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The 2020-2021 Nordic Skiing Buyer's Guide

Guide Overview


Nordic skiing, more commonly referred to as cross country or XC skiing, is an increasingly popular winter sport, and in this guide we’ll be going over everything you need to know to get started. Throughout this guide we'll use the terms Nordic and Cross Country and interchangeably.


So what’s in this guide?


Here’s the rundown of this helpful guide to nordic (or cross country) skiing:

  • We’ll start by defining what cross country skiing is and why people love it.
  • After that we’ll explain the different styles and how you can decide which one suits you best.
  • From there, we’ll go over the equipment you need to start your own nordic adventures and provide you with a list of some of our favorite best-selling gear.

What is cross country skiing?


classic cross country skier on track

Cross country skiing is a great way to stay in shape and have fun during the winter months while offering a vastly different experience to the crowds and steep slopes of alpine skiing, also called downhill skiing.

Instead of taking a chair lift to the top of a mountain and quickly skiing back down as you do with downhill skiing, cross country skiing is most often performed on rolling terrain and without a lift.

three skiers on cross country skiing track

Cross country skiing involves skis that feature a free heel. 

This means that only the front of the boot attaches to the binding, allowing the skier's heel to lift off the ski in order to efficiently slide forward through the snow.

Nordic skiing has a variety of applications, from light exercise, to racing, to backcountry exploration. 

You can go cross country skiing at resorts and public lands on maintained trails and tracks or out on your own.

Why do people love cross country skiing?


There are tons of great reasons to get excited about cross country skiing. Here’s some of the most common ones:

  1. It’s a great workout.
    Cross country skiing is great exercise. Depending on the style you choose, it can be more similar to hiking, running, or skating, all of which will certainly get your heart rate up and put a smile on your face.
  2. It’s a low impact activity.
    While downhill skiing can put a lot of strain on your knees and other parts of your body, cross country skiing is often less jarring and causes fewer injuries.
  3. It’s very safe.
    Many people are intimidated by the steep slopes and higher speeds of downhill skiing and feel much more confident with the gentler gradients and slower speeds associated with nordic.
  4. It’s refreshingly quiet.
    Cross country is a great way to avoid the crowded slopes and long lift lines. Nordic ski areas are typically open, less crowded, and generally more peaceful than traditional downhill skiing resorts.
  5. It’s affordable.
    While getting the necessary equipment is an investment, nordic ski passes are very affordable and you won’t be paying hundreds of dollars every year in expensive lift tickets.
  6. It’s versatile.
     There are lots of different ways to go cross country skiing. Beginners and advanced skiers will all find an activity that suits them. You can slowly cruise through scenic vistas on dedicated tracks, you can skate faster laps and race around groomed trails, and you can explore off the beaten path and discover new places. There’s truly something for everyone.

What are the different styles of cross country skiing?


For starters, let’s clear up some of the questions surrounding the naming conventions of nordic skiing.

Nordic and cross country are two terms that can be used interchangeably as the parent category of the styles we’re about to explain.

Within XC there are two main styles of skiing, classic and skate, and just about every subset of cross country skiing can be grouped into these two categories.

two xc skiers skiing classic style in machined track

Classic Cross Country Skiing


Track 
Classic XC skiing can be done on maintained courses where skiers move through established tracks. 

Typically, this style of XC skiing is done at ski resorts or on public lands specifically designed for nordic skiing.

Off-Track 
 Classic XC skiing can also be done “off-track”, where skiers are able to move more freely around their environment. 

This style is more similar to the historical “cross country” skiing that helped nordic people move from place to place in winter. 

Instead of fixed tracks, these skiers can more freely enjoy maintained trails, as well as navigate forests, valleys, and hills.

Skate Skiing

Skate is the other main category of nordic skiing. Classic skiing is more similar to hiking, while skate skiing is a bit more like running.

Skate skiing is perfect for those who like to go a little faster and get more of a workout. Instead of sliding forwards and backwards, skate skiing is accomplished by pushing off your edge in a V-shaped position.

Skate skiing is done on professionally groomed, hard-packed tracks. If you’ve watched the winter olympics, you’ve probably seen this style on its biggest stage.

Which type of cross country skiing is best for you?


On-Track Classic

If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably want to stick to classic on-track style skiing. It’s the easiest way to learn the basics and get comfortable with free heel skis. If you’re looking for a simple way to get some fresh air and a little exercise, you’ll probably love this style. You’ll head to a resort or public trail system and follow the maintained track around bends and meander up and down gentle gradients while practicing your technique and balance.


Classic Touring

For those who enjoy the classic style but have a bit more experience, you might love cross country touring. You can ski groomed trails if you choose, but the main benefit is the ability to blaze your own trail, explore more scenic areas, and ski more challenging terrain.


Classic Backcountry

Backcountry nordic skiing is similar to classic touring, except the skis are wider and made of burlier material in order to handle rougher terrain, steeper inclines, and more adventurous outings. If you have a strong background in cross country skiing, you’ll enjoy the ability to ski your way up into the backcountry and confidently carve your way back down.


Skate

Skate style cross country skiing is one of the best ways to stay in great shape throughout winter. It’s fast and fun, and you’re sure to get your heart racing in the best way possible. You’ll need to visit a resort or publicly maintained track to take advantage of this style. If you have racing aspirations or you just want a killer workout, skate skiing is a perfect choice.

What are the best nordic skiing brands?


Fischer ski logo

One of our favorites, Fischer makes fast skis and comfortable boots. Look at the World Cup and you'll see more skiers on the podium holding Fischer Skis than anything else. Fischer skis are typically the most stable feeling skis and a great ski for beginners all the way to the World Cup.

Alpina ski logo

If you have an Alpina foot, you'll never get anything else. Alpina race boots tend to run a little on the narrow side, and people LOVE them! They are some of the lightest boots on the market.

Salomon ski logo

Light and fast, Salomon skis are ending up in all of our quivers, and if the boots fit, they are extremely comfortable and have become our most popular.

Madshus ski logo

Madshus is one of the oldest nordic ski companies, hailing from Norway. They offer a great fitting boot last for a 'regular foot'. Not the lightest boots we sell, but extremely comfortable. Almost slipper-like.

Swix ski logo

Swix is the most ubiquitous pole on the market for a reason. They are strong, light, stiff - everything you want in a good ski pole.

Solda ski logo

Solda is our favorite wax brand. Solda is a small Italian wax maker that continues to innovate. Their new liquids and fluor-free waxes are testing faster and faster.

What equipment do you need for XC skiing?


In this section of the guide, we'll go over the equipment and gear you need to start skiing. If you already have experience, you'll appreciate our list of best sellers in each category.


Here's a list of the most important gear you'll need for cross country skiing:


  • Skis
  • Boots
  • Bindings
  • Poles
  • Wax
  • Clothing (the right kind)

Let's dive in.

Our Favorite Cross Country Skis

Choosing the right ski is the first step. You’ll want to decide which style suits you best and pick a set of skis that are designed for that purpose. At Webcyclery and Webskis we organize our skis into skate, classic, and backcountry.

There are a few concepts to keep in mind. Understanding ski flex is important in selecting the appropriate pair of skis. You should pick a ski based on your weight, your experience level, and your skiing goals. 

As a rule of thumb, stiffer skis are better for hard packed surfaces, and more flex is required for softer terrain. Also, stiffer skis lend to better power transfer, so skate skiers tend to look for a stiffer ski than a backcountry skier, but everything is dependent on your own individual skill level and goals.

Fischer RCS Skate Plus cross country skate ski

Fischer RCS Skate Plus

The RCS is the ski that every ski company tries to copy. It now offers Cold Base Bonding which improves wax absorption and makes for a faster ski. The RCS uses Fischer's 115 mold construction, putting as little more pressure on the tip and tail, making for a more stable feeling ski. Great on firmer conditions.

Fischer Speedmax Skate 3D Plus cross country ski

Fischer Speedmax Skate 3D Plus

This model features Fischer’s Cold Base Bonding to improve wax absorption and Gliding Sidewalls to reduce friction. When seconds matter, the Speedmax is the weapon of choice. The Speedmax uses the 610 mold construction which reduces the pressure at the tip and tail. Perfect on compact to soft snow.

Fischer Superlite Crown EF

Fischer Superlite Crown EF

The Superlite Crown gives excellent kick in most conditions. Outside of super icy conditions, this ski will give the most consistent kick of just about all of the skis we sell. It features Fischer's Efficient Forward technology, making it work for a huge range of skier ability and size.

Fischer Speedmax Classic 3D Plus 812

Fischer Speedmax Classic 3D Plus 812

This is Fischer's World Cup level ski. Like the skate version, this ski features Fischer’s Cold Base Bonding and Gliding Sidewalls, making it one of the fastest classic skis you can buy.

Salomon S/Race Skin Classic

Salomon S/Race Skin Classic

Skin skis have become quite popular lately, and the Salomon S/Race is one of our favorites. The low-profile camber makes for an easy kicker. No quiver is complete without a skin ski.

Backcountry Skis

 
Shop All Backcountry Skis
Fischer Spider 62

Fischer Spider 62

Our most popular ski, bar none. The Spider features a full metal edge, and is just small enough to fit into the track, but wide enough to let you explore out of the tracks. Features Fischer's Offtrack Crown base which makes for great kick.

Fischer Traverse 78

Fischer Traverse 78

It won't fit into machined track, but this one is still lightweight and offers a little more float for those getting off the beaten path.

Fischer S-Bound 98

Fischer S-Bound 98

This is the biggest ski that we offer. The 98mm shovel let's you go into the backcountry and not worry about getting bogged down in the deep stuff. Features Fischer's EZ Skin system, which makes putting on skins a breeze.

Our Favorite Cross Country Boots

Different styles require different materials and levels of stiffness. Skate boots are designed for maximum speed, so those boots are the stiffest, while classic boots require a little more flex. Check out our top picks in each category.

Skate Ski Boots

 
Shop All Skate Boots
Fischer Carbonlite Skate Boot

Fischer Carbonlite Skate Boot

The Fischer Carbonlite Skate Boot is designed for speed. Fischer shed weight on these boots while keeping a high level of energy transfer and control. If you’re looking for a high performance skate boot without the ultra premium price tag, you’ll love this model.

Salomon S/Race Carbon Skate Prolink

Salomon S/Race Carbon Skate Prolink

This boot is as good as it gets. Salomon’s S/Race Carbon Skate Prolink is their top of the line model for serious racers who are looking for every advantage. It’s super light and extremely stiff for maximum speed.

Madshus Hyper RPS Skate Boot

Madshus Hyper RPS Skate Boot

The Madshus Hyper RPS Skate Boot is a great buy for someone looking to start racing or skiing at a higher level. It’s light and fast without sacrificing too much comfort so you can enjoy honing your skills and pushing your boundaries. Madshus boots tend to fit a “regular” foot best.

Salomon RS Prolink Skate Boot

Salomon RS Prolink Skate Boot

The Salomon RS Prolink Skate Boot is a great choice for skiers who want great performance and value at the same time. These boots won’t break the bank, but they will give you the edge you need to improve your speed and control.

Classic Ski Boots

 
Shop All Classic Boots
Fischer Speedmax Classic Boot

Fischer Speedmax Classic Boot

The Fischer Speedmax Classic Boot tells you everything you need to know in the name. This ultralight, World Cup ready boot offers racers killer performance at a solid price.

Salomon RC Prolink Classic Boot

Salomon RC Prolink Classic Boot

The Salomon RC Prolink Classic Boot will keep you comfortable and in control. This affordable boot offers great adjustability so you can find the perfect fit.

Alpina CCL Classic Boot

Alpina CCL Classic Boot

The Alpina CCL Classic Boot offers similar performance and affordability as the Salomon RC Prolink, but as we often say, if you have an Alpina foot you never want anything else. Aplinas tend to run a bit narrower, but skiers who use them absolutely swear by them.

Salomon Pro Combi Boot

Salomon Pro Combi Boot

The Salomon Pro Combi Boot is great for budding racers, and allows skiers to ride both skate and classic style. If you want a comfortable and versatile boot, this is your model.

Backcountry Ski Boots

 
Shop All Backcountry Boots
Alpina Alaska Backcountry Boot

Alpina Alaska Backcountry Boot

The Alaska is Alpina’s most rugged backcountry ski boot. They’re designed to withstand harsh conditions and keep you comfortable and in control, so if you’re thinking of grand adventures, the Alaska is your best bet.

Alpina Outlander Backcountry Boot

Alpina Outlander Backcountry Boot

Alpina’s Outlander Backcountry Boot is versatile, comfortable, and affordable. If you’re looking for a capable boot for exploring the backcountry, you can’t beat the price of this model.

Backcountry Ski Bindings

Fischer cross country ski bindings

After you’ve got your skis and boots sorted, it’s time to put them together. Cross country ski bindings are what attach your boot to your ski. You’ll want to check what style of boots and skis you have and find the appropriate match. Browse our three main categories and find the right bindings for you.

Cross Country Ski Poles


Swix Quantum 1 ski pole

Swix Quantum 1

Swix is largely considered the best ski pole brand on the market. They’re strong, light, and stiff, and the Swix Quantum 1 is their premium ski pole. If you want the best, go for the Quantum 1.

Swix Quantum 4 ski pole

Swix Quantum 4

The Swix Quantum 4 ski pole is also a great buy. It’s not as light as the Quantum 1, but for the price, you can’t beat its stiffness, durability, and power transfer.

Cross Country Ski Wax

solda ski wax

Wax gives your skis the proper gliding capabilities that you need to have fun and ski efficiently. 

That being said, not all waxes are created equal. Which wax you need is dependent on the outside temperature, humidity, and composition of the snow.

Certain waxes are better for frigid temperatures and low moisture, while others are better for warmer temperatures with more moisture. 

Check out our Ski Wax 101 article for a more in depth look at the different kinds of waxes, but here are the two basic types in a nutshell: glide wax provides a slicker surface and more “glide”, while kick wax helps provide more traction.


Cross Country Ski Clothing

women dressed for cross country skiing in hat, sunglasses, and layers

Once you’ve got most of the gear you need to start skiing, let's go over another important piece of the puzzle. What you wear out in the snow can be just as important to your performance and comfort as what you’re skiing on.

With downhill skiing you may dress up in thick layers for cold rides up the lift, but cross country skiing is a much more active sport. If you wear too many layers of the wrong material, you could end up sweating too much, which in turn can chill you to the bone once the sweat starts to evaporate.

man and woman dressed for cross country skiing

Because nordic skiing is such an aerobic exercise, think of it like running. If you dress in a down jacket and hard shell pants, you’ll certainly be sweating buckets in no time. 

The idea is to dress in a few slim layers that keep you warm while allowing your body to breathe. How you dress is also dependent on what kind of skiing you’ll be doing and the weather conditions. For instance, a racer’s wardrobe will need to be lighter than someone out for some casual exercise.

Here are a few tips for choosing the best clothing for cross country skiing:


  • The golden rule: dress in layers.

  • For your torso, you’ll want 3 layers: a lightweight base layer made of wool or synthetic fabric to wick away moisture, a warmer middle layer to trap in heat, and an lightweight outer layer to provide wind and water resistance.

  • For your legs, choose a moisture wicking undergarment to start. Layer it with a light pair of long underwear and then a pair of breathable softshell pants or spandex.

  • Don’t use overly thick socks that will make your feet sweat, and make sure they come up over your ankles.

  • Go for a hat or headband instead of a ski helmet.

  • Choose gloves over mittens so you can get a better grip on your poles.

  • Wear sunglasses instead of goggles.

  • Neck gaiters are a great way to keep the chill from getting into your jacket.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how you need to dress for nordic skiing, check out the clothing we sell here at WebCyclery and WebSkis.


Deals, Accessories, and Maintenance


great deal on ski gear

Great deals on cross country ski gear

Looking to score big on some great equipment? Check out all the gear we have on sale.

Cross Country Ski Accessories

Cross Country Ski Accessories

Need a water bottle, a belt bag, or an extra pair of ski straps? Check out our cross country ski accessories and find the gear that will make your outings even more fun.

Cross Country Ski Maintenance

Cross Country Ski Maintenance

If you’re looking to have your skis and equipment serviced, check out our maintenance page for a full list of services we provide.

Enjoy the winter with cross country skiing


We hope this guide will help you with your nordic skiing questions and that you give cross country a try this winter. At WebCyclery and WebSkis we are happy to help you pick the best equipment for your goals, so don’t hesitate to drop us a line!