Cross-country skiing is one of the best aerobic workouts out there, but finding correctly fitting gear can be a challenge. As you choose a pair of cross-country skis, it is important to consider the type of terrain you are interested in skiing, your ability level, and your height and weight. Traditionally cross-country skis were sized only considering your height, but now manufacturers have specific sizing criteria based on a host of factors.
Classic Style Skiing
There are two main types of cross-country skiing: classic style and skating. Classic styled cross-country skiing is the most basic style of Nordic skiing and involves a movement called the diagonal stride. The diagonal stride is a forward kicking and gliding motion that is typically done on groomed tracks. Classic style skis are best for those interested in skiing on groomed trails and moderate terrain.
Classic Style Ski Length
Classic styled cross-country skis were traditionally sized by making sure the tip of the skis come up to the wrist of your up-stretched arm. Nowadays each ski manufacturer provides a table that recommends the length of ski based on your height and weight. The type of terrain and your ability level are also important factors in determining the correct length of ski for you. It is best to check the manufacturer's suggestions and consult with a sales associate for help to choose the correct length for you.
Skate skiing is a higher-intensity style of skiing. Skate skiing differs from classic skiing in that skate skiiers push the skis outwards at an angle to propel them similar to the motions of an ice skater. The skate style of skiing can be done on classic styled skis or on specially designed skate skis. If you are planning on doing a significant amount of skate skiing or are considering racing, skate skiing gear may be right for you.
Skate Skiing Ski Length
Skate skis are typically 10 to 20 centimeters shorter than classic styled skis and, on average, 5 to 10 centimeters higher then your height. As with classic skis, height and weight together determines the optimal ski length.
Cross-country skis come in a variety of widths, with width measured at the ski's narrowest point. Wider skis provide more stability and are better for skiing in powder and untracked terrain. Narrower skis glide faster and are better for skiing on groomed trails.
Beginners are advised to choose a wider and shorter ski. This provides the skier with more stability and control while learning. Advanced skiers tend to be more interested in speed and would be comfortable on a narrower, stiffer ski.
The types of terrain you are interested in skiing on is also an important consideration. If you plan to blaze your own trail, a shorter, wider ski will fare better in the backcountry. If you plan to stay to on groomed tracks a narrower, longer ski will glide easier on the trail.