What exactly is skate skiing? Basically it is cross-country skiing using a different technique. Skating is all about using the advantage of glide. You must use a firm groomed snow surface and as the name suggests you ski at an angle similar to ice skating. Sounds simple enough right?
Well unless you are a frequent ice skater, and I personally had not ice skated since I was a kid, then I highly suggest taking a lesson before setting off on the groomed trails. There is a learning curve to skate skiing that is best maneuvered with the help of a coach, and the best place to do this in the Sea to Sky area is at the Whistler Olympic Park. A park originally built during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games to host the Nordic skiing events, it is a world class facility.
Seeing as we had never cross-country skied or skate skied and are still fairly new to backcountry skiing, we wanted to start with the basics. The “Discover Skate Skiing” lesson is for “never-ever to beginner” level and lasts 1 ½ hours. They run them every weekend, so it’s the perfect Saturday or Sunday afternoon activity.
We arrived at the Main Lodge and checked in at Guest Services where we were picked up by Arnault who took us down to the rental area to help us get geared up. Once we had the gear, we were met upstairs by Garret and the rest of the group and then headed straight out onto the snow.
What we appreciated most about this lesson was how layered it was. We started with just learning to put the skis on and an explanation of the mechanics of skate skiing. Then we moved to having one ski on in the track and pushing with our other foot. The purpose of this was to allow us to get used to the motion of skating, and also get used to taking advantage of the glide. Garret allowed us to practice this until we all felt comfortable and he could see the progression we were are all making.
Now it was time to try skiing in the tracks with both skis, but still without poles, also called “free skiing” (he recommended we do this most of the time). As he explained, poles would give us an advantage, but they add yet another layer to the process and it is best to get the fundamentals down before moving on. Again we were encouraged to practice “free skiing” in the tracks until we felt we had the basic motion down.
Towards the end of the lesson, he brought in the use of poles and demonstrated the two techniques that we would mostly use – double poling while on flats to allow us to give our legs a break and then the push pole that is used while going uphill. Garret showed us the basic use of each technique, because as the best coaches know, if you fill your students’ heads with too much information, then they can’t retain anything.
Then it was time for Garret to leave his fledgling skate skiers to practice on their own. With the lesson over, we were able to practice the techniques we learned on the open trails. It was amazing that 1 ½ hours prior to putting on my first skate ski I was barely able to stay upright, and now after the instruction we received from Garret we were all confident to head out on the trails and skate ski to our hearts’ content. There is still so much to learn that only time on the trails will teach me, so I am excited to spend a lot more time learning at Whistler Olympic Park.
Once you have finished your lesson, make sure to head out on the Neverland Trail. It’s the perfect beginner trail!
If you are a local to the Sea to Sky area, make sure to take advantage of the $5 Bonfire nights on Wednesdays. You only pay $S5 for entry to the park, and another five bucks for rentals. Even meals at the lodge are only $5!
Lesson without rentals – $50
Lesson with rentals – $60
The Whistler Olympic Park is so much more than skiing. Here is a just a basic run-down of some of the activities that they offer.
– Cross-country skiing
– Skate skiing
– Fat biking
– Ski jumping for beginners
– Luge for beginners
– Smores over bonfire
– Dog Friendly trails
Definitely check this place out sooner than later. Winter is a fantastic season to play at the Whistler Olympic Park.
Winter activities in Whistler, British Columbia
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