|Vermont's Nordic Traditions|
This exhibit looks at the many facets of Nordic skiing - the development of athletes and competition and of cross country ski areas and recreational skiers; the evolution of technique, equipment, and disciplines; and the impact of Vermonters on the sport. As with all of the exhibits in the Vermont Ski Museum, this is preliminary examination; the exhibit will change with the sport and the athletes.
Nordic Skiing: The Basics
Nordic skiing refers to jumping and cross country skiing. Both derive from skiing developed in Northern Europe as opposed to Alpine skiing which evolved in the Alps. Immigrants brought the sport to America. But for many, cross country skis were utilitarian and necessary for getting around in the depths of winter. Certainly as technology improved, as Americans became more mobile, and had more income, cross country skiing became recreational. Cross country skiing as a competitive and spectator sport grew more slowly in the United States. The Norwegians, Finnish, and Russians have always had strong programs, because Nordic skiing had always been part of their winter. While Americans have sent Nordic teams to all of the Olympics, it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that the sport accrued a following.
You will find more throughout the exhibit on the athletes, pioneers, and circumstances that furthered the sport in the nation and the State. Here are some basics:
Classic - Also called the diagonal and kick and glide and feels like walking or running on snow. Classic skis are long and have a single camber which allows the wax under the binding to remain off the ground except when the skier kicks down for traction.
Skating - Also known as freestyle. Skating skis are usually 10cm shorter than classic skis and only need to be waxed for glide not kick. The FIS only approved skating for competition in the 1980s; an important development spurred on by Vermonters Bill Koch and Mike Gallagher.
Traditionally a male sport, women entered competition in 1952; the US Women's Nordic Ski Team started in 1969. Now, women ski 5k, 10k, 15k, 30k, and relay; men ski 10k, 15k, 30k, 50k and relay. Introduced in the mid 90s were sprints of 1km or less. The World Cup in cross country skiing does not account for disciplines or distances; the overall winner must have skied well all winter, in all techniques, and in all distances - a real difference from the organization of Alpine skiing.
Jumping - Originated in Norway, jumping was most popular in the late 19 th and early 20th centuries. Often areas in Vermont had a ski jump before a rope tow. Today, World Cup ski jumping competitions are mostly held on "small ramps", where distances of about up to 110 meters are reached, and "big ramps", where the maximum distance is about 130 meters. The modern V-technique, pioneered by Jan Boklöw of Sweden , allows world-level skiers to exceed the distance by about 10 percent compared to the previous technique with parallel skis. Aerodynamics has become a factor of increasing importance in modern ski jumping, with recent rules addressing the regulation of ski jumping suits.
Nordic Combined Skiing - described by John Caldwell in 1968 as the "toughest skiing event going.Cross-country has as much in common with jumping as snowshoeing does with slalom, so it takes a very special athlete and a very special performance to do well in the big meets." Nordic Combined skiers compete in jumping and cross country skiing; the winner has the highest combined score. The most common is the individual race, also known as the Individual Gundersen. This event encompasses two jumps and 15 km cross country skiing. Points are scored in ski jumping for distance and style. In the cross-country race, 15 points difference in the ski jump equal one minute. The racers with most ski jumping points will start first, followed by the next best jumper after as much time as there was difference in their jumping scores. This means that the first skier to cross the finish line is also the winner of the event. This method of competition, also known as the Gundersen method, was introduced in the late 1980s . Before, athletes would start the final race in intervals, and the gold medal would be decided on points. A sprint, mass start, and team event also exist.
Biathlon - Cross country skiers race across hilly terrain, occasionally stopping to shoot with rifles at sets of fixed targets. The biathlon features the 10km sprint, in which contestants shoot at two sets of targets; the 12.5km pursuit, in which contestants shoot four times and start at intervals determined by their finish in the sprint; the 20km race with four shooting stops; and a relay race with four 7.5km legs and two shooting stops per leg. The women's individual races are shorter: a 7.5km sprint, a 10km pursuit, and a 15km race. Competitors are penalized for each missed target by having a standard length added to the course distance that they must complete, or by having a minute added to their time.
Waxing is a crucial and hotly debated topic.
Kick Wax - Sticky wax used in classic skiing, applied to the kick zone, the area beneath the boot and binding area, to provide grip and traction.
Klister - The stickiest wax used for crusty, icy, or mushy snow.
Glide wax - A more durable wax, often used for alpine skiing and snowboarding, it is applied to the tips and tails of classic skis and the entire length of skating skis to lower resistance and increase speed.
Today, Zach Caldwell, nephew of legend John Caldwell, runs Caldwell Sports Specialties. He has developed new grinds in cross country skis that potentially make a trained skier move an inch or two farther with each stride. There are some examples of wax in the far case.
The Vermont Ski Museum asks the experts.
Allen Adler: What does it take to be a four event skier?
Walt Malmquist: How does one train for Nordic Combined competition?
Bill Koch: How did innovative training regimes, the development of waxless skis and the skating technique drive the evolution of your skiing?
Trina Hosmer: How has women's Nordic skiing evolved since you were on the first team in 1969?
John Morton: What do competitive skiers v recreational skiers look for in trail design?
Kathy Swanson - What is the key to performance clothing for Nordic skiers and how has it evolved with the sport?
Jan Reynolds - How did you become interested in biathlon?
Peter Graves - Why do you think that Nordic skiing and biathlon are more popular for viewing in Europe than in the United States?
Charlie Yerrick - What sort of maintenance is needed to keep a cross country ski area in shape during the winter?
Bob Gray - What has kept you skiing for so long?
John Brodhead - Why do you think you have been able to increase participation in the Craftsbury Marathon so dramatically?
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