Crosskate 616 Backcountry Skates

Winter ends and you who have been serenely mobile on cross-country skis have to sit back and jealously watch the inline skaters as they whiz past you down the street in the spring, with nary a thought for their safety. You're grounded and all the daredevil kids seem to be having all the fun. So how can you get in on it without risking life and limb?

Crosskate 616 Backcountry skates could be the answer. Created by MIT and Stanford graduate James Page, these hefty all-terrain, four-season skates look like a hybrid of a mountain bike and an in-line skate, but offer an added measure of safety. Each skate features a custom in-line ski boot attached to a two-foot-long aluminum frame with a pneumatic tire on each end. The skates perform like cross-country skis and have disc brakes, which activate when you lean back on the heel of the boot. Two ski poles are recommended to help you traverse rough terrain and simulate skiing.

In spite of the safety features, I was filled with apprehension when I first saw the size of the skates. How the hell would I be able to test them without making an ass of myself or falling on that part of my anatomy of the same name? As it turns out, the skates are very stable and the brakes work with little pressure. The acid test, however, would be negotiating a busy Manhattan street with enough potholes and manhole covers to simulate the roughest of terrains. After a few tentative attempts, in which I felt like a frightened six-year-old learning how to ice skate, I finally adopted a steady motion (similar to cross-country skiing). I tried to look as cool as possible as onlookers gawked at my new mode of transport.

Large wheels allow the Crosskates to maneuver over surface flaws that would send a neophyte in-line skater tumbling, and the disc brakes make it possible to walk up grades. The skates' heft gives the wearer an intense workout, but offer hours of fun in the process.

Crosskate 616 Backcountry skates retail for $695 and can be purchased through select sporting goods retailers nationwide or through Crosskate Inc. at 781-631-1499.