When most people think about skiing, they usually think about people moving quickly downhill thanks to the slope of a hill or mountain. However, cross country skiing is extremely popular around the globe and dates as far back as 4,000 BC. Considered both a sport and recreational activity, cross country skiing involves skiers moving across a flat surface and propelling themselves forward, instead of a ski lift bringing them to the top of a mountain. Cross country skiers can travel upwards, downwards, or on flat terrain, able to move themselves forward since their heels are not binded to their skis. The activity is a true cardiovascular workout, requiring a lot of stamina and endurance. Let's dive into the equipment needed to participate!
Bindings are what connects your boot to the ski so you can be secure when you are in the backcountry. The main types of touring bindings are NNN (New Nordic Norm) and SNS (Salomon Nordic System). Both systems work very well; a customer will choose the bindings based on which boots they have.
Classic bindings have a soft bumper to allow the boot to flex forward when they are skiing. Skate binding bumpers are much stiffer to keep the ski locked in position.
Cross country skiing boots are far different from regular downhill skiing boots. When purchasing boots, you want to make sure that they are specifically for classic cross country skiing. They should be very comfortable and fit properly. If there is one item in cross country skiing that you are going to spend a large amount of money on, boots might be the best option since comfort in the feet is so important.
Poles are a really important part of cross country skiing. You need them for balance and also to help assist you while you glide through the snow. Poles are made of aluminum, carbon, or composite material. They should be lightweight and stiff so you can reduce the energy needed to carry them and to improve transmission of forces through the poles and into the ground. You also want a pole with a harness strap, not a loop strap. The harness will hold the pole close to your hand and distribute the pressure more evenly across your hand. A cross country skiing pole will cost $20 to $40 depending on the brand and quality.
Cross country skis are very different from regular downhill skis that are used on the hill. There are different types of cross country skis that cater better to a person's style of skiing. The classic skis are intended for racing or high performance and are going to be light and skinny. They are also longer to help you extend your forward glide. Skate skis are for people who are looking for a fast paced workout on groomed trails. They are shorter than classic skis and have little to no sidecut. Nordic skis are for people who want to explore the woods and hills. Nordic skis are a bit burlier than classic skis and are ideal for ungroomed exploring. A pair of one of these pairs of skis will cost you anywhere from $200 to $400.
A typical day of cross country skiing is going to take a pretty long time. Therefore, you are going to want to bring a bag to pack things such as snacks and other extra layers if it gets too cold or hot. You can also put personal belongings in there such as your phone, wallet, car keys, and more. These packs are light and can carry a large amount of equipment, making it comfortable yet high performing.
The pants that you would wear cross country skiing are a bit different than if you were downhilling. These pants are made of polyester or spandex and are less thick than alpine pants. This is because you are going to be working up a large sweat so you do not want to become too hot. These pants are also flexible in a way that will allow you to move without any restriction. The fit will be either snug or skin tight, so extra material will not get in the way of your boots or skis. If you are just trying out cross country skiing for the first time, it is okay to use regular ski pants. However, if you start to really get into cross country skiing, you should invest in a pair of fleece pants for around $60 to $100.
Skate and classic skis are both going to need glide wax. A block of plain glide wax is the standard and what you should use when doing research online. When purchasing, you want to consider the temperature range and the percent of fluorocarbons. Glide waxes are optimized for different temperatures, as wax for warm temperature is soft and easier to apply than hard cold temperature waxes.
Wax that has a high percentage of "fluoros" will make the ski faster. For basic skiing you can use either "no fluoro" or "low fluoro." Low fluoro wax will be more expensive than no fluoro but faster. High fluoro waxes are the fastest and most expensive type of wax, and should only be used if you are racing.
You are going to want some sort of headwear when you are out in the woods or on the trail. The hat should always have a base of polyester and if it is really cold you can wear an extra thick layer on the outside. Hats with a blend of wool and polyester are a great choice in colder conditions.
If you would like, you could also wear a headband. A headband is better for warmer days if you do not want to overheat in your head area. Both are very good options and you can truly not go wrong with either depending on the weather.
Cross country skiing can be done in the daytime or night time. If you are going out at night, you are going to want a headlamp so you are able to see what's in front of you. You want to buy a lightweight headlamp so you can wear it comfortably for hours on end. Some headlamps are battery powered which is the old fashion way. Others you can charge through USB. All of them offer similar amounts of brightness and battery life, so it is up to you to determine which style of power you would prefer.
A great cross country ski jacket is lightweight, stretchy, wind resistant, and moisture resistant. It should be soft and breathable, similar to one you'd wear for running or fast paced hiking. Since cross country skiing is a pretty intense exercise, it needs to be lightweight as you do not want to overheat. The insulation and breathability will be very helpful with sweat and will allow you to not get too hot or too cold.
Gloves or mittens for regular downhill skiing do necessarily work well for cross country. Cross country ski gloves are light and need to be able to withstand all types of weather. Ventilation is also another important aspect of a cross country ski glove so cold temperatures won't freeze any excess moisture. You are probably better off going with gloves over mittens for cross country skiing, due to the importance of versatility and grip. A typical pair of these gloves will cost you around $25.
Downhill ski goggles are far too warm for cross country skiing, as they will become very uncomfortable once you start to break a sweat. Therefore, it is a good idea to just wear something like glasses. THey might fog up from time to time, but are only going to be when you are not moving. You can also use a visor which is made of clear plastic that shields your eyes. The air circulation is better than sunglasses so they will be less prone to fogging.
If you have never cross country skied, or are exploring a new trail, it is not a bad idea to get a ski lesson. This is a great way to learn the proper techniques of cross country skiing, as an instructor will help you along the way. When you schedule a lesson, you will tell them your experience and they will assign you an instructor they think will best help you become a great cross country skier.
Another great thing some organizations offer is a waxing lesson. This will teach you how to properly take care of your cross country skis. A ski lesson is certainly a good idea if you feel that you need the extra help, or maybe want to make some improvements on your technique.
Regardless of where you choose to ski, you are going to need to purchase a pass since somebody needs to make sure that the tracks are always in prime condition. The most economical way to go about purchasing a pass is typically buying a season pass. Prices vary from region to region, but cross country skiing passes are normally a fair price and far cheaper than a downhill pass. At first it may seem unfair to pay for a ski pass, but it is important to realize that buying a pass is what is going to allow the trail to be able to remain in good shape.
When cross country skiing, you are going to need a pair of thin wool synthetic socks. They need to be insulated so that they can get rid of moisture. You can go with thick socks or thin socks. While thick socks may provide more warmth, you need to be cautious of how much room is in your boots. You can also purchase over-the-ankle gaiters that will prevent snow from sneaking into your boot. A pair of cross country skiing socks will cost you around $20.
On a sunny day cross country skiing, the best thing you can wear for eyewear is sunglasses. Goggles are far too heavy and will fog up once you start to break a sweat. In reality, any pair of sunglasses will do the trick as long as they cover your eyes and give you good vision. However, the best option is likely a pair that has interchangeable lenses. This will allow you to change the lenses for different sun levels and give you the best vision. Right now, large framed sunglasses are very popular so they have a larger range of vision, but as said earlier, as long as you can see well you don't need to stress too much about what kind of sunglasses you have.
Even during cloudy days, you want to protect yourself from both direct sunlight and reflective sunlight coming from the snow. You are going to have most of your body covered already, but most of the time your face is going to be vulnerable to sunlight. Since cross country skiing is such a great exercise, you will need sunscreen that is water and sweat resistance. The best type of sunscreen you can go with is a bottle that has a strong SPF (to limit the amount of reapplying) and is water resistant.
Especially in harsh conditions, your base layer for cross country skiing should always be thermal underwear tops and bottoms. Thermal underwear is great because it will keep you warm but sweat free due to the moisture-wicking material it is made out of. While maybe not completely necessary in warmer weather, thermal pants are skin tight and are a must have when it is cold out. What is great about long underwear is that the pants often wick moisture away from the body, which will make them extremely breathable and odor resistant. That means that no matter how much work you put in or sweat you produce, you are not at a risk of overheating.
A water resistant jacket is very important to some people to have when you are cross country skiing. If you have a coat that does not do a good job of wicking away any water or snow that comes on you, it will be very uncomfortable and you may end up getting extremely cold. The only time you may need a waterproof jacket is when you are out in heavy snow or rainy conditions. Otherwise, your main priority in a jacket should be wind protection. Sometimes a waterproof jacket will not have great wind resistance, so it is up to the skier to decide what is most important in terms of comfort.
In most cases, a soft shell pair of fleece pants will do the trick for cross country skiing. However, if there is heavy snow or rain, then a hard shell would be more appropriate. These will be more waterproof, but a bit heavier, so it is important to look for a pair of pants that have a hard shell, but still light in weight. If you still want to stick to regular fleece pants that most cross country skiers use, that is okay too. There are some pairs of fleece pants that do a good job of remaining water resistant, they just may not be as effective as a hard shell pair of snow pants.
Hydration is key in every sport, even in cross country skiing. Because of the cold weather, you are not going to feel the need to drink which can be dangerous since in reality it is important to make sure you are consuming water. Any type of water bottle will work just fine in cross country skiing. It is all up to your own preference.
A waxable ski will have something called a kick zone, which is under the foot area where you would apply the wax. While it is a bit more of a hassle to have to apply kick wax everytime you go out, waxable skis will find much better performance than waxless. Waxable skis are used by anyone who is looking for better results and if they are even a little bit serious about their cross country skiing.
Waxless skis offer the convenience of never having to apply wax when you want to go out skiing. In the kick zone, (where the wax would be applied to waxable ski), there is a built in grip pattern and therefore does not require kick wax for traction. Waxless skis are ideal for wet snow when the days are warmer in the spring. Since kick wax does not work very well under these conditions, waxless skis are preferred once the weather starts to get warmer.
As you saw in the list above, there is a good amount of equipment that goes into cross country skiing. All of it is typically worn on the body of the skier, since they will be moving across far distances of land. The equipment should be warm and waterproof, so it does not get ruined by the wet snow and keeps you warm while skiing. Making sure that your equipment works and can endure the weather conditions can provide you with a much better experience while cross country skiing.
Cross country skiing equipment is very similar to downhill skiing, since they are almost the same sport! However, cross country skis are unique from typical skis because they are longer, narrower, and the heel of your boot is not strapped into the ski. This allows you to move upward with typical walking motions, which is not necessary in downhill skiing. Your skiing poles may also be longer in cross country skiing!
The most important pieces of equipment to have for cross country skiing are:
You will absolutely need your skis and poles to participate in cross country skiing since they allow you to move! Cross country skiing apparel refers to the pants, shirts, jackets, and socks you will wear, which can all depend on the weather. You will need extremely warm gear if you're skiing in the middle of the winter, but a warmer ski day might not require many layers. Make sure to check ahead of time to know exactly what equipment you should have.
Cross country skiing is typically less expensive than downhill skiing, but it can still be a costly sport. A pair of skis can cost well over $500, with cheaper but quality options bottoming out around $200. You don't want to save too much money on your skis, since you want them to last a long time and provide you with quality use while skiing. Ski poles cost around $30 since they are much less sturdy and intricately-crafted than skis themselves.
Apparel can also bring a heavy cost, with ski jackets costing over $150 due to their required warmth. Shopping second-hand can save you money on apparel, but the more serious you get about cross country skiing, the more likely you will end up spending more money on clothing.