Cross Country Skis

Cross Country Skis Shopping Tips


Cross Country Ski Shopping Tips


Cross-country skiing is a great winter activity that the whole family can enjoy. Cross-country skiing or Nordic skiing, as it’s commonly referred to as, 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 Skis.com we want you to be able to make the most educated decision when looking at cross-country skis. Read on to learn everything you need to know to get started.


Types of Cross Country Skis


Backcountry XC Skis


Backcountry Cross-Country Skis are best used for breaking your own trail and seeking out your own adventure. Backcountry Cross-Country skis are typically shorter, stiffer, stronger and wider. Having a shorter ski will allow you to have more maneuverability when cruising through the woods. A stiffer and stronger ski is required because you will be breaking your own trail, and these skis will deliver more power in the deep snow. Having extra width will provide you with more surface area to allow you to stay on top of the snow to move faster, easier and more efficiently. Skis with extra width do not typically fit in groomed tracks. Backcountry cross-country skis typically have metal edges as well. Metal edges will give you more support and control on short downhills, and will give you a firm grip on the snow as you traverse across a slope.


Groomed Cross Country skis


Groomed cross-country skis are best used on the groomed tracks and have scales on the bases that provide you with traction as you glide down the track. Skis that are used for the groomed tracks are often referred to as the Classic skiing style. The Classic skiing style is done by putting one foot in front of the other to push, while using your poles to help propel you down the track. Skis used on the groomed tracks are typically narrower to aid in mobility and faster gliding. These are the most popular style of cross-country skis.


Groomed/Ungroomed Cross Country skis


Groomed/ungroomed skis are most commonly used on groomed tracks, but do offer wider tips and wider waist widths that will offer you more support and stability on the ungroomed terrain, but are not as wide as backcountry skis. Groomed/ungroomed skis are still narrow enough and agile enough to glide fast and efficiently on the track.


Skating Cross Country Skis


Skating cross-country skis are the speed demons of the cross-country world. The Skating skiing style can only be done on groomed tracks and mimics the motions that you see in ice skating or inline skating speed events. Skating skis are typically stiffer and shorter than other types of cross-country skis. Skating skis need to be stiffer to give you the push and propulsion that you need to move at faster speeds. These skis are also shorter to make them more maneuverable, and allow you to make longer strides. These types of skating skis usually have a high amount of camber underfoot to improve the amount of push you get with each stride. The base of skating skis require wax, so you can fine tune your speed to the snow conditions and temperature range.


What Cross-Country Ski Equipment Do I Need?


Like any winter sport, some crucial equipment is needed to get you out and skiing. Make sure you have these items checked off your list before you head out on the trail:




There are two important factors that you need to consider when selecting a cross-country ski boot. The first one is, what is the best use for this boot? We classify boots for cross-country skiing like this:



Backcountry cross-country skiing boots have more support, and a stronger wider connection to the NNN BC bindings that will give you more control as you make your own trails through backcountry terrain.



Cross-country ski boots for groomed terrain are lightweight, typically with Neoprene liners that allow you to glide on the groomed tracks quickly and efficiently. These boots are available in NNN and SNS styles, but are only compatible with bindings of the same system.



Cross-country ski boots for groomed/ungroomed conditions will allow you glide with ease on the groomed tracks, and offer you support when you head off of the groomed tracks.


The most important factor when selecting cross-country ski boots is to make sure that they are compatible with bindings.




The bindings you choose can have a big impact on the performance of your ski. Some models of cross-country skis come with bindings and some do not. It’s important to know what kind of cross-country ski bindings you have, or that you need, to match with your boots.


NNN Bindings:

NNN bindings stands for New Nordic Norm bindings. NNN bindings require a toe bar on the sole of the boot, with two smaller grooves on the sole of the boot that allow it to sit flush on the binding when standing flat. These are the best bindings to have when replacing an older binding, just make sure that you replace your boots with an NNN boot as well. NNN bindings are best used for Classic-style touring.


NNN BC Bindings:

NNN BC Bindings have two smaller grooves on the plate of the binding, but they require an NNN BC boot that has a beefier toe bar and wider grooves on the sole of the boots to provide you with more stability and control for breaking trail in the backcountry. NNN BC Bindings also have a wider footprint on the ski.


75mm Bindings:

75mm bindings offer you the least amount of control and are a relatively old and outdated system. 75mm bindings are very simple and easy to use; all that you need to do is push the toe in and flip the lever down.


SNS Bindings:

SNS Bindings are best used for classic skiing on the groomed tracks. SNS Bindings have a single toe bar that locks into the toe piece of the binding, but with a larger single groove that fits into the sole of the boot to allow it to sit flush on the ski when standing flat.


NIS Bindings:

NIS Binding Systems are called Nordic Integrated Systems. They have plates on the skis that allow the ski to have a more even and deeper flex over the ski that is beneficial if you will encounter lots of small rolling hills on the trial. Skis that have a NIS Plate already attached to the ski require a NIS binding that is sometimes included with the ski. If the binding is not included with the ski you must make sure that the binding is NIS compatible. NIS bindings require you to simply slide the binding on to the plate and they lock into place.




When it comes to cross-country skiing, you won’t get very far without a set of cross-country ski poles. The various styles of cross-country skiing have led the cross-country pole manufacturers to produce different types of poles. Some cross-country poles are designed for backcountry use while others are suited for classic trail skiing or skate skiing. Backcountry or BC poles have large baskets on them to help stay on top of the deep snow. Racing poles are very strong, but light and have small baskets since the racing trails are groomed. Design wise, most of the classic touring and combination fall somewhere in between these two kinds of poles; featuring a mid-sized basket and a lightweight, durable shaft at a reasonable price.


Cross-Country Ski Features


Specific features and constructions of cross-country skis will have a significant effect on their performance. There is no real right or wrong features when it comes to cross-country skis; what you’re looking for in a pair of Nordic skis really just depends on what you plan on using them for.




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. It is generally recommended that beginners get a softer flex to start out.


Waxable vs. Waxless 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 one that is properly waxed.


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 can still apply glide wax to the tips and tails of waxless skis for maximum performance.


Metal Edges


Nordic skis with metal edges are designed for use on steep terrain and in icy conditions. Although skis with metal edges are heavier, they provide much better traction when traversing up, down and around the mountains. The deeper sidecut gives easier maneuverability when turning and carving.




Most people prefer an original sidecut construction, but some skis are made with a reverse sidecut. Skis with a reverse sidecut are wider in the waist, giving better flotation in deep powder. For skis with a standard sidecut, the deeper the sidecut the more stability the ski will have while turning and the shorter its turn radius will be. Skis with a smaller sidecut, however, will glide better and are best for those looking for speed.


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 decided what type of ski you are looking for, use the guidelines below to determine what size ski is proper for you.


Skis.com also offers sizing information for cross country ski poles, boots and more. View all our size charts here.


Classic Touring Cross-Country Ski Sizing


Take your information and input it in the equation below to find your size in a classic touring cross-country ski:


Your height in inches X 2.6 + 15 = approximate Classic Touring cross-country ski size


Compact Touring Cross-Country Ski Sizing


When it comes to compact touring cross-country skis, base the length of the ski off of your weight. Reference the chart below to see what length range your weight falls into:


  • Small (160-165cm) = <140 lbs.


  • Medium (170-175cm) = 132-185 lbs.


  • Large (180-185cm) = 176-209 lbs.


  • X-Large (185-195cm) = >209 lbs.


Skating Cross Country Ski Sizing


Take your information and input it in the equation below to find your size in a skating cross-country ski:


Your height in inches X 2.6 + 5 = approximate Skate ski size


Backcountry Cross-Country Ski Sizing


For backcountry cross-country skiing, take your height and +/- 5 to 15 cm depending on your specific use and the skis you are looking into.


Ready to get started?


You’ve got the knowledge, now it’s time to get out there and use it! Use the refinements on the left side of this page to find the perfect cross-country ski for you.


Don’t know of any trails by you? Click here to find where the nearest cross-country ski trail is to you.



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