Rollerski Safety: Share the Road

On the morning of October 23, 2017, Green Racing Project skiers Adam Martin and Ben Lustgarten were rollerskiing on the roads surrounding Craftsbury when Ben was involved in a serious crash with a pickup truck. Ben tore some muscles and tendons in his anterior deltoid and shoulder, which are still healing. As part of the recovery process, any training for the 2018 Olympics involving his upper body was completely on hiatus for a full week, and remained compromised for additional time after that.

All that being said, Ben is very lucky – the situation could’ve been far worse.

GRP skiers Ben Lustgarten and Adam Martin training in East Hardwick this fall

Ben shared this about the crash with us early in November 2017:
“Adam and I were skiing north on a downhill Center Road (coming back from Hardwick). We were single file on the far right hand side of the road. A silver pickup truck passed us on the left, and actually gave us ample space, as he was almost all in the left lane. However, the driver made a very hard right turn at speed, and cut in front of us to turn onto Hardwick Farms Road. I stood up and started to snowplow to slow down, but I was already at the car and collided with, then bounced off the truck’s rear right taillight and tailgate. I was thrown from the truck onto the road, and slid on the pavement into the left lane. I crawled as quickly as I could onto the grass in case of oncoming traffic, which thankfully there was none at the time of the crash. My GPS training watch recorded 41.1 kph at the time of the crash, or 25.5 mph. I shattered a ski pole, scraped up my boots, watch and had road rash on my right and left hips, my left knee, and right elbow. I also tore some muscles and tendons in my anterior deltoid and shoulder, which are still in the process of healing.

“I was unable to use my arm or upper body at all for training for a full week after the crash. I am two weeks out from the crash and I still cannot do any hard upper body strength training, or any intensity with ski poles, however I can ski on snow going easy with both poles.

“I think it is also important to note that legally roller skiers are in the same category as cyclists, horseback riders, and farm equipment when it comes to sharing the road. We are dedicated athletes working to represent our country at the top level of sport at the Olympics and World Cup. We are grateful and lucky to have such excellent roads to train on, we follow the rules of the road and stay as safe as possible, but even then accidents can happen. While drivers may not see skiers on the roads as frequently as cyclists, horseback riders or tractors, we ask the community to give us the same room and awareness.

“In light of this recent incident, we wanted to share some information that could be helpful for both drivers and rollerskiers. If both parties are aware and courteous, it is more than possible to share the road!”

The GRP women’s team classic skiing single file near Lake Willoughby in Westmore, VT

But what are rollerskis? Cross country skiers use rollerskis as a training tool during the summer to simulate the motions of skiing. They consist of two wheels on either end of a long shaft, with a binding in the middle. Rollerskis generally do not have brakes! Therefore, when skiers use them for training, they try to ski places with a good runout, or gradual downhills. In Craftsbury, both the Green Racing Project professionals and Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club juniors use rollerskis throughout the summer and fall to train. Most of the time, athletes train on the Creek Rd. in East Albany, or the paved roads between East Craftsbury, Greensboro, and East Hardwick. While older athletes are more experienced and steady on their skis, some of our younger athletes are just getting used to skis. We start young skiers in flat parking lots to get used to the feeling of skis before they ever ski on the road. However, no matter how experienced or steady you are, a skier will always lose any encounters with cars.

Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club juniors skating in a line

BKL skiers start in a parking lot to hone their skills

Safety Tips for Rollerskiers:

  • Wear high visibility clothing at all times when training on the road. This is especially important on rainy/grey days and at dusk and dawn. When cars can see you, they will have more time to react. Neon yellow, green, pink, and orange are good options, as is anything with reflective strips. Avoid black, brown, or dark green outfits (unless you want to look like the pavement or trees).
  • Wear a helmet. Actually, this applies to all rollerskiing situations, even on a rollerski track. Protect your noggin, it’s the only one you get.
  • Ski single file in the direction of traffic. If you have to pass another skier, try to do so quickly. Ski as far to the right as is possible and safe. Drivers can pretty easily pass a single skier, not so much you and your buddies skiing four across taking up the entire road. Remember, cars are bigger than you, and in a collision, they will win, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
  • When a car comes up behind a group of skiers, make sure to warn everyone in the group by yelling “car back“.
  • If you are skating and hear a car coming up behind, pull as far to the right as possible and start double poling. Resume skating when there are no more cars behind. Skaters take up a lot of space on the road.
  • Be alert and pay attention as you’re skiing. Don’t wear headphones, as you won’t be able to hear cars approaching. Save the music and podcasts for indoor activities.
  • Slow down when approaching intersections, especially blind ones where cars won’t be able to see you or may be pulling out into traffic. Use hand signals to indicate where you’re going.
  • When training in a situation where skiers have to travel both ways on a section of road, be courteous. If you can plan it so that all the skiers pass one way before turning around and going back, do so, if not, try to step off the road when cars pass by. Also, avoid congregating on the road before and after skiing. When you stop, step off.
  • Smile and wave! It’s amazing what a friendly gesture can do.

Safety Tips for Drivers:

  • When passing rollerskiers on the road, leave at least four feet of space between the skier and your car. It’s not against the law to cross the yellow line in the state of Vermont, and when you’re passing a skier, you may have to drive partially on the left side of the road in order to give them an ample buffer. It’s really scary to get buzzed by a car that tries to pass too close.
  • Don’t pass a skier when a hill or curve impedes your view of oncoming traffic. Otherwise you may put the skier in a scary situation, where two cars and a skier are trying to fit in a space designed for just two cars.
  • Realize that rollerskis don’t have brakes. If you’re behind a rollerskier and need to turn off the main road, it’s usually better to wait behind them than to pass and turn in front of them. Similarly, don’t try to pull out in front of an incoming skier, as they won’t be able to stop to avoid hitting you.
  • Save the horn for emergency situations. Or use a light tap if you think the skier may not have heard you coming, or if you’re in an electric vehicle. Loud, drawn out horn blasts are generally counterproductive and scare the living daylights out of the skier.
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2 Responses to Rollerski Safety: Share the Road

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Greensboro and Craftsbury need to pay more attention to providing safe space along the roadways for walkers, bicycles, and roller skiers. We are constantly squeezed off the roads and/or splashed with stones or mud as vehicles race by us and drivers either ignore us or give us dirty looks. Other places provide safe lanes or walkways; protect why can’t we?

  2. Evellynne says:

    In response to this I would say that some roads are just NOT safe to do this on. North Craftsbury road in particular, the hard turn and the fact that it is one big hill make it hard for cars to pass, especially driving stick. It wouldnt be so bad if maybe a sign was placed at all entrances/exits to the road so drivers are aware, and can choose to take a safer route.

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