Defence: What makes an elite cross country skier faster?

What is actually most important to make a young elite cross country skier even faster? Technique? Tactics? Clever training methods? High energy turnover?



March 17


Aud. Innsikt, NIH




The process of adolescent cross-country (XC) skiers’ development to become elite senior XC skiers is multifaceted, and a complementary mix of athletic attributes has to be acquired and improved. This includes physiological attributes such as a high energy turnover and efficient movement economy; applying tactics in racing situations; and the ability to learn training methods, tactics and technique.

  • Watch defence - links below

Overall, this thesis shows that the physiological determinants of XC ski performance and the sex difference in these determinants are similar in adolescent skiers (14-15 yrs) and older skiers.

Further, adolescent skiers seem to use these physiological determinants in a similar manner to seniors in a racing situation, although with a more pronounced positive pattern and more use of “slow-speed sub-techniques”.

Finally, we show that a competent coach is important for technique learning, but self-observation through video is a promising tool.

Key findings

  • The sex differences in XC skiing performance ranged from ~15–25% in the lab-based performance tests and were similar between the different age groups.
  • V̇O2peak seemed to be the most important physiological determinant in explaining sex differences in performance within all age groups, and the most important determinant for both laboratory and on-snow distance skiing in adolescent skiers.
  • Upper-body strength and body mass index seemed most important for on-snow sprint performance for the adolescent skiers.
  • The complexity of on-snow skiing performance in adolescent skiers is highlighted, as V̇O2peak, anaerobic capacity andGE explained ~80% of the variation in laboratory performance, but were substantially lower in explaining outdoor performance (~20-30% of the variation).
  • Adolescent skiers tends to exhibit higher mean exercise intensity than older and more experienced skiers during roller skiing race (120 vs. 112% of V̇O2peak), with a more pronounced positive pacing pattern (130 vs. 110% of V̇O2peak for the initial part of the race).
  • Adolescents use more of the “low-speed sub-technique” Gear 2 (23 vs. 14%), less of the “high speed sub-technique” Gear 3 (36 vs. 45%) and had more frequent transitions between sub-techniques (~18 vs. ~15 transitions·km-1) than the elite seniors.
  • Feedback from a competent coach on skiing technique is better than observation for improving performance in adolescent athletes.
  • Self-observation through video with attentional cues is seen as a promising tool for increasing valuable individual feedback when coaching large groups.





10:15-11:00 - Trial lecture

"Development from junior to senior level: Which skills and attributes are important for future sporting success?"

13:00-16:00 - Public defence
"Determinants of performance in male and female adolescent competitive cross-country skiers"

General information

The defence is open to the public.


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