How to choose classic cross-country skis

5 min read


How to choose classic cross-country skis


Cross-country skiing is often thought of as walking (or running) in the snow as opposed to skate skiing, which is often seen as more physically challenging. However, the further you progress in classic cross-country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing, the more technical it becomes. Ask any Scandinavian, and they will tell you that it’s their way of life! Here are our tips on how to choose your classic cross-country skis.

1. Choose the type of kick zone for your skis

A classic cross-country ski base is split into different zones, a glide zone is found at the tip and tail of the ski, and a kick zone (or grip zone) in the middle, under your foot.  A skate ski however, has one glide zone that goes from tip to tail.

The principal of the classic technique is to push down on this kick zone and slide forward. This is known as ‘diagonal stride’.

There are 3 types of kick zones possible on cross-country skis:

  • Fishscale cross-country skis (waxless) are recommended for an easy ride or if you are a beginner
  • Skin cross-country skis (waxless) are easy to use and allow you to progress quickly
  • Waxable skis are mainly used by advanced skiers and for competitions

Fishscale skis have a really good grip but this can detract from the glide. They are perfect if you are starting out in Nordic skiing and if you use the classic ski groomed trails. 
--- Discover our fishscale skis selection: for HIM | for HER

Skin skis are making a comeback thanks to the new generation of skins developed for backcountry skiing. These kinds of skis are a great compromise between grip and glide.  They can withstand more wear and tear than waxable skis, and they can even be used in long distance races. The skins can be changed depending on whether you want to grip more or glide more. 
--- Discover our skin skis selection: for HIM | for HER

With waxable cross-country skis, you can achieve really good glide. The amount of grip can be changed by applying different types of wax to the kick zone. Choosing the right kick wax (or grip wax) by considering the temperature of the snow on the trail is quite an art and something that you will learn with practice. You will need to master this to get the best performance from your skis. Waxable skis are therefore best left to the experts!
--- Discover our waxable skis selection: for HIM | for HER

Want to learn more about waxing your cross-country skis? Read our article on waxing.

2. What size cross-country skis to choose?

To calculate the length of your classic cross-country skis you should add 15 to 20cm to your height. Your weight and skiing ability should also be taken into account.

To start with you should consult the manufacturer’s recommendations. Your weight will affect the amount of choices you have, leaving you with around 3-4 pairs of different lengths to choose from.

Next you will need to consider your height, your technical skills, and your goals.

If you are trying to decide between two ski lengths and you are new to cross country skiing or maybe you’re not yet at ease with the classic technique, you should go for the shorter ones. If you hope to improve quickly, our advice would be to go for the longer skis.

There are several types of premium and racing skis of the same size which are used to ski on different types of snow. These cross-country skis are recommended for more experienced skiers.

The length of classic cross-country skis is not the only factor to consider when choosing a model. Length along with the camber and flex (see below) that correspond with your weight and your level of ability will also help you decide. 

3. Camber and flex of a classic cross-country ski 

When you put your skis down on the ground, you will notice that only the tip and the tail make contact with it. The middle of the ski remains arched above the ground, this arch is referred to as camber.

It is a generalization to say the higher the camber, the more technical the ski is, it’s more complicated than that. The camber can vary from one pair of skis to the next, according to the weight of the skier or type of snow encountered.

The flex refers to the rigidity of the ski and can be felt when you push the kick zone down to grip the snow. When you take your weight off the ski, the camber reduces the pressure on the kick zone and therefore promotes gliding. This should give a bouncing type of sensation. Classic ski flex depends on your weight and the type of snow you ski on.

Torsional rigidity (preventing the ski from twisting) is less important in classic skiing as the ski stays flat on the snow. Rigidity is more important for the techniques in skate skiing as it allows the skier to use the skis’ edges.

4. Ski sidecut

Sidecut refers to the width of the ski and is measured in several places; at the tip, the waist, and the tail.

When producing skis, manufacturers adapt the width and sidecut to each ability level. A beginner’s ski is wider, making it more stable whereas a racing ski is narrower which promotes gliding.

5. How to choose the right bindings for classic skiing

The bindings in classic and skate skiing are completely different. One of the main differences is the stiffness of the flexor, a rubber bumper on the front of the binding, that varies between classic and skate styles. Make sure you chose the right binding for the right style of skiing.
--- Discover our bindings for classic cross-country skis: for HIM | for HER

There are several binding and ski boot norms for Nordic skiing that we look at in more detail in this article.


6. How much do classic cross-country skis cost?

The price range of a pair of classic cross-country skis varies between 100€ and 550€. This variation is due to technical differences in the materials used and the type of ski base.
--- Discover our classic skis: for HIM | for HER

A pair of bindings can cost between 30€ and 70€. The more expensive models are made from carbon and they also include the option to adjust the position of the binding.
--- Discover our bindings for classic skis: for HIM | for HER


To make the best choice of classic cross-country skis :

  • Choose the best type of kick zone to suit your skiing ability: fishscales, skin, or waxable.
  • Take into account your weight
  • Find the right ski length, camber and flex according to your ability level and goals and do not forget to check the manufacturer’s advice.

Then all you need to do is position your skis in the groomed tracks and go for it!