Cross Country Ski Gear Guide

There are two cross-country ski techniques (styles):
  1. Classic ski technique: your arms and legs swing in opposition called a "diagonal stride"
  2. Skate ski technique: you push off each ski in a V pattern, resembling rollerblading or ice skating

Skate and classic cross country skiing.

Do you need to choose only one? You don't. Learning both techniques will open more opportunities for fun by allowing you to ski in all snow and trail conditions. Both techniques complement each other in the areas of skill development, and learning both would speed up your learning curve. Skis, boots, bindings and poles are technique-specific and not interchangeable.

Types of cross country skis used on Grand Mesa in Colorado

Types of cross country skis appropriate for Grand Mesa. Click to enlarge.

What are appropriate skis for trails at Skyway and County Line?

Classic skis: for use in groomed classic tracks

Skate skis: for use on a wide groomed skate track

Light Nordic touring skis: are generally wider than classic skis. They can be used on a wide groomed skate track. Do not use light Nordic touring skis wider than 68 mm in the classic tracks so that you don't widen and deteriorate the carefully maintained tracks.

Nordic touring skis: for use on non-groomed open terrain. Do not use these skis in the classic tracks. When stepping off the groomed trails on Grand Mesa you may be stepping into deep unpacked snow. Make sure that your touring skis are beefy enough for you and the terrain.

What are appropriate skis for trails at Ward?

Light Nordic touring skis: for snowmobile-groomed trails.

Nordic/backcountry touring skis: for use on non-groomed open terrain. When stepping off the groomed trails on Grand Mesa you may be stepping into deep unpacked snow. Make sure that your touring skis are strong enough to support you and not break when you might be miles away from civilization.

Characteristics of Classic Skis
  • bases have a pattern etched, or kick wax, or synthetic skins on the middle third of the base
  • width no more than 50 mm for tracking and to fit in a machine-groomed classic ski track
  • torsionally soft tips
  • double camber
  • reverse sidecut shape ("javelin tip"): the tip is narrower than the waist of the ski
  • no metal edges
  • used in parallel tracks set into the snow by a grooming snowcat or on a couple inches of fresh snow on top of the groomed/hard snow

Characteristics of Skate Skis
  • bases are consistent (the same) from tip to tail (no pattern, area for kick wax or synthetic skins)
  • relatively stiff single camber
  • torsionally soft tips
  • reverse sidecut shape ("javelin tip"): the tip is narrower than the waist of the ski
  • no metal edges
  • used on a widely groomed skate track or crust skiing (open field) in the spring

Sizing of Classic Ski Gear

Skis:

  • longer than skate skis
  • matched to skier’s weight and skiing ability
  • buy at store with a flex tester or consult the individual sizing chart

Poles:

  • length should be 85% percent of skier’s height: body height in cm x 0.85 (shorter or longer poles will be wrong for the sport)
  • ski pole should end approximately at shoulder heigh
  • if possible, get full strap vs. loop

Boots:

  • sized like running shoes
  • typically no need for any extra space so that your boot instantly translates foot movement to the skis
  • touring boots that require NNN BC binding with a thicker and wider bar are not a substitute for classic boots

Sizing of Skate Ski Gear

Skis:

  • shorter than classic skis
  • matched to skier’s weight and skiing ability
  • buy at store with a flex tester or consult the individual sizing chart

Poles:

  • length should be roughly 90% percent of skier’s height: body height in cm x 0.90 (shorter or longer poles will be wrong for the sport)
  • ski pole should reach approximately up to the mouth, at maximum to the nose
  • if possible, get full strap vs. loop

Boots:

  • sized like running shoes
  • typically no need for any extra space so that your boot instantly translates foot movement to the skis
  • touring boots that require NNN BC binding with a thicker and wider bar are not a substitute for classic boots

Sizing of Ski Gear for Kids

The following rule can be used for kids:

  • Skate: For beginners take the body size and subtract 5 to 10 cm. For advanced kids take the body size and add 5 cm to 10 cm
  • Classic: For beginners take the body size and add +10 cm, for advanced kids take the body size and add 10 cm to 20 cm

Cross-country skis for kids are available in lengths between 110 and 170 cm. In case of doubt, it is always better to choose a slightly shorter version - especially if the child still is just starting to ski.

Clothing

Many first-time cross country skiers overdress and end up getting sweaty, which then leads to being cold. Wear breathable, stretchy layers. As this is an aerobic activity, you will get warm but you want to be protected from the outdoor elements. You can buy sport specific clothing from Swix or Craft Sportswear but you can use tights and windbreakers made for bicycling or running. REI in Grand Junction carries clothing perfect for cross country skiing. Check out What to Wear Cross-Country Skiing from REI.

You will need:

  • windproof, breathable clothing that you can wear based on the onion principle (different layers of clothes)
  • a head warmer (light hat, headband or sports cap)
  • UV protecting sunglasses
  • gloves with sufficient freedom of movement to keep a good grip on the ski poles
  • sunscreen (always)