How to Make Cross-Country Skis

How to Make Cross-Country Skis
Cross-country skiing has a long history going back at least 6,000 years. According to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, cave paintings found in Russia and dated to around 4,000 B.C. depict a hunter on cross-country skis. Until recently, skis made from wood dominated the sport. Because wood is an easy material to work with, making wooden cross-country skis is within the skills of most amateur woodworkers.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Birch Table saw Band saw Router Hot water 1"x8" pine boards Nails Sandpaper Pine tar Propane torch
  • Birch
  • Table saw
  • Band saw
  • Router
  • Hot water
  • 1"x8" pine boards
  • Nails
  • Sandpaper
  • Pine tar
  • Propane torch
Step 1
Using a table saw and band saw, cut the birch into ski blanks. Figuring out the size of the blanks takes some trial and error, but when first attempting the project the blanks should equal the distance between the floor and your wrist when your arm is fully extended above your head. It should be 4 inches wide and the top thickness should taper from 3/8 of an inch at the tips and tail to one and a half inches in the center.
Step 2
Center a router on the bottom of the blank and route a square 1/4-inch groove down the center. The groove should be around 3/16-inch deep, start about one foot from the blank's tips and end about three inches from the blank's tail.
Step 3
Soak the birch in a bath of hot water until it is pliable enough to bend. Use rocks to hold the skis under the water.
Step 4
Construct a bending mold out of 1"x8" pine boards. The mold is a rectangular box as long as the skis and eight inches deep. At the front of the mold nail a foot-long board into the box at an angle; the angle runs from the bottom of the box to the top of the box starting several inches away from the bottom end of your mold. Leave a half-inch gap above the angled board and nail in a vertical one-by-one. At the tail end of the mold, nail a one-by-one flush with the top end of the mold. Cut an additional one-by-one the same width as your mold and slightly wider than your two ski blanks held together.
Step 5
Insert the wet tips of your blank into the gap between the vertical board and the angled board. Slowly bend the birch until the tail touches the far end of the mold. Clamp the skis in place. Before the birch cools, insert the last one-by-one you cut into the center of the mold, pushing down the center of the ski. Once the one-by-one is flush with the surface of the mold, nail it into place. Leave the blanks in the mold overnight.
Step 6
Decide how wide you want the tip, tail and center of your ski to be, and then cut a smooth curve into the ski from the widest part--which should be at the front of the ski where it will first contact the snow--to the narrowest part, which is at the center, and then back out to the wide tail. Base your measurements on skis that have the characteristics you're looking for.
Step 7
Shape the ski tips. Ski tips are pointed, but a smooth convex curve looks best, so draw an eye-pleasing curve before you cut. Start with a tip wider than you think you want, because you can always remove more wood.
Step 8
Optionally, shape the side of the skis with a slight angle or add decorative grooves to the top of the ski.
Step 9
Sand the ski smooth, and using a propane torch, treat the bottom with pine tar. Follow the instructions on the pine tar can and make sure not to burn the bottom of your ski.
Step 10
Mount your bindings, apply wax and start skiing.

Tips & Warnings

The North House Folk School in Minnesota offer wooden ski-making classes. For a first-time ski builder, taking a class should be considered as a good option.
Power tools are dangerous; follow the directions.

Article Written By Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel is a freelance photographer and kayaking guide who began writing in 1993. His outdoors articles appear on various websites. Hansel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from the University of Iowa.

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.