Katie Ormerod_2nd_The Mile High_August 2016
Katie Ormerod podiums at The Mile High in Australia
GB Park and Pipe snowboarder Katie Ormerod has claimed her first podium of the 2016 southern hemisphere winter
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Technical Difficulties
Technical Difficulties
16/07/2016 Ambition GBR Indoor Champs 4
16/07/2016 Ambition GBR Indoor Champs 4
All England Champs
Location: Gloucester, UK
Cross Country Skiing
What is cross-country skiing?
You may also come across the term "Nordic" skiing but this is generally a reference to all those skiing sports that started in Scandinavia where the skier has a free heel as opposed to alpine skiing where the heel is locked down.
In modern terms these Nordic sports are;
  • cross country skiing
  • ski jumping
  • Nordic Combined
The modern events in which cross country ski athletes compete at the top level are the World Cup and Olympics. There are many combinations of distance, relay events, team events and these include the 1.5 km Sprint, 10km/15km Individual Start, 5km/10km Pursuit (athletes change skis), 30km/50km Mass Start and the 4x5km/4x10km Relay.
Start Cross country-skiing

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Those of you checking out these pages perhaps as a result of seeing Cross Country Skiing on TV, will undoubtedly be drawn by visions of Olympic racers in brightly coloured Lycra zooming along through the forest at high speed. It's probably most people's immediate image of Cross Country skiing. It doesn't have to be at that speed of course but skiing in prepared tracks is probably the most common and most exciting form of cross country skiing. Try not to be misled by reluctant journalists from the Sunday papers who, having sampled Cross Country skiing once, claim that it's either for the very fit or for the very old. Cross Country skiing can be enjoyed at any speed and at any age. Whether you want to zoom along at warp factor speeds or just amble along admiring the scenery, you're never too old to learn. That's one of the great things about Cross Country skiing, you can ski at your own pace and make it as energetic or as relaxing as you wish.

In Germany you'll find it referred to as "langlauf", in France "ski de fond". In England we us the English International definition and call it "Cross Country Skiing".

What to do First

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If you want to try Cross Country skiing and it's your first time you could book a trip with one of the travel agents that specialises in Cross Country Skiing hoidays and learn what to do when you arrive. Alternatively you'll probably get more out of it if you find your local club on the club locator page.

By joining your local club you can speak to the members who have a wealth of information and you can get the low down how best to get started. You'll be able to experience what it's like to Cross Country ski in England at any time of year by using things called roller skis which will give you the feeling of what it's like to ski on real snow. Many clubs run annual trips abroad. Have a look at some of the membership benefits of becoming a Snowsport England member.

Skiing in the mountains is a fantastic experience, and available in the UK when we have snow and in resorts in Europe, USA, New Zealand Canada and many more resorts throughout the world.

If you are looking for a real challenge you could take part in a Loppet race. Long distance cross country ski racing is personally rewarding, and where else can you ski with up to 20,000 other skiers! Check our racing page for more information.


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Classic skiing uses a technique which is called the diagonal stride or gait where the skis run parallel to each other in prepared tracks. These tracks have been cut into the snow by machine. Classic skis are slightly bow shaped but when you put your weight on one of them or press it down, the centre of the ski comes into contact with the snow. This allows special grip wax or fishscale mouldings in the centre of the ski to grip the snow.

Grip wax is a science in its own right and it has its own mystique. There is a range of waxes from which to choose. The temperature and humidity are two important factors to assess when deciding which one will work best. These waxes are similar in consistency to candles and they are colour coded to distinguish them. The hardest waxes are for cold snow and the softest are for when the snow approaches zero. These hard waxes are crayoned on and spread out with a special cork. When the snow is wet, Klister is used. This is a viscous substance, comes in toothpaste-like tubes and should be handled with care otherwise it seems to stick to everthing to get everywhere. This is one reason why beginners may select skis with a fishscale base. There are no waxes to apply because a pattern is moulded into the bases similar to fishscales and these backward pointing ridges grip the snow when the skis is pressed down. Fishscale bases are also useful when the snow conditions vary a lot and you would be constantly having to change waxes. It's generally accepted that fishscale bases run more slowly that waxed bases.

With the bottom of your ski having gripped the snow you can push off from it, create forward movement and at the same time, stride out onto the other foot. The rest of your stride will be spent gliding on the tips and tails of both skis with the grip wax away from the snow until you come to your next "kick". The skier kicks and glides his way forward in these tracks so the skis need to be narrow to fit the grooves in the snow tracks. Important to both Classic and Skating technique is the use of the poles. These are used to supplement forward movement by planting the tips and pushing off from them in time with the kick from your skis.

Racing skis will generally weigh about l kilo, be about 45mm wide and slightly narrower at the tip. Cheaper recreational skis will weigh a bit heavier, be about 50mm wide along their length and may be slightly narrower in the middle. The bow shape of the skis is referred to as camber and as your Classic technique improves you will be able to move from soft camber skis to racing ones with a stiffer camber. When you start out, you'll need to take advice about what camber of ski will be best for you because your weight and the length of the ski will be important factors to take into account. Most resorts have rental equipment, however if you wish to buy your own equipment it is best to contact a local retailer and get expert advice.

Free Technique (Skating)

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Skating has the potential to be faster than classic. To skate on skis you need a ski lane with no grooves in the snow. Put simply you use the same principles as ice or roller skating except that you have the extra push from your poles. Because you physically drive the skis differently in the two techniques, the gear differs. Skate skis are a uniform width of about 45mm. They have much less "camber" and can be skied shorter than classic skis because they don't have or need a wax pocket. This enables them to track better in a straight line because you don't have the machine cut groves to guide them. You glide upon the entire length of a skate ski. Boots made for skating reach higher up the ankle and they have special cuffs in a variety of configurations but they're all designed to give extra support to the ankles and lower leg when pushing off sideways from the snow.


Connecting the boot to the ski is through a binding. Alpine skiers boots are attached at the toe and at the heel and they happily have only one international standard for bindings. Cross Country skiers will usually have to choose between at least two. The Rottefella NNN or the Salomon SNS being the most common. Both work on a similar principle - a simple device which locks onto a metal bar running parallel and below the toe of the boot into the binding. Ridges running the length of the binding locate matching grooves on the sole of the boot so that the boot won't slide off the side of the ski.

Updated July 2011 SJ  (Photos - Fischer Skis. Animation - PicGifs)

Cross country Equipment

A Guide on How to Select Ski Equipment


Track Skiing: Classic

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As you will have read in "What is Cross Country Skiing?" and "Start Cross Country Skiing", classic skiing uses the diagonal stride or gait where the skis stay in parallel tracks which have been cut into the snow by machine. The skier kicks and glides his way forward in these tracks so the skis need to be narrow to fit the grooves in the snow. Racing skis will generally weigh about l kilo, be about 45mm wide and slightly narrower at the tip. Cheaper recreational skis will weigh a bit heavier, be about 50mm wide along their length and may be slightly narrower in the middle. Both racing and recreational skis will have a stiff “camber”. In other words if you put a pair of skis base to base, the tips and tails will touch but the middles will bow out and you will have to press very hard if you want to try and get the centres to touch. This “camber” allows you to stand on the ski so that only the tips and tails ride on the snow. The centre part, where your grip wax goes, will only grip the snow when you kick down onto it. The rest of your stride will be spent gliding on the tips and tails. The correct or ideal length of your ski will depend on your weight. In the past a rule of thumb for the correct length of ski related to your height but of course skis don’t know how tall you are. They do however know how heavy you are. The object is to buy a pair of skis the length of which allows the centres of the skis to just brush the snow when you are stood evenly weighted upon them.

A major consideration when deciding to buy classic skis will be whether to get waxable or no-wax skis.  No-wax skis as their name suggests, do not use grip wax but instead have a kind of fishscale pattern moulded into the bases mainly around the under foot part of the ski which grips the snow for forward propulsion.  When starting out most people opt for no-wax skis for their simplicity, whereas the more experienced skier will probably plump for waxable skis.  Grip waxes are the faster option as they have less resistence when gliding.  Waxing is however a science in its own right and the use of the correct and most effective wax will depend on tempterature and humidity.  Waxing and talking of waxing is an enormous opportunity to be a geek as the possibilities, combinations and waxing techniques are seemingly endless.  Once you've gained a reasonable technique and discovered the joy of zooming along on waxable skis, few will wish to go back to no-wax.   

Connecting the boot to the ski is through a binding. Alpine skiers happily have only one international standard for bindings. Track skiers will usually have to choose between at least two. The Rottefella NNN or the Salomon SNS being the most common. Both work on a similar principle " a simple device which locks onto a metal bar running parallel and below the toe of the boot into the binding. Ridges running the length of the binding locate matching grooves on the sole of the boot. Mainland Europe generally seems to prefer the Salomon system whilst Scandinavia and the USA generally seem to prefer the Rottefella system. Each system allows the foot to flex forward but at the same time meeting increasing resistance so that the ski doesn’t just dangle from the toe. You’ll see that classic shoes are low cut, very light and in many ways similar to trainers. Some boot manufacturers make separate women’s fittings.

Track Skiing: Skating

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Skating has the potential to be faster than classic. To skate on skis you need a ski lane with no grooves in the snow. Put simply you use the same principles as ice or roller skating except that you have the extra push from your poles. Because you physically drive the skis differently in the two styles, the gear differs. Skate skis are a uniform width of about 45mm. This enables them to track well in a straight line because you don’t have the machine cut groves to guide them. A skate piste will be flat across its width.  Skate skis have much less camber and can be skied shorter than classic skis because they don’t have or need a wax pocket. You glide upon the entire length of a skate ski.  This for some will be a plus point as you don't need to worry about not only having to separately apply grip wax as you would with a classic ski but you are also free of needing to get the right grip wax for the conditions.  As with classic skiing there is a choice of two binding systems from the same manufacturers and they’re very similar to their classic cousins. The most radical skate binding is the Pilot Binding which has an extra sliding cantilever bar under the foot for additional stability and rigidity. Boots made for skating reach higher up the ankle and they have special cuffs in a variety of configurations but they’re all designed to give extra support to the ankles and lower leg when pushing off sideways from the snow.

Track Skiing: Combi

Those recreational or infrequent cross country skiers who may wish to do both classic and skating can opt for the hybrid Combi gear. As the name suggests they combine elements that allow for both sorts of skiing on the same gear. As you’d expect from a compromise, the combi equipment doesn’t perform as well as the best classic or the best skating gear but it may be a worthwhile compromise for those not able to justify two sets of equipment.

Track Skiing: Poles

Historically treated as the Cinderella of cross-country equipment, the importance of using properly fitting ski poles is now widely recognised. After all, one of the things that makes cross country skiing such a whole body experience is the fact that you get much of your propulsion from the upper body and arms through your poles. This and finely tuned balance needed for cross country skiing is the reason that you use more muscles cross country skiing than you do swimming.

Choosing the length, stiffness and weight are all important factors in honing a good technique and just as vital to overall performance as skis, boots and bindings. If you want to ski well, good quality poles are a must.

Gone are the days where the vast majority of poles came in bamboo. Now ski poles are made from a range of materials from aluminium and fibreglass for touring poles, to the most exotic carbon fibre composites known to man for the dedicated or professional ski racer. The stiffer the pole the better - ones that bend will absorb that energy needed for forward movement. The ideal pole should not only have the appropriate stiffness, but should also have the correct swing weight and be almost weightless.


Pole straps too have undergone a revolution. Recreational pole straps may indeed be a length of webbing but venture into the performance category and you will find all manner of weird and wonderful attachments that bind hands to poles. Some are in the form of an attachment that envelopes the hand and clips onto the pole so that you’re physically wedded to your poles. A button has to be pressed for release. All are designed to squeeze ever last gram of arm power from your poles and turn it into forward movement.

Baskets also continue to evolve. Poles for track skiing have seen the introduction of a variety of half-basket designs for prepared trails where traditional baskets would lever the tip out of the track.

When choosing a ski pole, length is dictated by the use it will be put to. The currently accepted starting point is that for Classic skiing, a pole at or around armpit height (85% of your height) would be right, whilst skaters would use a pole that reaches to between the chin and the nose (90% of your height).

Off Track Skiing: Low Level Terrain

If you want to get away from the tracks your skiing priorities will undoubtedly change. Speed is not a significant factor here so your skis will be wider for better floatation in new untracked snow and they will perhaps have metal edges to deal with traversing on hard snow. Having abandoned the tracks and marked ways to choose your own route you’ll need to deal with all types of untracked snow so you’ll probably benefit from equipment that’s a little meatier than the track equipment. You may find that a boot/binding system called BC (Back Country) to be more effective and a better match for this type of skiing.

This BC system is broadly a beefed up track system where the bindings look similar to track equipment but they’re a bit bigger, heavier, more robust and perhaps less likely to break if you decide to tour. You’ll also have better capability to initiate turns because of the extra rigidity provided by a more robust boot/binding combination. The boots too are bigger, heavier and possibly made from leather. They’ll look much more like a hiking boot than their track brothers. The width of your skis will have crept up to around a 70mm or more at the tip with much more sidecut than the track skis thus helping you to turn in favourable snow conditions. Although wider, your skis will have more of a classic camber because you will be using either grip waxes as you would in the tracks or you may have bought a pair of waxless skis that are designed to grip a wide range of different snow conditions. Waxless skis have a moulded pattern in the base where the grip wax would go and which acts something like fish scales enabling you to grip the snow for forward movement. Don’t expect them to grip as well as grip waxes and don’t expect them to glide as well as properly waxed skis. However for the novice or for those conditions where you may expect to encounter a wide temperature range within a short period they do have their place.

Off Track and Touring Skiing:

For skiing away from the tracks and for more serious and longer tours on steeper terrain visit the Ski Touring pages.


(SSE does not recommend any specific manufacturer of any of the goods referred to in these articles.  Most items of equipment are produced by a number of manufacturers although not all may be available in the UK)

Updated May 2013 SJ

Start Racing


Where to start?

Every year, dozens of British skiers will travel abroad to take part in cross-country ski races. They will range from the country's elite through to those who may never have raced before.

Taking part in "citizen's races" is becoming increasingly popular. These races are essentially an all-comers event. If you ski in some of the marathons you'll be with 10,000 other skiers just like the running marathons. Like the running marathons you'll be in the same race as the winners who will probably cover the 42 km in less than 90 minutes!

The greatest of the citizen's races have been grouped into the Worldloppet series- where 14 countries across the globe (Sweden to Australia; Canada to Japan) have each entered their premier race. The largest of these races generally draw in excess of 10,000 participants.

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England's Andrew Musgrave

Other events likely to be of interest to British ski racers are the World Masters Championships, Lowlanders Championships, and British Week.

The modern events in which athletes compete in at the World Cup and Olympics are (distances Female/Male format): 1 km Sprint, 2X1 km Team Sprint, 10 km/15 km Individual Start, 15 km/30 km Pursuit, 30 km/50 km Mass Start, and 4x5 km/4x10 km Relay.  A fairly recent addition is the Skiathon (women 15 Km/30 km) where the first half of the race is completed in classic style and the second half in free style.  Similar to Trialthlon, changes of equipment half way, take place in a controlled area.  The latest events and races can be found in our events pages.


For those of you serious about racing, click on the following pages to help you to understand performance and help you to organise a training regime:

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Glossary of terms used here

Agility and Balance

Base Training

Distances in Training Schedules

Fartlek (Intervals)

Food for Thought


Lactate Burners


Performance Analysis

Race Preparation

6 - 10 Minute Test


The need for Speed


For information about the loppet races please visit:

If you are interested in joining the British Team please visit:

If you are taking part in FIS races you must be registered with your Home Nation. For information on joining, please click here

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Make sure of your insurance cover, if you are racing you should have;

  1. Personal Liability (covered by your Home Nation membership) and Accident
  2. Travel Insurance

Performance Pathway:

Cross Country Performance Pathway

Roller Skiing
What is Roller Skiing?
For the vast majority of us there is no English snow on which to pursue our chosen sport even in winter. This is the reason why nearly all home cross country skiing is now done on roller skis. Whilst not perfect, Roller Skiing is the best simulation of cross country skiing on snow that has yet been devised. It can be done on any road or cycle track (subject to safety considerations) but generally the smoother the better.
There are two categories of roller skis. Firstly there are rollers designed for use on tarmac and other smooth surfaces and these mostly equate to skiing in prepared tracks on snow. Secondly there are off road models for use on dirt roads or forest tracks. These are heavier models, they invariably have much larger pneumatic tyres and they’re more akin to cross country skiing "off piste".
Roller skiing equipment

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Boots, Bindings and Poles

For boots and bindings in roller skiing, the equipment is essentially the same as for cross-country snow skiing and the considerations for their selection remain the same as for cross-country snow skiing.  For poles, the criteria for length selection is the again the same as for cross-country snow skiing except that for roller skiing you don't need baskets.  Instead you need to ensure that you get tungsten carbide tips robust enough for tarmac and other hard surfaces    You must specify this when you buy them or you can retrofit them to existing poles. 

Safety equipment is especially inportant when skiing at speed on hard surfaces.

The remainder of this page will concentrate on -

A Guide on How to Select Roller Skis

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Some different aspects of roller skiing: racing, technique training and touring

A debate has been going on for years now about exactly what sort of roller skis we should be using: barrel wheels, narrow wheels, racing rollers, and what we should be doing on them (skating, classic or both). Probably, if there was one, simple, right answer, we would have found it by now and everyone, except the perverse, would be skiing on more or less the same equipment. The fact that everyone uses completely different equipment probably shows that there is no one correct answer, but in this article some thoughts are offered which, if you're looking to buy roller equipment or update existing equipment, might help you come to a decision. Anyone with a different view is welcome to contact SSE so that these pages may contain a better balance of current thinking.

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There are many, many different types and makes of roller ski – here are just a few

Narrow or wide wheeled rollers?

It is conventionally believed that roller skis with wide wheels will be more stable than those with narrower wheels. This may be true in general terms, but two other factors are also important: the shape of the wheels and the position of the wheel axle relative to the bar (body) of the roller. Wheels with flat tops will be more stable than those with rounded tops, irrespective of the overall width of the wheel. So a flat topped wheel of about 3 cms wide will, of course, be more stable than a racing roller with very narrow, rounded-top wheels but might also be more stable than a 5 cm wide barrow wheel roller, if the wheels of the latter really are barrel shaped. Also, rollers where the axles are above the level of the bar will normally be more stable than those where the axles are in line with the bar (this is the so-called caster effect, and proof can be found elsewhere). This may well offset the differences caused by wheel width and shape.

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An example of the stable caster effect, with wheel axle above the level of the bar

In this debate, it is often assumed that it is better, especially for beginners, to start on more stable rollers, the idea being that, in particular, this prevents novices from skiing with their feet too far apart or turned inwards, trying to compensate for the lack of stability. However, a number of other factors are relevant in this debate: existing balance skills, self-awareness, presence of a coach, type of boots and ultimate skiing aims. Using more stable rollers will not automatically lead to good foot position and, for example, using more stable boots and bindings on less stable rollers may lead to greater overall stability than less stable boots or shoes on more stable rollers.

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Wheel Examples

1) Wide, fairly flat wheels that should be stable

2) Fairly Wide wheels where the domed shape makes them relatively stable

3) Narrow, racing wheels, which tend to be unstable

Moreover, if you are sufficiently self-aware to know what position should be adopted, are willing to work on developing good balance and foot/body position, or are likely to spend a lot of time being overseen by a coach who can correct any errors that creep in, there may be no more problems starting on less stable rollers than if you ski without these attributes on more stable skis. Three wheeled roller skis are not considered in this article but, even if these are usually considered to be inherently stable, some SSE coaches can attest to the fact that it is easy to develop bad foot positioning and poor balance even on these. Finally, if you want/hope to move quickly on to faster roller skis, starting by purchasing slower, more stable skis may, in the long run, be money wasted.

Fast, medium or slow rollers?

For the purposes of this guide, fast rollers will be considered to be racing rollers, medium rollers to be those roughly equivalent to skiing on snow and slow rollers to be those which are slower than skiing on snow.  With this in mind, two conclusions could already be drawn in respect of racing rollers: they should be used only by people who have already developed good balance, body position and technical ability, and they should be used only for racing, not for training. The reasons for not using racing rollers for training are, usually, that they do not provide a sufficiently demanding physical workout and they are insufficiently representative of skiing on snow, requiring a somewhat modified technique. Both of these are true, in general, but if you want to be a dedicated roller ski racer, with no interest in snow skiing, these considerations may not actually apply.

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Examples of fast to medium roller skis, l-r: racing skate with urethane wheels, classic with rubber wheels, skate with hard rubber wheels.

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Examples of medium to slow rollers, l-r: combi with urethane wheels, classic with rubber wheels, combi with rubber wheels (note that the Start combi would be considered medium-fast in its skate version, while the Swenor classic can be fast, medium or slow depending on wheel speeds)

The situation is not, though, so clear cut between slow and medium rollers. It is conventionally considered that slow rollers are 'better' because they provide a more demanding physical workout and tend to be more representative of skiing on snow. These are not, however, always true. If the rollers are very slow, they simply do not glide long enough or far enough to be equivalent to on-snow skiing (except, possibly, in very slow snow conditions). So it is easy and tempting to develop a rather rapid, short skiing style simply to keep the rollers moving, rather than a slower, longer style, maximising glide and balance on each leg, which we should be developing.

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It does not follow, either, that if you can ski at the same speed on rollers as you can on snow, the rollers are equivalent to snow skis. You are really looking at equivalence of physical effort and glide/stroke timing rather than ground speed, and this equivalence could be achieved with a pair of roller skis which are somewhat quicker (perhaps 5 – 7 kms/h quicker) than snow skiing. Taking a ski speed of 15 kms/h, if you were to aim for the same speed on rollers, you would either be using too little effort on faster rollers or too much effort on slower ones than you would be using on snow.

A strong case can be made for any skier to use both slow and medium rollers, the former to provide the necessary workout, the latter to develop technique, balance and body positioning similar to on-snow skiing.  As with more or less stable skis, though, very slow rollers should be used only by those who already have sufficiently well developed technique and balance to prevent them developing a technique which works only on the roller skis and does not then transfer to snow skiing.

Several roller ski manufacturers provide wheels of different speeds, and changing wheels usually requires little more than a spanner. Having more than one set of wheels is not a cheap option (a set of wheels may be 50 % to 70 % of the cost of the whole roller ski) but if, for example, you want classic rollers with medium speed wheels for normal use, and fast wheels for occasional racing, then having two sets of wheels may be a good option.

Soft or hard wheels?

It is usually considered that harder wheels are quicker than softer ones and this is probably true. However, it is possible to find quite fast roller skis with softer (i.e. rubber) wheels, if the wheel bearings are good. The debate here is probably more about wheel wear than hardness. It is a bad idea to use softer wheels for skating, where they will wear quickly and be costly to repair, whereas softer wheels for classic roller skiing may give a 'feeling' closer to that of snow. Beyond these considerations, though, other factors such as stability and speed are probably more important than the type of wheel.

Skating, classic or both?

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People often say that we should be spending 60 – 70 % of our time skiing classic and only 30 – 40 % skating, because the former gives a more demanding, thorough workout, especially for the upper body. This, however, results from the unstated assumption "Because, as a racing skier, you will be skiing both classic and skating, then ..."; if the starting position is "Because you do not want to do anything other than skating, then ...", the conclusion might be somewhat different. There are probably advantages in doing both, because it makes you into a 'complete' skier and because there are cross-over benefits from one style to the other. But in the same way as there is no obligation on a track runner to run on the roads or do cross-country, or a cycle time triallist to do road racing or mountain biking, there is no de rigueur requirement for any skier to do both styles.

It is probably true that it is easier to reach a reasonable level of competence in skating than it is to reach the equivalent level in classic skiing and, if the intention is to give a beginner a feeling of achievement and the ability to ski with others, this is an important consideration. If you want to do only skate skiing, then training by skating, together with other dry-land training, will give all the strength and fitness requirements.

On or off road?

There are now, on the market, a few what might be called “all-terrain” roller skis. Their big advantage is that, as their name implies, they can be used on many more surfaces, such as grass or gravel paths and where the rollers considered previously in this guide can. On asphalt, the roller skis referred to above give a smooth ride, while all-terrain roller skis with pneumatic tyres also roll well. Their two main disadvantages are that they tend to be heavy (heavier than snow skis and heavier than other roller skis) and, partly as a result of this, skiing on them does not feel much like skiing on snow. But if you live in an area without safe roads with a smooth, asphalt surface, or you simply enjoy skiing off-track, such skis widen your possibilities.

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Two examples of all-terrain roller skis

So what rollers should I be using?

From the above analysis, it is difficult not to conclude that, if you are to be a complete, rounded cross-country skier covering all eventualities, you need six pairs of roller skis, one each for classic and skating of slow, medium and fast speeds, total investment around £1000 (and this doesn’t include all-terrain rollers!). The possibility of having different sets of wheels cuts this number down, and it is perfectly possible, with some makes of roller, to have three sets of classic wheels which would cover slow medium and racing speeds.

It is certainly true that if you are not intending to do out-and-out roller ski racing, there is no need to have racing (fast) roller skis and, even if you do, the number of classic roller ski races probably mean that there is no need to have fast classic racing skis, so this has already saved you £300+. In fact, in Britain, it is perfectly feasible to race on medium roller skis, especially those with harder, urethane wheels, if the aim is to have fun rather than necessarily winning.

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It could be said that there is a need to have both medium and slow roller skis. At the medium level, you could be inclined to opt for two separate pairs, classic rollers with rubber wheels and skate skis with urethane wheels. Some prefer the 'feel' of rubber wheels for classic skiing and this combination avoids the problem of wheel wear (rubber wheels do not wear very quickly if used uniquely for classic skiing), although you may be reasonably happy with rollers such as the Start Combis, with urethane wheels, or the Marwe 590 with rubber wheels, used both for skating and classic, if you really only want one pair of roller skis. However, Start Combis can be a bit too fast to really be considered 'medium', while Marwe 590s would probably be considered ‘slow’. One further possibility (in addition to having wheels of different speeds), which can save some money, is to have a single pair of roller skis but more than one pair of wheels, changing one pair from skating to (ratcheted) classic when changing styles.

Few would find a single pair of rollers which are both sufficiently slow and can be used for classic and skating without the problem of rapid wheel wear associated with skating (Marwe 590 Combi rollers may be one exception to this). On balance, and for the average skier, if the options were limited to only one or two pairs of roller skis, you could go for medium skis rather than slow skis. Opinions may differ on this, but it may be better to train on rollers which are similar, in terms of technique, timing and balance, to skiing on snow than it is to use slow skis but, while getting a good workout, risk developing a sort of technique which does not then work on snow. There are, after all, many other ways of getting a good, ski-specific workout. One final consideration, in all this, is that if you land up with four (or six) different pairs of roller skis, when are you going to find the time to get out and practice on them all?

So, ultimately, a number of options exists. If budget and training time are limited, you could go for one or preferably two pairs of medium speed roller skis, with wide rubber wheels for classic and thinner but flat-topped urethane wheels for skating or, even, a single pair of Combi skis with urethane or harder rubber wheels. If the budget and training time are not so limited, then you could add one or two pairs of slow roller skis or different sets of wheels of different speed if you don’t mind changing wheels. If you have unlimited budget and unlimited training time, or if you are willing to build up your stock of equipment over a period of time, then why not go all the way and buy the five, six or more pairs needed to cover everything?


The photos used in the article are illustrative only. There are many different brands and types of roller skis available, and SSE does not endorse any particular ones.

Text - Adam Pinney. Updated – August 2014 AAP

Nordic clubs

Lakeland Cross-Country Ski Club -

London Hyde Park Cross-Country Ski Club -

London Region Nordic Ski Club -

Manchester Cross-Country Ski Club -

Midlands Ski Club (has a Nordic Section) -

The SkiFIT Club -

Tyneside Loipers -

Wessex Biathlon & Nordic Ski Club -

Yorkshire Dales Cross-Country Ski Club -

GB roller ski race series

The GB Rollerski Series was re-established in 2004 as an initiative of the Snowsport GB Nordic Committee to encourage increased participation in the sport of cross-country skiing.

The Series is open to all standards of skiers and aims to encourage participation and fair competition.

For race results, click here

See EVENTS PAGE for SSE courses and races

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