The Complete Cross Country Ski Buying Guide (Types and Sizes)

Picking the right cross country ski makes all the difference. Before buying, you need to know the different types and sizes and which one’s appropriate for you.
The Complete Cross Country Ski Buying Guide

Table of Contents

Your skis are the most important gear you need for cross country skiing. After all, without them, you can’t ski. But choosing the right pair is more than just about how it looks. There are different factors to consider when buying your next ski.

The right ski allows you to enjoy the sport, whether you’re doing it for fun or training. Using the wrong pair can lead to a forgettable experience. Here’s how to find the ski appropriate for the specific activity, your body type, and your skill level.

Are Cross Country Skis the Same as Regular Skis?

Cross country skis are different from regular skis. Skis used for resort or alpine skiing are designed for downhill skiing only. They’re made for speed and quick turns.

Meanwhile, cross country skis are made for flat terrains, going uphill and downhill. Speed isn’t the primary consideration except for the racing variants.

They look similar but the two ski types are made for different purposes.

What Is the Difference Between Cross Country Skis and Regular Skis?

The main difference is that your foot is completely connected to the ski through your ski boots in regular skis.

In contrast, cross country skis are only connected at the front part of your foot, leaving the heel detached. This is how you’re able to perform cross country skiing movements.

There are also differences in size and length. Regular skis can come in narrow or wide widths depending on the skiing you want to do. Cross country skis are generally narrow, long, and light for more efficient movements.

Can You Cross Country Ski in Regular Skis?

It’s not possible to cross country ski using regular skis. Simply put, regular skis don’t give you the mobility to perform the necessary cross country skiing movements. You won’t be able to ski on flat terrain or go uphill.

Why Are Cross Country Skis Not Flat?

Cross country skis aren’t flat by design to make it easier to glide. Known as the camber, think of it as the arch in the middle of the ski.

Cross country skis have a more pronounced camber. When your weight is equally distributed, the ski remains arched off the snow. This allows you to glide with ease on groomed trails.

When your weight is on one leg, the arch decreases. The ski grips the snow and gives you more traction which is critical for moving uphill.

If cross country skis are flat, you won’t be able to do the basic gliding and sliding movements.

What Are the Different Types of Cross Country Skis?

There are three ski types for classic cross country skiing. These are cross country touring skis, performance skis, and metal edge touring skis.

Cross Country Touring

This ski type is generally longer and more narrow. They’re made for skiing on groomed terrain. They’re also lightweight which makes it easier to ski without exerting too much effort.

However, some skis are a bit shorter which is ideal for beginners. They’re much easier to control when making turns. It’s the ideal ski type for those still learning and who want to have a good time in the snow.


Racing and performance skis are for training or competition of more advanced skiers. This type has a stiffer camber which gives a faster and aggressive ride on groomed tracks. The added stiffness requires more skill and better technique.

Metal Edge Touring

The metal edge ski type is best used for off-track cross country skiing and steep terrain. They’re shorter and wider for added control, maneuverability, and stability. The metal edges provide more grip, especially for more icy conditions.

What Type of Cross Country Skis Should I Get?

The type of ski you should get really depends on your skill level and your purpose. Also, beginners should be using different skis versus more advanced skiers. Going off-track to explore the backcountry terrain requires a different type as well. The same goes for serious skiers and racers.

What Cross Country Skis is for a Beginner?

For beginners, the standard cross country touring skis are the best option. Training and practice will be done on groomed tracks, so this makes it less challenging to move. Learning the sport’s fundamentals is much easier. This also allows them to have a fun time on the tracks.

Are There Different Sizes of Cross Country Skis?

Yes, cross country skis come in different sizes. It’s important to get the right ski size if you want to have a memorable skiing experience. And the right ski size depends on your weight. So before heading to the store or borrowing one, head to the weighing scale first.

Does Cross Country Ski Size Matter?

Choosing the right ski will determine how good or bad your skiing experience will be. The right size allows you to get the most out of your skis. So size matters a lot.

Using the wrong ski size can lead to a lack of control and stability. It can also give you difficulty in performing the most basic movements.

How Do You Size Cross Country Ski?

Getting the right cross country ski size depends on two things: weight and skill level. Your skis will perform well if it’s the right size based on those two factors.

Weight affects your ski’s stiffness. Get a ski size that’s below the recommendation for your body size and it won’t be stiff enough. You’ll end up with a lot of friction. Get one above and it’ll be too stiff and you won’t get any traction at all.

What Size of Cross Country Skis Do I Need?

To find out what size you need, get your weight and check the recommended ski size based on the chart below.

Note: 2.2 lbs a kilo, and 2.54 cm an inch.

Skier Weight

Ski Length

100 – 110 lbs

180 – 190 cm

110 – 120 lbs

182 – 192 cm

120 – 130 lbs

185 – 195 cm

130 – 140 lbs

187 – 200 cm

140 – 150 lbs

190 – 205 cm

150 – 160 lbs

195 – 210 cm

160 – 180 lbs

200 – 210 cm

180 lbs and up

205 – 210 cm

What Size Cross Country Skis Beginner?

Shorter skis are recommended for beginners. They don’t go as fast as longer skis and are easier to control and maneuver. It’ll allow beginners to learn at an easy pace and master the basics of cross country skiing.

Are Longer or Shorter Cross Country Skis Better?

Neither is necessarily better than the other. What’s better for you depends on your skill level and what your purpose is.

Beginners just starting should stick to shorter skis. This way, they can learn to control and maneuver at a slower and manageable speed.

If you’re a more experienced skier looking to go fast, then longer skis are the way to go.

Can Cross Country Skis Be Too Long?

Your cross country ski can be too long if you get one that’s recommended for someone heavier. Getting the wrong ski size will significantly impact your skiing experience. Don’t expect to get the most out of your skis.

What Happens if Cross Country Skis Are Too Long?

Cross country skis that are too long won’t have enough contact with the snow. As a result, you lack the grip and traction needed for stability and maneuverability. You’ll end up slipping a lot of times.

Do Cross Country Skis Wear Out?

No ski is designed to last forever. Eventually, your cross country skis will wear out. A telltale sign is the camber. A ski is well past its prime if you don’t have much camber left.

How fast it wears out depends on how often you ski and how aggressive you are. Whether you got your skis brand new or used is also an important factor.

How Long Do Cross Country Skis Last?

If you’re an average skier, your skis will usually last 8 years. That’s assuming you got your skis brand new. But your ski will start losing its performance at the 5-year mark. If you ski a lot and aggressively, then expect it to last a lot shorter.

Who Makes Best Cross Country Skis?

According to avid cross country skiers, the best cross country ski brands are Fischer, Rossignol, and Salomon. These top brands have skis for beginners and pros alike. They’re widely recognized for having the best tech and performance.

Where to Buy Cross Country Skis

Cross country skis are widely available online and from outdoor sports retailers. You can buy your gear individually or as a package of skis with other cross country skiing gear.

If you’re a beginner, you can also choose to borrow first. This way, you can get a feel of the ski brand you prefer before making a purchase.

Does REI Have Cross Country Skis?

You can find skis for sale at REI. They offer cross country skis for adults and kids from various brands including Fischer, Rossignol, and Salomon. The website allows you to compare skis and check reviews to make your decision easier.

How Do You Choose Your Next Cross Country Skis?

Choosing your next cross country ski shouldn’t just be based on the best brand or your favorite color. Your skill level, body weight, and the kind of skiing you want to do all should be considered.

Say you’re a beginner and you choose a ski for performance racing, you’ll have a hard time learning the basics. If you’re going to ski off track but you choose a ski made for groomed tracks, you won’t get the most out of your skis.

How Do You Pick Classic Cross Country Skis?

Pick your classic cross country skis based on the following:

  • Your Weight: Your ski should have a camber to support your weight and give you proper traction at the same time.
  • Your Skill Level: Beginners should use shorter skis and more experienced skiers can use the longer and faster skis.
  • The Activity: Choose the skis appropriate for groomed tracks, professional training/competition, or off-track exploration.
  • Waxable or Waxless: Waxless skis are more convenient since they don’t need wax to get traction. Waxable cross country skis get their traction from the wax you apply on each ski.
  • Your Budget: Stick within your budget and don’t go for broke trying to get the best skis you can’t afford.

What Else Should I Know Before Buying Cross Country Skis?

Before buying cross country skis, asking for advice from an expert is always a good idea. Get more information about ski brands and how they perform. This way, you can choose a ski you’ll be most comfortable with.

You can also do your research on the cross country skis and which one is the best for your skill level and intended use. If you’re still not sure, you can always borrow or rent skis to get a feel of their performance before making a purchase.