There are two styles of cross country skiing. ‘Freestyle’, which looks like ice skating on long narrow skis and ‘classic’ which looks more like running and the skis move in a straight line. Both share the same track or ‘loipe’ but the classic technique makes use of two parallel grooves, also known as the ‘spoor’, cut into the snow on the side of the loipe. (see photo)
When it comes to going downhill on cross country skis then it is obvious that you make full use of the spoor to guide you down. It acts like rails and helps keeps you on track. At least that is what I thought until this week.
There is tricky downhill section on my local course which includes a turn and nasty camber. I regularly take at least one tumble navigating this section using the spoor (i'm a classic skier). So just for the hell of it I decided to go down the hill on the smooth part of the loipe – no guide rails here. Strangely I got to the bottom without falling over. The next lap I repeated the trick and started doing the same on other hills with similar results.
It turns out that the safety net of the spoor was actually reducing my ability to adapt and correct for any bumps/ice/overbalancing etc. Any mistake in the groove immediately threw me onto my face. On the smooth loipe, which should have been harder, I actually more freedom to adjust.
Its got me thinking, what other obvious solutions might also be wrong?