Nordic Roller Skiing Safety
Some Basics to Know!

By Bill Pierce, May 11, 2011

Location: First off, choose roads and terrain that are suitable to your ability. Match the terrain to your ability. If you ski only in the Fall or a few times a year, know that hills with asphalt are less controllable than hills with snow. Just because you ski unrestricted down steep grades on snow, the same may not apply to roads or trails. Know the road. Be aware of intersections, driveways, and poor pavement. Also be aware that wet pavement has more potential for slips, longer stopping times, and accidents than dry pavement does. Choose roads that are less traveled if possible. Back roads, roads with wide paved shoulders, closed park roads, or bike paths are the preference of most skiers looking for a pleasant roller ski experience.

Equipment: Must wear equipment for a roller ski workout is a helmet, light leather ski or work gloves, and a bright colored reflective vest. These are not an option. Other items that may be wanted are elbow and knee pads, a small compact red flasher, and a headlamp. I include the last two items because as Fall progresses we loose a lot of daylight quickly and most of us train at the end of the day when daylight is waning. Being seen on the road is the most important issue regarding safety. You must make sure that you are seen by the drivers on the road. With the use of cell phones and texting, more and more drivers do not have their full attention on the road in front of them. Maintain your equipment and check it often. Rotate your skis half way through a workout to maintain even wheel wear. You will find that even if you have perfect stance, wheels will wear to one direction just from the slope of the pavement almost always being to the right. Check nuts and axle bolts for tightness and soundness. Dry off your equipment after using it in wet conditions. If you use a laminated shaft, this will ensure the life of the ski. Road grit and dirt combined with water are the worst thing for your wheel bearings and your boots and bindings. Ski boots were designed for winter weather, so air out your insoles and dry your equipment every time you ski. Use road ferrules specifically for roller skiing. While snow baskets do work for a while, most are unable to handle the impact stress of asphalt and do eventually break. Save money in the long run and switch out your ferrules when you start roller skiing. Keep your ferrule tips sharp. I sharpen or touch up my ferrules a couple of times a week. They are very sharp and that is very important in the fall and early winter when the asphalt is cold and hard. It will prevent poles from slipping and decrease the potential of injury from “jamming” your poles into the pavement. If you sharpen with a motor wheel, it must be a diamond stone and you must water cool every few seconds. This will keep the road tip from being damaged from the excess heat of grinding. If you do sharpen your tips with a hand stone, then it is even more important to do it each time as once they are dull, it is very difficult to bring a tip back to being sharp by hand.

Skier Etiquette and Behavior: Always ski with traffic on the right side of the road. Never ski over the center line of the road. Ski single file and when approached either from behind or in front by a vehicle, “skinny up” and classic ski or double pole single file as far right on the roadway as possible. If you end up being in a position of being passed in both directions simultaneously, then use greater caution, step off of the road, or slowly roll off the road to prevent conflict. Avoid larger groups of skiers skiing two and three abreast and use road commands of “Car up” or “Car back” to make the whole group aware of approaching traffic. Be defensive when skiing and make sure that a rear approaching vehicle sees you. A glance over your shoulder or a helmet mounted mirror is necessary for this. Do not assume that you are seen by a vehicle’s driver!!! If you are stopped skiing and whether alone or in a group, get completely off of the roadway. We are strange looking enough on our roller gizmo’s and most people probably feel that we do not belong on the road, so disagree with that opinion, but respect it and be safe!! Stay far right, stay safe!!
Lastly, roller skiing is not easy. Some of the drills and practices are very difficult and we are not balancing on a ski board, but instead on the center line of a wheel. If you can’t balance and do these drills in shoes or on dryland, how would you expect to do them on roller skis? And the result of falling on asphalt makes it even more intimidating to most. So, in other words, get some coaching and or take some lessons and make your first expe¬riences on roller skis pleasant and lasting.
Follow these simple guidelines, and you will have a more enjoyable roller ski experience.