The much anticipated FasterSkier Roll-Off is finally underway. Over the next few weeks we will run reviews on nearly 20 pairs of roller skis from 10 different manufacturers. The initial reviews will be organized by manufacturer, and the series will conclude with comparisons. If you have questions that are not answered in the review, please post them in the comment section and we will do our best to provide answers.
Each ski will receive a rating of 1 to 5 “skiers,” with 5 being the best and one the worst. 3 skiers should be considered a B/B+.
5 Skiers – Truly Exceptional. Can’t imagine anything better.
4 Skiers – Excellent. Not perfect, but this piece of equipment offers little to complain about.
3 Skiers – Solid. Equipment will get the job done.
2 Skiers – Functional, but there are better options.
1 Skier – Avoid at all costs.
Today we are starting with five pairs of skis from Pro-Ski.
Pro-Ski has long been one of the top roller ski brands available in the US. For many years, Pro-Skis and V2s were the go-to brands. And while in recent years, a wider variety of roller skis have become available, Pro-Ski remains an excellent choice, with a proven track record and a good range of products. Torbjorn Karlsen imported and distributed Pro-Skis for many years before passing on the US distribution rights to WebSkis.com, based in Bend, Oregon. WebSkis is the only source for Pro-Skis in the US.
WebSkis offers seven different models:
We tested the S5e, the S2, the C2 classic, the Tech and the S2 classic. The S7 Junior is just an S5E with a shorter shaft, designed for Junior skiers under 140 pounds. The performance characteristics should be very similar to the S5e review here.
The C3 classic is identical to the C2 with the exception that it uses softer wheels, resulting in a slower ski. The shaft and bearings are identical to the C2.
All Pro-Skis are built with an aluminum shaft, with few changes over the years. The cross-section on the classic shafts is identical to models built a decade ago. This makes it easy to cannibalize parts from older skis. There are two different skate shafts – the S2 shaft is just a shorter version of the classics, while the S5e is wider and flatter with an integrated fork.
With the exception of the S5e, forks slide in to each end of the shaft, and are secured with a bolt from the bottom.
Overall, aluminum shafts tend to be on the stiffer side, are durable, and weather resistant. The stiffness means excellent power return on every kick. The trade-off is “ski-like” flex – the aluminum shafts do not flex much and the rigid platform is more solid than any snow ski.
And now a closer look at each model. We’ll start with the skate skis.
Pro-Ski S5e Skate Ski ($250)
Summary: No frills all-around skate ski for training and racing. Gets the job done.
Pros: Good all-around skate ski, simple construction, smooth ride on most pavements. Proven track-record.
Cons: Somewhat pricey compared to similar skis from other manufacturers. Stiff shaft makes ride a little rougher than some other models.
The S5e is a standard skate roller ski featuring the large diameter, narrow wheels that are found on most skaters these days. The shaft is a single piece of aluminum with the forks cut out from the shaft.
Overall the S5e is a good all-around skate ski, handling a variety of conditions and uses well. The 100mm diameter soft-rubber wheels provide a smooth ride on most pavement, though the stiff aluminum shafts offset this somewhat. The advantage of the stiff shaft is excellent power return on each kick. The ski is light, weighing in at 1400 grams without bindings. And it feels light, providing a nice “ski-like” swing.
The skis come with a medium speed wheel, but our tests ranked them on the faster side. In fact, the S5e were faster than all other skate skis, with the exception of several pairs that we would classify as racing skis. They still fall into an acceptable speed range for training, but expect a lot of V2 alternate. The S5e can be ordered with slow, medium, or fast wheels. We tested a pair with the standard medium speed wheel. The slow wheels could be a good option, opening up more training options. Based on the speed of the medium wheels, the fast wheels are most likely suitably only for racing.
FasterSkier’s Buying Advice: The S5e is a fine all-around skate ski. It gets the job done in a no frills manner. The stiff shaft means good power return, but the lack of flex takes away from the “on-snow” sensation. A fast ski, the S5e is not a good choice for skiers looking for more resistance. Consider ordering with the slow wheels.
What WebSkis says: The new S5e is shorter and lighter than the old S3e model. Features include narrow, larger, rubber wheels that make this ski excellent for all types of pavement. The larger rubber wheels help dampen road vibration, offering a very smooth, soft rolling ride.
An excellent ski for those desiring a snow-like resistance in their workouts. Simulates medium fast snow. For those who want results.
Pro-Ski S2 Skate Ski ($250)
Summary: An excellent skate-only roller-ski that provides one of the best “ski-like” experiences.
Pros: Excellent feel on smooth pavement. Small diameter wheels leave the ski closer to the ground. Wider wheels provide better stability.
Cons: Not usable on rough pavement. Stiff shaft detracts from “ski-like” feel.
The Pro-Ski S2 was one of the best skis we tested. If the S5e is the utilitarian model, the S2 is the Cadillac. The ski bucks the trend of large diameter, narrow wheels, coming equipped with 70mm diameter, 30 mm wide polyurethane wheels. The extra width provides greater stability, and feels more like standing on an actual ski. The small diameter keeps the ski closer to the ground, eliminating the “perched” feeling that many skate skis give the user.
The S2 is significantly slower than the S5e and falls into the same range as the V2s, Ski Sketts, and Pursuits that we tested. We found this speed to be quite good for simulating on-snow technique on various terrain. WebSkis claims this is their fastest skate ski, but our tests did not support this.
The shaft is similar to the Pro-Ski classic skis, with a four-sided tapered profile. They are stiff and responsive, tracking well.
The S2 comes with mud guards on all wheels.
So have we found the perfect skate roller ski? One might think so based on the glowing endorsement above. But there is one significant limitation to these skis – they do not perform well on rough pavement. In fact, they are virtually unskiable in many conditions. Part of our test road contained brand-new pavement from last summer, with an abrupt transition on the same road to the old pavement. The S5e skate skis handed the older pavement just fine, but the S2’s were liable to vibrate your kneecaps off.
On good pavement this ski would be rated 4.5 skiers – one of the top tested skis. But the specificity lowers the overall rating.
The rough ride is due to the harder polyurethane wheels combined with the small diameter and the stiff shaft. What makes for a sweet ride on good pavement leaves you jelly-legged on the bad.
FasterSkier’s Buying Advice: The performance on rough pavement does not mean that you should avoid this ski. If you are in an area with good roads, or have another pair you can break out on the rough stuff, you will not be disappointed by the S2s. But if you want a pair of skis for all conditions, this is not the best choice.
What WebSkis Says: The choice of Beckie Scott and the Canadian women’s XC team. One of the world’s best skate skis! Features include harder narrow wheels that respond immediately to the push motion. Easily ridden freestyle ski with good front grip. A must for active racers who want to develop efficient technique. This is PRO-SKI’s lightest and fastest rollerski, with speeds similar to hard, fast snow conditions.
And now on to the classic skis….
Summary: The C2 is an excellent classic ski, providing a smooth ride and proven durability.
Pros: Smooth ride, solid construction, durable.
Cons: Heavy, rear ratchet, little flex in shaft.
The C2 has been around forever, and while it is difficult to verify WebSkis claim that this is the “best-selling classic roller ski of all time,” I imagine it can’t be far from the truth.
The C2 is marketed as a dual technique ski, but we tested it primarily as a classic ski. And as a classic ski it performs. The C2 feels extremely solid underfoot – the stiff aluminum shaft, wide 50mm soft rubber wheels, and good construction all make for a high-quality ski.
The C2 has a long shaft – important in a classic ski as shorter shaft skis tend to result in the front wheel coming higher off the ground when kicking. This can result in an annoying “bump” when the wheel comes back down.
The one drawback of the C2 is the weight. When kicking, the ski feels somewhat clunky. This was especially noticeable when testing the C2 immediately following a lighter model. The difference was striking. Obviously the weight is not a factor when double poling, and is a tradeoff with the solid construction.
The C2 has the ratcheted wheel on the back. Many classic roller-skis now come with the ratchet on the front. This prevents the skiers from kicking straight back on the ratchet and is better for classic technique. It is possible to switch the wheels on the C2, though the ratcheted wheels have a wider bolt so the front and rear forks are slightly different. It is not hard to switch forks however.
In regards to skating, we would not recommend using the C2. Dual technique, or combi equipment generally results in compromises that mean a less than ideal experience. The wide soft wheels do not track well while skating, the weight makes for a decidedly un-skate ski like experience, and the wheels will wear very quickly, resulting in further tracking issues. In our opinion, if you can only get one pair of rollerskis, stick to the discipline the skis were designed for and don’t risk developing bad technique habits due to compromised equipment.
WebSkis offers speed reducers on the C2 and C3 – the only Pro-Ski models that are available with this option. We did not test the speed reducer.
FasterSkier’s Buying Advice: The C2 is an excellent option for a general purpose classic training roller ski. The stiff aluminum shaft is a good option for big, aggressive skiers, but does not provide much flex.
Pro-Ski Roadline Tech ($250)
Summary: The Tech is an innovative classic ski that provides excellent classic technique replication due to the small, ratcheted front wheel. A favorite during testing.
Pros: Forces better classic technique, good tracking, solid construction.
Cons: Stiff aluminum shaft provides a somewhat rougher ride and detracts from the “ski-like” feel.
The Tech was a definite winner during our testing. It is a unique classic ski, with a full sized, 50mm wide C2 wheel on the back, and a 30mm wide ratcheted wheel on the front. This wheel is the same width as the S2 skate, but is made of soft rubber as opposed to polyurethane.
This setup provides a number of advantages. The front ratchet prevents kicking straight back. A skier must maintain a discrete kick phase to move forward efficiently. The small wheel obviously has a smaller surface area meaning less friction with the road. This also forces the skier to be more “on” the kick to avoid slipping.
The narrow wheel provides better tracking and is significantly lighter. The Tech does not have the heavy clunky feeling of the C2 while striding, corners better, and requires a bit more balance.
The wide rear wheel provides good contrast to the narrow front wheel. Our tests of the S2 Classic (see below) demonstrated that two 30mm wheels is just too tippy.
Despite the fact that the rear wheel is a C2 wheel, the Tech is much slower. It was one of the slowest skis we tested. This makes sense as the advantages of this ski comes in striding.
The shaft is the same as the other Pro-Ski classic skis. The stiff aluminum is solid, but detracts somewhat from the “ski-like” feel. Despite this, the Tech ranks as one of the best skis we tested. Specifics aside, striding on this ski felt the closest to classic skiing on snow. They are still roller skis, so don’t expect too much, but the Techs are very nice.
In my mind, the only reason to go with the C2 over the Tech is the speed. If you are not strong enough, or if you are training with people on faster skis, the Techs could be frustrating. It would be nice to see a model with the same setup and a faster front wheel.
Another benefit of the narrow front wheel is that skating on these skis is a viable option. This is mainly due to the improved tracking. But like the C2, the rear wheel will wear quickly, so we would not suggest this ski be purchased for regular use as a skater.
The Tech comes with mud guards on all wheels.
FasterSkier’s Buying Advice: A top classic ski, the Tech is one of the best options available for training. We would not recommend this ski for younger Juniors, or weaker skiers, as the slow speed could be too challenging.
What WebSkis Says: A great addition to the C2 Roadline family, this classic rollerski is fast becoming a favorite of Norwegian high level skiers. This ski simulates snow skiing like no other!
Pro-Ski S2 Classic Ski ($250)
Summary: The S2 Classic is identical to the S2 Skate with the addition of a ratchet on the rear wheel. This ski preserves the high performance of the skate version on good pavement, but is not a good option for classic skiing due to the short shaft and narrow wheels.
Pros: Good for skating.
Cons: Not good on rough pavement, short shaft and narrow wheels makes classic skiing very difficult. Speed is not ideal for double poling.
Show me a combi ski or a boot, and I’ll show you a piece of equipment that compromises performance for convenience. This is the case with the S2 Classic. This ski is simply an S2 Skate with a ratcheted rear wheel. The ratchet did not affect the skate performance at all, so the above review of the S2 Skate holds true for skating on the S2 Classic.
Most combi roller skis are simply classic skis that are marketed for both techniques. This results in a fine classic experience, but makes for lousy skating. Kudos to Pro-Ski for trying something different, but unfortunately it is just a matter of picking your poison. Classic skiing on the S2 is very difficult. The shaft is so short that the entire ski comes way off the ground. This feels unnatural, and means that you must be perfectly balanced on the gliding ski. This might seem good – to be forced to fully commit the gliding ski and hold your body position. But the narrow 30mm wheels are surprisingly hard to stand on – too hard in our opinion. I consider myself a solid classic skier and have good balance, but actually feared I could sprain on ankle on these skis. Additionally, the skis are on the fast for straight double poling workouts unless you are primarily climbing.
FasterSkier’s Buying Advice: The S2 Classic is not a good choice as a classic ski. Even if you have a more positive experience, I see no reason to choose the S2 over Pro-Ski’s better classic options. However, if you are in the market for a skate ski, and are considering the S2, there is no harm in getting the version with ratchet, allowing you the option of doing some kicking.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.