Shopping Tips for Cross Country Skiing

Cross-country skis have come a long way. There are now many specific categories. The best approach is to ask yourself some key questions and narrow your focus to a more manageable field.

Where do you plan on skiing?

If you said, "In-track" and live within driving distance of a Nordic ski center with groomed and track-set ski trails, and you want the skis designed for it. Consider either classic or skating skis for this purpose. These well-suited skis are narrow, fast gliding and lightweight. You'll cover a lot of ground and get a great aerobic workout.

If you said, "Both in-and out-of-track," you want the versatility to ski at the Nordic center one day and in the fields behind your house the next. Light touring skis are typically narrow enough to fit in machine-set ski tracks but also have the width to make adventures into untracked natural snow much more fun.

If you said, "Out-of-track," you want skis designed to handle natural snow and the terrain that comes with it. Rugged touring skis are probably your best match. They have the width for added stability on downhill's and floatation in powder, gliding on top where narrower skis plunge beneath.

What is your cross-country skiing ability level?

The properties of your perfect ski are also ruled by your experience and cross-country skiing technique. Beginners often prefer softer models that are more easily pressured for grip without precise technique. An advanced skier will be happiest on a stiffer pair of classical skis, since he knows how to transfer weight and pressure the kick zone effectively, he will be able to glide faster on a stiff setup. Your fitness level also plays a role in selecting skis. Less active skiers look for skis that are easy to balance on, stable on downhill's and soft flexing for climbing grip without slippage.

Do you want waxable or waxless skis?

Waxable skis are always faster and provide better grip. The skier must apply temperature-specific kick wax to achieve this. Waxless skis have a grip pattern molded into the base, eliminating the need for kick wax.

What are your cross-country skiing goals?

It could be to improve your time in cross-country ski races, maintain fitness, spend time with friends and family, go down steep backcountry ski trails or simply explore the woods around the golf course. Your goals will influence the category of skis you examine, as well as the appropriate model within that category. Someone interested in cross training for triathlons will be matched with a different ski than someone who's looking for a faster alternative to snowshoeing.

How much are you going to ski?

Generally, the more you'll be skiing the more performance you will expect out of your equipment. Beginner skiers who plan on skiing frequently are best served purchasing a ski package that will grow with them as technique and confidence improves.