Exertion Level: Hard
Skier Level: Intermediate
Suggested Trails: Nakkertok, #15, #40, #33, #2
A skier has only two gears; power and turnover. When you want to go faster it's as simple as that. You can either put more muscular effort into every push (power) or you can increase your tempo by pushing more often (turnover). In general skiers can also be categorized as more muscle or tempo skiers. I'll come back to categorization latter.
Unlike cyclists or race car drivers who have a choice of gears at their finger tips skiers have only 2 options and have to use each wisely. Sure a skier chooses skis to match the conditions, but that's a rather small mechanical advantage compared to having a triple chain ring to downshift into on an uphill. I won't take this analogy with bikes and cars any further since a local ski/bike racing coach has all of the cycling-vs-skiing analogies copyrighted and want to avoid paying royalties.
So when should a skier use each gear? Well, you have to learn to feel out when and where it's better to use more muscle vs. a higher turnover. You have to develop your feel for the "ski gears". By this I mean you have to play with your tempo and muscular output during your intensity workouts to figure out how to go faster. Sometimes the answer will be to up the tempo, other times it will be to simply crank harder on the poles and skis.
There are general trends you can look for in terrain and conditions. Some uphills require more muscle, others you will be better to increase your tempo. Flat icy conditions favour powerful pushes with a long glide phase. Soft fresh snow or watery slush require high tempo light strokes so you don't plow. Muscular skier can tire easily in these conditions, so you must practice high tempo skiing.
Variable spring conditions offer opportunities and challenges to sharpen your ski gears....
- Ski in all the conditions, don't wimp out and skate when you need klister. Classic skiing requires a finer ski gear tuning since you need to make sure you can get grip. You won't improve if you don't practice in those conditions. This is the time of year that you can test your skis for wet snow and ice as well as practice moving fast in these tricky conditions. It could really help come Nationals!
- Do sprints and intervals in challenging snow, terrain, etc. A workout in deep slow snow, for example, may not feel great, but it is a good chance to get some experience with that condition. Notice the difference when you up the tempo and ease back on the power?
- Short (1-2km) multi-loop time trials where you can learn from your mistakes will help. Similarly timed intervals where you can test techniques, tempo, power and get feedback from an coach, heart rate monitor and stop watch will help too.
- Ski with teammates! Watch how others do in the conditions and mimic those skiing well.