Choosing your ideal cross-country ski gear: 5 expert tips

Cross-country skiing (also known as XC or Nordic skiing), allows you to kick and glide across a vast winter landscape, and can be a great workout since it engages every major muscle group. But wherever you XC ski or however intensely, it can be difficult to choose the appropriate equipment.

Here are five expert tips to help you select the best equipment for you.

Choosing your ideal cross-country ski gear: 5 expert tips

1. Choose skis based on where you'll use them

The type of XC touring skis you want will depend on the terrain on which you plan to ski.

If you're interested in light touring on groomed terrain, snow-covered roads, or golf courses, consider classic skis that are between 50 millimetres and 70 millimetres (about 2 to 2.75 inches) wide at the tip.

Waxless versions of these skis and other models have a texture-patterned base that grips on the uphill and glides on the downhill. These kinds of skis require less maintenance than waxable-base skis, which are preferable for racers or for high-performance training.

If you're interested in off-trail forays and venturing into deeper, untracked snow, consider shorter, wider, metal-edged backcountry touring skis with a greater sidecut or hourglass shape.

2. Choose boots that fit

Your ideal XC ski boots should hold your feet comfortably in place.

Be sure to also ask your ski shop pro to recommend appropriate socks if you don't already have them. Try any boots on with the socks you plan to wear while skiing before buying them.

For classic-style boots, size them as you would running shoes, looking for flex enough to allow your foot to bend through the striding motion but with enough lateral stiffness to keep them from slipping out to the sides so you can have a more controlled glide.

For touring-style boots, size them like you would a pair of snug but comfortable hiking boots, looking for a taller profile with stiff lateral support (to keep your feet moving forwards and not sideways) and greater ankle support.

When choosing a pair of XC ski boots, also consider the type of bindings you'll need.

3. Your bindings and boots must work together

Bindings connect to the tip of your XC ski boots, allowing the boots to pivot up and down at the toe and remain free at the heel.

It's crucial that your boots and bindings work together and that they're from the same systems.

The most common XC ski bindings are New Nordic Norm (NNN), Solomon Nordic System (SNS), Backcountry (NNN BC), and three pin (75mm, or about 3 inches), none of which are compatible with each other.

To help make sure that you're getting compatible boots and bindings, you should definitely consult a ski shop pro.

4. Choose poles based on style and terrain

In general, lighter and stiffer poles with better-quality grips and straps simply cost more.

For use on groomed or cross-country trails, look for poles reaching from the ground to just above your armpits.

For backcountry touring, consider multiple-piece, telescoping poles that you can lengthen when you're ascending and shorten when descending.

5. Consider other XC ski necessities

Depending on the type of skis you select, you may need to add items to your XC gear list.

These extra items include tuning tools such as a scraper, Nordic waxes for different temperature ranges, and climbing skins that are designed to adhere and detach in the field.

Backcountry skiers will also need an avalanche beacon, backpack, shovel and probes.

Also, if you plan on doing any backcountry cross-country skiing, ask your ski shop pro about avalanche and other safety courses.

Cross-country skiing is a great way to stay active during the winter months and to enjoy a snowy environment. If you want to get into the sport, use these five expert tips to get yourself equipped.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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