Roller ski training grows in popularity |

Roller ski training grows in popularity

No snow.

No problem.

That is, if you have a pair of roller skis. Roller skis, a hybrid of cross-country skis and roller skates, are becoming an increasingly popular training device for both serious competitors and recreational skiers as a way to remain in shape through the “bare ground” months and prepare for the upcoming ski season.

“Roller skiing is not new to the serious racers, but it is becoming more popular with the intermediate skiers,” said Olympic Valley resident Marcus Nash, the country’s No. 1-ranked cross-country skier and longtime roller skier. “They’re very popular around the world; in Scandinavia, every skier at every level has a pair of roller skis.”

Roller skis are only about one-third as long as a traditional cross-country skis. Instead of a “tip” and “tail” the skis have polyurethane wheels that allow the skis to roll forward. Regular cross-country bindings, boots and poles are “utilized” with roller skis, making the “feel” of roller skiing very similar to that of snow skiing.

“The skis themselves are very similar to what the Scandinavians developed in the 1950s and 1960s,” Nash said. “What’s improved today are the boots, which are more comfortable and safer.”

Nash said there are specialized types of roller skis to simulate both diagonal stride (classic) skiing and skate skiing.

“The ‘classic’ roller skis have a rachet to simulate a skiers kick,” Nash said. “But a person can also skate on classic roller skis – I’d say if you do both types of skiing, get the classic roller skis.”

Nash said roller skis are more effective than rollerblades when it comes to preparing for the ski season.

“Roller blading is more like ice skating,” Nash said. “The subtle difference between the motions could alter your skiing technique.”

Nash, who has also been running, cycling and weightlifting over the summer in preparation for the World Cup season which begins in November, said he gradually increases his time on roller skis as winter approaches.

“I usually start roller skiing in June, just to get ‘in-touch’ with my

skiing muscles,” Nash said. “Right now, I spend about 45 per cent of my training time on roller skis.”

Nash said there are several good places for roller skiing in the North Shore area, the best being the bike trails along the Truckee River and in Olympic Valley. Nash recommends bike trails so that skiers can concentrate on skiing rather than auto traffic.

“I definitely recommend going where there are no steep hills or traffic,” Nash said. “When roller skiing, you have to look out for everybody else because there is no easy way to stop.”

Nash said roller skiers should use the same protective gear in-line skaters use, including wrist and knee guards as well as a helmet.

Roller skis cost about $200-250, but Nash said they are very durable.

“They’re not cheap, but they do last up to 10 years,” Nash said.

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