Skate Skiing: Lessons From Learning a New Sport

Whistler Olympic Park's Skate Ski Payak Loppet.jpg

Sometimes I have to laugh at myself. My love for endurance sports runs so deep that sometimes it drives me to do strange things. Enter: Skate skiing.

The Olympic Venue for Nordic Skiing in Whistler (Whistler Olympic Park) hosts introductory night skiing once a week during the winter. As an instant Bambi on toothpicks.

Wobble. Fall. Skated a few strides. Repeate.

Did I show signs of potential greatness? Probably not. But I did discover a beautiful new way to explore on snow. Learning a new sport at 31 is surprisingly contagious, once you get past the nerdy get-up and skinny skis. But it's not something unique to skate skiing, the same challenge could be applied to any sport. Mentally, physically and emotionally it's a rad experience.

Here are 5 lessons that I’ve learned about picking up a new sport like skate skiing:

  1. Have Patience

It was easy to be frustrated with my lack of balance or inability to perform simple actions like stopping on skate skis because of my background as an alpine skier. Go easy on yourself, and laugh it off - No one comes out of the gate as an expert, a new sport means that everyone starts from zero.

2. Take a Lesson/Coaching Session

 I went out and tried skate skiing on my own quite a few times before I befriended our local Biathlon coach, Munny Munroe. If you’ve ever tried to teach a significant other to alpine ski then you know tips from friends only gets you so far in your learning progression (If you haven't take my word for it, bad plan). Munny is the man. He had me dial in my skate skiing technique and efficiency through drills, and equipment suggestions. Don't fumble around with bad technique for too long in a new sport, it's a waste.

 Don't Be Afraid to Fall: Skate Skiing at Whistler Olympic Park

3. Don’t be afraid to fall

Falling sucks. But if you approach a new sport like skate skiing with the fear of falling front of mind, you’ll never push your boundaries. You never know, you might surprise yourself.

5. Set Goals

Eventually, I nailed a few great strides in a row and the steep pitch that was once terrifying became a piece of cake. The more practice, the quicker that happened. I put in some endurance efforts (2 hrs +) cruising around the Whistler Olympic Park and Lost Lake plus added some fast paced interval sessions. I found my benchmark, complete a loppet aka Skate Ski Race. I was nervous about the mass start but the course was over some kick-ass terrain. I put in serious time practicing those 3-4 weeks prior to the race and found that once I could complete the distance the least I could do was give it a try!

Siggie's P'ayak did not disappoint! The course:  Burning lungs, some slushy falls, a strategic pass or two and some big climbs. An hour later I was at the finish. Almost 30 minutes faster than my anticipated time. It was one of the most stunning races I’ve ever done in any sport. Worth it.

Skate Skiing at Whistler Olympic Park: Race Siggie's Payak Loppet
Skate Skiing at Whistler Olympic Park: Race Siggie's Payak Loppet

Lastly, recover as hard as you train:

My partner Dan gave me some wholesome advice that is changing the way I look at training for all sports. He questioned how I could spend so many hours training and not consider the holistic perspective of my well being: Nutrition timing and recovery. Just like any other endurance sport I planned out food pre, during and post skate skiing. I also bring a change of clothes with me because even though you work up a serious sweat on skate skis, your temperature drops significantly when you're done.  Seriously, don't forget about this one.

Now go out and try something new. If nothing else, it makes for a good story, tired muscles and some funny photos.