When I first started looking into XC skis, I foolishly posed this question on Facebook: “What kinds of cross country skis should I get?”. The responses were less than helpful, and essentially boiled down to “there are too many types of skis, you can’t just have just one.”
This advice was not very useful for someone looking to get started in the sport. I ended up dedicating hours of online research, taking notes and creating a doc of resources to learn the ins and outs of Cross Country skiing. And while “they” were right — after two seasons of cross-country skiing, I really go into it, and I’ve accumulated a collection of skate skis, classic, touring, and backcountry skis. But starting out, instead of buying 3 sets of used skis, I could have just bought one and rented or borrowed others to try them out. Having tried all types of cross country skiing, I’ll save you a bunch of time and give it to you straight. TL;DR:
What kind of XC skis should I buy?
The answer is: you want metal edge Nordic Touring Skis.
(You’re welcome) Here’s a link to some on Backcountry.com you can check out. If you’re looking for more info, read on.
Why do you want metal edge Nordic touring skis? Because they’re versatile, and even if you take up skate skiing or prefer classic cross country, you’ll still have use for Nordic Touring Skis. Metal edge “classic” style XC skis 68-70mm wide can be utilized both in the groomed tracks at the Nordic Centers like classic skis, and as an investment, they are ideal for getting into the sport. Even if you transition into skate skiing or backcountry skiing, they’re the most useful skis you can invest in, which is why they’re the most popular skis at the rental shop.
Why I started Cross Country Skiing
Lift ticket prices at our local mountain have gotten ridiculous. During peak days ticket prices are running between $159-$200. Plus there’s the cost of a snow parking pass, fuel, and lunch. And of course, you also need the gear. One can easily purchase a set of cross country skis and poles for that price, and after having that epiphany, I decided I’d look into trying cross country skiing at our local nordic center. First I had to learn the difference between all the different types of skis, boots, and bindings.
Classic XC Skis
Most people think of the groomed Nordic areas when they think of cross-country skiing. The two main types of skis used at the Nordic areas are classic and skate. Most people start out on classic skis, designed to utilize the groomed twin tracks at Nordic Centers. They’re narrower and longer to glider further in the tracks and forgo metal edges to keep the weight down.
The most popular starter classic XC Skis at Teacup, (our local Nordic Center on Mt Hood in Oregon) are the Rossignol EVO XT55 cross-country skis with Turnamic Bindings. At $230 new, you just need a pair of boots and poles and you’re off. They’re also referred to as “touring skis”, which can be a bit confusing. In this context, touring is more of a reference to a social pace vs race pace… kind of like walking vs running.
For a lot of people these basic classic skis are enough for getting up a few times a year, but they’re not as useful or confidence inspiring out of the groomed nordic trails.
Metal Edge Touring Skis
Metal-edged touring skis can also utilize the groomed tracks of the Nordic centers. Being wider and shorter in length, they’re easier to balance on as they’re more stable, and the pace is typically more casual. Designed to be used in the groomed track as well as off-track, the metal edges provide more control on the descents and handle a bit more like downhill skis.
While they aren’t as fast as classic skis (due to being slightly shorter and broader) they are also capable of going out of bounds and exploring in variable conditions. They’re available in a range of widths, with narrower being faster for use on groomers, and wider, for float on deeper snow.
Many cross-country ski enthusiasts end up switching to skate skis as they’re considerably faster. Skate skis require significantly more technique than classic, and have a higher learning curve to overcome initially. Skate skiing also requires a higher level of balance, as you are essentially gliding on one ski at a time. (I started skate skiing this year and I’m addicted)
In the next post, we’ll discuss the fine art of buying used cross country skis online. (hint, buy skis first then look for boots that fit the bindings on the skis you bought)
Or buy new skis in the spring (February/March) when stores start discounting their inventory – I just bought new skate and touring skis at almost 50% off retail prices.
Here’s a link to some on Backcountry.com you can check out.