You are using a web browser we don't support. Please use the latest version of one of these browsers
< Back to Ski-O-Pedia Main

Buying Guide for Cross Country Skis

Cross country skiing has always been a great winter activity for all ages. Cross country skiing or nordic skiing as it's commonly referred to is very versatile as you can either have a leisurely ski on groomed trails, take part in a race or blaze trails in the backcountry. With so many differing types of cross country skiing it can be difficult to choose the right ski. Here at we want you to be able to make the most educated decision when looking at cross country skis. Here in this buying guide we hope to shine some light on the differences in cross country skis and how this will impact your purchasing decision so you get just what you need to hit the snow.

Types of cross country skis

Classic and Compact Touring Cross Country Skis

This is the traditional style of cross country skiing and is easily recognized as standard cross country skiing. If you plan on sticking to groomed trails with mostly hard packed snow this is the style of cross country skiing for you. Mostly done on trails found in parks, golf courses and ski resorts classic and compact cross country skiing is great for recreation and exercise and can be done by all ages.

Classic Touring Cross Country Skis

Classic cross country skis offer a longer length than most new age cross country skis and will be sized by height. For sizing of classic touring cross country skis please see our cross country ski sizing guide.

Compact Touring Cross Country Skis

Compact cross country skis are very similar to classic cross country skis but are a bit shorter and fatter than classic skis. These skis are great for classic cross country skiers that want a bit more control in deeper snow and tighter situations. Compact cross country skis are sized by weight; for sizing of compact cross country skis please see our cross country ski sizing guide.

Skating Cross Country Skis

Skate style cross country skiing is a form that looks similar in style to ice or inline skating thus the name “skate” cross country skiing. Skating style skiing is done on groomed trails, hard packed snow and frozen snow covered lakes. Skating cross country skiing is a faster and and exercises different muscles than classic style skiing. Skate cross country skiing is used a lot for racing although there are still categories for classic also in most event. Skate cross country skis are going to be shorter and stiffer than classic cross country skis.

Backcountry Cross Country Skis

Backcountry cross country skiing is done in deep non groomed snow and usually calls for making your own trail. If you’re in an area that gets a lot of snow and rarely offers groomed trails this would be the type of cross country skis for you. Backcountry skis are often beefier and are sized a bit smaller than classic cross country skis. Some backcountry cross country skis also offer metal edges for even more ability to tackle difficult terrain. Backcountry skis are sized using height and can be specific to what exactly you plan on doing with the skis. To figure out what backcountry cross country ski will fit you see the cross country ski sizing guide.

Use the cross country ski sizing guide to find proper sizing.

Buying Guide For Cross Country Skis

Flex of Cross Country Skis

Not all cross country skis are offered in differing flexes but for those that do you can make a decision based on your weight. The heavier and more aggressive you plan on being with your skis the stiffer of a flex you will want in a cross country ski.

Wax and Waxless Cross Country Skis

Waxable Cross Country Skis

Waxable cross country skis can be used in varying snow conditions and when waxed properly can be fast with great control. Waxable cross country skis use a grip wax in the middle of the ski for grip and glide (fast) wax on the tip and tail of the ski to provide unsurpassed speed. Many cross country ski racers use waxable skis as there is no cross country ski faster than a properly waxed cross country ski.

Waxless Cross Country Skis

Waxless cross country skis are the most popular as they don’t require a lot of attention to perform at their best. Waxless skis use a scale pattern on the bottom that prevents any slip backwards and provides grip in a variety of snow conditions. Regardless of their name you cna still apply glide wax to the tips and tails of waxless skis for maximum performance.

Cross Country Ski Length and Sizing

Choosing the proper length for a cross country ski depends on what type of skiing you will be doing. Once you have read over this buying guide and decided what type of ski you are looking for be sure to check out our sizing guide for cross country skis to ensure you get the proper size for you.

Shop Cross Country Skis

You can also use our various size charts for cross country skis, click the link below for the brand of cross country skis you are interested in. also offers sizing information for cross country ski poles, boots and more, view all size charts here. For a complete guide on all cross country gear including skis, and boot/binding compatibility please click here.

Video | Getting Started in Cross Country Skiing

Don’t Miss Out!
Get exclusive email sneak peeks and the latest on upcoming sales, exclusive offers and events. Plus we’ll throw in a special perk, just for signing up.*