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Rollerskiing: Manchester Cyclesway to the North Pole

The Club’s annual rollerski course got off to a storming start on October 28th. Twenty five skiers - including a dozen who had never skied on rollers before, of whom half had never skied at all - gathered at the Manchester Cyclesway in Chorlton, South Manchester.

Ready to start the 2006 roller ski sessions
Ready to start the 2006 roller ski programme!

They were in celebratory mood: this was the largest rollerski meeting in the Club’s history, and the Club had just hit the jackpot with two awards - from the North West Ski Federation (£400) and Awards for All (£4500) - for the purchase of rollerski gear. This has enabled Ros Brown-Grant, the inspirational organiser, to expand an ambitious annual scheme of training and touring on rollers.

The programme appeals not only to beginners and improvers who don’t have their own gear but want to try cross-country skiing and improve their skills, but also to more experienced and even racing enthusiasts who are busy honing their techniques. Great progress is made year on year as the Club’s coaching team - Ros herself, David Painter and Ralph White, supported by guest coaches from the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales Clubs - provide regular training in small groups for anyone really interested in cross-country techniques.

The upward curve in skiing standards within the Club in evidence for years has been spectacularly confirmed by the dramatic advance of recently joined enthusiasts for the roller ski programme. Alistair Brown and Alan Sheppard joined the Club barely three years ago; Wendy Macrae, Chris Greene David Stanton, Lucy Ryan two years ago; and Sue Bambridge, Alison Pawley and Leif Anderson only last year - their progress has been remarkable. The Club provided the largest group in November’s SSE Race Training Week in Finland, led by Mike Dixon and Patrick Winterton; in attendance were Alan, Alistair, Chris, David, Wendy and Sylvia Mercer herself. And these aren’t the only good and improving skiers in the Club - only among the most recent.

Pre-ski briefing
Pre-ski briefing

This year’s beginners can become next year’s racers, which is just as well as two of the first timers in October, Laura Jones and Kirsty Bamber, are signed up to take part in Polar Challenge - a charity ski race to the North Pole - in March! They will be using hefty boots, wide skis and pulks, so instruction in a sound diagonal stride is crucial for them and that is what they are getting right now. Earlier this year, another member, Toby Young, also skied to the North Pole and sings the praises of the training he gained on the 2005 summer programme.

Laura and Kirsty and their friends were exposed to Saturday morning sessions devoted to core classic, skating and double poling. In the New Year, as technique and confidence improve, they will join a programme of tours on traffic-free (well, nearly!) good tarmac routes, often through splendid countryside all over the north of England. The progress they will make, rollerskiing with good equipment, on well-chosen routes and with good ‘coaching on the move’ tips and hints will surprise them and delight their coaches. No wonder rollerskiing is enjoying a renaissance in the UK at the moment - not least in Manchester.

author: Ralph White
photographs: Alistair Brown
publish date: November 2006

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