From Pavement to Snow: Tips for Making the Transition

FasterSkierDecember 8, 2010
Jessie Diggins racing in November in West Yellowstone.

It’s that time of year again! Snow is falling, trails are open and groomed, and it’s time to toss the rollerskis in the basement.

There are a couple of reasons why rollerskis are great for cross training; they allow you to develop your ski muscles, work on balance, develop arm strength you can’t get while running … and they are the closest thing to actual skiing when you aren’t fortunate enough to live on a glacier. And Ahvo Taipale, owner of Finn Sisu, has been providing the Nordic community with excellent Marwe rollerskis. They’re durable, track well and are closer to the speed of skis on snow than many other brands that roll too quickly.

However, as good as rollerskis are in the off-season, there are also some compelling reasons to get off of the wheels as soon as possible. Due to the ratchets on classic skis, it can be all too easy to develop bad habits and a late kick without even realizing it. On snow, if you do not have your weight fully over each ski as you stride, you will slip out and struggle until you correct your technique. On classic rollerskis, you‘ll get up the hill regardless of your technique. So it’s super important to be very aware of your technique and where your weight placement is, or you may find yourself needing to restructure your technique when snow arrives.

Luckily, if you have coaches helping and calling you out when you begin develop a late kick, the transition onto snow is much smoother. One way the CXC team handles this is to bring a video camera along on the roads and either critique technique instantly, or view it in slow-motion afterwards. In this way, we make sure that our technique will be intact when we need to be able to close down a wax pocket on snow.

Another strategy is to execute rollerski drills that force you to have your weight over your ski when striding. Some of these drills include shuffling with full weight transfer from ski to ski, running uphill on rollerskis with or without poles, or a run on rollerskis that turns into a slight bound. These drills focus on improving balance as well as imitating kicking down a wax pocket, and they are extremely helpful in maintaining good technique.

Personally, I think the transition from skate rollerskiing to snow is easier since there is no kick wax involved, although the longer skis are fairly awkward at first. The easiest way for me to transition is to take the first few days nice and slow, with some long level one sessions. This is also super important if your first days on snow are at 6, 600 feet of altitude, as many skiers are at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. When adjusting not only to snow but to altitude, it’s good to err on the side of skiing slowly, to give your body enough time to acclimate.

The long-range forecast indicates that there will be some sweet skiing this winter.  Grab your jacket, jump onto your skis, and kiss those rollerskis goodbye!


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