Cross-Country Skis

Monday, 17 November 2008 | Tags:

A beautiful way to spend an afternoon and an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise, cross-country skiing is a less expensive alternative to downhill, with no line-ups! We take a look at what you need to know to get outfitted.

The Basics

  • There are three basic styles of cross-country skiing that each require their specialized version of the Nordic-style ski:

    • the classic slide-and-stride or touring skis (best for beginners)

    • skate skis

    • telemark skis

  • If you’re just starting out or aren’t sure which to buy, try renting skis first.

  • Longer skis used to be the norm, but now there’s a trend toward shorter or mid-size skis, which are easier to turn and a good choice for beginners.

  • Camber is the upward arch or gap in the middle of the ski that gives you flexibility to make contact and propel you forward. Height, weight and ability are important criteria for choosing the right camber for your ski.

  • To wax or not to wax:

    • Some skis require application of a special sticky kick wax to the kick zone (directly below the foot) and a glide wax to the rest of the ski. The type of glide wax depends on the type of snow you’ll be skiing on (softer wet snow vs. colder drier snow). The wrong wax will leave you stuck in your tracks.

    • Skis that don’t require waxing have a special surface that allows them to slide smoothly over snow surfaces. The kick zone area (directly beneath your foot) is textured in a way that allows it to move forward easily but not backward.

  • Steel edges are usually for more advanced skiers who tend to tackle more demanding terrain, so many beginner skis won’t have them.

Other Considerations

  • It’s best to rely on a reputable retailer that can assist you in properly sizing your skis.

  • Buying used can be an economical way to go, make sure the skis are no more than 2-3 years old, maintain their flex, and aren’t too scratched underneath.

  • Good boots will only enhance your experience. Even if you’re buying used skis, we recommend you buy new boots to ensure comfort and warmth.


We recruited some racers and tested these classic touring skis for grip and glide:

  • Rossignol Tempo Trails (no wax): $170
  • Madshus Voss Multigrip (no wax): $205
  • Atomic NX6 (wax): $197
  • Fischer Superlights (wax): $350

Our tests and results include:

Grip Test

To test the grip, our skilled skiers climbed a moderate (and somewhat icy) hill without poles.

  • The waxless skis had the best grip and made it up the highest.

Glide Test

We each took three strides and then compared how far we glided.

  • The waxable skis did better overall.

  • The Atomic NX6 went the furthest.


The clear winner was the waxless Rossignol ski. They had the best “kick”, and were wider, so easier to control. Plus, we didn’t have to wax them throughout the day. A good choice for both beginners and our experts.

   Thanks to Our Experts

  • Anders Bjosklund, ski expert
  • Brenda Davidson and Gail Morrison, skiers
top of page | | back to posts |
  • Subscribe to the A&K Newsletter