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What is Diagonal Striding?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
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Diagonal striding is among a variety of ski techniques used for getting around on the snow. Diagonal striding is also called classical striding, because it is a technique most skiers are familiar with, and is usually taught to people learning to ski. The diagonal stride is sometimes compared to walking, although diagonal strides require a gliding motion. Diagonal striding is employed by a large number of skiers, especially in cross country skiing where diagonal striding is an energy efficient method of getting around.

The diagonal stride involves sliding a foot forwards and pushing off with the opposite ski pole. To practice the diagonal stride correctly, skiers need to transfer their weight onto the leading foot. Moving the entire side of the body including the leg forward assists with this. The skis are not actually lifted from the snow in diagonal sliding so that they glide along the top layer.

Many ski trails are specifically groomed for diagonal striding, and have a set of two grooves laid down in the snow for this purpose. The snow around the tracks is well packed to give the ski poles good traction. Many ski trails are able to accommodate a number of ski techniques including diagonal striding, while ski trails with limited space are sometimes restricted to diagonal striding only.

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Diagonal striding works on a variety of different terrains, especially the undulating terrain experienced in cross country skiing. An experienced skier can work up a reasonable rate of speed when using diagonal striding, and will not tire as quickly. This is especially important in cross country skiing, where skiers may cover miles of terrain a day skiing between lodges.

There are ski techniques which are faster than diagonal striding, such as skate skiing. However, skating tends to be more demanding on the upper body of the skier. Skiers who are recovering from injuries or experiencing the onset of early injury may switch to diagonal striding because it is less hard on the upper body. Diagonal striding is still very physically demanding, especially for the knees, and skiers should be certain to stretch before and after skiing to warm up and cool down the body properly.

The speed of diagonal striding is not as dependent on the number of strides as it is on the length of the strides. Although it is tempting to increase the tempo, skiers will find it more efficient in the long term to learn how to lengthen their strides. Longer strides do result in more physical effort to move the center of the skier's mass, making rapid skiing physically challenging for some skiers. However, longer strides are ultimately less tiring than short, rapid ones.

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