After waiting 3 years, I finally purchased a pair of CAT Skis. You ask why I waited so long ? To be quite honest, my first experience 3 years ago was not a favorable one. It was at a Cross Country Ski Headquarters' Labor Day Sale that Dale Niggemann the inventor of the CAT ski was on hand to demonstrate his CAT ski's.
After some quick instruction from Dale on use of the CAT ski's, I tried them. Did I say try? Because that is exactly what I did, I could barely make these contraptions function! How could that be?!? Dale made it look so easy.
A Stark Realization
Dale informs me that my technique is wrong. WHAT? How can that be after classic skiing for almost 30 years, I've been doing it wrong! I know you all heard if you can walk you can classic ski, well guess what, by adhering to that adage, yeah you can ski, but you develop a very bad habit in classic technique - SHUFFLING on your ski's. The Cat Skis do not allow you to shuffle. Little did I know I was shuffling on my ski's. SOLUTION: One must have complete weight transfer from one ski to the other which the CAT ski does an excellent job of teaching weight transfer.
The beauty of the CAT ski is that it's like skiing with a coach, instant feedback is given if technique is incorrect.
Probably one of the greatest benefits is the cardiovascular workout these provide. Everyone who first tries catskiing cannot believe how much they tax your cardiovascular system. If you feel wiped out on these, slow your pace down - everyone goes out too hard. I can easily get my heart-rate in the 85-95% max. very quickly, with a moderate pace.
How they work
So you ask how do these work? In their simplest form, they are a platform (acting as the ski) that slides on a base which makes contact with the ground, controlled by a bungee system. You really have to see them in action to fully understand how they work. Go to www.catskier.com, there you can view video's of them in action. There are four videos:
Where can you use them
CAT or Classical All Terrain ski's can be used on grass, sand, dirt paths, asphalt, snow, ice. I've found they work best on dirt trails or paths. Very short grass is second best. I've mostly used them on smoother trails. Rooted or rocky trails can be navigated but caution would be advised. Going downhill is a little tricky since, unfortunately, you can't glide down like a conventional ski. Using a walking-like technique and keeping your weight backwards works pretty well for me on steeper downhills, otherwise you risk over striding and bottom-out on the front bumper going downhill.
As far as parts wearing-out, the bungees will eventually break. Simply re-tie or replace. The pads on the underside eventually will also wear-out depending on the type of surfaces you will ski over. Occasionally, the attaching hardware needs to be checked for looseness. Basically part replacement is relatively inexpensive.
One word of caution, you cannot make your judgment with one session of skiing on these. You have to ski several times to feel comfortable. Once your skiing becomes smooth, it's very snow-like.
I, like many, was apprehensive about purchasing CAT Skis, and part of me is still skeptical. The proof will be this season when on snow.
A CAT Ski outing. That's me on the left in a white shirt
Bottom line and my expectations
I have really become hooked on doing CAT ski workouts, mainly because of the ski-like feel and the super-cardio workout they provide.
Naturally I hope to improve my classic technique and race times. I have several hitches in my technique. The first is with slapping the snow when setting the ski down. The CAT Ski helps teach forward hips and momentum, which hopefully will cure the slapping. Secondly, the CAT Ski has an uncanny way of pointing-out your weak side, which is my right leg. so I concentrate more on being equal with both sides. Again snow-time will be truth-time.
I believe these are a great classic skiing training tool, allowing me to experience a great workout, which I haven't been able to do since I cannot run distances or do speed work due to past injuries. Sure I can get on the bike or rollerski's, but these get me in the training zones I want to be in so much quicker.
I like the idea of getting out on the same trail you ski in the winter and CAT ski it in the off-season.
Try them yourself
If you want to demo and experience the CAT ski. Bob Frye will have several pair on hand at his Labor Day Weekend Sale Thursday Aug. 30th. thru Monday Sept.3rd.
On Sun. Sept 1 at noon, the CAT ski company with Dale Niggemann will sponsor the first Michigan CAT Ski World Cup Qualifier Race at the Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Higgins Lake.