Cross country skiing is sometimes referred to as Nordic of XC skiing. It differs from alpine or downhill skiing for a number of reasons. First off, in alpine skiing, the entire foot is attached to the boot. In contrast, cross country skis are only attached to the toes. The heels are free.
Additionally, downhill skiing requires the use of a chairlift or gondola. Cross country skiers earn their turns, so to speak by actually climbing the hills. As such, cross country skiing is considered to be one of the best forms of aerobic exercise.
There are two styles of cross country skiing. The classic style is also called traditional or diagonal style. It involves a straight ahead gliding type of motion. Ski skating, also known as freestyle cross country skiing, is characterized by its v-shaped glides and edging movements. It bears a distinct similarity to ice skating and rollerblading.
As one would expect, each style of cross country skiing has its own unique type of ski.
Classic Cross Country Skis
If you use the classical or diagonal technique, you will obviously need a classic type of cross-country ski. However, there are subdivisions within this category. Skiers who stay on groomed, parallel tracks will be most comfortable on the skinnier model of classic cross country skis.
Backcountry Cross Country Skis
Skiers who wander off the groomed tracks and onto ungroomed trails less traveled will require a wider, backcountry ski. It's important to note that these skis are much to wide for groomed, parallel tracks. Backcountry skis have scales on the bottom, middle section of the ski, which prevents them from sliding backwards during the push-off stage. They are designed for deep snow and hut to hut touring
Classic Cross Country Ski Camber and Flex
Cross country skis have a camber, which is an arch at the center. On classic skis, the arch weighted, in order to get traction. This weighted camber is enhances the performance of the classic kick and glide cross country ski technique.
The flex of a classic cross country ski is related to its ability to grip the snow when the skier applies weight to it. Stiff-flexed skis are best for groomed tracks.
Wax On/Wax Off
Some cross-country skis have scales in the middle of the base. They are called waxless skis, and are designed for beginners and occasional skiers. These skis do not require waxing.
Waxable cross country ski require periodic waxing with a substance called kick wax. Although they require more maintenance, they usually out perform the waxless models.
Cross Country Skate Skis
Cross country skate technique involves picking the ski up off the ground with each forward stride. As such, cross country skate skis are shorter and lighter than touring skis.
Since maximum push off power is required in skate technique, skate skis have minimal or no side cut. You'll notice that most skate skis are wider at the waist, but narrower than classic touring skis. They have less camber, and are usually stiff-flexed.
Article Written By Lisa Mercer
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.