One of the hardest questions Nordic skiers face on a daily basis is whether to wax up their classic skis or simply whip out their skate gear and go. Spend precious time layering and corking in kickwax or get instant gratification on your skate skis? Hmmm…
OK, I’m usually guilty of the latter. I can squeeze in an hour-long skate workout before work, dressed warm for the cold pre-dawn temps, and show up at the office feeling the endorphins from a brisk aerobic session. Messing around with kickwax is not something one feels inspired to do at a dark trailhead early in the morning. Skate skiing is not only great for turbo personalities who want to maximize their workout time in a time-crunched schedule, it also comes more naturally to me and feels faster (=more fun). I like the smooth rhythm that is easily achieved, the speedy glide and relative agility of shorter skate skis. During longer skate sessions, I lose track of time and thought and simply inhale crisp mountain air, pole and glide (repeat a few hundred times…).
One of my favorite workouts as a racer was skating intervals on the Soldier Hollow trails in Midway, UT. Hammer uphill, super fun downhill with a few rollers thrown in there. For longer skate ski workouts, nothing beats skiing the trails at Daniel’s Summit off of Hwy 40 or Mirror Lake Highway in the Uintas, but get out early to beat the snowmobiles for fresh corduroy.
However, as much as I love skating, there is nothing quite like striding in perfect tracks with bombproof kick. Skiers describe those easy waxing days as ‘extra blue’ because typically when the tracks are fresh, cold (~20F) and hardpacked, Swix Extra Blue kickwax is the one to grab. In those conditions, there’s no ‘if’ in waxing, kick is always solid and glide is fast. You know that when you throw a few layers of kickwax on at the trailhead, you won’t be re-waxing 1km down the trail, desperately hoping that you brought the right wax with you, or turning your ski into a frustrating double pole session. On those days, the time and effort spent waxing will be worth it. There’s nothing that quite compares to classic skiing on narrow trails through the woods in the natural rhythm of kick, glide, kick, glide. Someday we’ll all have the time to fiddle with classic wax and nail the right wax for every condition; until then, I’m a extra blue-only classic skier. But, when Mother Nature grants me perfect conditions, I seize the moment.
Because the two techniques use different ranges of motion, its good for your body to experience both. Classic skiing stretches out your body in a way that skate skiing doesn’t and provides release for wound up muscles. I use this rule of thumb: if its an extra blue day, always classic ski. Serious Nordic racers might disagree since training should ideally be split 50-50 between skate and classic, but it works for me. You’ll probably still end up skating more than you classic ski but at least you’ll take advantage of the good days.
Writer: Evelyn Dong, Jans Content Writer