If the idea of cold crisp air clearing your lungs as your body warms with each movement forward this winter sounds downright delicious to your soul, it’s likely you can find such flow while cross-country skiing.
You can challenge yourself and explore boundaries. You can sink into steady rhythms. Urban skiing can even be fun!
The trick is figuring out which skis best suit both you and the terrain to afford the most seamless connection. There are many choices out there.
And, that can make deciding on an appropriate cross-country ski feel like you’re digging your car out of the driveway during an endless snowstorm- sucking the fun out of skiing before you even start.
You can keep your cool and make a smooth decision by understanding the basic differences in cross-country skis and evaluating your time, skill and terrain needs.
This site contains some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.
How to Choose Cross Country Skis
If you are one of the many who have recognized the fun and fitness opportunity cross country skiing can provide (if you need further convincing, check out this list of benefits), don’t be daunted by the variety of skis out there.
In general cross country skis can cater to groomed courses or unchartered territory.
Some areas are hilly and icy. Some trails are flat with deep snow. Cross country skis can respond to all sorts of conditions.
Some skis have a fish scale-like embossed bottom and forgo wax. Others have metal edging. The more weighted a ski, the faster it will be downhill.
However, more metal weight might mean you must apply more effort on inclines.
Wider skis will allow you to stay on top of deep snow instead of sinking. Thinner skis can be fast.
In short, there are trade-offs that require skiers to zone in on what they like.
Is it Necessary to Own Cross Country Skis?
It’s true that you can probably rent appropriate cross country skis and gear if you go to a groomed course at a designated resort or park.
However, randomly borrowing someone else’s skis often does not work well.
First, cross country skis come in different sizes according to your weight. Size does matter.
If a big person gets on a tiny person’s skis, they will sink in the snow. If a tiny person tries to drag a heavier person’s skis uphill, it can be a battle.
So, if you intend to get off the beaten path and don’t have a cross country skiing friend who is your size and wants to give up their boots, skis and fun for the day, springing for your own pair of skis might be worth it.
Is there really a “best” cross-country ski?
Cross country ski equipment involves putting together several different pieces into a package- ski, boots, bindings and more.
Terrain variations, type of snow cover and elevation changes might play into what type of ski you use.
In addition, athletes vary in skill level and have differing goals and ideas about how much time and money they want to commit to the sport of skiing.
Because of these contingencies, there is no single “best” cross-country ski (also known as Nordic ski) that will match every skier.
There are, however, great cross country skis to meet most needs.
You can find your best fit by considering some basic things that relate to both the user and terrain when you select skis: wax or no wax, metal or no metal, skins or no skins, size (width and length), cost and durability.
Things to consider:
- Metal on the blades generally means faster downhill potential. However, in cross-country skiing, it adds weight you might feel when trying to ski uphill.
- Size. Cross Country skis are not one-size-fits-all. You need to make sure you order skis that fit your weight range.
- Length and Width. The shape of the ski, the length and width all play into how the ski maneuvers.
- Traction and Glide. Fish scaled bottoms allow you to forgo wax while affording good uphill traction and downhill glide. This often appeals to recreation skiers, especially those who enjoy groomed trails. However, some enthusiasts swear by wax and take pleasure in catering their wax jobs to terrain. Other skiers like the ride a metal edge renders on downhills. Many skiers don’t mind carrying along extra pieces like “skins” that can be added to skis while already out on a course.
- Durability. Choosing the right size ski goes a long way to enhance durability. But, construction materials also factor into whether or not a ski is suitable for the intended terrain.
- Clips and Bindings. Whatever you buy, make sure it is compatible with the type of boot you intend to wear.
Three of the Best Cross Country Skis to Consider This Winter
Here’s a quick look at some of our favorite options for cross-country skis for beginners and experienced XC skiers.
These metal edged skis can provide fast downhills and smooth ascensions on varied terrain. There are no wax skis with a herringbone-like bottom.
Users can adjust the TURNAMIC bindings without tools to increase glide or traction once on-site skiing conditions have been determined.
Full-length metal edges and versatile dimensions make the Spider 62 Crown cross-country skis enjoyable for all-around use. Take them on groomed or ungroomed surfaces for a light and dynamic ride.
- Full metal edge provides good downhill glide.
- No waxing means less time and money spent on prep.
- Tool free binding adjustment to increase glide or traction.
- Adaptable for varied terrain.
- Lightweight “Air Tech” wood core.
- Takes trial and error to figure out where to set the bindings to elicit the best response for the given terrain.
- While not overly expensive, these do carry about a $300 price tag.
Fischer Spider 62 Crown Cross-Country Skis with TURNAMIC Binding provide the user with ample control over varied terrain through adjustments that can be made without tools on-site.
People who like the control waxing provides, might not appreciate the technology. But, others might like the ability to rapidly respond to conditions.
Skiers who stick to groomed courses might not need or want the metal edges, tool-less binding control and other bells and whistles.
These skis have features that might appeal to the recreational and the more regular cross country skier alike.
The Posigrip bottom feature a design that negates the need for wax, yet provides glide and grip so both novice and seasoned athletes can enjoy the ride.
Construction materials include fiber glass and foam to make them both durable and lightweight. They are also shorter than many models out there, making them easy to maneuver.
Maneuverable and ultra-stable on- or off-track, Salomon Snowscape 7 Posigrip cross-country skis use 3D construction for consistent behavior, making them ideal for sport and recreational skiers.
- Foam, fiberglass and lack of metal make them lightweight.
- No wax system means less time spent prepping.
- Short length increases maneuverability.
- Less expensive than many models.
- No on-site adjustability (through skins or bindings adjustments).
- No metal edges.
The price point (around $200) makes this a solid choice for many recreational skiers. Salmon Snowscape 7 Posigrip Cross Country Skis work for skiers of every skill set who tend to stick to groomed courses.
No wax, durable construction, no extra pieces – this is a no-fuss, straight-forward option.
This is a “best of all worlds” cross country ski option. Madshus Panorama M62 Intelligrip Transition Skis with Skin offers the many options skiers need to adapt skis to varied conditions and terrain.
The skis come with “skins” users can trim to fit and attach to the bottom increase traction when needed.
In addition, the skis are wider than many others on the market. This enables the user to ski on softer snow where others on thinner skis might sink.
Ski easy knowing that no matter the conditions, you’ll have the right skis for the job. Madshus Panorama M62 IntelliGrip Transition skis have steel edges and wide waists for XC touring.
- Good ski for the adventurous. Adaptable for groomed trails or untamed terrain.
- Steel edge.
- Removable “Skin” allows skier to adapt ski to terrain.
- Classic design with Alpine Camber (for un-groomed terrain).
- Heavy compared to some other models (over 5 pounds).
- “Skins” must be trimmed and replaced.
- Longer length, metal edge, and weight might make them unwieldy for beginners.
- Price point (around $350) might be comparatively steep for the casual skier.
- Binders not included.
Madshus Panorama M62 Intelligrip Transition Skis with Skin provide plenty of options to make it possible to explore un-groomed places. The skis allow for speed and a seasoned skier will be able to milk good response out of these in a variety of situations.
However, buyers pay for those options. The initial price tag is a bit more expensive than other skis and there is the added cost of purchasing the “skins” that need to be replaced depending on conditions.
The skis don’t come with binders either. This is a good ski for the adventurer who seeks ungroomed territory, doesn’t mind spending a bit more, and understands the nuances of cross country skiing and tweaking a ski to fit the landscape.
If you’re looking to take up a new sport this winter, then cross-country skiing should definitely be on your list.
Let cross country skiing rev up your winter. Finding good skis at a fair price to fit your lifestyle is do-able.
Be realistic about your skill level and understand the areas where you will be skiing. With the right ski style, going uphill doesn’t have to be a battle and going downhill doesn’t have to make you scream.
With our recommendations above, you’ll gear up with some of the best XC skis on the market right now. And they’ll last you for years to come.
image: Deposit Photos