Snowmaking has been improving and lengthening the downhill ski season for years. More and more places are now adding snowmaking for the cross country skier. Year Round Nordic has started a page to list these Nordic ski areas. The page can found at this link.
The video above demonstrates how different types of roller skis are not only good for different trail types, but different trail conditions.
I’ve decided to present the final part of this series in a case study format with four cases representing a fitness-minded mid-age skier, a youth skier, an experienced skier and a new to skiing individual.
Skier 1 – The primary purpose of roller skiing is training/fitness. Limited xc ski access. Primary skiing style skate 30 years old or older
The first pair of skis I would put in this quiver is a pair with 6″ (150mm) pneumatic wheels and a calf break. Jenex V2 aero model would be one example that would require the use of a Nordic ski boot. A second example would be a pair of Skikes. Skikes have a built-in binding system that allows the use of a regular shoe. The calf breaking system is a reliable system that will enable you to slow down or stop if you come upon terrain or trail conditions that you are not comfortable with. A quality pair of tires are good for over 1500 miles, and when adequately inflated, do not get many flats. I have averaged less than one flat for every 5,000 miles skied on the pair of Skike V8s that I own. This pair of skis perform well on most paved surfaces, even with some defects and trails garbage (leaves, some gravel, twigs) that are common on rail-trails that are not regularly swept. The tires are also good on hard-packed dirt surfaces, which are found on the trails of many of today’s linear parks.
The second pair of skis would be a pair of Polyurethane wheeled skis. An example of theses woud be Swenor Skate ski. These skis would be fast for a similar amount of effort to allow for a little over speed training without fatigue setting in. They would not have any wheels with locking bearings, so would also be suitable for agility type training. This type of training is generally done in a flat parking lot with obstacles go around, over and through. Part of developing better agility is to be able to ski in a forward and backward direction. There are not many roller ski races, but if you have a desire to race, this pair would be the type most roller ski racers would use.
A third set I would acquire is a pair of roller skis with 8″ (200mm) wheels. The 8″ wheeled skis are an excellent choice for some classical style skiing, working well on grass surfaces. They would allow some good double pole workouts on dirt surfaces. They work well for skating also. I have tried them on trails at six different xc ski centers, and have found them to be an enjoyable way to get on the trails during the offseason. Two of the trails systems provided for nice classical, two good skating, and the other trail surface had too many big rocks and indentations for good roller skiing. One of the main reasons for having different roller skis is to be able to try different ones on different types of trails and in different trail conditions.
The fourth set I would add would be a pair of solid rubber wheel classical roller skis. I would probably only get this pair if I was interested in doing some classical ski races or if I was roller skiing with others using this type of ski. When skiing with others, it is nice to be on similar equipment. For classical training, I feel the 8″ wheel is more than adequate and is more versatile.
Speed reducers and braking systems are available as add-ons for many roller skis. One can also drag a small tire to reduce speed if the roller skis seem to fast for your ability or if you want to increase the workload for a more demanding outing.
Skier 2 Youth skier 10 to 20 years old, living in xc ski country, avid winter skier
The first pair of roller skis in my mind for this skier would be a polyurethane wheeled skis. At this age, in xc ski mecca areas, there are ski teams, camps, and clubs where young people can develop skills in group practices. Fun workouts for skiers in this age group include agility drills, along with other strength and skill development workouts. A ‘low-speed fall’ for most skiers in this age group is not a big deal. They have fun challenging each other in skill development. They can test their selves and each other in time trials and other ski-related activities. And have a tremendous amount of fun doing so.
The second pair would be a pair with 8” wheels. They are great for getting off the asphalt and having fun in the grass and on dirt trails. A cross skate model like the Skike V9 Tour would allow for some good classic practice and also works well for skating. With its built-in calf brake, it is suitable for hill workouts and safe descents. It is also a nice pair to let friends use, who may be interested in the sport and want to try it for the first time in the summer.
Skier 3 Experienced Skier
If you have never tried a pair of roller skis with 8” wheels, and you are an experienced roller skier, I would recommend trying a set. After using them a few times, I’m sure you will find that they will add to your enjoyment of summer skiing. Single tracks through the woods make for some enjoyable double poling and classic skiing. Some wide, packed dirt trails are good for skating. My conversion moment on 8″ wheels was when I used them for the first time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Frick Park. Lots of dirt trails with hills and I was able to skate up and brake on my descents and the time flew by.
As an experienced skier, I imagine that you already have a pair or two of roller skis. Think about it, each different type of roller ski has a different feel. Skiing on multiple different skis gives one the feeling of being on different types of snow in different conditions. The body and technique adapt so one move efficiently down the trail.
For the individual that has never xc skied before, summer can be a great time to start developing the necessary skill and techniques. A pair of cross skate style skis are great for the beginner. The calf brake adds stability. Good brakes allow one to ski at speeds that they are comfortable with. The larger wheels will enable you to develop balance, agility, and some skill on a grass surfaces. They roll over trail imperfections better than smaller diameter wheels, significantly reducing the chance of falls. They are great to practice gliding and agility skills with only one ski on, allowing you to step on to the ground to stop at any time. It is nice to develop these skills outside on days with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. Contact someone that has a pair you can try or rent a pair for a couple of weeks from someone like nordicskater.com Get outside and have fun.
PS: Do wear a helmet when roller skiing. Knee pads and elbow pads are other safety options that you may want to consider when learning.
Year Round Nordic is starting a page with a list of Roller Ski Races that I become aware of in the United States. Feel free to make comments on the page for events that I should add.
The frame of the roller ski has to provide strength to support the skier between the wheels with enough ground clearance to roll over the desired trail surface. Also, it has to provide a way to connect a ski boot or a person’s shoe to the frame. The frame can also have characteristics that can reduce road vibration and smooth out a few of the trail imperfections from effecting the ride of the skier. Frames are designed to mimic the feel of real skis. That is why most roller ski manufactures have separate frames for classic roller skis and skate skiing.
Current frames are constructed of a variety of materials including wood, fiberglass, kevlar, carbon fibers, and aircraft quality aluminum. The composite skis are generally more expensive, as they have greater strength to weight ratio. Some frames are also referred to as drop frames, with the axel of the wheels being above the top of the frame. The drop frame provides a lower center of gravity and is common on skis that use 6-inch and 8-inch pneumatic tires.
Over the past half-century, most roller skis have brackets for mounting the wheels on either end of frame shaft. Some have holes and slots machined into the actual frame shaft for mounting the wheels. A few manufacturers are designing the mounting brackets with a shock or dampening system to smooth out the ride, eliminating some of the road vibrations. Skike has just started selling an open-frame design that can be used with different size wheels. Them, along with other manufactures like Powerslide and SRB have frames that are also referred to as cross skates. TheSkike version has a binding system that can be used with a standard athletic shoe and contains a built-in calf brake.
Different types of frames have a different feel and handling characteristics that one skier may like and value, while another may not. It is good to roller ski with others so you can have the opportunity to try different skis before adding them to your quiver. Do keep in mind, you should try a ski multiple times before making that decision, as it may take your body a few times to adjust to some of the differences between a roller ski and a traditional ski. Many inline skaters find the skate feel of skis different and may be reluctant to roller skiing as they are not initially as efficient with them.
The fundamental design of roller skis has not changed much in the past 30 years, with the exception of braking systems, frame materials, road dampening vibration systems and the addition of the cross skate frame design that allows one to use a regular shoe. It is worth considering some of the benefits of these changes, especially when deciding which ski is best for the conditions that you will be roller skiing on most.
The tires provide traction, trail clearance, the ability roll over some roughness, and trail/road vibrations. It is the first thing to consider when deciding on roller skis.
The second thing is the ability to control speed. The tires play a role in your speed when roller skiing, but there are a few other factors.
Regardless of skis, one can control speed by selecting appropriate terrain for your comfort level and ability. Staying on flat trails, like many of today’s rail-trails, will allow you to manage your speed to a certain extent. Flat trails and parking lots are great locations for the learning to roller ski, whether you have done some xc skiing or not. Skiing uphill will allow you to increase your workload, at rates that you feel comfortable with. Skis can always be taken off for hills to steep for one to descend.
Another way to control speed is to drag a trailer tire or other object to provide additional resistance. This resistance may allow you to go down a hill at a comfortable pace or will enable you to work at a more intense level at a reduced speed.
There are mechanical speed reducers that can be attached to the ski, providing friction to the rotating wheel. One can easily adjust them before going down a hill or to offer more resistance for a workout on the flats.
Calf brakes can also be used to control along with allowing you to stop quickly. The calf brake is the speed control/braking method that
I prefer. It is available as an add on to some roller skis, mounted on a ski boot with a small bracket, or part of the ski frame on type of roller ski sometimes called a cross skate. I like it so much, and I wish more roller ski manufactures would incorporate it in their standard roller ski package. The video below shows the calf brake on a pair of Skikes being used to stop quickly. The blog post, Canton Ave. Brake Test demonstrates the ability of using a calf brake to control descents. Canton Ave. is one of the steepest streets in the world.
In summary, the ability to control speed is as important as having good traction on the surface your roller skiing on. Choice of terrain and mechanical devices like speed reducers and calf brakes are great for maintaining safe speeds and controlled stops.
When it comes to XC skiing in the winter, most skiers start to collect a quiver of skis, starting out with a pair for classical skiing, a pair for skate skiing, an older pair or two for use as rock skis, and then adding additional pairs for different temperatures and snow characteristics. I’ve come to the belief that for those skiers that want to ski throughout the year, they too should start to build a quiver of roller skis. Over the next few weeks, in a four part blog, I’m going to share some of my reasons why one should.
The most important part of a roller ski or cross skate is the part that comes in contact with the ground, the tire. There are three common types of tires that I have skied on, the polyurethane wheel, a solid rubber wheel, and the pneumatic wheel. Each has unique qualities and rolls in the world of summer skiing.
The polyurethane wheel is the lightest of the three. It is also the fastest of the three. It comes in common diameters ranging from 80mm to 150mm. If your thinking of racing, the standard size is 100mm. It is the wheel to use if you want the most speed with the least amount of effort. You can purchase polyurethane wheels with different hardness ratings, with some being rated as slower if your not into high speed, and others working better on wet surfaces.
This type of wheel is usually found on the skate type roller skis. Cost wise, it is the cheapest to replace when worn out. Disadvantage of this wheel is that it does not like defects in the pavement, or sticks and gravel on the trail. Some of the common manufactures of roller skies that use this type of wheel include: Marwe, Rundell, Pursuit, Jenex, Swenor, Fischer, Swix and SRB.
The second type of wheel is the solid rubber wheel. Like the polyurethane wheel, its most common diameter is around 100mm. The wheel is much wider than the polyurethane wheel, adding to a degree of stability for the user. It is usually found on roller skis that are used in a classical style. Because of this, the front wheels are manufactured with a built in one-way bearing. This allows the wheel to lock on a shaft when the ski is moved backwards, allowing the skier to move forwards with each stride. In most cases, the softer rubber used in these wheels will slow the roll down some and take some road vibration out of the glide. With a similar wheel diameter, it has some of the same issues as the previous wheel, not like pavement imperfections and dirt and gravel on the trail. It is the style of ski used in most classical roller ski races. Some of the common manufactures of roller skis that use this type of wheel include: Marwe, Rundell, Pursuit, Jenex, Swenor, Fischer, Swix and SRB.
The third type of wheel is the pneumatic wheel. It is most expensive of the three, as it uses a tire/tube combination mounted on a rim. General sizes available today are 125mm (5 inch), 150mm (6 inch) and 200mm (8 inch), with the 150mm wheel being the most common. I have found the pneumatic wheel to be my favorite to ski on, as it greatly reduces road vibration and handles pavement imperfections fairly well. Most pneumatic wheeled systems can be used with the skate or classic technique, as they also place a one way bearing in the front wheels. A few manufactures that seem to specialize in the use of these wheels include: Skike, Jenex, SRB, and Powerslide
The quality of the tire does matter with these wheels. I have skied on some tires that have worn out with less than 300 miles of skiing. The tire I have had most success with is Skikes‘ 150mm tire. I find they last about 2,000 miles with an occasional rotation of the tires between the right and left ski. I have not had a flat problem with their tires either.
Recently, I have been experimenting with the 200mm wheels on a pair of Skike V9’s and am very impressed on how well they perform in a variety of conditions. Slightly slower, they still work well on paved trails. On dirt trails they excel. They also work well during the in between seasons when the snow starts to fall, but there is not enough snow for regular XC skis. They work well on grass when using the classical technique. The surfaces where I do find that they still struggle with is sand and tree routes on well worn trails.
Feel free to provide feedback to this blog. The following is a list of all of the links mentioned above.
Until part two, have a good day, spending at least part of it enjoying the great outdoors.