What is cross-country skiing?
Why cross-country ski?
What kind of cross-country
skier am I?
How does cross-country skiing
How do the skis work?
How do I find the right equipment?
How do I find a pair of skis
that fit me?
What's up with waxing?
Guide to kick waxing?
Concluding note from the Factory
pocket guide was crafted for you by the Saab/Salomon Factory Team, America's
premier professional cross-country ski team. The pocket guide
is meant to be a simple guide to help get you started and make
the most of the sport of cross-country skiing. Our motto is Enjoy
Winter. The Saab/Salomon Factory Team enjoy's winter and they want to
help you enjoy winter as well..
What is cross-country skiing?
It is a quiet brook bubbling around
boulders piled high with marshmallows of snow, water gurgling
under ice of intricate design. It is ripping turns through untracked
powder; it is friends laughing as they glide through gently falling
snow; finding mountains of steep and deep beyond the lift-lines;
racing for 35 miles along with eight thousand other skiers; a
group of kids flying off a homemade jump; it is going fast, pushing
your body to its limit or sliding quietly along at an effort of
your own choosing - from breathing hard to hardly breathing. From
Olympic dreams to fitness dreams, as stress relief or as an escape
from the everyday, cross-country skiing is almost anything you
want it to be.
Why Cross-country ski?
Cross-country skiing is widely recognized
as one of the healthiest activities you can do. The motion of
cross-country skiing is non-jarring and easy on the joints. Because
cross-country skiing uses every major muscle group, it tones the
whole body and is an excellent way to burn fat and work the cardiovascular
system. Why exercise inside on a machine that tries to emulate
skiing when you can be outside doing the real thing? For those
who see snow as a curse, cross-country skiing can help you see
that it is a blessing. Exercising may be a chore, but cross-country
skiing is an adventure.
What kind of cross-country
skier am I?
ski racing combines endurance with speed, and strength with tactics
and technique. Top racers reach speeds over 40 mph on the downhills,
20 mph on the flat, and average over 15 mph for distances up to
35 miles. There are a large number of races nationwide throughout
the winter, most of which welcome novice racers and elite skiers
can be found anywhere. On cross-country skis there is adventure
in a neighborhood park, in the woods at the far side of town,
and in the mountains across the world. Cross-country skiing is
your ticket to adventure wherever you happen to ski. Sport. How
did exercise become a chore? When it was stuck inside, nailed
to a stair-master, and made to watch TV while "feeling the burn".
That maybe exercise, but it is not health. Cross-county skiing
frees exercise from the confines of fitness centers, stale air,
and the stress of the no pain, no gain mindset. Be it for half
an hour after work or for several hours on a weekend morning,
cross-country skiing can provide exercise for the body, relief
for the mind, and joy for the soul.
the limits. Exploring new territory on cross-country skis is more
than just getting away from it all. Skiing by moonlight beneath
towering, snow laden pine or cutting telemark-turns down a bowl
of untracked powder far from the nearest alpine ski lodge has
the ability to totally redefine what you consider "it all."
How Does Cross-country skiing
Classical. Classical skiing refers
to the traditional style of cross-country skiing. The arms and
legs move parallel to the direction of travel and with the same
synchronized, rhythm as walking or running. Imagine, when out
walking or running, if every time you took a step forward your
forward momentum carried twice as far as your normal stride would
take you. That is classical skiing. Classical skiing depends on
kicking and gliding. The kick is like a walking or running step;
it is how you move forward. Each kick sends you gliding down the
Skating. Skating refers to the newer
method of cross-country skiing. Just like a speed skater or an
in-line skater, skating on skis uses a lateral push with the legs
to propel the skier forward. The arms work together with the legs
to aid in this forward push. Many first time skiers who have ice-skated
or used roller-blades make fast progress skating on skis. Skating
is a great option if you want to stick to trails groomed for skiing,
such as you'll find at a ski touring center.
How do cross-country skis work?
Classical skis have two distinct base sections. The tip and tail
portion of the base are called the glide zones. The central portion
of the ski is called the kick zone. The glide zones are completely
smooth. The kick zone may have what is called a "Contagrip"
pattern, or fish scales milled into the base. As the skier steps
forward, all their weight is on the kick zone and the "Contagrip"
pattern is pressed into the snow. This is how classical skiers
propel themselves forward. As the skier glides, the kick zone
doesn't touch the snow because the skier's weight is spread over
the smooth glide zones. The kick zone may also be as smooth as
the glide zones. This kind of classical ski requires kick wax
-- a sticky wax that grabs the snow much like the "Contagrip"
pattern does. Classical skis that require kick wax are called
waxable skis. Skis with a "Contagrip" pattern are called
waxless skis. A skate ski's base is simply one big glide zone.
When skating, forward movement does not depend upon getting kick
but is a matter of skating from ski to ski, as a speed skater
skates from ice-skate to ice-skate.
How do I find the right equipment?
or go to Equipment
Info (Skis, boots, and poles)
Picking the right skis: When
you're picking out shoes you've got to decide if you're going
to be hiking or dancing or bowling in them before you start trying
them on. Likewise, before you worry about what size ski you need,
you should decide what kind of cross-country skiing you'll be
doing. Luckily, finding the right pair of skis is as easy as finding
the right pair of shoes. All ski shops and ski areas have personnel
who can help you pick the right pair of skis for you. To decide
what kind of skis you need, go back to the
WHAT KIND OF SKIER AM I?
From there you can pick the kind of skiing you're most interested
in and go to the section suggested. (Backcountry,
When it comes to moving fast over groomed trails, racing equipment
is the only way to go. Classical racing skis are long and very
narrow. Racing skate skis are the same width or a little wider
than their classical counter part, but are about 20cm shorter
and have a rounded, shorter tip. Racing skis are very lightweight
and are not wide enough for any real off-trail use. These skis
are made for speed. Skate boots are lightweight and have very
stiff soles and a high, supportive cuff. Skate poles are light
and stiff. When standing next to them, they should come up to
between the bottom of your chin and your nose. Classical racing
boots are lightweight, have a low, less supportive cuff and a
flexible sole. Classical racing poles are light and stiff. When
you stand next to them they should come up to between your armpit
and the top of your shoulder.
While sport series skis are made for skiing primarily on groomed
trails, they are a bit wider, more stable and durable than racing
skis, and can be used off the groomed trails. What you gain in
stability, versatility and durability you give up in speed. They
are often a bit shorter and are easier to maneuver than racing
skis. These skis are your ticket to better fitness, fun and adventure
in the natural beauty of a winter landscape. Sport boots offer
more support than racing boots, are warmer and heavier. They are
for the classical style, even if they have a high cuff. Sport
poles are not as stiff or light as racing poles. Standing next
to them, they should come up to between your armpit and the middle
of your shoulder. Sport baskets are bigger than racing baskets
so they will work well in softer snow.
Adventure skis offer even more versatility than the sporting line.
They are wider than the sport, more durable, and more stable,
yet they can be used in or out of track. Their width makes for
stable skiing on groomed trails, but they are really made to go
off the groomed trail or on touring (skied-in) trails. These skis
love to explore, so get out there and see what's around the next
bend, over the next rise... Adventure boots are even warmer and
offer more support than sport boots. They are perfect for skiing
off the groomed trail, but will work well for skiing on groomed
trails as well. Adventure poles are heavier and tougher than sport
and racing poles. They should be the same size as sport poles.
Backcountry skis are the widest, most stable and most durable
skis there are. Their width allows you to float on top of untracked
snow, and feel stable and secure both ascending and descending.
Some varieties even have metal edges for cutting turns. Take these
skis up and out where the snow is untouched, they were born to
take you there. Backcountry boots are the toughest, warmest, most
supportive boots you can buy. Backcountry poles are also tough
and should be about the same size as sport poles or a hair shorter.
Backcountry baskets are big and perfect for use in deep snow.
All cross-country ski shops should have qualified personnel to
help you pick your skis, however that is not always the case...
Once you have narrowed your ski choice down to skis from either
the Racing, Sport, Adventure or Backcountry categories the next
step is picking ski length. In general, a shorter ski will be
more maneuverable and controllable; a longer ski will be smoother
To determine proper ski length, start with the following formulas:
For Traditional length classical skis (Your height in inches)
x 2.6 + 15 inches = approximate ski length in cm.
For skating skis (your height in inches) x 2.6 + 5 = approximate
ski length in cm
Hint: Because the numbers resulting from this formula will seldom
be right on, heavier skiers can round up in length while lighter
skiers can round down in length.
For mid-length classical skis
If you are a lightweight, you will
need the shortest model.
If you are a mid-weight, you will need the medium length ski.
If you are a heavyweight, you will need the longest mid-length
After you have determined ski length, the next step is ski
flex. Flex is very important
because it will determine how easily you move over the snow. Flex
refers to how hard it is to flatten the whole ski against the
snow. It can be described as stiff or soft. A stiff ski requires
a lot of weight to press against the snow, while a soft ski flattens
out against the snow under less force.
Classical Ski Flex
If your classical skis are too stiff, your kick will constantly
slip because your weight is not great enough to press the ski's
kick zone against the snow (hint: if your skis do this, add more
or stickier kick wax). If they are too soft, the kick zone will
constantly rub against the snow, which makes skiing more arduous.
A pair of skis that is neither too stiff nor too soft will allow
you to get kick and maintain good glide.
Without the help of a qualified ski
sales person, the easiest way to test a pair of skis for flex
is the squeeze method.
To squeeze test a pair of classical skis, hold them together,
base to base with both hands just behind the ski's balance point,
or on the binding if they have bindings. Squeeze the skis together.
If you are unable to press the ski bases together using both hands,
these skis are too stiff for you. If you can squeeze them together
then they're not too stiff, but we've got to check their softness.
To check softness, squeeze them together with only one hand. If
you can still squeeze them flat using only one hand, then they
are too soft for you.
If you can squeeze them together with both hands but not with
one hand they are perfect for you.
Because this test is based upon your general size and strength,
it is important that you squeeze-test your own skis.
skating ski that is too stiff will be unstable side to side. A
skating ski that is too soft will flatten out completely under
your weight and swivel under your foot. In both cases the result
is a ski that is unstable and slow.
Without the help of a qualified ski sales person, the easiest
way to test a pair of skis for flex is the squeeze method. Hold
the skis base to base just behind the balance point of the ski
with both hands. Squeeze the skis together with both hands. If
you can squeeze the skis together so that the whole base is touching,
then the skis are too soft for you. If, on the other hand you
can compress the bases only a little, then they are too stiff
What's up with waxing?
A cross-country skier may wax for both
kick and glide. Kick wax is a sticky wax you apply to the kick
zone of waxable classical skis. Waxless classical skis, and skate
skis require no kick wax. Kick wax sticks to the snow and allows
the skier to "get kick." Applying kick wax is simple, but before
you apply it you need to determine which kick wax to use. Please
see page 19 for help with kick waxing.
is how you make your skis glide
faster and keep the bases in good shape. Racers glide wax their
skis every time they use them. Most skiers don't need to wax their
skis nearly as often, but even waxless skis do need to be glide
waxed sometimes if they are to perform optimally and last a long
time. Only the glide sections of a classical ski and the whole
base of a skating ski should be glide waxed.
Wax is labeled for the temperature
range they should be used in. The warmer the temperature the stickier
the wax you will use. A wax that is too sticky will make your
glide slow, which will make skiing harder. A wax that isn't sticky
enough will make your kick slip, which will also make skiing harder.
A concluding note from
the Subaru Factory Team:
Our aim in making the Pocket Guide
has been to help you explore the sport of cross-country skiing.
Out there on the trails, in the woods, the mountains and at the
ski areas there are 85 year-olds and 5 year olds. You'll find
the slim and the short, the tall, the wide, and the light as well
as the dark. At races across the country there are the very fast
and the very slow. Cross-country skiing is for all, and it is
for life. It is health and fitness, and at any level it is challenging
and fun. We hope to see you out there, and if you see us, please
shout out a hearty hello.