Cross-country skiing is a wonderful way of getting outside, enjoying the backcountry and keeping your body in shape. With a multitude of gear on the market, searching for the proper gear for your needs can seem overwhelming. One of the most important pieces of cross-country ski gear is the boot. There are many types and styles available, all with distinct purposes. Knowing what each type of boot is used for helps the decision-making and shopping process.
Skate Ski Style XC Ski Boot
Skate ski boots are designed to help support weak areas of the foot, heel and ankle during the twisty maneuvers of skate skiing. An extra piece of hardened plastic with a slight hinge is placed on the boot's ankle to give support to the skier and make the boot stiffer as the materials are stressed from the repetitive twisting motions skate skiing produces. The sole on a skate ski is stiffer than traditional/diagonal style cross-country skiing. By reinforcing the sole and foot-bed, the boot transfers power more efficiently to the ski allowing a more efficient and less power-sucking stride.
Traditional/Diagonal Ski Boot
Also known as touring boots, a traditional or diagonal ski boot should provide warmth and comfort for the long haul. A traditional ski boot can be thought of in two ways, depending on your ski style and the area where you will be skiing. If you are skiing set-tracks, you will want a stiffer, yet lighter-weight boot. Think of the boot as a running shoe. Lightweight but supportive is what a traditional cross-country ski boot should be. When skiing in deep snow or off set-tracks the ski boot should be thought of more as a hiking boot. Look for thinsulate insulation, leather uppers and a reinforced sole. The traditional boot used for touring off track should allow the foot to handle edging and off-camber climbs with no stress to the ankle and mid-foot.
Combination boots are cross-country ski boots designed to go from skate skiing to traditional. Like most hybrids, they can do both styles of skiing but compromise performance on both types for the exchange of being able to do both. A combination boot or "combi" is used for track set skiing when sliding traditionally. Combi boots will have the needed ankle reinforcement for skating, yet will not be as reinforced as a boot completely dedicated to skating. Likewise, the boot will not be quite as stiff or lightweight for traditional skiing as a dedicated traditional boot. The positives come in only having to purchase one boot should you have both types of skis. The combi boot uses "nnn" bindings, which are standard bindings found on both skate and traditional-style cross-country skis.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.