Introduction to Cross-Country Skis

So you’re looking for some cross-country skis? This first time buyers guide aims to help you find the perfect skis to get outside and have some fun!

There are many types of cross-country skis, each of them geared to a specific type of skiing. The three types are; classic skiing, backcountry skiing, and skate skiing.

Classic Skiing:

  • Used on Groomed Tracks
  • Available in Waxable, Skin and Waxless
  • Wax skis allow adaptation to Varying Snow conditions
  • Skin skis provide great performance with less day-to-day maintenance

Classic Skiing is what most people picture when thinking of cross-country skiing. The skis glide in groomed tracks, set by a machine. Classic cross-country skiing is great for recreation and exercise and can be done by all ages. Classic skis come in three types: waxable skis that require a grip wax on the base of the skis, skin skis that have a manufacture installed ‘skin’ on the base of the ski to provide grip, and waxless skis, which use a molded ‘crown’ or ‘fishscale’ pattern to grip the snow. While wax skis let you adapt to varying snow conditions by changing the wax on your skis, we typically recommend waxless or skin skis for beginners for their ease of use!

Quick Tip: Even “waxless” skis benefit from glide wax. Try Swix Easy Glide Liquid Wax for up to 20% more distance on every kick!

Skate Skiing:

  • Motion Similar to Ice Skating
  • Done on Hard Packed Groomed Trails
  • Faster than Classic Skiing
  • Skis are Shorter, Stiffer than Classic Skis
  • Use Glide Wax

The motion involved in skate skiing is very similar to that of ice-skating, hence the name. This style of skiing is done on hard packed groomed trails. Skate skiing exercises different muscles than classic skiing, and is considerably faster. Skate skis are shorter and stiffer than classic skis, and while they use glide wax they do not use grip wax.

Quick Tip: Check out to learn all there is to learn about waxing skis.

Back-country Skiing

  • Ideal for venturing off Groomed Trails
  • Available Wax-able / Waxless
  • Wider than Classic Skis

If you plan on venturing off the groomed trails, then you are looking for a pair of back-country skis. Back-country skis can be either wax-able or wax-less, and are wider than classic skis for more stability and floatation in deep snow. Some back-country skis have a metal edges for more control over difficult terrain. Back-country skis are available in a variety of lengths and widths. Some skis are, just slightly wider than classic skis and can fit in track but also work well offtrack, others are very short and wide to maximize floatation and maneuverability.

Quick tip: Adjustable poles are great for backcountry skiing as you’ll be able to adjust the length based on whether you are moving uphill or downhill.



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