Whether you’re just getting into the sport, or you’ve strapped XC skis on your feet for years, you may not know that there are several different styles of cross country skiing to choose from. And, that having the correct equipment will help to improve your speed, efficiency and enjoyment out on the trail.

Cross country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing is typically done on groomed trails and tracks. The skis you use are designed for either classic style XC skiing, where your skis run parallel to each other – or skating style where the skis are angled in a herringbone pattern.

Classic Style Cross Country Skiing

If you plan on spending all of your time on the groomed tracks and trails, then classic style is the way to go. The technique for classic cross country skiing is similar to walking and is the most natural movement on a pair of skis. An integral part of classic style XC skiing is making a short kick that presses your “kick zone” into the snow; this helps you to move and glide forward on the trail. Classic style cross country skiing is the most popular, and typically the easiest to find equipment for as it uses a fairly simple and economic ski, boot and binding combo. These skis are usually wax-less, meaning they require little to no maintenance.

Skate Style Cross Country Skiing

If you’ve got a need for speed, than skate style cross country skiing will be right up your alley. Unlike classic cross country trails, skating trails don’t offer as much guidance – this is in part why skate style skiing is also called “free technique”. Skate style skiers use a technique called v-style, meaning speed is created by pressing the edge of your ski into the snow and applying pressure, while transferring your weight onto your other ski allowing you to glide (gliding is what makes skate skiing so fast, and so fun!). With good technique and lightweight equipment you can get going as fast as 19mi/h, this also makes steeper or uphill sections and sharp turns easier. Skate style cross country skiing is much more technical and the equipment can be quite pricey, so make sure it’s something you enjoy before investing in a set up. Skate style skis usually require several technical layers of both grip, and glide wax for specific temperatures, humidity levels and snow conditions.

Backcountry Cross Country Skiing

If you’re looking for adventure and freedom on your skis then you are probably the perfect candidate for backcountry cross country skiing. Backcountry skis, boots and bindings are designed for just that – skiing off the tracks. They also make doing short day or overnight trips possible. Skis designed for backcountry XC skiing are made to handle varying terrain, and feature a lightweight construction with metal edges. Whether you’re crossing fjords or lower mountain ranges, these skis will ensure you feel agile and safe – in any conditions. Your movements won’t differ much from classic XC skiing to backcountry XC skiing, however backcountry skis excel in deep snow and fresh powder instead of on tracks. Backcountry XC skiing is probably the most original form of Nordic skiing allowing you to venture out into wide open fields, large valleys and vast forests.

Now that you know all about the different styles of cross country skiing it’s time to pick which is best for you! And before you step outside and into the cold make sure to check out our blog on how to properly dress for cross country skiing.