Can't decide between skiing and rollerblading? Isabelle Aron gives roller skiing a whirl
Trying not to think about the ways in which I could embarrass myself, I head to Hyde Park on a Saturday to attempt to do something called roller skiing. Never seen a roller ski? Imagine a comically small pair of fluorescent yellow skis (the size you might see on a toddler whizzing down an Alp) with a wheel at each end. Then imagine wearing those skis in public. Yep. I have one aim: don’t end up flat on my face at one of London’s biggest tourist attractions.
The instructor swaddles me in elbow and knee pads, a helmet, gloves, poles and boots which clip into the skis. All the padding has me a little worried. ‘Am I going to fall over?’ I ask, trying to sound nonchalant. The instructor tells me that although beginners do fall down, we won’t be going fast, so if I do come a cropper it won’t hurt that much. Only one way to find out…
On the path alongside the Serpentine, I start off using just one roller ski, kicking the floor with my other foot to propel myself along. After a few drills, it’s time to stick on the other ski, which prompts me to ask the instructor: How do I stop? Turns out that, unlike rollerblades, roller skis don’t have brakes. You’re just supposed to slow down. It doesn’t fill me with confidence about not ending up in a heap on the ground. Still, I’m already turning a few heads.
Once I stop feeling self-conscious, I realise that roller skiing is incredibly fun – and the only way I’ll ever manage to ski outdoors in our city. It also requires a lot of skill. I learn the ‘classic’ technique. It sounds simple – move your legs forward and back, while the opposite arm comes forward – but it’s like trying to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time.
Thanks to my instructor I eventually get the hang of it. The class members are encouraging, too. Some come every week for a workout (it exercises all the major muscle groups), while others use it as ski season prep. A career as a pro roller-skier probably isn’t on the cards, but I survive the class without actually falling on my arse – and that’s what really matters.
Roller Ski UK. Tube: Hyde Park Corner. £32 per session, including equipment.
Looking for more adventurous activities? We tried abseiling down the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the Olympic Park.