Narrower Track Will Give Better Technique

Train WreckDecember 30, 200914
Smaller Tracks?
Smaller Tracks?

(Source:, Original Source: NRK, Translation by Patrick Stinson)

Reduced track width of Sjusjøen, Norway at Christmas

“I have long been irritated over the great distance between the ski tracks, because it disrupts good weight transfer and kick. If you were to use a narrower stance this would become completely natural,” says ski enthusiast Eirik Høyem to (Norwegian TV Network) NRK.

Now, he’s actually done something with the case. It’s Christmas up in Sjusjøen, which is known for it’s good snow and good tracks, on Høyem’s initiative they set the tracks 17 centimeters between tracks. It’s five centimeters less than normal. Johannes Haukåssveen, Sjusøen’s trail coordinator, says that the feedback is mixed.

“Some are skeptical and some are positive, but most do not notice that they are narrower. The biggest skeptics are the hardest Birkebeiner skiers. They think that it’s unusual.”

Høyem, the man behind the plan, thinks this can be good for the sport of skiing.

“That which we see on TV today is something I will call ‘neoclassic’. They double pole almost exclusively. When we start to get a smaller track, they will start using the bigger muscle groups like thighs and glutes, and then they will go faster using diagonal than double poling in the gentler hills.”

Over the course of the winter, the same measure will be tested in the Oslo area.

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  • T.Eastman

    December 31, 2009 at 12:55 am

    The Bachler track sleds of the late 1970s were wider than many of older sleds. We used to notice the difference when we would switch from one type of grooming to another. Some marathons had both types of grooming and it would feel like a different sport when we would hit the transition. In a similar vein, it makes no sense for kids to be in the wider, adult spaced tracks.

    Thanks for the clip.

  • Cloxxki

    December 31, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Most interesting, I’d never heard or thought of this.

    In cycling, purists gets all excited about having the feet closer together (Q factor) as they claim it’s better or more efficient. I’m not in that camp myself, although an extremely wide stance clearly is not ergonomical.

    In sports, manufacturers and a regulators usually governed by fixed ideas, and lack of technical understanding to make decisions that affect athletes. Example : in cycling they’re clueless regarding wheel size and frame geometry restrictions, which simply make the sport an unnatural representation.

    It makes all kinds of sense to me now, having read this article, that 2 kinds of track would be used together in ski area’s. One for kids and people looking to improve their balance and techique, one for adults and those who can appreciate the lateral stability of wide tracks.

    If true classic races would be able to discourage blind double poling (no offence to the visually handicapped) as has become fashion, narrower tracks do seem like a great idea, is not for all of the course, then certainly for specific sections.
    The Vasaloppet has recently had podium finishers that were unable to do diagonal due to injury, and just douplepoled all the way on skis without kick wax, I’ve read. Nice for that guy, but the folks in the later starting waves may have more “traditional” gear and feel unnecessarily awkward in the tracks.

  • Emp36

    December 31, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    agreed any double pole race is brutal to watch…seems we have to put a mountain in the races now for striding to occur over any sprint race.

  • Mike Trecker

    December 31, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I’m not sure Juha Mieto or Vladimir Smirnov would agree that the tracks are too wide. Doesn’t it depend on the size of the skier. I have definitely heard large guys complain that the tracks today are too narrow!

  • Tim Kelley

    December 31, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Why debate about the width of tracks? Just get rid of them and skiers can choose any width they want their skis to be apart. Tracks are like training wheels. Take them away and you make better classic skiers.

  • Martin Hall

    January 1, 2010 at 1:58 am

    There was a time that we had a variable width track sled that had hydraulics to change the width of the tracks—narrower on the uphills, wider on the downhills, wider for men and narrower for the women and junior skiers. I can’t remember why it died—other then FIS came out with a standard width for all tracks.
    Also, did you know that all mechanical grooming began in the US in 1959 in Squaw Valley. Al Merrill, Chummy Broomhall and a name not many people will know, Stan Cheney put together the mechanisms that got the ball rolling. Thinking of that date, 1959, it was 1974 that the Norwegians last used the army on skis to set the tracks for Homenkollen.

  • OldManWinter

    January 1, 2010 at 9:26 am

    MH – Great historical perspective…thanks for sharing.

    If I could advocate for youth and youth programs, I am all for narrower tracks for smaller hips. To use a good (or bad) example from the tobacco industry: hook them while they’re young. Little skiers grow up to become big skiers. Anything that we can do to make them successful at a young age is, in my opinion, worth doing.

  • newtmiles

    January 1, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I skied the narrow tracks yesterday in Sjusjoen and they did not work for me. I admit that I will ski with a narrower stance when I’m out of the track and classic striding up-hill, but my stance is the same as the standard track set when double-poling out of the track. Also, my stance is much wider than the standard on downhills out of the track, if no track is present. Trying to stay in these new tracks on a downhill proved to be impossible on any gradual turn. It looked as if it would be about the right size for a child or small woman. The touring class skier doesn’t notice the diff. and most of the racing class here is against the change. It’s my personal opinion that not being able to get a weight transfer on the standard track means you are of small stature or a beinging or novice skier at best. With us all being different sizes, someone will always have to adjust to the middle. Michael Myers

  • Patrick Stinson

    January 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    As far as beginners go, I remember weight transfer being tough when I was trying to understand classic technique in the beginning. The single hardest thing was (is) getting on top of that ski on slight uphills. I also remember trying so hard to get it that any little thing that would have helped would have been totally awesome for poor little me.

    On another note, these times I really, really, really like hill climbs and classic striding. I watch videos of the old races and I kind of loath the fact that it’s all about huge lats and double poling and less about that beautiful diagonal technique that taxes your lungs and grace. And if you’re training to be a total badass skiing who the hell wants to double pole for 2 hours? Seriously!?!

  • Cloxxki

    January 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I like the idea of no tracks at all! It will require good eye for fast bits of track. Skiers would be freeer, and pissibly ski closer at times. It can only be more exciting to watch!

  • Martin Hall

    January 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I might be missing something here—but, I think we already have races without tracks—they call it skating, and I think any race without classic tracks would take about 5 minutes or less to become a model for cheating or skating when no one is looking.
    We just need the track sled people to design a sled that can adjust the molds to different widths. 90% of the groomers we now use all have power take-offs, its just a matter of making the sleds operate with hydraulics or electricity. I’ve seen some pretty neat set-ups for grooming being pulled by an Alpine (per Pineland in Maine)
    Better yet, when it comes to big junior programs, just build your own sleds, that will fit junior skiers. It’s not that hard to do.

  • T.Eastman

    January 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Cloxxki, skiing “pissibly” closer may make for yellow snow…

  • nexer

    January 6, 2010 at 9:32 am

    I think you could the track itself wider. Just decrease the distance between the inside walls so skiers can get some play inside the track.

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