Skate skiing looks so smooth! So fast! So graceful!
And it is – once you know what you’re doing. Although learning to skate ski is decidedly less elegant.
Of course, there was a time when we found walking difficult – but look how good we are at it now!*
*Not including icy walkways, sidewalks with errant chunks of cement, curbs that come out of nowhere, or those times we trip for no obvious reason whatsoever.
For starters, skate skis are skinny little buggers, which means, yes, they probably have a really fantastic metabolism. It also means standing in them can be tricky. And moving in them. And stopping in them. (On the upside, I found falling down in them to be rather easy!)
Skate skis will certainly call your balance into question, even if you’re comfortable and confident on classic skis. Because these things are a whole different animal.
The skis are shorter and lighter than the classic skis you may be used to, the boots offer more ankle support and the poles are longer. But all those design details have a special purpose: to help you skate and gliiiiiiiide.
Figuring out that skating technique is a humbling endeavor, especially when so many skate skiing strangers have made it look SO EASY when they’ve blown by us on the trails.
I’m just learning myself and am in no position to give tips on technique, but this guy can:
Learning to skate ski just takes practice. And a lesson (or two or five) can go a long way. I also think it helps if you can ski with a friend who will offer words of encouragement and then take pictures when you inadvertently veer off-trail and dive head-long into a pile of snow. (With any luck, you’ll have the pleasure of returning the favor.) Because learning should still be a good time – and tumbling into snow is actually a perk.
And before you know it – look at you! – you’ll be skating along like some skate-skiing master. Everyone will be so impressed.
Maine places to rent skate skis (some offer lessons, too)
280 Buzzell Road, Dayton
Open 9 a.m. to dusk daily – conditions permitting
Rent skate skis for $22/day. (Classic also available.) Lessons available by request. $18 one-hour group lesson, $30 one-hour private lesson.
30 kilometers of groomed trails for skating through open fields and sheltered forests of the dairy and vegetable farm. $15 day pass for adults on weekends, $12 day pass on week days.
Carter’s X-C Ski Center – Oxford
420 Main St. (Route 26), Oxford
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – conditions permitting
Rent skate skis for $20/day. (Classic also available.)
40 km of groomed trails. $15 day pass for adults. (Tuesday special: two ski for the price of one.)
Carter’s X-C Ski Center – Bethel
786 Intervale Road, Bethel
Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily – conditions permitting
Rent skate skis for $20/day. (Classic also available.) Lessons available.
55 kilometers of beginner to expert cross-country skiing, with views of Sunday River and the Mahoosuc and Presidential Ranges. $15 day pass for adults.
Bethel Village Trails
21 Broad St, Bethel, ME 04217
Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily – conditions permitting
Rent skate skis $18 (classic also available). Lessons scheduled regularly. $18 group lesson per person, $45 private lesson. Weekly clinics also.
35 kilometers of classic and skate groomed ski trails right out our back door. $18 trail day pass for adults. And, holy wow, $27 ski-swim-sauna package that includes access to the trails and the fitness center (outdoor heated pool)! Also 1.5km dog-friendly loop trail
15 Farm View Drive, New Gloucester
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – conditions permitting
Rent skate skis $24/full day, $20 after 1 p.m. Lessons by appointment only. Call 207-688-6599. $50 private lesson, $40 semi-private, $30 group lesson.
Beginner, intermediate and advanced groomed trails. $18 trail pass for adults, $12 after 1 p.m.
Smiling Hill Farm
781 Country Road, Westbrook
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – conditions permitting
Rent skate skis $15/day adults (classic skis also available).
25 km of groomed trails around the picturesque farm. $12 trail fee for adults.
Sugarloaf Outdoor Center
3001 Touring Center Road, Carrabassett Valley (1 mile south of the Sugarloaf access road)
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and holidays
Rent skate skis $23/full day, $18 after 12:30 p.m. Lessons available.
90 km of groomed trails. $23 trail pass for adults, $18 after 12:30 p.m. Also an ice skating rink!
Skate ski clinics
LL Bean offers an Introduction to Skate Skiing course in Freeport on select weekends throughout the winter. Cost is $40. www.llbean.com
Boulder Nordic Sport East offers clinics at Riverside Golf Course in Portland – conditions permitting. Check their Facebook page for future clinics.