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Nordic | Crosscountry Ski Buying Guide
What the Heck is Nordic?
Nordic, or Cross Country (XC), skiing encompasses a huge variety of skiing styles. To be considered “Nordic” the skiing style simply needs one thing - a “free” heel. If the heel of the foot is free to move up and down - it is considered Nordic skiing. Nordic skiing ranges from perfectly groomed tracks for racing to no grooming whatsoever to lift-served “Telemark” skiing. While all of these styles are under the same general banner they all require very different equipment. In this article we will explain the basic differences in this equipment in relation to its intended use. Let’s kick it off with race skis.
Fast as Fast Can Be.
Nordic race skis are skinny. Really, really skinny. The widest portion on any Nordic race ski will never exceed 44mm. The general rule for any ski is: Skinny is fast, wide is stable. The converse is also true: Skinny is unstable, wide is slow.
What does this tell us? Basically it tells us that a beginning Nordic skier should not buy a race ski and a racer should not buy a tour ski. There are exceptions. Extremely gifted athletes may take to a race ski easily. We would recommend that these individuals “demo” a ski first. By taking a ski out for a spin before buying one can assess whether or not this ski will suit their intended purpose. Racers sometimes want a wider ski for going where the groomers don’t go. For this they will need a wider, more stable ski.
Race skis are divided into two skiing techniques: Skate and Classic. Classic is the traditional technique. In Classic the skier follows what look like little train tracks in the snow. It’s basically highly-modified walking, on skis, using poles. Skate skiing is a relatively new technique - having been invented in the 1980’s. Skating is as it sounds. It resembles inline skating. But, again, on snow and using poles. Skating requires a wide, firm track. Every company makes a Skate ski and a Classic ski with the exact same name and with the exact same price. The ski designated as “Classic” will be about 10 cm longer (for more glide speed). It will be much softer under the foot (to engage grip on the snow). And it will be torsionally softer (to follow those little train tracks easier). The “Skate” ski will be shorter (for easier handling). It will be stiffer under foot (for stability and explosive forward energy). And it will be torsionally more stiff (also for stability and explosive forward energy).
Here at Skihut we are prepared to get as technical as you want to get about picking race skis. We have decades of experience on-snow and in-store. We have been around the world learning all of the in-depth race secrets from the designers, racers, engineers and race techs. We have friends and contacts who currently work on the World Cup. We know people. We know skis.
Now let’s talk about tour skis.
Tour - It’s What You Make Of It.
There are a thousand ways to “tour” on Nordic skis and there is a ski made for each of those thousand ways. “Tour” simply means “not race”. One can tour ski on amazingly well-groomed trails, barley groomed trails, or no trails at all! One can tour ski really fast, really slow, or any speed in between. This means that there are a lot of different looking tour skis.
Tour skis are usually Classic-style skis with a width of 46mm or more. Some thinner Skate skis are sometimes considered tour skis. These Skate skis are usually between 42mm and 46mm in width and are limited to groomed trails and firm lake snow. They are also considerably slower than their racing counterparts.
Again - The general rule for any ski is: Skinny is fast, wide is stable - with the converse also being true: Skinny is unstable, wide is slow. Tour skis generally range from 48mm to 125mm in width. Experienced skiers will often prefer a narrower tour ski. These skis are nearly as fast as a race ski while having better stability. This stability is helpful when skiing on trails with little to no grooming. An inexperienced skier has a plethora of options. Which ski is the right one for them depends upon their skiing experience, where they want to ski, and how they want to ski when they get there.
At this point we could launch into a multitude of scenarios of skier to ski relationships. But there are simply too many variables. Some skis are short. Some skis are long. Some skis are soft. Some skis are stiff. Some skis are cheap. Some skis are expensive. Some skis are waxless (there are several different types of “waxless”). Some skis are waxable (all skis are waxable to a point). Skiers themselves are just as diverse. That is why the inexperienced skier needs to visit a knowledgeable ski shop. With the right questions and answers the process will not take long. But it is a process that requires thought and discussion. Any shop worth their beans will help the inexperienced skier select the right ski for them and for the experience they are hoping to enjoy.
Here at Skihut we are all skiers. We love this sport. We want you to love it as much as we do. We want you to meet the goals that are in your mind. We want you to come back! Please feel free to stop in or call anytime to talk skis and skiing. We’re into it!