The answer is actually quite simple: you don’t. Yes, in reality, there is no fail-proof way to stop on rollerskis. In fact, sometimes it is worse if you attempt to stop when you should just keep going. There have been many instances where my attempt to stop led to a worse outcome than what would have happened if I would have just rolled through the situation. This being said, there are times where you NEED to stop (approaching a road crossing, coming up on gravel, car coming at you, etc). Here are a few ways to at least slow down in the face of an obstacle.
This is a video created by retired US Ski Team Member Andy Newell. He does a great job of demonstrating the list of slowdown methods mentioned below.
Put a ski in the grass/gravel to the side of the trail
This is a simple, yet effective way to slow down, especially if you know in advance that you will be needing to come to a stop in the near future. All you have to do is stick your dominant ski into the grass on the side of the trail slightly in front of the other ski. If you lean back a bit, the side of the trail will restrict you from going at an uncontrolled speed. This is especially helpful if you are on a hill and there is a road crossing coming up. Before you build up too much speed, get your dominant leg off the pavement as soon as possible. Try to keep most of your weight on the pavement ski, while using the resistance of the grass ski to keep your speed in check.
This is very similar to a snowplow stop when you are actually on snow. Keep your legs super wide and try to ski on sides or edges of your wheels. If you want, you can alternate your legs to slow down further, but this takes a bit more skill.
If your trail or road is wide enough, act like a slalom skier and weave back and forth on the pavement. If you make tight enough turns on the corners, you won’t pick up too much speed. Just make sure you know who/what is coming up behind you at all times.
Tuck and Roll
This is your last resort. If you feel like you need to bail, stick one ski into the grass/gravel slightly in front of the other ski and try to keep your balance for as long as possible. With any luck, the front ski won’t catch anything and you will glide to a stop safely. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work like that. If your front ski comes to an abrupt stop, try to continue going with a running-like motion until you maintain control again. If you know you are going to fall, try not to stick your hands out to catch your fall, that is how you break your wrists. Instead, try to find a grassy area to gently fall into while leading with your hips or shoulder. Again, avoid this as much as possible.
The main takeaway here is to try to avoid situations where falling is imminent. Stay away from hills you are not comfortable with and try to stick to bike paths or infrequently traveled roads. If you are unsure about a stretch of pavement, take your skis off and walk to a more comfortable section. If you find yourself going down a hill that starts to get scary, don’t panic. That will almost always lead to a fall. Focus on the trail ahead of you and try to stay calm.
Again, the techniques listed above won’t stop you in your tracks, they will simply slow you down. If you really want the added security of a break, Rollerskishop.com sells them for $50 and you can find them here.
If anyone has any other techniques or helpful hints for avoiding mayhem on rollerskis, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, stay safe and have some fun on rollerskis!