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The Fall Line

HOW SKATING CHANGED SKIING
By Cathy Margiotta
Posted on 1/21/2018 12:35 PM

With the Olympics right around the corner, I thought you might want to know that only one American ever won an Olympic medal in Nordic cross-country skiing. That was Bill Koch of Vermont who took a silver medal in the 30 kilometer event at the 1976 Innsbruck games.


Cross-country has been dominated, no surprise, by the Europeans. Bjorn Daehlie and Marit Bjorgen, both of Norway, hold the most Olympic cross-country medals won by a man (12) or a woman (10), respectively.


But in the early 1980s, Bill Koch with his single Olympic medal changed the sport of cross-country forever when he introduced skating into the discipline. Since then, cross country events have included classic (gliding) events, and free (skating) events. The Pyeongchang Olympics has 12 events, including the Ladies' Sprint Classic, where the women will use the gliding technique, and the Men's Team Sprint Free, in which men will skate their way to Olympic glory.


Thanks to his medal and his contribution to Nordic skiing, Bill is in the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.


Skating, on the other hand, has always been a part of modern alpine skiing. Even the earliest racers knew to skate out of the start haus to gain speed for the first gate. Until shaped skis came along, that was pretty much about it. Skate in the gates for racers, while the rest of us mortals skate across the flats to keep our speed up. End of purpose of skating while skiing.


But shape skis gave us alpiners a movement pattern that mimics skating. Push off your big toe to move diagonally down the hill. Over and over and over again.


If you skate down a gentle pitch, you can easily morph your skating steps into complete turns. If you skate down a steeper pitch you just might learn to overcome that fear of having your head lead your body downhill.


If you recall my post about infinite fall lines, you can meld that idea with skating and discover a whole new way to ski.


Betcha.

  Member of the Blue Ridge Ski Council