Rollerskiing and Rollerblading in Deeside
Rollerskiing with the Manchester XC Ski Club... To the bystander on a cycle path or country lane, seeing a group of people replicating cross-country skiing with roller skis could be seen as one of the best examples of British sporting quirkiness in action! Whilst first impressions are slightly bemusing, once you look beyond the long ski poles, soft ski boots and the wheeled ‘skis’, you would find a serious sport that requires high levels of stamina, endurance and technique.
Rollerskiing is an art and I went out with the Manchester Cross-Country Ski Club to find out more on my inline skates...
Out and back to Chester along the Deeside Cycle Path...
I have been rollerblading since I was 12 years old. I love the feeling of gliding along smooth asphalt on a sunny day. My skates have taken me to the famous Le Mans racing circuit in France, from Paris to London for charity and around the world-renowned Goodwood track in Sussex.
However, despite sharing many of the techniques linked to inline skating, rollerskiing has always intrigued me.
16 miles rollerskiing in an unlikely setting...
We went out along one of the best skating places in the North West region along the 8 mile Chester to Connah’s Quay cycle path that runs along the River Dee and forms part of the Wales Coast Path.
The reason why this place is excellent is that it is very close to being in a country ideally suited to skating such as Holland, Germany or Sweden with smooth tarmac, long straights and waterside views.
I have spent many hours down this path on my own and rank it as one of my favourite places in the country for active recreation.
Setting off from Connah's Quay, North Wales...
We set off from Connah’s Quay with a pre-ski briefing from club officials Ros and Alison who are keen snowsport skiers and two of the best roller skiers in the UK. We were following the riverside path for much of the route as 16 of us from around the north headed down the Dee Cycle Path to Chester City Centre.
There was a mixture of skate and classic technique skiers among us. Skate technique is similar to ice skating in motion whilst classic requires a rocking and balancing motion on each leg to propel yourself forwards.
The poles used have special tips that grip against the ground and are used to propel the skier forward as well. When the poles and skis work together, rollerskiing can be a very elegant physical exercise and the best roller skiers such as Ros and Alison make this look effortless.
Mid-ski lunch stop at Telford's Warehouse...
The group set off along the path towards Chester and immediately everyone picked up speed and honed their techniques. Cross country skiing and rollerskiing are full-body workout sports and bulk up your upper body as well as your legs, so this 'tour' offered everyone a decent physical exercise.
At the halfway point on our 'out and back' route, we took off our equipment, unclipped our cross-country skiing boots and had lunch at Telford's Warehouse on the canal.
A pub next to a canal basin is not a conventional place for a stop mid-ski, but the good thing about rollerskiing is that it is a very social activity. Everyone chats about their plans for the winter season, their training for an hour race or a rollerskiing location where they found that elusive 'perfect' skiing surface.
Despite being a fairly unknown activity outside of the winter sports world or the military who use rollerskiing to train for military skiing fitness, there is a wide choice of rollerskiing clubs around the country from London to Scotland and many have good inter-club relations. On our Chester tour, there were several members from the Yorkshire Dales XC Ski Club and others who had travelled from around the North West.