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Classic vs Skate Skiing

Bert Hinkley, ski guru at Webcyclery

Author: Bert Hinkley, nordic ski expert at Webcyclery & Webskis

Last updated: November 2022

The two main types of cross country skis are skate skis and classic skis

This article addresses the difference between these two types of skis, and which should you purchase if you're interested in getting into cross country skiing.

Before you get started, we also have a comprehensive Guide to Cross Country Skiing that covers the basics of the sport, the different styles, and the gear you need to get started. After you read up on the difference between classic and skate skis, head over to the main guide and keep exploring!

Read The Ultimate XC Ski Guide

What is the difference between classic and skate skis?

At a glance, classic skis are mostly used to glide around a set track at a moderate pace, while skate skis are used to "skate" quickly on a more open groomed surface.

But there's more to it than that. Read on to get all the details.

What are classic skis?

Classic skis are the typical form of cross country skis that most people picture when envisioning XC skiing. 

Classic skiing is when the skis are parallel to one another and the skier performs a "glide walking motion" by pushing off on the planted ski and gliding on the other. 

Classic skiing is typically done in a track set; however, it is also done along trails and in the backcountry on touring skis.

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What are skate skis?

Skate skiing, on the other hand, is a newer form of XC skiing that simulates movement similar to inline skating. 

The skis are typically set in a V-shape and the skier propels themselves forward by pushing off in a skating motion and by pushing with the poles. 

Skating is the most popular type of skiing in a performance setting currently, and skating is typically done on a groomed and smooth surface. 

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So What Skis Should I Buy?

We recommend that anyone just getting into the sport start out with classic skis. 

Classic skis will allow the skier to develop the correct balance and control of the skis before focusing on skate form. Although skate skiing can be a blast, it is typically much more enjoyable and easier to pick up once a skier has gained a decent amount of control on classic skis. 

Also, people who start with classic skis tend to develop better skate skills in a shorter amount of time than those who insist on jumping on a pair of skate skis from the get-go. Plus, classic skiing can also be a very enjoyable and efficient form of skiing.


Which is better classic or skate skiing?

Classic cross country skiing is better for beginners and skiers who want a more moderate workout and a relaxing activity. Skate skiing is better for advanced skiers, those who want a more engaging activity, and people who want to race.

What is faster classic or skate skiing?

Skate skiing is faster than classic skiing.

Which is harder classic or skate skiing?

Skate skiing requires more effort and technique than classic skiing.

Can I use a skate ski for classic?

Skate skis and classic skis are designed for totally different purposes and won't perform well in the other discipline.