Traditionally, cross country or Nordic skiing was a mode of transportation through the mountains. In modern times, the sport has become a popular winter activity that incorporates a variety of skills and techniques. With flatter terrain and gentler slopes, cross country skiing is often considered to be a more approachable type of skiing. But to get established in this sport, you’ll need the right equipment, and top rated cross country skis will be your first big purchase.

When it comes to finding skis for cross country skiing, it may feel like an impossible challenge because there isn’t one style of cross country skis. Instead, there are a variety of different styles, which include touring and racing. To help cross country skiers in their search, we’ve made a list of the five best cross country skis in 2019. These skis are industry-leading in their design and features, which ensure that skiers have the best experience on the mountain. With the best backcountry cross country skis, you can confidently conquer the winter landscape.

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How To Choose A Cross Country Ski – Buying Guide

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Cross country skis will be similar in design, but a few differences in features can determine whether a model of skis is high-quality or unsatisfactory in performance. With different types of cross country skis, how to choose cross country skiing equipment can be confusing. For beginners, it can be especially challenging to find a new pair of cross country skis that they feel confident using. Below, we have highlighted the most important features that skiers should consider when they are looking for new Nordic cross country skis.

Material

The materials of your cross country skis will be related to where you will be skiing and what type of conditions you expect to face on the trail. Stoneground cross country skis are easy to repair and regrind after rough use during the season. But wooden cross country skis follow the history and tradition of the sport by using a natural material.

For cross country skiers who stay on tracks and use trails, touring cross country skis are a great option. But you can use race cross country skis too. The most significant difference between the two is the level of skill required to maneuver the skis. Beginners would do better with touring cross country skis, and experts can use race cross country skis.

However, if you are going to go off the track or hit hard terrain, a metal edged cross country ski would be best. The metal edge will give you the durability you need to cut through fresh snow and carve turns. Metal edge types of cross country skis are also better at resisting any hits and scrapes against rocks or trees.

Ultimately, each skier will have to determine which material best matches their level of skill and experience. It can also be challenging to assess terrain conditions, but in general, on trail cross country skiing will be gentler on your skis than going off track. Additionally, a great way to determine if a material is durable and reliable is to read cross country skis reviews. By reading reviews, you can get a better understanding of the performance of the material, before you make a purchase.

Ride

Ideally, Nordic cross country skis should have a smooth ride. When all the components of a ski’s design come together, you should be able to cut and carve through the snow easily. With limited vibration and chatter, the ride will be smoother. Different features like the length, shape, and materials can affect how smooth a ride is, but for cross country skis a significant factor in smoothness is wax. There are both waxable and waxless cross country skis. The wax of a ski helps the bottom of the ski get traction or grip in the snow while you are climbing up hills or walking on flat ground.

Waxable skis for cross country will need to be continuously maintained. These skis require a bit more effort on behalf of the skier because you’ll have to learn how to wax cross country skis. Waxable skis use a rub-on wax in the middle of the ski, on the bottom. With the wax properly applied, skiers will have a smoother ride and enhanced grip in the snow. However, freezing temperatures are the only drawback to waxless skis. If you are skiing in frigid temperatures, the wax will not function, and you should instead use waxless skis.

Waxless skis are becoming a popular choice for backcountry cross country skiing because it has the grip built into the design of the ski. Waxless skis have a textured section on the bottom of the ski that gives you grip in the snow. However, even though they are claimed waxless, certain terrain conditions still need wax. If you are skiing on hard terrain, you should apply wax to these skis to ensure that you never lose your grip.

Whether you need waxless or waxable skis will depend on the terrain and temperature conditions. You should also consider your personal preference and decide if you can correctly maintain waxable skis.

Camber

The camber of a ski is also the bow of the ski. Nordic cross country skis are unique in their design because they often have a double camber with two different parts. The first part will equalize your weight on both skis, which is a huge advantage for traveling downhill. The camber works to keep the grip section or waist area of the ski, arched off of the snow. Without the friction of the grip to slow you down, you can move more quickly.

When you put all of your weight on one ski, the second part works to push the ski flat against the ground. Once the ski is flat against the ground, the section of traction can connect with the ground and give you the grip you need to move forward. When you’re traveling on hills or turning, this is a beneficial feature.

With the double camber, cross country skiers have better grip, balance, and movement in the snow. The majority of cross country skis have a double camber feature, but some metal-edged skis have a single camber. A single camber is better at equalizing the weight over the entire base of the ski, which makes turning easier. For most cross country skiers, a double camber will suit them well. But if you are a hardcore cross country skier and frequently go off-trail, you may consider having a metal-edged ski with a single camber instead.

Flex

The flex of a cross country ski determines how easily your skis turn and how responsive they are to your commands. A soft flex has a better grip and is easier to turn when used in fresh or powder snow. Softer grips are suitable for slower speeds, like crossing flat terrain on cross country skis. A stiffer flex is better for packed snow or when you are traveling at faster speeds.

The flex of a cross country ski should be indicated in the product specifications. It will be up to the skier to determine what level of flex they need for where they’re skiing, how fast they’ll be traveling, and what snow conditions they expect to encounter. The flex of a ski won’t drastically change your performance on a slope if you are not racing, so it doesn’t need to be the main concern for skiers.

Sidecut

The sidecut of a ski refers to whether the skis are wider in the tip and tail, which means that it has a noticeable hourglass shape. The hourglass shape is the sidecut, and it helps skiers on groomed areas of the mountain that have fresh snowfall. Most Nordic cross country skis have a sidecut, which helps them tackle powder snow conditions. With a sidecut, turning should be easier with your cross country skis.

Size

For backcountry cross country skiing, it is crucial that you correctly size your skis. The size of cross country skis usually is measured in inches or centimeters. It refers to the entire length of the ski, as well as the width of the ski. There are short and long skis, which each cater to different ski conditions and levels of experience.

Short cross country skis are better for ungroomed trails and rough terrain because they are easier to maneuver. With a shorter length, skiers can quickly change direction, stop, or divert to avoid obstacles. However, if you are on groomed trails and want to pick up speed, you’ll need a longer ski. The longer length provides more contact with the snow, which allows you to get traction and travel faster.

The width of a ski can also affect your performance on the slopes. Narrower skis are better for going faster, but wider skis have better stability. For expert skiers, narrow skis can be a fun way to race downhill or across the flat terrain. But beginner skiers would do better with a wider ski because it offers more stability and is more comfortable to use for extended periods.

Additionally, the length and width of your cross country skis should be related to your body weight. Heavier skiers need more length to support themselves on the snow. As stated, the length can also help you go faster, which can be fun for gliding across the snow. Smaller skiers can use shorter skis, and carve turns easier. Most brands will include a size chart that you can use to determine the best size ski for your body.

Length

The length of the ski correlates to your body weight instead of height. Most people think that taller means longer, but just because you’re tall doesn’t mean longer skis will enhance your performance. Instead, if you are heavier, a longer ski can better support your weight and help you maneuver through the snow.

However, some skiers choose to use short or long lengths. For cross country skiers, most touring cross country skis will have the standard length. For racers, a longer ski can help them move faster, so adding a couple of inches can be beneficial. If you’re a beginner, we suggest you stick to a shorter ski to learn. For skiers who fall between sizes, opting for a longer ski is a good idea if you’re a quick learner or have decent athletics.

Width

The width of a ski is measured at the tip, tail, and waist. When the tip and tail and wider than the waist that hourglass shape is called the sidecut. The waist is measured in millimeters. Skis for cross country should not be more than 70mm wide. 70mm and under is an optimal width that allows skiers to glide and travel in straight lines easily.

However, for backcountry cross country skiing, you need a wider ski. The wider width will better support the skier’s weight on powder snow, which keeps them moving without sinking in. The width will also make turning in soft or fresh snow easier. For skate skis, a narrower width is better built for speed.

Additionally, beginner skiers will likely want a wider width for stability and balance. When you have more experience or are experienced, you can try using a narrower ski to go faster.

Weight

If you think about having to drag weight with your feet, you’ll probably be concerned about how far you’ll get. For backcountry cross country skiing, weight is an important factor for endurance and maneuverability. Most Nordic cross country skis are made of lightweight materials because they are easier to maneuver and travel with for long distances.

But with a lighter weight, you’ll have a harder time moving on hard-packed snow. It can be a difficult balance to find the right weight. The lightest weight may not be suitable, but a lightweight ski should still function well in different snow and terrain conditions. For all cross country skiers, you should find a ski where the weight suits you and doesn’t make you over exert your energy. Additionally, you shouldn’t ever feel sore in your hips from regularly lifting the weight of your skis as you move through the snow.

Color

The color of your skis isn’t an essential factor in their performance but is a feature that is catered to personal preference. Many types of cross country skis can come in a rainbow of colors from bright to muted. Some colors may even be gender-based and catered to men or women. But there are also unisex cross country skis that have a neutral color that doesn’t cater too much to one gender or the other. For kids’ cross country skis, you’ll often find bright and fun color combinations.

No matter what your personal preference is, you should be able to find a color combination that you enjoy and are excited to show off on the slopes. You may even be able to color coordinate with what you wear cross country skiing or match your skis to your ski poles. But don’t let a bad color combination stop you from buying a great pair of cross country skis. Other important features will heavily outweigh the importance of the color scheme.

Durability

Durability is one of the most important features that you should consider when purchasing a pair of top rated cross country skis. Ice and snow are abrasive, which means that they can quickly wear down your skis. The best backcountry cross country skis will be made of strong materials, which makes them durable for extended use throughout the season.

Wood and metal are durable materials that can resist a lot of damage from the mountain. Both metal-edged and wooden skis can be easily repaired, should any damage occur. Wood and metal are also long-lasting materials that can last for multiple seasons. A well-constructed ski that uses wood or metal is the best investment. Cross country skis are a significant investment. Many skiers want to purchase a pair of skis that can last them throughout the years so that they aren’t needlessly spending money every season.

One tip to finding durable skis is to read cross country skis reviews. Many reviewers are happy to comment on how durable or long-lasting their skis have been through various winter seasons or under certain conditions. You can use those cross country ski reviews to determine whether a specific model is a worthwhile investment and estimate how long they will last you before you need to look for a replacement pair.

Use

Skis for cross country skiing are not a universal ski and should not be mistaken as all-mountain skis. While some people may think that all skis are made the same, cross country skis are significantly different from other types of skis. With cross country skies, your foot is attached differently to the binding.

Backcountry cross country skiing does not use the same ski bindings that you may be accustomed to with downhill, alpine, or freestyle skiing. With cross country skis, the heel of your foot is always free to lift from the binding of the ski. The lifting action of your foot is a staple in cross country skiing and allows you to better move on flat and uphill terrain.

Cross country skis are incredibly versatile because they can go on flat, uphill, and downhill terrain. This versatility also means that the skier needs to apply a variety of techniques, which can make skiing difficult. While the various techniques may seem to equate to being able to use any type of ski, cross country skis should not be used for other types of skiing. Different types of skis exist for specific reasons, so skiers should match their skis to the kind of skiing they plan on participating in.

FAQs

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Q: What is the difference between backcountry or classic cross country skis?

A: The main differences between backcountry and classic cross country skis are how the skis are used and the terrain that they are used on. The two types of cross country skis exist to cater to different terrain conditions the skier may face.

A backcountry style ski lets you go off-trail into rugged locations. When you’re skiing off track, backcountry cross country skis will have a metal edge and be lightweight. Usually, these types of skis are incredibly stable and safe to use in all types of snow conditions. But these skis genuinely excel at deep and powder snow conditions. Backcountry cross country skiing is perhaps a style that best mimics the history of the sport and the idea of leaving your home for an adventure.

A classic style cross country ski is used when you are on a groomed trail. With these types of skis, you use the natural movement of walking to propel you along the trail. A classic cross country key has a kick zone, which is pressed into the snow as you make a short kick. The kick zone works to give you traction and help you glide forward. This style of skiing is the most accommodating and easy to learn because you can go at a slow pace or push hard and go faster.

With the different skis and techniques, cross country skiers can find equipment that is best catered to their skiing adventures. If you usually stick to groomed trails, a classic style cross country ski would suit you best. But if you like to travel and experience the mountain, a backcountry style cross country ski should take you anywhere you want to go.

Q: What is skate skiing or cross country skating?

A: Skate skiing is a faster-paced type of cross country skiing. With skate skiing, you use a walking motion to propel yourself across groomed trails, which allows you to go faster. With the walking movement, you use your arms and poles to push you forward. Often, this type of cross country skiing is an excellent exercise because you are using so many muscles to move forward. While skate skiing is similar to cross country skiing, you can choose skate skiing gear that is catered to skate skiers. But you may wonder if you need new gear.

The answer can be complicated, but the most likely answer is yes. If you try skate skiing or are a skate skier, the chances are that you’ll want specific skate skiing gear. Skate ski gear will be catered to the techniques of this type of cross country skiing and will help you go faster. Skate ski gear has specific features to enhance your experience as you rapidly glide across the snow.

Q: What is a waxless ski?

A: Skis for cross country can have a waxable or waxless design. Waxless skis are quickly becoming more popular because they require less maintenance and are ready to hit the trail. A waxless cross country ski will have a textured section on the bottom of the ski, which gives you traction and grip in the snow.

The texture is often called fish scales because of its similar shape and design. The texture works to grip the snow and stop you from sliding backward. This extra grip also helps you move forward so that you can walk or skate across the snow.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that not all waxless skis are used completely wax-free. If you are on hard-packed snow or difficult terrain, adding wax to your waxless skis can enhance your grip even further.

Q: What are the types of cross country ski bindings?

A: Cross country ski bindings are only compatible with specific cross country ski boots. The three types of bindings are New Nordic Norm, Salomon Nordic System, and the SNS Pilot bindings.

New Nordic Norm bindings, or NNN, have two raised ridges that match with the sole of a compatible ski boot. NNN boots have a small metal rod in the toe of the boot, which clips into the front of the binding.

Salomon Nordic System Profil, or SNS, have a single and wider binding ridge, which matches to the sole of the compatible ski boot. These types of bindings are not compatible with NNN bindings.

SNS Pilot bindings have a design that is similar to the SNS Profil design, but instead of one metal rod, there are two. The two metal rods each have a spot that they click into on the binding. With the two rods, skiers have better flex, stability, and motion.

Additionally, bindings for metal edge cross country skis are more durable and rugged than other types of bindings. These bindings are better resistant to rougher terrain and make turning easier.

Q: How long should my poles be?

A: For skiers, learning how to size ski poles can be as confusing as learning how to use them skiing. But with cross country skiing, you need longer ski poles than for downhill or freestyle skiing. Most cross country ski poles will rest at the height of your armpit. The extended length makes it easier for cross country skier to travel over flat land and push themselves along the terrain. Additionally, cross country ski poles should be narrower and lightweight, which ensures that you aren’t carrying unnecessary weight.

Globo Surf Overview

Cross country skiing is a great way to stay active during the wintertime and have a fun day in the snow. While any type of skiing is fun, cross country skiing can be a relaxed stroll or a thrilling race. But trying to find the best backcountry cross country skis can be a challenge, even for experienced skiers. Not all cross country skis are designed the same or have the same features. Variations in features of a model can mean the difference between easily navigating the powder or getting trapped in the snow.

Top rated cross country skis should be durable and versatile to conquer different terrain and snow conditions. We made this guide and found the five best cross country skis to help you get started in your search. By using our guide, skiers have all the information they need to find quality cross country skis. A skier’s cross country skis should be durable, lightweight, and reliable. Skiers of any age should be able to lock into a pair of cross country skis and take off down the mountain.

For every skier, it is important that they have the right gear or a fun day on the slopes can quickly turn into a disaster. With the best cross country skis, you can feel confident on the mountain and easily maneuver through any terrain. From the downhill rush to the uphill battle, your cross country skis can carry you anywhere, so you can get out and have fun in a winter wonderland!

More Snow Reviews:

Sources

  1. Cross Country Skiing Guide – Styles: Classic, Skating, Backcountry – sportconrad.com
  2. How to Buy Perfect Poles – crosscountryskitechnique.com
  3. A Beginner’s Guide to Skate Skiing – huffingtonpost.ca

Do you use one of the pairs of cross country skis that made it onto our list? Have your cross country skis enhanced your performance? Let us know how reliable your cross country skis are in the comments section below.

Globo Surf Cross Country Skis Reviews

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Very nice list. I was looking for a pair for my girlfriend. I want to surprise her for her birthday. I think I found the perfect pair. Thanks.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!