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Thin-wheeled roller skis under fire 

Source: http://www.xc-ski.dePaddy Field reports on the thin-wheeled roller ski debate and looks at the results of's latest roller ski test results.



Is the thin-wheeled skating roller ski an endangered species?

Source: http://www.xc-ski.deCertainly, it seems to be under attack from all sides.  First of all, the FIS Roller Ski Sub-Committee, meeting in Zurich in October, held over for further discussion the question of whether narrow wheels should be allowed in international roller ski competitions in the future.  Salt was rubbed into the wound by the published results of “Nordic Sports” (Europe’s best-selling cross-country magazine) and’s biennial tests of nearly 30 different types of roller ski.  These tests, which were carried out on the Oberstdorf roller ski track, were published in September and are the equivalent to a “Which?” report on roller skis available on the European market.

Why do we roller ski?

The question that lies at the heart of the problem is: why do we roller ski?

  • for roller skiing’s sake
  • as a sport on its own,
  • or as off-season training for the winter’s cross-country skiing?

If the former, then the thin-wheeled ski is perfect: it is fast, fun and appropriate to racing on tarmac.  But it provides neither technical nor physiological benefits to the cross-country skier.
Consequently few, if any, of cross-country’s elite racers attend the roller ski World Cup and World Championship races. 

The dilemma now facing FIS is:  do they want to attract the world’s cross-country elite to these races, in which case they will have to run the races on “barrel” rollers, or do they want the world’s best roller skiers, which would leave them with the status quo in terms of equipment.

Why will the world’s elite not use these thin-wheeled roller skis?

There are a number of reasons, including:

  • the vast majority of cross-country training (generally about 70%) is carried out in classical technique, for which wide-wheeled skis with ratchets are essential;
  • summer is a time for endurance training, which demands slow skis to provide maximum resistance;
  • technique training must be carried out at slow speed, something that is impossible with thin wheels without ratchets.

How to assess skating roller skis?

The Oberstdorf testers concluded that they could not assess the skate racing models under the heading of “similarity to skiing on snow”.  The behaviour of the roller skis and the techniques needed to use them were so dissimilar to cross-country skiing on snow that a comparison was not possible.  Instead, they assessed them simply on speed.

Where will this roller ski debate end?

Source: roller skiing was first taken on by FIS as a skiing discipline, after considerable opposition from those who thought that it should be aligned with roller blading, roller skating, roller hockey and similar sports, it was on the basis of an undertaking that the sport would be developed specifically for cross-country skiers.  That has not happened. 

Few top cross-country skiers take part in roller ski competition, where specialists have emerged with no particular provenance on snow.  Yet it is hard now to see FIS being successful in implementing a ban on the skis favoured by the leading roller ski racers.  The probability is that the sport will continue to diverge and specialize: top roller skiers will carry on using thin wheels and top snow skiers will stick to their favoured barrel rollers.  While the debate drags on, we must wait and see.

Which roller skis to buy?

Meanwhile we will want to buy new or replacement roller skis ourselves. For the record, the leading brands and models of ski in the Oberstdorf tests were:

Category Model Weight Price
Training Allround      
Best Buy SRB KR02 1.315 kg 295.00
Training Classic      
Best Buy Marwe Classic 700 C Cap 1.150 kg 295.95
Recommended Globulonero CS2 Composite 1.110 kg 310.00
Training Skate      
Best Buy              Marwe Skating 610 C Cap    1.050 kg 295.95
Value for Money   Nordic Pro SG24-1               1.125 kg 195.00
Skate Racing      
Best Buy   Globulonero B1 Carbon        0.810 kg 310.00
Value for Money    Ski Skett Cobra Pro Gold 84  0.850 kg 155.00


Roller ski review

In all 29 different models from Marwe, Nordic Pro, Ski Skett, SRB and Globulonero were tested, together with children’s roller skis from SRB, Ski Skett, Globulonero and Nordic Pro.

Top skis for ‘Comfort’ and ‘Compatibility with Skiing on Snow’ were Marwe and Ski Skett.   Best for price were Nordic Pro and Ski Skett.  Aluminium is the favoured construction material, although Marwe use wood and plastics and globulonero carbon - hence their exorbitant price!

Only one ski – the Marwe 610C Cap -   achieved a ‘perfect’ score in all areas of assessment, but it does of course need to be complemented by the Marwe Classic 700C Cap, giving a total outlay of around £500.  Perhaps this is still cheap, compared with, say, a top-of-the-range cycle.  Cross-country skiing is still a relatively cheap sport!    Enjoy it while you can! 

Where to buy roller skis in the UK [Editor's note]

The Marwe 610C Cap is stocked by Euroski and The Roller Ski Co who also stock a range of other models/makes.

RMA sports also stocks Pro-ski.

Reader Comments (8)

Surely Marwe 610C rollerskis are 'thin wheeled' rollerskis, not 'barrel rollers'?

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIain Ballentine

I think it's important to draw the distinction between fast thin wheeled 'racing' rollerskis and slow thin wheeled 'training' rollerskis.

As the articles concludes, the best skating rollerskis are the thin wheeled Marwe 610C's and similar. You will not find any serious athlete skating on fat wheeled rollerskis.

For skating, fat wheeled rollerskis occasionally have merit for beginners and those with serious balance issues. And if you rollerski purely for fitness, and have no intention of skiing on snow, it does not matter if you skate on fat wheeled rollerskis, which do not feel as similar technically.

I asked Alan Eason for his view, this was what he had to say -

'I would be the last person to roller ski down some of those hills in Europe on any roller ski that has a wide wheel. Racing on thin wheels and fast wheels is a sport in its own context. Training on thin wheels that are not racing wheels is the only way to go as they track in a straight line, and feel more like a ski than those fat skis. '

I hope this helps clarify things.

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIain Ballentine

I think the individual needs to know what they want from roller skiing/training and purchase accordingly. Once people start skiing, or racing on snow they realise that at least two pairs of skis are required to cover the classical and skating techniques. Involvement in racing soon leads to further purchases to cover plus, or minus temperature bases. The same theory applies to roller skis bar the temperature issues. There is a time and place for everything and fast roller skiing shouldn't be an exception. After all snow skiing is divided into sprint and distance events with athletes specialising in one, the other or both! There is no reason why the same should not apply to roller racing. In the UK we already cater for different mindsets with some events specifying particular types of roller ski.

It is also a point for discussion that fast roller skis are no benefit. Having experimented with barrel rollers for both techniques, classical, and skating, and thin rollers, and in line skates for skating, I would suggest that thin rollers/in line skates provide a positive improvement to balance, and in particular at speed. A drawback of training in the uk is the lack of snow and opportunity of exposure to representative terrain. Over the past 30 years observation of UK skiers highlights relatively poor balance, and lack of confidence on downhills. As one third of any course is downhill, and balance affects all the other terrain it could be useful to try training on thin rollers at speed.It is surprising how positive an effect it has on balance and confidence, and ultimately skiing ability.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Davidson

Can anyone provide some advice on multi-terrain rollerskis? I would like to get a pair of these for my husband who would like to use them along the canal paths, ie quite rough terrain. He's been doing rollerskiing with thin wheels on the road for years now but never tried the off-road rollerskiis..
Basically the majority of the multi-terrain rollerskis I've seen so far are for skating. Are there any good ones for classic that you would recommend?

June 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternoasis

Not many people use these in the London area but Iain Ballentine at may be able to give you some advice.

July 4, 2011 | Registered Commenterlrnsc mary


I was just wondering if anyone can advise me on the best way to sell second hand pair of roller skis and boots? I have looked on eBay etc and there does not seem to be a market.


April 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKarina


As someone who took up rollerskiing in late 30s, with no background in skiing, I use wide-wheeled combi skis for all my skiing. No striding, only skating or double-poling.

If it is wanted to attract top skiers, it seems that making rollerski racing mimic closely the training that they would be doing anyway is the way to go. In other words, wide, slow-ish wheels.

Although speeds would come down, I don't see why the best rollerskiers would be at a disavantage. It would still be rollerskiing, just a bit slower.

It would also make entry to the sport a lot more practical.

October 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hughes

Multi -terrain Skike rollers Have now brought out a new orange colour V8 Lift Cross rollerskis in which the heel can lift and a ratchet wheel can fitted on the front or back wheel with binding attached in which are able to fit and adjust to fit most sport boots from 5-12 sizes The British Army have just bought 4 pairs to take to Poland for their ready for their training and keep fit Also BBC Saturday Sports Programme have taken videos of them in action on London Tooting Common and Birmingham Central parks i with the top racing rollerskiers and also showing young children in action
We now have stock available

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTom Jones

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