Classic Skiing on Rollerskis

Posted by Jan Guenther on Apr 12th 2018

“ To Stride or not” vs only Skating on rollerskis

I was reading the Birch Scroll e-magazine and came across Start Wax and Andy Gerloch’s Ski Post article about classic rollersking. I wanted to use his ideas and help clarify when and why to purchase classic rollerskis for skiers who want to improve cross country skiing.

“Rollerskiing is the most ski-specific method of dryland training, and rollerskis have become the ultimate tool of those wishing to maximize their winter skiing experience in the summer.” Ski Post.

Gear West sells 3 to 1 skate rollerskis as compared to classic rollerskis due to many reasons, primarily investment costs. But for those who want to learn HOW to stride, vs sliding along with equal weight on each classic ski or to IMPROVE their classic technique, the reasons to purchase classic rollerskis are significant.

If you are new to classic skiing and desire to learn ski technique before the snow falls, the use of classic rollerskis, with guidance from a coach, will teach you the timing of the classic stride. With focus on weight transfer, the glide phase, pole placement and the ‘scooter drill” (among other drill work), you will learn the mechanics of the classic movement. Subtlies such as forward kick cannot be learned correctly on rollerskis but as a beginner, you will be ready to focus on downward vs backward kick and other necessities of classic technique when on snow.

All skiers should be knowledgeable about the bad habits easily developed when striding on rollerskis. The ratchet allows skiers to kick using any technique, thus ingraining poor habits. “This school of thought suggests that you only doublepole and double pole with a kick on rollerskis. There is a lot of truth to this – the saying, “practice makes perfect,” is simply incorrect. A more accurate saying is “practice makes permanent.” Striding on rollerskis can be of great help when working on weight transfer, balance, and timing, but not without paying a good deal of attention to these things. As is the case for any training, a certain amount of concentration is necessary to really get anything out of it.

As the article continues: “At all times, and especially when the terrain is steep, people have a tendency to kick too long and slowly -- a short, sharp kick is imperative. When the kick is slow it is essentially “late” (takes place far behind the skier) and the skier will slip on snow. A short, sharp kick happens when the skier’s weight is directly over the feet and when maximum weight and power can be transferred through the ski. To do this, weight transfer must be 100%. Balance is the key to weight shift. Much improvement can be made by striding on rollerskis, but it demands constant attention.”

For those who know how to classic ski, rollerski striding can still benefit you in the following ways: Doublepoling and doublepole with a kick.

Rollerski doublepoling will improve timing, balance and technique for classic and skate skiing. To have confidence in your equipment, you must have sharp pole tips. “Dull pole tips lead to incorrect technique, for they slip during the important later part of the double pole. When this is the case, you learn to rely only on the initial part of the doublepole stroke when the poles are more vertical. Gains in technique and strength for the important later part of the doublepole are therefore minimized when using dull tips. It is not only very frustrating to have the tips constantly slipping it can also be dangerous -- when the tips slip you can easily pitch forward onto your face.” says the Skipost Newsletter.

To double pole correctly requires knowledge of the movement and lots of practice of which rollersking can assist. When “doublepoling, think about initiating the doublepole with the stomach. Instead of bending over at the waist, hunch your shoulders and upperbody over the poles and crunch down with the stomach. Contrary to an older style of doublepole, keep your arms bent throughout the first part of the doublepole and rapidly straighten your arms back behind you quickly by firing your triceps at the end of the doublepole.” Doublepoling with a kick faces the same technique challenges as when striding on rollerskis. “The kick tends to be long, late and slow – unless you concentrate on being snappy and kicking from on top of the skis. Prior to the initiation of the kick, thrust your hips forward so that they are actually in front of your feet. From this forward position, focus on making the kick dynamic and quick.

Rollerskiing is the ONLY way to improve ski technique for avid classic and skate skiers. And it is great training – especially for the older athletes who cannot run anymore. Rollerskis are a great tool to strengthen arm and core body, something that running and biking will not target as accurately. If aware of classic rollersking benefits and drawbacks and you will become a more accomplished skier with summer striding practice and classic rollerskis.