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Intro to Roller Skiing Part 2: Get Rolling

Intro to Roller Skiing Part 2:  Get Rolling

Read ‘An Introduction to Roller Skiing-Part 1’

Before you hit that fresh, post-road-work pavement and start sweating happily through some roller skiing adventures, you need some wheels. A couple choices to make right off the bat: do you want to start by classic skiing or skate skiing? Do you want skis of the more affordable aluminum construction or the pricier fiberglass? Are you going to use your winter boots (recommended) and if so, what binding do those use?

That’s already enough decisions to confuse even the savviest ski shoppers—let’s break it down a bit more.

That’s already enough decisions to confuse even the savviest ski shoppers—let’s break it down a bit more.

If you’re a Nordic athlete looking for some hard-core off-season training, and maybe roller skiing on a competitive level, the fiberglass skis are suppler than the metal, and mimic the flex you’re used to from longer snow skis—they will deliver the performance you’re looking for.

But if you’re just beginning, and looking mostly for a pair of skis that will get you moving and help you get the feel for skiing on pavement, aluminum roller skis are more than adequate. They’re lightweight, slightly cheaper than the fiberglass and carbon fiber alternatives, and are rugged as can be.

I usually recommend to folks learning to roller ski that they try skate skiing first; not because it’s significantly easier or more akin to “real skiing,” but because if you have ever tried on a pair of roller blades or even ice skated, the motions and balance required will immediately feel familiar. That being said, classic roller skiing requires similar balance, and is almost as straightforward to pick up, if a little technical. The mechanism that provides classic skis with their “grip”—a ratcheting, one-way wheel of sorts—takes a bit of getting used to.

One other tidbit to address when transferring from winter to summer skiing: pole tips. The thin metal tips designed to dig into snow will quickly break on repeated contact with the harder pavement, as will the plastic baskets. A cheap pair of sturdier ferrule tips, shorn of their baskets, will get you through your first roller ski adventure with a fair bit less cursing.

As for bindings, the easiest move is to find a pair that matches your winter ones: either NNN or Solomon-style. Though you could theoretically unmount and remount the same set from skis to roller skis, it’s just not worth the risk to your equipment, nor the cost and hassle.

Last but far from least, as we said in part one of this article, helmets are always a good idea.

Ok, enough about gear shopping. It’s time to (roller) ski!

Just like back when you were learning to ride a bike, find yourself a well-paved parking lot empty of cars and potential hazards. Start by clicking your boots into your bindings in a sitting position, and stand up with the support of something (your car, your poles, a picnic table). Slide around a little bit until you feel where your weight needs to be for you to stay stationary, and how you need to shift your weight to start rolling. (Easy for me to say, but the only way for this to mean anything is for you to try it and get that feeling yourself). Once you start getting those aha! moments where you feel in control of our motion, start try poling a ways. Try taking little steps side to side, learning to turn yourself. Before you know it, you’ll be using just your legs to move from point a to point b, and with a little maneuvering, from point b back to point a.

From there, the paved world is your oyster. Just remember that roller skis have no brakes, so always plan routes that avoid downhills if you’re uncomfortable with them, and avoid downhills that end in intersections no matter what. Still want a climb, minus the descent? Leave a car at the top of your favorite hill, or just click off the skis and walk down.

For the most part, routes that you would bike ride make for great roller skiing. Like riding, its all about the adventure and fun of it—so do what you’re comfortable with, and seek out skis with views, thrills, or whatever excites you.

Happy roads!

About The Author

Pete Wilson

Pete is a Vermont native with a lifelong love of being outside. Ever since he bushwhacked a ski trail through his parents’ property, he’s been hooked on getting into the woods--whether it’s on skis or snowshoes, or going out for a trail run or a long hike. He studied English at Carleton College, and now after four years in Minnesota is back in the Green Mountains exploring the endlessly beautiful and intriguing locales across the Northeast.

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