When my wife told me that my birthday present this year was big, heavy, weird and something I would never guess, she was right. Roller skis?!?! I never saw that coming. My balance has always been great but speed intimidates me. She found a deal she couldn’t resist, and even if I never wanted to actually try them, she wanted to give me the full opportunity to consider extending my Nordic season into a year-round cross-training adventure. That’s love and support.
My birthday is in February, so it was a long wait for the snow to melt and the gravel roads to dry out so that I could try them. The roller skis are Aero V2's, the kind you can take on either pavement or gravel. They're a great choice for all the railbeds that have been converted to multi-use trails--so few of them in Maine are paved. I wanted to make my first roller-ski attempt somewhere that I was very familiar with the hill profiles and that was not open to motorized traffic. The carriage roads in Acadia National Park were a perfect fit.
I already had a bike helmet and some basic elbow and knee pads were super inexpensive. I used my boots and poles from my skate ski kit, which is not ideal for the long run but gave me a chance to try out my roller skis without a huge initial investment. The skis themselves were used, purchased from the Woods and Waters Gear Exchange. My wife knew that I would either love or hate this sport, and besides we are two thrifty Mainers, so used gear made an excellent gift.
I think I’m in love! I played on flat terrain so I never had a chance to try the speed reducers (the fact that I could ever need them is low-key terrifying) and I am not even close to ready to bring them onto actual roads with actual traffic. However, I could feel myself steadily relaxing on them and I’m looking forward to making an attempt on some local rail-to-trail pathways which are more narrow than the carriage roads in Acadia: I feel like I have already developed enough control to safely share a more narrow space with other trail users.
Also, when I am fully equipped to do this regularly, it is going to make me into a cardiovascular fitness monster. OMG my heart rate! And I sweat worse on roller skis than regular skate skis--I can't imagine how the summer heat will make this worse. I do appreciate the chance to cross-train and do something without impact that is still so challenging. Returning to the gym is not a safe option right now, so this will take care of a missing detail in my training.
Important fact about roller skis: you cannot stop on a dime with these. It's why they're so intimidating and why I appreciated the off-season quiet in Acadia for my first time playing on these. You can't make a quick hockey-stop like on snow and the skis themselves are heavy enough to add to your overall momentum. The inability to stop quickly, and well as my underdeveloped agility in this sport, makes me afraid of dogs when I'm on them, and I love dogs. I'm also a little leery of kids learning to ride bikes, just because we're both so awkward on our new wheels and I don't want to hurt or scare anyone's little peanut. For the time being, I'm going to limit my roller ski adventures to early mornings when there are no kids on the trails and just trust that every dog out there is leashed or under good voice command.