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That's an Excellent Question: What does it take to ski 25km/hr?
By:     (2009/02/27)


I speak for many when I say that the speeds the top skiers achieved in Gloppet are "inconceivable" - especially when put in context with "I felt good, and skiing was easy" that the various posted reports give. I skate skied the course Saturday afternoon by myself at 18.7Km/h. I have done some math that shows that if I had gone in the race, I would have won:

  • use fancy wax, structure etc. (I didn't wax at all): add 2km/h
  • fancy low-resistance racing suit: add 2 km/h
  • draft other skiers for much of race: add 3km/h
  • voila - 25.7 km/h, I win - accolades please.

Seriously though, can you shed any light on what it takes to ski at those speeds - are you one-skating up pink lake? Are you just tucking on the downhills, or doing something else? etc.

other questions include - During a race, how do you eat? how do you drink?


Hi A.B.,

That's an Excellent Question, what does it take to ski 25km/hr?

Don't be fooled by the "it felt easy comments". Racers are still pushing themselves to the limit but by comparison to normal conditions on ice and hard pack ALL the energy you put into each stride is transferred to forward momentum. In really soft conditions kicking harder with your legs doesn't really mean you'll be going faster, just working harder.

To go that fast in any conditions still takes a lot work. Remember, those speeds are average speeds which involve some long slow climbing sections, some longer flats and a few fast downhills. While the downhills help the average at 40-60km/hr, yeah in a tight tuck, but those downhills don't last long which mean they really don't contribute much to the average speed. You're going to make the biggest gains in improving your average time by being faster on the slower sections; climbing. To do that you need to focus on fitness and technique, not tight fitting clothes or drafting.

A general comments of what's required to achieve max speed are..

1 - Train year round. It might take 10-20years, persist.

2 - Train a minimum of 500hrs/year, 600-800 is preferable.

3 - Train specifically for skiing spring, summer, fall; ie. rollerski, specific ski strength, etc. (Try every workout here)

4 - Race 10-20 races before the main event.

5 - Learn good technique so that you are comfortable balancing on your skis at race speed. Do intervals and sprints regularly to get comfortable skiing at high speed.

6 - Developing a race nutrition plan will help keep your speed up the entire time.

7 - Focus on your weaknesses as a skier, train these more often than your strengths.

8 - Maintain your equipment, boots, and especially poles are as important as skis!

9 - Learn about your skis. Waxing is only a 10% contribution to the final ski speed. It's about 80% camber, 10% structure and 10% wax. Without the right skis for the days conditions you'll never go as fast as your potential. http://www.xcottawa.ca/articles.php?id=1231

10 - Learn to wax, learn about structure, or get a professional wax job on race days.

How to feed during a race? We carry a water bottle with us, and have friends hand us a new one every 10km or so. We drink every 20-30min, eat a gel or Shot Bloks every 30-45min. It takes practice but you learn to do it with your poles on, skiing down a hill in a tuck. While training practice drinking on the fly, rather than stopping.

Hope that helps. As Karl commented to me "When you read all of those it makes you realize that actually, we have done A LOT of work at this bizarre activity. A lot more than really makes sense!"

But we've enjoyed every minute and hope you will too.


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