Thursday, November 27, 2008

Get Started Nordic Skating

from Press of Atlantic City, "Beginners' questions answered about Nordic skating," Nov 26, 2008

Nordic skates are cross-country ice skates for recreational touring. Blades are long and thin, similar to speed- skate blades, allowing for greater speed. The blades fasten to comfortable Nordic ski boots, so you avoid the pinched feet, cold toes and floppy ankles that you get from conventional speed skates. Just clip the blade on your ski boots and go.

Nordic skates glide farther than conventional hockey or figure skates. On a longer blade, your weight is more distributed with greater stability, allowing you to handle bumpier ice without tripping or stumbling. Hockey and figure blades leave deeper gouges in the ice than Nordic blades. Nordic skates also make it easier to skate through a few inches of snow atop the ice.

Nordic skates come in four lengths. Shorter blades work best on small ponds and indoor rinks with smooth ice. Longer blades are best for soft ice, bumpy ice and straight-ahead skating on large bodies of frozen water.

Bindings need to match the boots you'll be using, such as Salomon Pilot, Profil or X-Adventure; or Rottefella NNN-BC, NNN-R3 or NIS-R4.

Nordic skates clip onto cross-country ski boots just like skis. Best boots are Nordic "skate" or "combi" models from Alpina, Fischer, Hartjes, Rossignol, Salomon and Sportful. They have good ankle support and stiffness for skating. But any cross-country ski boot will work with Nordic skates as long as the boots match the bindings. There are also strap-on versions of Nordic blades available to fit winter hiking boots, or telemark versions to fit telemark ski boots.

If you're skating outdoors on an unmaintained, untested ice surface, safety is your responsibility. Skate with, but not necessarily near, at least one other person and carry this safety gear:
  • Ice claws or picks with which to pull yourself out of a hole in the ice if you fall through.
  • A lifeline you can throw to anyone who falls through the ice.
  • A backpack containing dry clothes in a waterproof bag or container. If you fasten the waist strap on your backpack, the air caught in any waterproof bag or container inside will help act as a life preserver in an emergency.
  • A waterproof flashlight. Winter days are short in Alaska. A light can be used to signal for help or to provide illumination for a rescue.

Poles can help maintain balance. And cross-country skiers might enjoy the familiarity - Nordic skating is a lot like Nordic skate skiing on snow, only faster and with less effort. On soft, bumpy or snow-covered ice, poles can be a big help with balance. But when the ice is smooth, hard and black, most people skate without poles.

Yes and no. When you stride on the blades, your heel swings free. But when you ride or push off on the blades, your weight forces the boot down onto an interlocking ridge-channel system that marries boot and blade. This give you control over your blades and helps transmit all lateral force into the blade.

In a life-or-death emergency, experienced skaters do a "hockey stop," a quick sideways twist that brings the edges of the skates perpendicular to the line of travel. This technique takes some time to learn. If you don't already know how to hockey stop, start slowly, don't allow your speed to get too high, and slow down to stop by gradually by "snowplowing" as you would on skis or coasting to a gradual stop. If you do know how to hockey stop, remember that hockey stops dull blades faster than less aggressive forms of braking.

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