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ROLLER SKIING FOR BEGINNERS

Looking to carry on skiing past the snow melt? Roller skiing is a great way to keep your cross-country ski muscles active over the summer. Roller skiing can be a bit challenging to learn, but once you master balance and stopping techniques it is excellent training, and a lot of fun! Let’s go through some of our tips and tricks to get you set up for success for your first day on roller skis.


Finding a Good Starting Area:

As a beginner on roller skis, it is important to start on asphalt surfaces without car traffic. This can be a flat and clear stretch along a walkway, though perhaps the best is a paved parking lot, schoolyard or similar. The most important thing is that the asphalt is nice and smooth.


Technique:

Roller skiing, just like Cross Country Skiing can be done using Classic technique or Skate Skiing technique – though, similarly, the ‘skis’ do differ from each other.

Whether you choose classic skiing or skating, it’s important to keep your center of gravity in the front part of your ski boot when starting up. We call it 'sharp bend the knee', meaning you push the knee forward and don't stand hard on the heel.

This is especially important on classic skis where it is easier to lose balance. A typical beginner’s mistake is putting most of your weight toward the back, which may cause you to fall backwards (which can be particularly dangerous if you’re not wearing a helmet).


Putting roller Skis ON and OFF: Classic skis are easy to clip into because they balance on their own, like snow skis - skate skis, on the other hand, are a bit trickier because they are unstable on their own due to the narrower wheels.

Until you are comfortable on your roller skis, we recommend you place them on the surface you plan to ski on, not on a driveway or sidewalk. If you do the latter, the first thing you have to do is step over a curb or make a sharp turn onto a road, which can easily cause a wipeout. The more stable the better.

Initially you might find the following helpful:

  • Don’t put your poles on until you are clipped into both your roller skis. Hold them together in one hand for support.

  • Find a patch of grass directly adjacent to the road—grass will support your skis in the upright position, making it easier to mount (and dismount) them.

  • With your free hand, hold either the front fender or speed-reducer lever of the roller ski you are mounting so that it stays in place. Repeat for the opposite ski.

  • Put your poles on after you’ve clipped into both skis.

  • When dismounting, remove your poles and hold them in one hand for support as you remove your boot from one binding, then other.


Double Poling Technique:

Double poling is an excellent way to start roller skiing. It gives you a perfect introduction to balance, speed, and tracking characteristics of your roller skis while rolling in a more stable position. After some experimentation, combine double poling with some easy step turns (like you’re switching tracks on snow skis) to get a feel for shifting your weight and steering.

  • Double poling is the most commonly used technique on roller skis for classic and skate. It is important that you put the tips of the poles into the asphalt in front of the ski boots then tighten your abs and your upper body, at the start of the poling, a bit like a sit-up movement. This will activate your entire upper body and not just use the muscles on the back of your arms.

  • A double pole with kick (Kick plus double poling) is a great exercise on roller skis and is used when it is too steep to pole and too flat to move diagonally (e.g. Skate skiing).


For Classic Skiers: After you are comfortable with double poling, try some low-energy kick-and-glide on a slight incline (gentle inclines are the best surfaces for diagonal striding).

  • Focus on your posture, technique, and use only light effort initially (hard kicks will be much harder to balance).

  • Once you’ve got the hang of things, work in some kick/double poling, but as before, light and easy.

  • Shifting your weight from one leg and then to the other in a diagonal technique. All your weight should be on the front leg. However, please note that this should be training for the ski season and it is important to use the same technique as in the winter. With the camber on your winter skis, it is the body weight transfer that gives you grip on the snow – but with the wheel lock on a set of classic roller skis you will always have grip even without weight transfer, which can lead to poor winter technique.

In future sessions, work on switching from double poling to diagonal striding, to kick/double poling, so that your transitions smooth out, and feel easy and efficient.

Tip: Remember your arms should not be too straight. This applies to both diagonal and double poling. Keeping your shoulders low as you push forward to provide good pressure on the ground and help with weight transfer.


For Skate Skiers: Once you’ve established your balance with double poling, try some easy skating without your poles (hold them to one side - mid shaft).

  • Next, start using your poles but continue to ski with gentle energy, easy and light.

  • Focus on body position and smooth motion.

  • Try some braking too (hard and easy) and experiment with different speed-reducer settings (if you have them).

In future sessions, practice the different skate techniques individually and then switch from one to another as you would on snow.

With skate skiing, apply the same basic principles with “sharp bend” knees, bent arms and full weight transfer. When skating, your nose and knee should always be directly above the ski you are on, keeping your hips as strong and stable as possible.


How to Brake on roller skis:

Braking can be done like skiing, by plowing (or ‘pizza’), but you are pushing firmly to the side rather than just making an ‘A’ shape. Remember to keep a good distance between the front wheels when the plowing movement starts to reduce the chance of them shooting toward each other and tripping you.

  • Tilt the skis inward, with as much rubber as possible towards the asphalt.

  • Press your heels and rear wheels down towards the middle as much as you can.

Other Techniques:

  1. One leg 45 degrees behind the front ski, and brake by dragging the back leg behind you. (Best on the flat terrain).

  2. Putting your arms out and dragging the poles, or putting your arms slightly in front of you and tapping them on the asphalt, can help to slow you down very gradually. Note that too much pressure can damage your poles and/or affect your balance.

  3. A stepping, or walking snow plow (one foot at a time) is good for creating some braking friction.

But when in doubt, the best option for you and your skis is to roll into a patch of smooth grass and slow down a little easier.



Terrain Lumps and Bumps: What size debris can I roll over? What will stop me in my tracks?

Some rules of thumb:

  • For hard-tire roller skis, classic or skate, assume that debris the diameter of a pen or larger may cause the front wheel to skid to a stop. It depends somewhat on the speed you are rolling. For example, the slower you are rolling (less momentum), the smaller the debris that will cause skidding (or, the larger the debris you can successfully run over).

  • For pneumatic-tire roller skis, faster and stiffer wheels, assume that debris the diameter of your index finger or larger may cause the front wheel to skid to a stop. Again, it depends on your approach speed.

Climbing hills:

Be vigilant when climbing hills and other situations when rolling at slower speeds. With less momentum, pen-sized twigs or gravel are more likely to stop your wheels. The three most common nasties are twigs, pinecones, and gravel. Always keep an eye out for them and avoid if possible. If you aren’t in the position to avoid the debris, double pole or step yourself over them. Double poling allows you to remove some of the weight from your skis and hopefully help you pass over the debris easier. Cracks in pavement aren’t far behind. Cracks, whether aligned perpendicular to your line of travel or roughly parallel to it, deserve your attention. If wide enough, either type will swallow your front wheel; if narrow, your pole ferrules may score the equivalent of a roller-ski wedgie and yank on your shoulder. Always anticipate and be on the lookout. Just like you would on winter trails!


We hope these beginner tips and trick will help you make the most of your roller skis. If you have any questions or are interested in getting a pair of rollers skis come chat with us at the store, lot’s of our team members are frequent roller skiers.

If you have tips you’ve found that work better please let us know, we love learning new ways to enjoy the sport even more. Happy rollin’!

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