Are you new to cross country skiing/Nordic skiing and are wondering what cross country ski gear to get? You must be contemplating whether to buy a new or used set. You are wondering if they make XC skis for beginners. These questions and the whole gear-buying process can be daunting, but not if you know what to look for in a ski set.
For most novices, probably you included, the whole idea boils down to one aspect; price. How much will it cost me to buy a set of proper cross country skiing skis?
Well, in a free market, there’s no off-the-bat answer to this question but we can always offer estimates.
Cross country ski equipment can cost anywhere between $300 and $500 while the entire skiing kit can sell for as little as $900- more or less. The range gap is quite wide, this should tell you something; you can get a ski for almost any price.
As we said, there is no specific price for cross country skis- it depends on what works for you and maybe what you want. To open your mind up a bit on the cross country ski gear buying process, we will discuss a few aspects you should look at before settling on any skis plus other important facets of crosscountry skiing that have a bearing on the skis you buy.
The price points mentioned above are merely rough estimates; ski prices can go as high as $700, for professional-level gear although an able beginner can get a set too. Looking from a beginner’s perspective, these prices might appear to be a little exorbitant but skilled and experienced skiers will tell you, prices and quality go hand in hand.
Expensive skis are by far more advanced compared to their low-price counterparts; the weight distribution and stability are better- even their feel on your feet is different.
Even as we mention these facts, you must note that skiing gear is subjective and personal; what works for everyone else might not work for you. To stay safe, understand the various dynamics of ski builds and determine what serves you best.
Shoehorning yourself into a set just because it took your mentor to the championships will only negate your performance.
Where Do You Ski?
Unlike in other sports like soccer where players use the same kit for all games, in cross country skiing, the cross country ski gear you employ depends highly on the environment in which you plan to ski.
There are different ski types in the sport with each ski design serving a particular skiing style. Importing gear from one style into the other will only increase the burden on your feet or draw you closer to injuries.
It is for this reason that we recommend a light course or basic mentorship before fully delving into cross country skiing.
To expound further on this subject, we will start this guide by exploring the main cross country skiing techniques.
Cross country skiing techniques
Nordic skiing boasts of two main techniques that have been in play for decades: classic skiing and skate skiing.
Classic skiing was inherited from the first ever known skiers in the world, the Nordic peoples of modern-day Norway. They are said to have invented the sport mainly as a means of transport although they later advanced their skills and even employed skiing skills in war.
Skate skiing on the other hand is only a few decades old, in fact, the first public display of the style happened in the Olympics, “just the other day.” It is an improvement of the traditional technique that offers faster and easier glides.
The two techniques have their strengths and weaknesses which you can learn and employ subjectively depending on the terrain and preference. Instructors however recommend classic skiing to beginners as it is less demanding compared to its counterpart
This technique employs a series of forward and back strides to effect motion-its core style likens it to walking on skis. Classic skiing takes so much from our daily activities-this makes it easier to adopt and practice. Beginners and family groups prefer classic skiing compared to skate skiing.
This is a direct contrast to the above; the skating technique resembles ice skating and calls for a lot more training and endurance to complete a single-track loop. To move forward, the skier pushes their skis outwards and uses the edges for propulsion.
Once mastered, this form of skiing is fun and very captivating although, as we stated above, this is not a beginner’s turf. Learning the style might take some time but we’ll tell you this, the effort will be worth it.
The skis used in the two skiing techniques are different. These variances are subtle and sometimes undetectable to novice eyes but nevertheless, they are there. Comprehending these differences is the first step in your ski gear-buying journey.
How To Select Cross Country Skis
After identifying your preferred technique, it is now time to select a ski set. There are standard designs for the varying nordic skiing techniques although each brand has its unique selling points for each product category.
Classic Skiing Technique- Skis
Most brands boast three main designs for classic cross country skis.
These are lightweight skis built for use on groomed trails. They are built to ease the forward and back striding motions- you can even run in them.
Their general build is narrow and long, this way it is easier to fit them into the trails without the occasional derails.
The long body design is not fixed however as there are a few brands that offer shorter versions of the same. The short skis are built mainly for beginners who experience trouble turning- changing direction in long skis can prove hard, especially at high speed.
The touring skis are a great option for beginners or anyone not looking to build a career in cross country skiing; they are lightweight, come in different lengths, and are usually very fairly priced.
This is the aggressive version of touring skis. The racing and touring skis are built alike in several aspects only that the former offers a more competitive feel.
Unlike their touring counterparts, the racing skis come with stiffer flexes, which makes them a little harder to use although, with the right technique, their performance is beyond measure.
One thing instructors love about racing skis is that despite their high-performance characteristics, they serve recreational skiers pretty well. If you are a recreational skier looking for a skiing thrill without really getting into it, these are the skis for you.
Metal-Fitted Touring Skis
This is the perfect off-track skiing kit, it will also serve you pretty well in steep and unpredictable snow ground. To maintain a firm-enough grip during high speeds, this pair comes fitted with metal edges that also work to break through icy terrain.
Other features include the shortened span that allows you to maneuver more easily and the widened base for balance, especially in deep snow areas.
One thing you should note though, the extra features add to the classic cross country skis’ overall weight. This is however a non-issue since the improved performance compensates perfectly.
So, looking for a stable off-track pair of skis, we’d recommend buying cross country skis from the metal-fitted touring skis category.
Skate Skiing Technique-Skis
Skate skis can be described as light and skinny. Their stiff build enables them to glide through groomed trails with ease.
As skate skiing is faster compared to classic skiing, the skis employed are also built for speed: they mainly span 10cm for easy maneuvering and are built out of more firm material.
Even as we recommend that you train on both skiing techniques, we must mention that skate skiing skis are not built for striding; you must learn to glide and remain grounded.
Cross Country Ski Size- Aspects To Look At
In Nordic skiing, the experience you get on the track is dependent on how your weight relates to your ski size.
Too-short skis cause trouble when gliding while a too-long pair will negate your grip when downhill skiing. A skier must understand their weight and find a ski pair that can support their weight and also serve their maneuvering needs.
Each ski pair on the shelves should have recommended weight range information somewhere in the description. Designs and manufacturer needs may vary but with the details well laid out, you can’t get it wrong.
We do not recommend generic charts for ski size selection as the authors are not privy to manufacturers’ designs, besides each brand has its ski sizing model that might not match all others.
Walk to a shop and weigh your options.
Level Of Skill
As you start cross country skiing, you might find the whole weight and ski length relationship too complex and choose the easier route; selecting your ski length based on your skill level. Longer skis are faster but harder to ski on while shorter skis are easier to work with but not as fast.
Novices are advised to get shorter skis at first and maybe change them later, the experienced cross country skiers can get the long pairs and be on their way to downhill skiing tours.
Width And Side Cut
You might never have heard these terms in the world of cross country skiing but they are key in determining the skis that work for you.
A ski’s width is measured at 3 specific points; the tip, waist, and tail. The tip represents the frontmost part (the wide area), the waist is the middle area and the tail is the back edge. The overall shape is what we call the side cut.
Cross Country Touring And Racing Nordic Skis
Nordic skiers gliding in groomed tracks should not get skis wider than 68mm- this is the standard width you can expect on the tracks. The side cut should be kept small to match the trails and promote easier gliding.
To get a better view of this concept, you can look at performance skis. They are usually not longer than 60mm even at the widest areas, some manufacturers even keep the width shorter than this.
Metal-Fitted Touring Skis
Metal-fitted skis are perfect for ungroomed terrain; they can break through the icy blocks more easily. New terrain can sometimes be full of ice; you will need a wider ski pair and a properly designed side cut- all these features serve as flotation enablers in soft snow.
When we say “wider” we mean anything above 60 mm in width, some manufacturers even build skis wider than 100mm. These serve the professional class of course.
There’s a tread among recreational skiers that we’d recommend you try. Instead of getting a ski pair for each terrain, they are going for metal-fitted skis with around 65-68mm in width. The metal provides the hardness required to glide through steep icy snow while the balanced width ensures the skis can fit in groomed tracks.
This way, these skis can serve in on-track and off-track ski tours without a significant feel of the difference.
Unlike Nordic skis, skate skis are most of the time narrower and lighter- it is general skiing knowledge that skinny skis deliver higher speeds compared to their traditional counterparts.
With their 41-45mm width range, skate skis are known to glide over packed and groomed snow with ease. Another benefit of the skate skis’ width is that you can use them even on tracks groomed for classic skiers. You just hop into one and glide your way to the finish line.
Skis Base- Waxless And Waxable
Every successful skier understands the role of traction in skiing. Traction is simply the grip you need to maintain forward motion in flat and hilly terrain.
With the classic ski, there are two ways to get around the traction equation. The manufacturer might add a textured pattern on the ski’s underside or you can wax it to the desired grip.
For skate skiers, all the traction comes from the edges, select them well.
To expound on the traction aspect much further, we will look at the difference between waxable and waxless classic skis. As we said, skate skis rely on their edges for traction so, we’ll not feature them.
These are the most versatile in the pack, they offer traction in different terrains and their maintenance needs are also low. Wax less classic skis come with a “grip zone” also known as a kick zone which serves as the traction feature. This eliminates any form of traction-based maintenance needs thereby making this ski option more economical in the long run.
The initial designs featured a textured pattern that was cut into the ski’s kick zone to create that gripping effect.
With the advent of technology and a more competitive skiing class, modern ski makers have had to level up. Most waxless classic skis in today’s market do not have the textured pattern, they instead have a much thinner traction strip attached to the kick zone.
The modern waxless ski is by far more advanced; the traction strip offers both a perfect grip and a smooth glide- balancing the two has its advantages.
The above advantages place the waxless skis at the top of the list of preferred ski options for recreational skiers but as much as we want to keep it this way, we must mention something; experienced skiers report that the waxless skis need periodical waxing to maintain their optimal performance.
If the waxing is done right, a pair of waxable skis will outperform the waxless pair any day.
Waxable skis are different from waxless skis in one aspect, they require waxing to attain grip- that’s a lot of work but the results are worth it. The wax goes onto the middle third of both skis and must be applied precisely to avoid a mismatch with conditions on the ground.
Aside from an advanced grip, in balanced snow conditions, waxable skis will glide much better. When temperature levels go rogue, you can always revert back to waxless skis-confronting nature is never a good idea.
When temperatures fall to the freezing point or right above, it is best to shelf the waxable skis for a while.
Camber is the ski’s bow, it can easily be spotted when the ski is placed on a flat surface. Skate skis have a single camber while on a classic pair, you’ll notice a double camber.
A single chamber can be described as the minute arch at the center of the ski’s span. The shape works to distribute weight evenly throughout the ski’s base. This rather small design feature goes a long way in ensuring that the ski is balanced when navigating curves.
This feature is especially effective in skate skis as it enables easier push-offs when gliding on flat terrain.
Aside from skate skis, the single camber design can be spotted on other ski types like XC touring skis and the metal-fitted version of the same.
Some manufacturers also incorporate the single camber design into downhill and backcountry skis to promote safer turning.
To improve your glide, especially on groomed trails, you can always go for a classic skis’ set with a second camber. The addition is minor but the improvement is pretty significant; in the right hands, double-camber skis can be the best choice.
When skiing uphill or through flat snow areas, you’ll constantly shift body weight from one ski to the other as you propel yourself forward. In this situation, the double-camber ski will flatten against the snow as a result of the concentration of weight on one ski- this brings the grip zone into contact with the snow thus creating the much-needed traction.
Another benefit associated with double-camber skis is improved gliding even on rugged terrain. As you glide, your weight is equally distributed between the two skis, this relieves weight from either and causes the grip zones to slightly bend away from the snow. With the kick zone off the snow, you will glide much better and more easily.
This one is simple; flexibility is all about stiffness, in skis, we focus on the camber’s flexibility. Frivolous as it may sound, a camber’s flexibility does affect speed and sometimes turning- skiing is a technical sport.
If you’re a novice looking for a better grip and easy turning, we’d recommend the soft-flex option. You must however know that soft-flex skis are slow and might not offer you the thrill you expect from the sport.
Stiff flex skis on the other hand are fast and easier to glide on but also come with their fair share of downsides; they are harder to turn and their grip is not as reliable.
If you are still in the ski selection stage, the flex question should not stall you, go for what feels fit, and you can work on your flex needs later on. We just mentioned it to offer you a broader view of the considerations to look at.
New Or Used Gear; What Works Best?
Well, it’s pretty obvious; new brooms sweep clean but not everyone is ready to part with the cost of a new ski set. They either cannot afford it or are unaware of what to look for so they just get a cheap second-hand set at first.
If you have a former skier in the family, you can always inherit their set and be on your way but we cannot guarantee you the same experience as when you had a ski set that fits you perfectly and serves your needs.
We recommend the new set option at least after you’ve come to understand your needs and skill level. You can employ a used set in the initial stages as you get to learn the basics but as soon as you can do a loop on your own, we suggest you get a ski set your size.
This question troubles more skiers than you’d imagine- to save you the worry and hustle, just know this;
- The ski set you settle for should match the skiing technique you choose to adopt. The size and length matter too; they should be correctly sized to withstand your weight and that of your other gear or bag. The size will also determine how well they fit into the groomed trails.
- Bindings. This is rarely mentioned but the ski size you buy should have the proper bindings to support your skiing technique and other aspects of your style.
- As you fathom bindings, get comfortable boots as well. They should match the bindings on your skis if you expect an efficient skiing trip.
- The length of your cross country ski poles length is the last consideration for serious skiers . If you choose the classic skiing technique, ensure your height and ski poles’ length match; the latter should be 83% of the former. For skate skiers, you can go for any length not higher than your nose and not lower than your chin.
The reason we advise new cross country skiers to avoid used gear dealers is that evaluation of such gear can be hard since the user has little to reference from. We recommend walk-in shops where you can ask all the questions you want before making the purchase.
Buy Your Skis When You Can; There’s No Perfect Time.
Sports gear stores occasionally offer sales discounts at different times of the year; this creates the illusion that you can get them at a cheaper price at a certain time of the year. This rarely works as the industry works like any other manufacturing-based business.
When cross country gear stores make their orders, the manufacturers only produce as much as the orders dictate and maybe a little more to cover re-orders. These order requests are made months in advance and the manufacturing process too takes months.
If a retailer receives a consignment., they want to sell it as soon as possible, do not be fooled into believing that they will have leftover stock to sell to you at lower prices, they do their math so well, there’s rarely anything left.
You could spot a nice set in October only for it to sell out by Christmas.
We do not advocate for impulse buying but we must mention that the longer you wait, the fewer products there’ll be to choose from, and buying long-term equipment with limited choices can be the worst mistake a novice can make.
Finally, if you do come across last year’s stock on offer there’s no harm in considering it. It might not be the best since most of the leftover stock consists of unwanted pieces but for a good price, you can accommodate the deficiencies.
Buy Your Skis From An Established Outlet
There are numerous posts online from skiing gear brokers promising the best deals in the market, the offers are tempting but we advise first-time buyers to avoid this class of sellers.
An experienced skier can easily see through the massive branding to detect deceit but a novice cannot. To stay safe buy your gear from a shop with a physical location so you can at least feel the set before signing the cheque.
These shops offer online sales with over-the-phone consultations where you can ask the hard questions. The shops also run websites with blogs about their products and how best to use them, take advantage of this service and get you high-quality gear from a safe outlet.
Extra Costs You Might Incur In XC Skiing
Like most sports practiced at professional levels, cross country skiing comes with a few extra financial obligations aside from gear purchases and training fees.
The good news however is that compared to other forms of skiing like alpine skiing, cross country skiing is cheaper; from the gear to the training and other recurrent expenditures.
Some of the costs you can expect include;
Well, this might sound like extortion to many because cross country ski tracks are free in most countries. In nations like Norway where cross country skiing is a heritage sport, there are free skiing trails everywhere.
Even with the public cross country skiing grounds, some skiers prefer to ski in private or regulated terrain, that’s where private or non-free trails come in.
The mention of fees should not scare you though, the charges are usually very low as the operational costs for such facilities are low.
The charged trails are usually less crowded and offer a training ground for novices where they can glide without obstructing other skiers.
To kill the boredom and maybe raise your spirits, you might choose to join a skiers’ club. This is highly recommended if there’s one in your area.
The benefits of skiing clubs are many, from mentorship programs to gear hiring programs for members, but the best part is the cost, it is ridiculously low compared to other sports or skiing types.
The moneys are used to groom and clear skiing terrains, since these activities are pretty cheap, the membership fees are also low.
Maintenance of sports gear is a normal thing, across the board. Cross country skiing gear, in particular, must be looked at regularly to counter the constant wear and tear.
In skis, the most common practice is waxing, as mentioned above, waxing is done to shield the bases from rough gliding and offer a better grip on the trails.
If waxing feels like a lot of work, you can always get the waxless version of skis which will run just fine without the wax.
Ski waxing is about all the equipment maintenance you need to do since all the other gear needs very little maintenance.
Cross country skiing and skiing as a whole has been with us for decades and over the years, we have improved our techniques and even transformed it into a full-time sport. Now, unlike before, more people are embracing cross country skiing and its physical and mental health benefits plus the financial advantages for professionals.
With that said, however, not everyone is riding on this skiing wave; some people simply won’t try out cross country skiing due to the massive misinformation out there about the costs.
Cross country skiing lessons are not free and neither is the gear but we can tell you, they are not as expensive as some platforms say. With as little as $500, you can have yourself a modest skiing kit that you can shelf for a better brand later on in your career.