Which cross country skis should I buy? This question has only become more difficult as more types of skis have been developed for every kind of skiing imaginable. Currently, Skirack carries 6 different categories of cross country skis. They are outlined below to help you get an idea for what you’re looking for.
|Backcountry skis are for the hiker, mountaineer, adventurer! If you like breaking new trail, heading away from groomed ski areas, and seeking out mountainous terrain, these are for you. These skis are wider and shorter than most Nordic skis, with lengths that vary from 165-200cm and widths that vary from 65-110mm. At first glance, they can resemble alpine skis. However, they feature the double camber characteristic of cross country skis, that gives the skier the classic kick and glide sensation. Most feature a fish scale pattern on the kick zone, and some also have the option of adding a mohair (skin) grip to the kick zone. Backcountry skis are well suited for areas like the Catamount Trail, the Camel’s Hump Loop, or the ungroomed areas of Bolton and Trapps. |
Backcountry skis are typically equipped with three pin or BC NNN bindings. These bindings are larger than the ones you find on touring or race skis, and they are compatible with boots that have a larger, wider sole and more support through the ankle, similar to a hiking boot, which provides the force needed for turning a wider ski. Although some of these bindings offer a wire that extends around the back of the foot, the heel is not clamped to the ski, and the bindings do not release in the event of a crash. A backcountry setup with skis, boots, poles, and bindings typically costs anywhere from $500 to $1000.
Keep in mind that backcountry skis are not the same as alpine touring skis. These are alpine skis designed for downhill resort skiing, pair with boots and bindings are also in the downhill category, but offer “walk” or “tour” modes. To go uphill, skiers place a mohair skin along the full length of the ski, and hike up the mountain with their skis on. To descend, skiers remove the skin, and adjust the setting on their bindings and boots so that the heel is clamped down. For more information on alpine touring equipment, consult a member of the Skirack Alpine department.
Click here for a full selection of Backcountry Cross Country Skis
CLASSIC PERFORMANCE SKIS
Classic Performance skis are also known as racing skis. If you were to enter a race, such as the American Birkebeiner, the Craftsbury Marathon, or the Canadian Ski marathon, this would be the best choice of ski. However, you don’t have to be a racer to enjoy performance classic skiing. This ski not only offers the best grip on the uphills and the best glide on the downhills; it also offers the opportunity for the best full body workout. Because these are used primarily on groomed trails, the skier can focus less on how they will navigate the terrain, and more on their training intensity. Therefore, many runners and cyclists are drawn to this category as a means of cross training (think distance workouts, tempo runs, and interval training).
CLASSIC SKIN SKIS
Classic skin skis have grown dramatically in popularity over the last few years. They offer a similar experience to a classic performance ski, but much easier to use in that they do not require kick wax. The kick zones of skin skis are covered with a mohair skin material that grips the snow in place of kick wax. The skis themselves still resemble the performance classic skis- long and skinny, with a light core and fast bases. In fact, many classic wax skis come in a skin version, such as the Salomon RC and the Rossignol X-ium. Skin skis still require glide wax on the tips and tails.
Touring is for the outdoor enthusiast and a great option for people who enjoy taking walks in the woods or the parks, and want a similar experience on skis. Many people new to cross country skiing select touring skis for their versatility and affordability. Touring skis are shorter and wider than performance Nordic skis, (about 50-65mm wide,) which makes them easier to balance and maneuver. However, they are still narrow enough to fit into a track at a touring center. Touring skis are a great choice for going out on golf courses, bike paths, or in the woods on flatter terrain such as the Burlington Intervale.
Skate skis are the only kind that are not parallel when they are being used. Rather, they are placed in a V-shape and the motion is more similar to ice skating or roller blading. Because their motion requires a wide area and a good glide, skate skis are only suitable for groomed trails. Skate skis have a narrow side cut (44m wide), and they are constructed with fast, waxable bases and a light core material. Their length ranges from 173-192cm long. They are the only ski that is flexed stiffer than the weight of the skier. In other words, is should be impossible to completely flatten the ski to the ground, even with the skiers full body weight. Compared to classic skis, they can be described as having more “pop” and “spring”.
A couple of years ago, Black Diamond came out with a product that is best described as a cross between a snowshoe and a ski. They resemble very short backcountry skis, and only come up to about the skier’s chest height. Rather than conventional bindings, they feature a footplate connected to straps, similar to snowshoes, that accommodate an everyday winter boot and allows the heel to lift. They have a wider side cut for traveling through deep snow, and mohair skins on the kick zone of the ski for grip. Some come with metal edges.
FITTING CROSS COUNTRY SKIS
Hopefully this helps you narrow down your search for cross country skis. Regardless of which category you choose, we recommend consulting with one of our staff members about your decision, to confirm that the bindings, skis, and boots are compatible, and to make sure the ski is the correct flex.