How to Choose Cross-Country Skis

How to Choose Cross-Country Skis
Choosing a pair of cross-country skis is not difficult, but finding the right ski and right size has changed a bit over the last two decades. Skis really don't care how tall you are; it's about weight and having enough ski to provide proper flotation in the snow. Beyond that, it's also about choosing the right ski for the right discipline.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Ski boots Bindings
  • Ski boots
  • Bindings
Step 1
Decide what your primary skiing focus will be and look for skis in that category. Touring skis are longer and narrow, built for speed while skiing in tracks at nordic resorts. Skate skis are shorter, designed for aggressive skate strides. Backcountry skis will be between the two in length and be wider to provide flotation in deeper snow.
Step 2
Decide on waxable or waxless skis. Cross-country skis need traction for gentle uphill slopes; this traction is provided either by a fishtail pattern cut into the ski (waxless) or the application of certain waxes to the pocket under the boot. Waxable skis give better performance while waxless skis require less fuss. For most general touring, waxless skis are a great choice.
Step 3
Check the ski's sidecut. The sidecut refers to how much narrower the waist of the ski is than the tip. Skis that have greater sidecut are easier to turn. For skiing in-track, little sidecut is needed. However, for going off-trail look for skis that have some sidecut.
Step 4
Check the flex of the ski. Stiffer skis are better for racing and for speed in-track. Softer flexing skis float better in powder and are easier to turn.
Step 5
Choose the proper bindings to put on the ski. Your boot will decide what type of binding you need. There are several different types of bindings, none of which are compatible with each other. The two most common for general touring are the New Nordic Norm (NNN) and Salomon SNS system binding.

Tips & Warnings

Some cross-country skis designed for all-purpose use come with partial metal edges. Metal edges help the skier on hardpack and improve downhill performance. Partial metal edges are a great compromise for light backcountry use with general touring applications.

Article Written By Candace Horgan

Candace Horgan has worked as a freelance journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Denver Post" and "Mix." Horgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and history.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.