Why Rollerblading (and Skate to Ski) is Back

With a new “Skate to Ski” training app and a curriculum for ski instructors, here’s how Rollerblade wants to help up your game before the snow flies.

In the 1990s inline skating hit America hard, and quickly gained tens of millions of participants, but this growth was short lived.  Back then, as a new, professional ski instructor and inline skate instructor I enjoyed riding the insane wave of popularity of inline skating and skate to ski training right up to its pinnacle—and then right down into obscurity.  While inline skating and all its benefits for skiers never went away, for whatever reason the big skating groups turned into smaller solo sessions. 

Now, it’s back. Really. Rollerblade, the company that made inline skating the fastest growing sport of the 1980s, is stoking the fire again with a free new training app that you can download on your phone and follow along. It can help you build ski-specific muscles before the snow flies and improve your technique.

Rollerblade has joined forces with the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), The National Ski Patrol and US Ski and Snowboard to help skiers get ready for the ski season with some of the best cross training available. 

Second only to getting on the snow in the summertime, a proper training program with inline skates is, in my opinion, the absolute best way to train in the off season for skiing. And I’m not the only one. Former Olympic downhiller Doug Lewis has been using skates to help trains kids at his ELITEAM race camps in Waitsfield for years.

Rollerblade uses the tag line “Move Freely.”  This is the perfect way to describe the feeling skiers should get while on inline skates.  When I first started inline skating, skis were long, straight and a little boring to be honest. Being on skates gave me options for movements that didn’t exist on the old, straight skis. It was actually because of Rollerblades, snowboards, and skiboards from companies like Line and Salomon, that skis became shorter, with increased sidecut. And today with the addition of a bit of rocker in the tip and tail, skis move more freely than ever.  While skis have come a long way, they still don’t offer the ease of movement that inline skates offer. 

The free skate-to-ski app goes over the gear you need to train and lists a number of drills you can do on your inline skates to prepare for the ski season. 

Here are a few of my favorite drills:

1. Skate on a Flat

Skating on skis down a gentle fall line is a great on-snow drill that PSIA has been using for years to train a skier to move forward and get good edge engagement before putting pressure on each ski. I spend a fair amount of time working with ski instructors on this drill each season as it helps create a cleaner engagement at the start of your turn.  While this can be learned on snow, there is no reason to waste precious snow time on a drill that can so easily be learned off snow with inline skates. Just go skating!  Learn how to balance from foot to foot and keep your center of mass moving forward with each lateral push of the skates. Skating up hills will add strength to the exact muscles you need for skiing.  Skating down a gentle hill will challenge you to keep the center of mass moving down the hill with each stride.  Just skating on flats and gentle hills will improve your skiing.

On inline skates, you use the same muscles and many of the same movements to carve a turn as you would on skis (top.) Skating up a slight incline (below) will build the leg strength you need for both alpine and Nordic skiing. Photo courtesy Rollerblade
2. Move Freely

Skiing without poles is a good drill on the snow and skating without them is usually the way to go.  While racers may benefit from running breakaway gates on inlines with poles (to practice clearing the gates), most skiers benefit from doing all their skating without poles.  Let your arms move naturally while you are striding on your skates and keep your hands and arms up where you can see them when you are carving down gentle hills on skates.

Skating up a slight incline (below) will build the leg strength you need for both alpine and Nordic skiing. Photo courtesy Rollerblade
3. Find Your Balance

You should be able to balance on one foot for an extended glide.  Try tapping the inside skate while making turns downhill—the start to a good carved turn.  Make a turn that generates power and that can even take you back up a gentle hill.  Learn how to hop, and how to turn around and skate backwards.  This is the freedom of inline skates, and when you develop this skill, it will free up your movements on skis too.

If you have a pair of skates lying around, blow the dust off and get rolling.  If you don’t own a pair, get out and get some before the snow flies this season.  Download the Skate to Ski app, get out of your comfort zone and try some new moves on your skates.

I originally started skating solely to train for skiing, but after only one season, I fell in love with the sport of inline skating and all of its varied disciplines. Whether your inline adventures take you racing, playing roller hockey, skating for fitness, or skating ramps in the skate park, you will be improving your skiing every time you strap your skates on.  Enjoy the training!

Practice lifting and tapping the inside skate on a turn. And if you really want a challenge, set up a slalom course on a closed road or parking lot. Photo courtesy Rollerblade

Featured Photo Caption: On inline skates, you use the same muscles and many of the same movements to carve a turn as you would on skis (top.) Skating up a slight incline (below) will build the leg strength you need for both alpine and Nordic skiing. Photo courtesy Roller Blade.

Doug Stewart

An examiner for the Eastern Division of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), Doug Stewart has been teaching skiing at Stowe for over 20 years. Stewart divides his winters between being a full time boot fitter at Skirack in Burlington, training the ski school staff and his ski clients at Stowe, and running certification training and exams. When he’s not at work, Stewart loves skiing with his wife and chasing around their 8- and 10-year-old sons on the slopes of Vermont.