Roller Skiing

Written by Iain Ballentine, Roller Ski Instruction & Roller Ski Shop 25 January 2024

Last modified on 29 February 2024
Roller Ski the trails! Roller Ski the trails!

This winter cross-country is the snow sport that everyone wants to try. We have had unprecedented demand for our beginner trips which introduce you to the world of 'skinny' skis. When questioned as to why our guests have various replies, including a desire to 'get away' from the bustle and busyness of alpine ski resorts, a wish to have less impact on the environment, and a desire to enjoy tranquillity in the mountains. Cross country is your answer, and to get fit without snow, we can suggest roller skiing.

Iain Ballantine runs roller ski sessions across the UK and here he shares his enthusiasm for the sport. 

"Cross-country skiing is the grandmother of all forms of skiing which we know today.  Born from a necessity to travel between communities and hunt for food in winter it is today a sport enjoyed by all ages. We run a wide range of cross-country ski adventures in various countries in Europe and Scandinavia, and the question we are most often asked is "How do I get fit for skiing when I live somewhere with no snow?". The answer for many is roller skiing, and clubs are to be found across the world. 


What is roller skiing? 

First of all, what on earth is roller skiing?  Essentially, it is cross-country skiing on wheels, done on tarmac, and it will get you fit for all kinds of cross-country skiing adventures on snow. We teach roller skiing at various venues in and around London with our mobile 'ski school', and if you don't live in the South East there are various excellent cross-country ski clubs across the UK, from Wiltshire in the South to the Highlands of Scotland. 


Roller skis have the appearance of being short cross-country skis, with a wheel at either end.  You use the same boots as on snow, which clip into the same bindings.  As with cross-country skiing, there are two different techniques - 'classic' and 'skating'.  Classic roller skis have a one way 'ratchet' wheel, so one ski doesn't slip backwards while the other strides forward (replicating skins or grip wax).  Skating roller skiing is more like ice skating or inline skating, but the skis are slower, and you really need the poles to get up to any kind of speed.  Skating is the faster type of skiing, and the style they use in biathlon (skiing and shooting).

Why on earth would you want to roller ski? 

It offers the same excellent workout as cross-country skiing, and prepares you extremely well for snow.  You build up the right muscles, improve your balance and develop the technique, so you can ski further, faster and generally get more out of your time on snow.  It is also good to do in its own right as a low-impact, strength-endurance exercise that is great for general fitness and conditioning, or cross training for other sports.
In London, we run lessons every Saturday morning in Hyde Park, plus 5-week courses on Saturdays and Tuesdays.  We also do 1-day courses at Dorney Lake near Windsor, Ascot Racecourse and Redbridge Cycle Circuit in Essex, which each offer something slightly different in terms of terrain and scenery.  All are really fantastic venues at which to give it a try.  In January and February we are focused on building up skiers for the snow.  Come April and May, we shift towards transferring skills and enthusiasm brought back from trips, onto roller skis. 

How did I get into it?

I first started teaching roller skiing in 2005 with just a few sets of roller skis and boots, but a lot of enthusiasm.  Fast forward nearly 20 years and we have built an incredible team of instructors and a van fitted out with all the kit required - roller skis, boots, poles, padding and helmets - which we drive to venues.  Many of the skiers we taught in the early days have come back to instruct, including Fern Cates who (having skied for GB) now leads trips for Tracks & Trails, and Holly Rees-Lay, a former British Biathlon champion. 
Our chief instructor now is Jordan Andrews, another former GB cross-country skier, who combines running the courses with his role as Development Coach for the British Nordic Ski Team. All of us really want you to enjoy roller skiing, whatever level you are at and whatever ambitions you have.  I would encourage you to give it a go."
If you want to contact our guest blogger, Iain Ballentine with regard to roller skiing meet ups you can consult the Club's Facebook page.
For more information about cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and trail running adventures with Tracks and Trails, speak to one of our expert team by calling +44 (0)20 8144 6442 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.