After a great morning Roller Sking at the Pittsburgh Open Streets event, I decided to head over to Canton Ave, the steepest street in the Continental United States for a Roller Ski BrakeTest. The Skike V9s passed.
Between now and the first skiable snow, I’m going to share my thoughts and experiences of forty or so of my favorite Nordic skiing areas. The first of these is where I learned to ski in the mid-1980s, Art Roscoe Trail system at Allegany State Park in Western New York.
On weekends in the 1980s, it was common to see charter buses from Toronto at Art Roscoe, a testament to the quality of trail design and a commitment from the park to maintain the 20 miles of trails at a high standard. Today, the park still grooms them on an as need basis as a double-tracked classical ski area.
Most of the trails in this network were created just below the ridgeline of the mountains in the park providing beautiful views, looking across broad wooded valleys of the park. Along with the trees, it offers extra protection from the wind well skiing. Lake Erie, which is 40 miles away, provides some lake effect to the park, along with snow from the occasional eastern snowstorm. With a summit elevation of 2100+ feet, the trail system holds the snow well. TIn addition, the trails are all well-graded and drained, adding to the ability to maintain its snow.
The trails at the highest elevations, Sweetwater and Christian Hollow have some intermediate type hills but ski at a beginner level because of how well they were designed. Leonards Run adds a little more distance for a skier with the Ridge Trail adding a couple of longer descents. A return up Patterson allows for a two-mile gradual climb to the Summit or for the advanced skier, a trip on the hills of Snow Snake will provide for some eye-watering descents and some heart raising climbs.
The trail system is now used in the nonwinter months as a mountain bike area. With the development of roller skis with 8-inch wheels (Skikes), I’ve started making an occasion summer trip up to Art Roscoe. The upper trails I roller skied on were firm enough that I was able to do a fair amount of skate style skiing mixed in with a little classical. It is pretty neat seeing the beauty of the area during all of the different seasons.
If you have never been there, I would recommend a winter trip to enjoy some exceptional classical skiing around. The park is located next to the town of Salamanca in NY and just across the border from Bradford, PA. The park has a number of cabin loops open during the winter. The one cabin loop, The Summit Loop is located at the trailhead for the Art Roscoe Trails. More park information is available at Allegany State Park Link.
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.
The Biathlon is generally considered a wintertime sport where the athletes ski a certain distance, shoot at five targets from a prone position, ski a certain distance again, shoot at another set of targets from a standing position, and repeat that certain distance a third time. Mixed in are a few penalty loops for each target missed. A challenging sport.
Over the years, a dry land version has evolved where one runs, instead of skiing. In Pennsylvania, there is an association, The Pennsylvania Biathlon Club for such events. The past few years, our local Nordic ski area, Oil Creek Park has hosted one of the events. With equipment provided by the Pennsylvania Biathlon Club and volunteer help from The Friends of Oil Creek Park, approximately 100 summertime bi-athletes compete on the parks Nordic ski trails. This year’s race at Oil Creek is scheduled for August 10. More information is available at the Oil Creek Biathlon.
Four years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few days over in Oberhof, Germany, spending a some time roller skiing on their ski trails. I was amazed by a number of things there, including the commitment to nordic skiing through out the year.
The ski trails were challenging by my standards, but very ski-able on roller skis or Skikes because of the high quality paved surface and their commitment to sweep the trails on a regular basis. It was nice going down a trail, knowing you were not going to find gravel, sticks, and other garbage that could cause a sudden stop of your rolling wheels.
More impressive though, was their obvious commitment to making snow during the winter months. I’ve Nordic skied a number of different areas, a couple with snow making, but never to the extent of Oberhof. I was amazed by the equipment along the trails and the infrastructure set up for putting down snow. It got me wondering if I would eventually see more of this in the United States.
The area where I have skied on the most that has man made snow is in Brighton, MI, on the outskirts of Metropolitan Detroit. Its location allows many people to have an extended Nordic ski season, and provides quality conditions for many others to learn on. It is always nice to plan on a ski outing and know there will be snow.
Huron Meadows Metropark creates the 1.5 mile loop by blowing a mountain of snow and then spreading it as needed though out the winter. I’m always amazed with the ribbon of snow through the woods, when you would think it would be impossible.
I’m excited about another area that is putting in a state of the art snow making system in Fredric, MI this summer. Forbush Corners, with a generous gift from longtime friend and skier, Frank Nizio is building the system this summer that will create a 2.5 kilometer loop, with an infrastructure that will allow them to quickly cover the trail with snow. It will be nice to be able to plan a ski trip to this area of Michigan, that has numerous quality Nordic ski trails, two that will now have snow making (Cross Country Ski HQ, in Roscommon, has had some snow making the past few seasons) knowing that there will be at least a few miles of trails that are snow covered in snow.
For the second time over the past 5 years that I have decided to have a different trail challenge to help motivate me to get a little ski time in, especially when I’m doing a little traveling. During my last challenge, I skied trails as far west as the rim of the Grand Canyon, and as far east as the Biathlon trails of Oberhof, Germany.
For this challenge, I’m not planning on Europe or the far west, but know that there are many more than 50 possibilities within the areas I will be traveling. Like my previous challenge, I plan to roller ski 50 different trails or routes before the start of the 2019-2020 ski season. With Pennsylvania being home, it will probably lead my list of trails skied. Tentative plans will also get me to roll along trails in Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Maryland.
I feel a challenge like this is one of many that can help get one out the door, into the great outdoors, on a day where one may consider just hanging out. Other similar challenges that I’ve had friends do biking, hiking, and running include 100 mile challenges where one does short day hikes on a longer trail, accumulating miles of the trail. Another is to do a virtual trip, where one does there favorite outdoor activity and mark the distance on some dream journey on a map. It could be a trip across a state, country, or along a mountain ridge or river. The important thing… get outside and enjoy.
One of the nice developments over the last 30 years is the number of multi-use trails that have been developed. With in 40 miles of where I live in Western Pennsylvania, I can travel to almost a dozen different trails. When visiting my parents in Michigan last week, I was also able to spend time on a few different trails.
One of the nice things about the different trails, is that the terrain differs, making some trail great for the beginner or a relaxed easy day of roller skiing / cross skating, while another trail can have some challenging hills to get the blood flowing a little faster. The Betsie Valley Trail is an example of an easy, flat trail. The 6-mile paved section of this trail links Crystal Lake to the Lake Michigan town of Frankfort. I always seem to enjoy the beautiful scenery that includes views of the boat harbor in Frankfort, views looking down at the Betsie River, and a few ponds, quite often with turtles perched on logs along the way.
A second trail of the trip was the Leelanau Trail from just outside Traverse City to Suttons Bay. This also is an old railroad bed, but one that has a gradual slope of around 40 ft per mile. A little more effort on the uphill sections, but a little easier on the downhill sections. I would classify a trail like this as easy to moderate. The slope is enough to make you work a little when going up, but not so steep that you have to have good brakes for going down. Suttons Bay is a great little resort type town to reward oneself with a little nutrition after a nice day on the trail.
The third trail of the trip was the southern half of the Heritage Trail which traverse Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. At one end of the section of this trail is the town of Empire, at the other Glen Arbor. In between, you will find a few miles of rolling hills that are work physical work going up and require good brakes or a no fear mentality going down. After passing the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb, the trail levels out some, and travels through an old Coast Guard Village of Glen Haven and then through a state park campground before arriving in the town of Glen Arbor.
Three trails. One easy, one easy to moderate, and one more difficult because of a few steep up and steep down hills. All three, an enjoyable way to keep the ski muscles ready for the winter season.