“I saw a bunch of people skiing on pavement up the Bolton Access Road… What’s that all about?”
This is an increasingly common question heard in Skirack. Roller skiing is the cross country skier’s form of summer training, and it has been around for decades. Come May, competitive cross country ski racers swap their long skinny skis for short aluminum ones with wheels, switch out their pole tips, and switch from the trails to the streets.
Until recently, it’s been a very niche sport. However, the increased interest in cross country ski racing, sparked by the success of the US ski team in the last Olympics, coupled with popular interest in roller blading, has brought roller skiing to the attention of a much larger crowd. Recreational cross country skiers, outdoor enthusiasts, runners and cyclists looking for a form of cross training have all begun to look at roller skiing as their next hobby.
There are certainly a number of health benefits to incorporating roller skiing into a workout plan. Just like cross country skiing on snow, roller skiing is a full body workout. It strengthens the legs, arms, upper body, glutes, and core, often targeting small balance muscles that are typically neglected in more traditional endurance sports. It offers the cardiovascular benefits of running, without the continuous impact that can bring up aches, pains, and overuse injuries. Additionally, it involves technical skill, balance, and speed, and can be practiced outdoors on the beautiful roads of Vermont.
So how do you get into roller skiing? For the curious beginner, it’s helpful to have some prerequisite activity, either:
1. Start with a base of on snow cross country skate skiing, or
2 Have a background of roller blading or ice skating
This will give the skier some base skill set of the movements required to balance on one foot while rolling down a paved surface, and it’s easier to challenge balance on soft snow than on asphalt. To begin, skiing on a flat surface with little traffic is ideal, like a bike path or a neighborhood cul de sac. Roller skis have no brakes, so it’s important to take downhills cautiously at first, and avoid downhills into intersections.
Once skiers feel comfortable navigating intermediate terrain such as climbs, descents, and corners, their are a number of workouts available to them. Roller ski intervals, similar to training for running, can be done on a nice neighborhood loop: 3-4 minutes of hard effort (net uphill) with 3-4 minutes of easy skiing recovery (net downhill).
Roller skiers can use the same scenic roads cyclists frequent for a moderate paced distance workout. If you have a friend with whom to carpool, you can choose a sustained uphill, like the Bolton Access Road, leave a car at the top, and do a climbing workout.
Much of the equipment required is the same as that used in nordic skate skiing. Roller skiers can use the same boots and poles they used for skate skiing in the winter.
The tips of the poles need to be changed out from baskets to ferrules, so they won’t wear down on the pavement.
Roller skis can be purchased either in aluminum or fiberglass. Aluminum is lighter in weight and slightly less expensive, while fiberglass has a little more give and absorb some of the noise from rough pavement, making for a smoother ride.
Skis can be mounted with either SNS or NNN bindings. Although both skate and classic roller skis are available, typically skiers start with skate. The movement pattern is more similar to that of skiing on snow, and easier to navigate downhill than the classic variety.
Helmets (bike) are critical, and knee and elbow pads are recommended for beginners. It is customary for roller skiers to use neon reflective clothing every time they are skiing on the road so they are visible to oncoming traffic.
Hopefully, this is helpful to answer some questions about roller skiing and maybe even inspire you to try it out! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out or come by our Cross Country Ski department at Skirack!
Former Skirack employee