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ROLLER-SKIING: A Summertime Rush

You’ve seen them. It’s the middle of summer and they are out there in their bright neon shirts and helmets, holding ski poles and skiing … on pavement. No, you don’t have your seasons confused. It really is summertime and these athletes, most of whom are Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Nordic ski team members, are roller-skiing.

Roller-skiing is a training method for cross-country skiers during the off-season months. It is used to emulate skiing on snow. The equipment consists of two approximately three-foot aluminum or composite shafts with rollerblade wheels on either end. There is a cross-country binding fixed in the middle so your boots can clip right onto the skis. The poles are your basic cross-country ski poles with special tips that will grip the tarmac.

To learn more about these brave roller-skiers and to get advice from a roller-skiing expert, we talked to long-time SVSEF cross country post grad head coach, Chris Mallory.


Summertime doesn’t have to mean the end of the ski season. photo by Thia Konig.Sun Valley Magazine: No brakes right? That seems pretty terrifying.

Chris Mallory: If you’re not a cross-country skier, you’re going to want to learn the sport first on snow. The lack of brakes can definitely be a challenge. There are different techniques you can use to slow your speed, and for a last resort, hopefully you’ve got a grassy shoulder. You always want to make sure you take the proper safety precautions, and while some might chose to use more, at a bare minimum, you want to roll with a bike helmet.

SVM: How much of an athlete’s off-season training is devoted to roller-skiing?

CM: In the spring and summer, our team might devote around 30% of training to roller-skiing. Then once fall hits we are on roller-skis around 50% of the time.  

SVM: Is it important to supplement roller-skiing with other training?

CM: It is definitely important to mix in other training modes to keep the body and mind fresh. We try to develop a big endurance fitness base through running, biking and ski-bounding with poles, as well as putting an emphasis on strength. But roller-skiing has been a key advancement in our sport in helping athletes develop technique and ski-fitness faster and better. It has also been important in helping athletes develop upper-body power.

SVM: Is it something that anyone could do or is it recommended in a team or training atmosphere?

CM: I’d be hesitant to recommend it to the average Joe. They would lose some skin. But for athletes who are already accomplished skiers, it can be a useful training tool. For rookies, stay on the bike paths, and in the beginning, keep to the flats.

SVM: What is the best route in the Valley for roller-skiing?

CM: We like to use the bike paths up through Elkhorn. They have good rolling hills with ski-like terrain. The hill down past Dollar Mountain is fast though, so you’ve got to be careful through there. Any of the chip-sealed roads generally aren’t too friendly to roller-skiing. It is a huge asset to have the Blaine County Recreation District bike paths that stretch all the way down to Bellevue for distance sessions. 

SVM: Now honestly, how similar is it to on-snow skiing?

CM: It’s pretty similar but there’s nothing quite like gliding on snow. -Katie Matteson

 

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