard 'new skate'...someone must read the Master Skier...this year you MUST do the new skate, or you're going to suck. Someone alert Axel Teichmann.

Skinsuits are great for warm weather racing if you like having a weird looking rear and snow blasting you in the legs (fwiw corn snow hurts!). Plus you can show off your shaved legs to non-cycling friends (who shaves in the winter, though).

Frankly, cycling jerseys are great for 30km+. I find the pockets much easier to access than working the zippers on those drink holder/fanny pack deals.
G-ride said…
god these comments are making me laugh so hard I have tears. Make note that all the hillarity is from the CX crowd.

Hmmm, not feeling the vibe from the "seasonal" posters over here. When are they going to get it that we stole Colin and he is not theirs anymore?

Continue with the lip height comparisons, please.
Brian said…
Also, I guess I should be clear I wasn't slighting Kurt's comment...I adhere to the 'new' skate myself, but my comment was more aimed at the Master Skier 'zine, where every single issue proposes THE NEW SKATE, entirely based on the technique of the current World Cup leader.
Kurt P. said…
My lips are lower than Colins.

...but, "new skate", Master Skier, etc...poles have gotten shorter...bottom line.

Ok, this CX and Nordic hack is out...
Anonymous said…
Are you guys saying that the cyclist-style, "ski like you're sitting in a chair," formerly bad technique, is now considered la mode?
Colin R said…

No no no.

Ski like you're sitting in a chair that is falling forward and over your dominant ski.

Leaning back is still bad. No weight transfer is still bad.
Anonymous said…
Ski like you're sitting on your TT bike?

Not like I have a TT bike, but still.
Colin R said…
Adam: uh, sure. More like that.

The technique changes are pretty subtle and IMO irrelevant to someone at your skill level. Even more importantly, there are guys killing it on the world cup with all kind of minor technique variations.

You can argue about technique minutiae for hours (as Brian mentioned, "master skier" is a magazine devoted entirely to this) but there comes a point where "different" is no longer "better." Like Ullrich mashing a TT and Lance spinning -- which is better? Both work pretty well, if you're an amazing athlete.
Anonymous said…
You forget I worked at VOmax, and was subjected to both Master Skier and Vince O'Connel on a daily basis for almost a year. I'm not as dumb as I'm pretending to be. Close though.

We had a groomed nordic track around the factory up in Plainfild, MA. This was the year I was "retired." Skied every night after work, right out the door. Swift River in Cummington was still open then, too, and had K's upon K's of lighted trails.
trackrich said…
I think I'll just stick to embarassing myself on a snowboard. My kids will give me less crap for sucking at that because I'm cool for just trying not to.
RMM said…
Are those spectators at the Ski Race?

Do women enjoy this sport?

Will someone who achieves upper tier cat 3 results in ski racing find himself popular with the ladies?

Just asking.
megA said…
For Sale:

Pretty Red NNN binding skate skis.

Will trade for classic skis because I suck at skate. I can only V1 with my right leg forward. Interestingly, I only pedal with the right leg too.

Hoping classic skis will allow both legs to get in the game.

Alex said…
All kidding aside, I think these posts are great. I only know one or two nordies who are truly elitist - most of us don't care what you wear or how you ski, provided you aren't falling down right in the way of people moving faster during races.

Most cyclists consider skiing a great cross training sport because its such a great "workout", its really hard to become efficient at it, and all that flailing about burns lots of christmas calories. But if you want to have more fun, definitely take a lesson. Efficiency is fun, flailing not so much.
Ari said…
Oh, you make me not want to move back to Boston, having bought, in person, skate and classic boots silver Salomon(both lightly used, but neither gross) for 1/2 off list and a matched pair of '05 RCSs with pilot bindings for $225 a pair on Skinnyski's classifieds.

A suggestion: if buying used boots, ask if they've been rollerskied in. If the answer is yes, the person used boots which are designed for temperatures below freezing in temperatures probably above 80. Sweaty, sweaty!

Anyway, this series is making me smile.
WillC said…
I just went skate skiing for the first time. I have touring skis I use a lot, and I used to play hockey a bunch, so I figured it was time to give the skate ski a shot out in Weston. That shizzle is hard. Balance is tricky, momentum hard to come by. Technique is key. And sure enough, I did get passed by a 12 year old girl with no poles on my first lap. Humiliating, but motivating. I think I started to get the hang of it right when I had to leave. Maybe worth another shot.

Popular posts from this blog

A letter to everyone's parents about Coronavirus

Sam Anderson Cheats at Mountain Bike Racing

Do-It-Yourself March Cycling Blog Post