How to Choose Cross Country Skis

Carol Ching

Cross country skiing is a great way to get outside and build up a sweat in the cold winter months. Feel invigorated and inspired by spending time outdoors and discovering your area in the winter. Get a couple sets of skis and boots for your chalet and head out the backdoor or make a day trip to the groomed trails around Ontario. This is one of the best COVID-friendly winter activities to do during Canadian winter.

How to Choose Cross Country Skis

Track Skiing

This style of skiing is practiced on groomed or track-set terrain, often on or around local ski hills. The skis are fairly narrow, have no metal edges, and are available with waxable or waxless bases.
- Classic skis are characterized by the stride-and-glide motion that most people think of when they envision Nordic skiing.
- Skating skis offer a more aerobic form of Nordic skiing that involves a pronounced pole plant and an angled skating motion.
- High-performance skis, either classic or skating, are designed for those entering recreational races or training for improved performance.

The skier on the left is skate skiing, the skier on the right is classic skiing in a track. You don’t need the groomed grooves to classic ski, you can go in the woods or on a golf course and make your own path (off track). It is very difficult to enjoy skate skiing without a groomed path. As a result, classic skiing is a better choice for more people who just want to get out, do some cross-country skiing, and have some versatility.

Off-Track Touring

Designed for people who do most of their skiing on ungroomed trails and terrain, these cross-country skis range from models that are a little wider than trail classic skis up to beefy mountaineering skis that have metal edges.
Touring skis suit snowy and hilly terrain. Shorter and wider than most Nordic skis, they also tend to be slightly heavier and more durable. They often have full metal edges to aid in traversing and descending.
Skiis & Biikes stocks mostly classic skis and usually only one model of skate skis. We stock recreational and fitness skis and off-track touring skis. If you are looking for high performance or racing skis, you will be able to special order them with us. Speak with a sales associate at the Skiis & Biikes location that is most convenient for you.

Ski Length

Most skis are now shorter and wider than they used to be, offering more maneuverability and speed at the same time. Lengths are now determined by weight and intensity. The weight range is usually printed on the front of the ski around the binding, and there is a slight overlap. Choose the longer end of the sizing range if you are more experienced or will be skiing with more intensity.
Junior skis are the only exception to the rule of choosing a ski length based on weight. A junior ski should be 10-20cm taller than the child.

Camber and Stiffness

Camber refers to the upward arching of a ski in the middle, more specifically its resistance to flattening when weighted. Ski stiffness and the amount of camber varies among ski manufacturers. Ski staff usually consult the manufacturer’s suggestions when matching ski length with skier weight.
Torsional or lateral stiffness is the ski’s ability to resist twisting. In untracked snow, a torsionally stiff ski will not be deflected by terrain irregularities. However, many people prefer a slightly softer tip that will flow around irregularities on Nordic tracks and is less likely to jump out of a set track.
- Classic skis have a double camber shape that give them a high, pronounced curve underfoot. The curve keeps the wax pocket or patterned base out of the snow in the glide phase, and engages during the kick phase. The balance of contact and float is critical to classic technique.
Skating skis have a single stiff camber, more like alpine skis. If your skis are too soft you’ll lose power through the push phase, and your skis won’t glide smoothly. Too much camber will make it difficult to set the edge of the ski, particularly when you’re climbing.

Sidecut

Sidecut indicates the shape or profile of the ski and affects the way a ski tracks (travels in a straight line) and turns. Skis with limited sidecut and a straighter profile (classic skis) track forward easily. Lots of sidecut makes turning easy but tracking won’t be as smooth. Skating skis usually have minimal sidecut: the tips and tails are only slightly wider than the waist. to make them stable in the glide phase.

Waxless and Waxable Bases for Classic Skis

Waxable skis are the choice for racers or for high-performance training. Traction comes from the kick wax (also known as klister) applied to the middle third of the ski. When you release the kick portion of the ski, glide comes from a different wax (glide wax) applied to the rest of the base. As waxing is part art, part science, it takes patience and practice to learn to wax for all conditions, but a well-waxed ski rides smoother and faster than any waxless ski, especially in consistent temperatures, above or below freezing. Waxing in warmer, coastal climates can be a bit of a challenge.

Waxless skis have an area of textured pattern on the base that grips snow, yet allows the ski to glide when it’s released or when you’re going downhill. They suit recreational skiers, people who just want a pair of skis to keep at the cabin, or skiers looking for an efficient choice for all-conditions training. They need little maintenance, usually just some glide wax on the tip and tail sections. Skiis & Biikes only stocks waxless classic skis.

Skin Bases for Classic Skis

Some waxless skis come with a textured pattern on the base and some come with a skin base. The choice between the two is up to the skier.
The skins used today are made from either full mohair, a mohair blend or a synthetic material made of nylon. Skins act in much the same way as textured bases; they allow the skier to glide forward without sliding backwards. Skins on skis offer a firm grip and a smooth glide whatever the conditions are and no matter the temperature; they give the skier the feeling of a waxable ski without the need to wax. They are also quieter than skis with textured bases; you won’t hear a zipping sound underfoot, as is the case for skis with textured bases.
The downside to skin bases is that the skin needs to be maintained with a cleaner and conditioner, which are sold separately. Skins only need to be treated when the skier notices inconsistent grip.

Nordic Boots

Remember to choose boots that will fit into the bindings you currently have or will be buying.
Boots should fit comfortably snug. You should try on boots with the socks that you intend to be skiing in. Recreational skiers are recommended to use a medium to thick wool sock, depending on the outdoor temperature. The wool will draw the sweat away from your foot to keep you warm and dry. Even if the wool sock gets wet, it will still keep you warm and won’t give you that clammy chilled feeling. You should walk around the store in your boots to ensure you aren’t experiencing any hot spots or pressure points.
Some boots have higher cuffs with velcro straps for tightening the boot around your ankle. This assists with ankle stability and can help overall balance and performance.

Nordic Poles


Poles for Classic

To fit poles for classic, the pole should measure from the space between the shoulder and armpit in a straight line to the floor.

Poles for Skate

To fit poles for skating, put the pole tip at the back of the heel, and have the arm grabbing the pole and reaching to the front. The arm should be parallel to the floor.

Nordic Bindings

Choose the binding that will fit with the boots that you have chosen. The boot and binding have to be compatible.

Fischer Step In IFP Bindings

This is a new binding from Fischer, but it is compatible with any NNN bindings that the company used in the past. Rossingol also uses this binding on their skis.
The user-friendly IFP Turnamic binding allows for easy exit and entry. Technique, temperature and snow composition all have an influence on ski performance: With all Turnamic models, this completely tool free adjustment allows skiers to better match their individual needs. Sliding the system forward provides more grip, while sliding it back will noticeably improve glide.
- Compatible with NNN boots.
- Compatible with IFP mounting plate only (already pre-installed on Fischer and Rossignol cross country skis).

Where to Ski in Southern Ontario

Near Toronto
High Park (ungroomed)
Toronto Islands (ungroomed)
Rouge National Urban Park (ungroomed)
Cedarvale Park (ungroomed)
Albion Hills Conservation Park (groomed track)
Mono Nordic Ski Club (groomed track)
Dagmar Resort (groomed track)
Terra Cotta Conservation Area (groomed track)
Walker Woods and Glen Major Forest (ungroomed)

Further from Toronto
Hardwood Ski and Bike (groomed track)
Highlands Nordic (groomed track)
Mansfield Outdoor Centre (groomed track)
Bracebridge Resource Management Area (groomed track)
Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve (ungroomed)
Scenic Caves Nature Adventures (groomed track)
Horseshoe Resort (groomed track)
Arrowhead Provincial Park (groomed track)
Kawartha Nordic Ski Club (groomed track)

Get creative and try these cross-country ski adventures:
Ski at a golf course in the winter with permission
Head into the woods of the greenbelt and enjoy the peace
When the lakes in the northern provincial parks (Killarney, Algonquin, etc.) freeze, you can ski on them. It’s fun and surreal to ski them rather than canoe them. Check with park officials for safety advice.
Rail trails are great for cross country skiing - find one near you and ski for kilometers.

Rossignol Skis Size Chart

Race Skate Cross Country Skis

Ski Model 170+ lbs 145-175 lbs 120-150 lbs 100-125 lbs
X-ium/WCS Skate 192 186 180 173
Delta Course Skate 192 186 180 173
Delta Skate 192 186 180 173
Zymax Skate 190 180 170 160

Race Classic Cross Country Skis

Ski Model 170+ lbs 145-175 lbs 120-150 lbs 100-125 lbs 80-105 lbs
X-ium/WCS Classic 208 203 198 191 -
Delta Course Class 206 201 196 186 -
Delta Classic 206 201 196 186 -
Zymax Classic 206 201 196 186 176

Compact Touring Cross Country Skis

Ski Model 180+ lbs 150-180 lbs 120-150 lbs 90-120 lbs
Evo OT 195 185 175 165
Evo Trail 190 180 170 160
Evo Tour 196 186 176 166
Evo Action 196 186 176 166
Evo Glade 196 186 176 166
Evo First 196 186 176 166

Backcountry Cross Country Skis (BC 125/BC 110)

Ski Model 165+ lbs 145-165 lbs 125-145 lbs
BC 125 185 175 165
BC 110 189 179 169

Backcountry Cross Country Skis (BC 90/BC 70/BC 65)

Ski Model 180 lbs 150-180 lbs 120-150 lbs 90-120 lbs
BC 90 189 179 169 159
BC 70 190 180 170 160
BC 65 195 185 175 165

Junior Skate Cross Country Skis

Ski Model 95-110 lbs 85-100 lbs 75-90 lbs 60-80 lbs 45-70 lbs
X-ium Skate JR 173 163 153 143 -
Delta Skate JR - 163 153 143 133

Junior Classic Cross Country Skis

Ski Model 95-110 lbs 85-100 lbs 75-90 lbs 65-80 lbs 55-70 lbs 45-60 lbs
X-ium Classic JR 186 176 166 156 - -
Delta Classic JR - 176 166 156 146 136

Junior Touring Cross Country Skis

Ski Model 110-120 lbs 100-110 lbs 90-100 lbs 80-90 lbs 70-80 lbs 60-70 lbs 50-60 lbs 40-50 lbs 30-40 lbs
Zymax Universal JR 167 157 147 137 127 117 - - -
X-Tour Adventure - 170 160 150 140 130 120 110 100 90

Kid Touring Cross Country Skis

Ski Model 85-110 lbs 60-85 lbs 35-60 lbs
Evo Action JR 150 130 110

Fischer Skis Size Chart

Skate Race

Skiers Weight (lbs.) Carbonlite, RCS, RCR SCS, CRS, SC
99 172 med 172
99 - 107 172 - 177 med 172
110 - 118 177 med - stiff / 182 med 172 - 177
121 - 129 177 stiff / 182 med - stiff 177 - 182
132 - 140 177 - 182 stiff / 182 - 192 med 177 - 182
143 - 151 182 - 187 stiff / 187 - 192 med 182 - 187
154 - 162 187 stiff / 187 - 192 med 187
165 - 174 187 - 192 stiff / 192 med 187 - 192
176 - 195 192 med - stiff 192
198 192 stiff 192

Classic Race

Skiers Weight (lbs.) Carbonlite, RCS ZERO RCR SCS, CRS, SC
99 177 soft 187 soft 177 soft - med 177
99 - 107 177 - 187 soft 187 soft 177 - 187 soft - med 177 - 182
110 - 118 187 soft - med / 192 soft 187 - 192 soft 187 - 192 soft - med 177 - 182 - 187
121 - 129 187 - 192 med / 192 - 197 soft 192 - 197 soft 192 - 197 soft - med / 187 med - stiff 182 - 187 - 192
132 - 140 192 - 197 med / 197 - 202 soft 197 soft 187 - 192 med - stiff / 197 - 202 soft - med 187 - 192 - 197
143 - 151 197 - 202 med / 197 stiff / 202 - 207 soft 202 soft 192 - 197 med - stiff / 202 - 207 soft -med 192 - 197 - 202
154 - 162 197 stiff / 202 med / 207 soft 202 - 207 soft 197 - 202 med - stiff / 202 - 207 soft - med 197 - 202 - 207
165 - 174 202 med - stiff / 207 soft - med 202 - 207 med - stiff / 207 soft - med 202 - 207 med - stiff / 207 soft - med 202 - 207
176 - 195 202 stiff / 207 med - stiff 202 - 207 med 202 - 207 med - stiff 207
198 207 stiff 207 med 207 med - stiff 207

My Style Performance Sizing

Skiers Weight (lbs.) Skating / Skating Pro Classic
under 99 167 177
99 - 107 167 177
110 - 118 167, 172 177, 182
121 - 129 172, 177 182, 187
132 - 140 172, 177 187, 192
143 - 151 177, 182 187, 192
154 - 162 182 197
165 and up 182 197

Sport and My Style Sport Sizing

Skiers Weight (lbs.) Short Cut
108 172, 177
110 - 118 177, 182
121 - 129 182, 187
132 - 140 187, 192
143 - 151 187, 192
154 - 162 192, 197
165 - 174 197, 202
176 - 185 197, 202
187 - 198 202, 207
198 and up 207