When I found out the brand Rollerblade is launching a new program that utilizes inline skating for pre-season ski conditioning called “Skate to Ski,” I rolled my eyes and deleted the email. While I did play roller hockey when I was around 10 years old, I started skateboarding when I turned 13 and haven’t considered touching a pair of skates since.
Not long after I received the Skate to Ski email, however, I saw a college-aged woman absolutely flying down the bike path on a pair of blades. She had no helmet, no pads, and a smile bigger than the Statue of Liberty as she made her way to wherever she was going with a whirling amount of speed.
That actually looks fun, I thought, pedaling my bike uphill in the opposite direction. Maybe, just maybe, that was when the first crack formed in my belief that inline skating was an inferior sport. But I still wasn’t about to dig around in my trash can for that email.
One week later, while researching a different pre-season training story, I came across a video about core conditioning for skiers. The instructor mentioned that skiers should do a side plank variation that requires engaging the adductor muscles—the muscles in the thigh that connect the pelvis to the femur. This muscle group is important as it plays a major role in gaining control and power from the ski’s inside edge, and, as the instructor mentioned, the adductor muscles are actually difficult to develop outside of actually skiing.
The personal trainer’s words actually did drive me to dig up that Skate to Ski email, remembering that one of the program’s taglines is “don’t lose your edge this summer.” I made the connection that inline skating is one of the few sports that really does strengthen and develop the obscure-yet-critical leg and core muscle groups specific to skiing.
The cracks in my preconceived distrust of inline skating grew.
My First Time Inline Skating as an Adult
Two weeks after the Skate to Ski email first arrived, I made a conscious—albeit slightly begrudging—decision to actually try inline skating for the first time in over two decades. When the blades arrived in the mail, however, I left them in my office for a few days, metaphorically dragging my heels and questioning the decisions I made that led to them arriving in my office.
During that time, however, conversations with others in the ski industry made me see the skates in a new light.
“Blading can be a relaxed way to cruise to a brewery, around the office at lunch or along the bike path when you need some fresh air,” says Jessi Hackett, marketing and communications manager for Warren Miller Entertainment. “I also think the repetitive skating motion is relaxing, and if you pop in some headphones it can be meditative and flowy.”
“For me, blading is the ideal workout without the pain and heavy pounding that I associate with running,” says Henrik Lampert, North American Marketing Manager for Faction Skis. “Because I enjoy the feeling so much, it never feels as though I'm working out, I'm purely out there moving my body and enjoying the fresh air, and the health benefits are an added bonus. The sensation of flying along a smooth bike path or road, edging back and forth, it is addictive to me—it's the same feeling I get while skiing, biking downhill, and playing ice hockey.”
“It’s great cardio, and awesome for leg strength,” says professional skier Marcus Caston. “I blade more for fun, but you can definitely make it as hard as you want to get in shape for winter. There is definitely a similar muscle activation as skiing.”
Used and Abused: Rollerblade RB Cruiser
When I finally worked up the courage to take my Rollerblades out of the box, I waited until everyone I knew at the office had left for the day and downloaded the free Skate to Ski app. With about 50 inline skating drills that directly correlate with skiing skills, the app's video tutorials are a great place to start for both beginners and those with more experience. The program has received the full endorsement from the Professional Ski Instructors of America, who promote it to clients as a tool to improve skiing when not on ski trips.
After watching a few intro videos, I wheeled around the recently repaved SKI Magazine office parking lot. The ability to keep my balance came back to me well enough, and, after taking a few gentle laps, I felt budding confidence along with a little thrill as my speed gradually increased. Even though I had to practice stopping the most—“T-stops” are not a thing on skis—I could totally feel certain muscles engaging that I usually feel when skiing, especially when striding forward.
Did I look lame? Probably. Does it matter when I’m having fun and becoming a better skier? Not in the slightest.
Don't Lose Your Edge This Summer
Since that first day, I’ve taken my inline skates out a few times a week to practice the skills prescribed by the Skate to Ski program. And while a few of my colleagues over the age of 30—mostly male, and mostly much older than 30—have made a few snide remarks, the younger people in my office seem to be unaware of the stereotypes inline skating carried during the 1990s, claiming that it looks fun.
While I cannot say for certain that it’ll make me a better skier (ski season is a few months away for us in Colorado), nearly everyone I talked to is certain that it will.
“One of the coolest by-products of blading for skiers is it only allows for an arcing action since you physically cannot skid a turn on inline skates,” says Kaylin Richardson, a professional skier and member of the 2002 U.S. Olympic Ski Team. “The foundation of all carving on skis—the railroad turn—arguably is more easily accomplished on blades than skis. So for those in search of the elusive and addictive carving turn, get on blades, punch that arcing muscle memory into your frontal lobe and, come ski season, you’ll be a step ahead of your peers.”
“Two years ago, I bladed seemingly every day in the summer and fall,” says Lampert. “When it came time to hit the slopes, it was like night and day—how much stronger I felt compared to the year prior when I hadn't bladed or worked out very much at all. That strength level set a baseline for the entire ski season. I enjoyed longer days on the hill, and I felt less susceptible to injury.”
“Like biking, skating can make for a legitimate workout depending how much effort you’re putting into it,” says Hackett. “I think skating hard for 30-45 minutes at minimum is necessary to really feel the burn, but like cross-country skiing, it’s a great way to work your glutes, hams, quads, and core and to practice achieving balance without having your feet on solid ground.”
While I’m not about to give up trail running or cycling, I now find myself thinking about going inline skating about once a week after a day in the office. Why? Well, it's actually fun. It’s not as fun as skiing, but it’s certainly more fun than doing squats and crunches in a gym. I ski because it’s fun, and the Skate to Ski program is proving to be a great tool for anyone to start getting ready for ski season while having fun, too.