After spending years as a roller skiing xc racer, it only seemed natural to utilise this method of training for skimo racing. Why is it important for skimo racers to roller ski? There are several. The old adage taught to me by my Finnish xc ski coach Ahvo, “skiers are made in the summer” has been augmented by my speed skating friends that add, “...and tested in the winter”. Hence, specific summer training on wheels to emulate the skimo stride. Not only do we need to train our muscles in a specific manner, but we need to train the nuero-muscular systems specifically as well.
I’ve heard of research on runners where they’ve concluded that a runner will either naturally rely on a high VO2 max or running stride efficiency. Never both. Of course that would be the goal. To have both a highly trained VO2 as well as an efficient stride, but apparently our bodies will gravitate to one or the other. I’ve head that Alberto Salazar, when his world class runners came to him to be trained at his “Oregon Project”, even though they were already world class, he de-constructed their running form and started over technically. It’s been said that the greatest USA marathoner, Frank Shorter, really didn’t have that great of a VO2 max, but pull up some youtube vids of his Olympic marathon victories (yes, it’s plural... E. German, W. Cierpenski is posthumously dq’d in my view), and you’ll see the most effortless sub 5min marathon miles run ever.
My personal anecdotal evidence over several years backs this up as well. As a, well into my master years competitor, I’ve seen way younger skimo newbies that are national and internationally top runners, xc skiers, etc... athletes that would absolutely smoke me in a run, bike, etc., struggle to pull ahead of me on the climbs. Given that I’m really no super vert/aerobic superstar, I can only conclude that their bodies aren’t yet trained to efficiently hammer out the skimo stride. In most cases, if they keep up the sport, they often eventually pass me.
So let me share my skimo roller skis with you. As you can see from the picture, mine are mostly homemade. At a small metals super market in Calgary I obtained and fabricated some very sturdy aluminum bars for the shafts and aluminium sheets for the forks. Initially I was going to use some V2 roller clutch bearings put into off road skateboard wheels, but I had a tough time getting the tolerance tight enough to work, so I eventually purchased V2 wheels for the front (one way spinning wheels). I kept the more aggressive skateboard off road knobbies on the back.
As you can also see from the pic I mounted a full binding set up, but eventually took off the rear bindings. I ended up not using the skis to go downhill. There wasn’t enough clearance (I may change this) to safely bomb down the hill. So I took the heel pieces off as they were really getting clogged from the wet dirt and debris. I didn’t want to ruin brand new Dynafit heel bindings.
I wrapped some faux carbon decal stickers around the shaft to make it look cool, but after a month of using my skis they look pretty ragged now. If you want to save time, and I think I would have done it this way now instead, just buy V2 Aero 150's. They’re the ski with the pneumatic wheels. You can replace the rears with the skateboard knobbies if you want.
So how do my creations work? Awesome. They’re super heavy though. The weight is as much as my wide Dynafit Huascarans, but that just adds to the workout. The most important thing is, they truly do feel like skimo skiing. The challenge is finding the right road surface. An overly gravelled road makes it tough, but it’s doable. The best I’ve found is a hard packed dirt road with minimal rocks.
The best workout so far has been the Sunshine ski area access road. My neighbour works there and he drove my bike up to the top for me. After a 10 km vertical ski my bike was waiting at the top for a very fun, fast and safe downhill. As I write this at the end of October though, there’s way too much snow on that road now to roller ski. The real thing can’t be far behind!!