Best Cross Country Skis Reviewed & Rated for Quality
As the temperatures drop, we can’t help but get excited for all the end of the year activities. Pumpkin picking, cuddling by the fireplace, warm home-cooked meals, and the long-awaited family and friends gathering headed to the mountains to experience activities in the snow. Whether you're a sports enthusiast or a lover of all outdoor activities the snow tends to bring out the fun in everyone. However, there is a little bit more excitement for sports enthusiasts due to finally having the opportunity to embrace snow-related sports such as snowboarding and skiing. Whether you are a beginner to cross-country skiing or have been doing this for years, we have researched the ten best options on the market today. This guide will help you find the perfect gift for your loved ones (or for yourself) this new holiday season.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 10 hrs of research
Shorter than a traditional ski length
Wood cores with large air channels
Waxed and smooth base
Stone finished bases
- Snowman Children's
- Altai Hok
- Salomon Escape
- Madshus Terrasonic
- Alpina Sports Discovery
- Nordic Rocks Kid’s
- Fischer Outback
- Rossignol 2016
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Cross Country Skis Reviewed & Rated for Quality
Shorter than a traditional ski length
Wood cores with large air channels
Waxed and smooth base
Stone finished bases
Broader cut than you might need
Rossignol, or Skis Rossignol, is a French manufacturer of alpine and snowboarding equipment, so it’s no surprise that these pair of skis are considered a classic. Rossignol was also one of the first companies to produce plastic skis. These pair of skis have a sleek design, maneuverable length, and stone finish bases which both men and women can enjoy.Read more
These pair of skis have a shorter than traditional ski length, which in turn increases maneuverability. These are perfect for the beginner to learn how to cross-country ski or for the seasoned professional who wants to move quickly up and down the slopes.
There are large air channels embedded within these pair of wood skis that provide a lightweight, durable speed and performance, which is customers state is important for when you want to have a good grip going uphill and a fast speed going downhill.
When you’re investing in or purchasing a high-quality sporting equipment, you expect that the prices won’t be cheap. Even when I go on my yearly mountain trips and rent snowboarding or skiing equipment, I’m always spending a considerable amount to rent gear and clothes. Naturally, any quality pair of skis won’t be cheap, but considering the quality and brand of these pair of skis, these are quite affordable.
Complete package with everything included
Laminated wood skis
Cross Trail Nordic Ski Poles
Great bargain and affordable package price
May have to get them adjusted
For the complete beginner or for the person who doesn’t want to search for items individually, this package comes with all the fixings you would need. It allows you to get rid of the hassle of researching which items you need to ski at your maximum potential while giving you quality pieces that come together to create the perfect bundle.Read more
This comes complete with matching skis, boots, bindings, and poles. If you were to purchase everything separately, you would have to research the appropriate bindings, the height of the pole, size of boots, and even try to color coordinate or match them with your skis. This package gets rid of all that hassle so you’re ready to go.
One of the key points in this package is the cross-country ski boots that they come with. These are designed to keep your feet warm and dry in the snow with its Thinsulate lining. The Thinsulate lining is breathable and has a waterproof upper with improved metal lace guides with great ergonomic pressure, and even a toe protector.
There’s no doubt about it that this is going to be the best value you can get for your buck- each of these products alone can equate to the price of one ski, but you’re basically getting a four for one deal, at a huge fraction of the cost. Not to say that these are cheap in quality either- this is a great bargain. Customers also rave about their customer service.
3. Snowman Children's
Child friendly design
Only one style available
If you want to get your child started extremely early, these are the perfect pair for children ages 2-4! With an extremely safe and child-friendly design, this set (complete with poles) is designed to provide balance and the learning foundation they need to know to become expert by the time they’re 5.Read more
These come with an already mounted binding that fits on most boot sizes (size 70 cm) and can be adjusted as your child grows. Customers who have purchased this state that the bindings are also compatible on winter boots and are lightweight and don’t strain on the legs.
These also come with adjustable poles that help the child learn how to balance. These can be used for training in your backyard or mountains and are also safely made to limit injury.
These come at a very affordable price point, considering they come with poles and adjustable bindings. Although they claim this should be used from ages 2-4, this will depend on the child’s size, and can even be used up to age 5.
4. Altai Hok
Easy to maneuver
Universal binding for any boot
Integrated skin insert
Full steel edges
Bindings may need to be adjusted for some
Let’s take it down a notch and go back to the beginnings. This Altai Hok Cross Country Ski is perfect for beginners- it’s designed as an easy to use ski for the backcountry, where slopes should be flat and easy. It is described as excellent for breaking trail in crisp, new and fresh snow.Read more
These come with an integrated skin insert which combines ease of grip and glide on soft terrain, This is a 100% nylon “fur” texture that combines with its unique structure alignment that gives this pair of skis maximum durability and a new and improved glide. There are also full steel edges along the sides of these that skin inserts that increase the grip on the snow.
The unique design of these skis serves as a hybrid between cross-country skis and the snowshoe according to some customers- due to forwarding mount position. The Hok is comparable to the ease of use found in snowshoes because of its easy maneuverability in gliding forward instead of lifting and stepping.
For those that have zero cross-country skiing experience, you might find this product worth your money. Comparable to other cross-country skis on the market, this can be the stepping stone you need to get the confidence and skills you need to feel comfortable on the slopes.
5. Salomon Escape
Complete skiing package
Salomon Escape 5 Grip No Wax Skis
Boot sizes can vary based on individual
This is another complete package that comes with skis, boots, and poles at a very reasonable price point. Featuring a unique, sleek design of boots, stylish skis and poles, these include everything you would need for cross-country skiing. For the ultimate customized experience, the seller asks consumers to describe their size in order to create the perfect fitting set of skis that are tailored specifically to them.Read more
One look at these boots and you know they are made for comfort. This unique design comes in black for men or grey for women and has the Salomon Touring Fit. The Salomon Touring Fit has a warm, comfortable cover with a central zip and mono-material exterior, making these the most comfortable and popular skiing boots out there.
The binding on these pair of skis is automatically installed with an auto step-in binding that is compatible with most boots (NNN and ProLink Boots). The binding was constructed to provide a custom fit for the perfect sizing without taking away from the design.
This comes with three different pieces of equipment, all of each on their own would cost about the same as a pair of skis. Considering the number of equipment in this package, the high quality, and unique style this is a great bargain that’s too good to pass up.
6. Madshus Terrasonic
Unique 3D design
Torsion Cap Construction
Meant for fast racing
7 sizes available
These skis have such a classic look to them. They combine their traditional P190 Nano base with a medium camber and lightweight PolyCell construction to create a ski that is meant for the experienced fast racer.Read more
The Torsion Cap Construction on this model solidifies the core of the skate skis with a cap already embedded, This allows for a very durable and lightweight construction. The last thing you want in skis are clunky, heavy material that hinders your performance, which is why this construction will come in handy.
The innovative P190 Base on this was designed to completely race ready and are ready to go in a variety of conditions. Additionally, the unique 3D shape allows reliable, flexible consistency making it easier to maneuver up and down the slopes.
Customers state that this product improves climb performance with its very flexible tail, and is considered to be highly polyvalent and fast on most surfaces. Considering this aids in the success of your ride, this pair of skis come at a very affordable price point.
7. Alpina Sports Discovery
Edge Wood Core
Early rise tip
Only 3 sizes available
With a slim 64 mm waist 38 mm sidecut, the Alpina Sports Discovery 102 Back Off Nordic Touring Skis allow you slope the backcountry with ease and precision. Sporting a raised tip, Edge Wood Core, and integrated side cap construction, this provides utmost control and precision on the icy surfaces.Read more
Wood cores in skis allow for maximum agility and smooth movement- with Alpina’s Lite Edge Wood Core, you get the responsiveness and intuitiveness of a wood ski. They also provide increased strength and durability, so you can ride for many years to come.
The No-Wax Patterned Base provides a strong grip for long climbs, and the P-Tex Base makes it extremely easy to glide downhill for fast descents, making for one exciting ride.
The cost of these pair of skis compares to most on the market, if not a bit more affordable. These are a pair of skis that are meant to last with its highly durable material, steel edges, and flat ski tops to limit damage and destruction and keep you safe.
8. Nordic Rocks Kid’s
Made for beginner children
Step in bindings that are universal to any boot
Affordable price point
Not for children over 13
We can’t forget about the children! Skiing and snowboarding is often a family activity, in fact, it’s a lot easier to learn sporting activities during the younger years when we’re a lot more flexible and agile. These are perfect for the beginning skiing child, or for the intermediate and advanced. These are constructed specifically for children 6-13 years old and are designed for in-track, out-of-track, rolling hills and trail breaking.Read more
Because these are designed for beginners, and intermediate children the step-in binding system makes it easy for them to step into and buckle themselves, letting them learn how to learn for themselves. The spring buckles also clasp into place easily, and bindings fit any size boot.
You can buy this for your child at six years old, and he/she can use them until they’re thirteen years old! Because of the adjustable poles, they can adjust to the child’s height, making this a great purchase for years to come.
Given that the boot bindings are universal and can fit any boot, and the poles are adjustable, you are guaranteed that you will get several years out of this skiing package if you purchase at an early age. Also, you can’t put a price on learning and fun! This package is also very reasonable, considering the attachments it comes with.
9. Fischer Outback
Air Tec Steel Edge Core
Nordic Rocker Camber
Opened ski tips
Narrow Steel Edges
Good for speed and performance
Fischer is a Nordic company that specializes in Nordic skiing, alpine skiing, and hockey equipment. It is one of the largest and leading manufacturers in the world for skiing equipment- in fact, professional skiers have used Fischer as their choice of sporting and skiing equipment for the last three World Championships as well as the Olympic Games. If you want to feel like a world champion and ski in style, these pair of skis will give you the push you need.Read more
These are probably not for the beginner cross-country skier in that the opened ski tips (Nordic Rocker Camber as they call it) allow for gliding in unprepared and rugged terrain. The speed grinding make this perfect for speed racing (hence why these are commonly used in the championship games)
The quality steel edges along the skis provide utmost stability throughout the most rugged terrains, and this specific model provides the quality you need to perform at your very best in an unprepared territory.
Given that Fischer is one of the leading skiing manufacturers in the world and have even been used in the World Championships and the Olympic Games, you know they’re going to be quality and come at a slightly steeper price point. These might be one that a seasoned skier wants to invest in after they have been doing this for a while.
10. Rossignol 2016
Wood Air Core
Partial Metal Edges
Designed for off trail exploring
Not ideal for more than a foot of snow
For our last item, we’ll come full circle with another classic Rossignol. Although this is a 2016 model, it has been very popular because of it’s simple but powerful design. This is a versatile, do-it-all ski that serves well for both rugged terrains and in-track skiing.Read more
This has a thinner core, which makes this more lightweight and delivers a softer flex at the tip and tail, making it easy to maneuver on both ungroomed and in-track training. This also allows for easier uphills and safer downhills.
This waxless Positrack Base provides a strong grip that allows you to glide up and down in unpredictable ground, making this the perfect companion when you want to go off track and explore
The price point of these are comparable to most cross-country skis out on the market today. Customers like to use this for off-track purposes, and the high-quality finish on this design make it meant to last in the toughest of conditions.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Depending on the type of cross-country skiing you are partaking in, you may want to purchase the best one, especially if the terrains are different. There are touring skis, which are the most popular and prevalent ski choice for most skiers, as touring skis are done on a groomed terrain and are very long and narrow. Usually, touring skis are meant for long descents. Local skiing areas will often have groomed or man-made trails that are able to be rented and enjoyed by beginners alike.
Metal Edged Touring Skis are usually a bit wider than regular touring skis and sport a steel or metal edge, which makes them ideal for better grip in harsh, tough snow conditions. These would be on intermediate level touring skis or for intermediate level cross-country skiers. Because these provide a better grip, they are able to be used on rougher, off-trail conditions or off of groomed trails. These are usually for steeper and harsher terrains, where the sidecut can provide better maneuvering skills and balance. This type of ski is ideal for the skier who likes to go off the groomed trail and further expand their skills.
Race Skis are similar to touring skis in that they are very high-performance, but sport a few key differences in upgrades that make these geared toward intermediate or advanced level skiers. These can be performed in groomed tracks, but because they are designed to be stiffer in style, are best used in off-groomed, rugged terrain, offering better performance and skill.
Just as you would buy a pair of pants according to your size, you would want to purchase a pair of skis according to your height and weight. The taller or heavier you are, the longer you would want your ski length to be. If the ski length does not correspond to your height, it can cause poor performance and terrible balance, causing you to fall unnecessarily. For cross-country skiers, you need to research the ideal length for your specific weight so you are performing at your best ability. Beginner skiers can benefit from a shorter length, but it should still align with your height and weight. Advanced skiers opt for a longer length that provides greater speed in certain terrains. To determine what length you should go for, add 25 centimeters to your height in centimeters- you should purchase that length or as close to that length as possible.
Skis are known to be very narrow in width, but the perfect width for you can still vary based on what you are using the skis for. If you are skiing within groomed tracks, you want to opt for skis that are within 70 mm, as most touring ski tracks are groomed at 70 mm or less. For terrains with deeper snow, a wider width can provide better balance and floatation- it is easy to sink into deep snow with a narrower width.
Some of the cross country skis on this list had a wax base or textured base. This depends on the terrain you are using the cross country skis for. Grip is important for gliding, especially at the beginning of the ride when skiers are kicking off. The grip is achieved by using a combination of wax bases or some type of textured base, which can help propel you with the right momentum. Waxable XC Skis, as listed in some of the items above, are made with a special type of wax mixture in the bottom middle of the ski base.
To wax the ski perfectly, this requires a special type of knowledge because you need to be able to match the temperature of the wax to the snow, to make sure they are in harmony with each other for fluidity. These are for more professional skiers and are not common amongst the average cross-country skier. Waxless XC Skis, also on the list above, require little to no maintenance because of the textured material that is under the base of the ski. Because this textured base is already premade and applied, it should already be designed to grip the snow and should perform well on most snow conditions.
You might have seen the terms “NNN,” “Salomon,” and “SNS Pilot” sprinkled within the title of some of the items listed. We’ll explain what they mean here. “NNN” refers to the “New Nordic Norm” binding, which is operated by one steel bar that clips into the toe of the compatibly sized boot. You need to make sure that both the ski and boot are “NNN” compatible to make sure they clip correctly. “Salomon Pilot” operates in a similar way, except there is only one ridge along the edge of the bindings version the two of the NNN. “SNS Pilot” uses a double clip bar to attach to the boot, which provides better stability and higher performance for the skier. The boots you purchase should be compatible to the ski (either NNN or SNS), and should always be a comfortable, snug fit (just as you would for any other pair of boots).
Poles should always be used when considering cross-country skiing to provide better balance and movement. To determine your length, stand and measure the pole- it should reach to about your armpit to be an appropriate fit.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Skis come with bindings for ski boots; therefore, you want to make sure you purchase a set of boots that work well with the skis you select. Your boots should feel lightweight, yet sturdy and you should consider getting your foot measured at least one more time. Doing so will ensure your ski boots not only fits your skis but fit your foot properly.
Instead of guessing which poles would work best for your skis consider purchasing a set. A set will come prepared with everything you need in a single bundle taking away the guessing game from finding what works with your skis and what won't work at all.
Other Factors to Consider
Taking into consideration how durable your skis are is one of the most important aspects you will look into. The main reason being if your skis aren’t as durable as they should be, you might come across the issue of having to replace your skis on a frequent basis which can be quite expensive. Additionally, you might come across safety issues that could be easily prevented by purchasing a set of durable, sturdy safe skis that offer everything you need and more.
Whether you’re on a fast slope or you’re skiing down a hill you want to have a set of skis that you’re comfortable using and maneuvering around in. Your skis should feel like an extension of you as you glide through the snow. The key is finding a set of skis that fit your height and weight requirements to a T, once you have you are set to go. Additionally, you want your ski boots to be comfortable as well having them both feel almost customized to you will help you have better engagement and go at a faster pace.
The bottom line is you want to do as much research as possible when you’re looking for a new set of skis, the more research that is done the more knowledge you will have to be able to make an intellectual estimate as to which ski will work best for you, and your personal preferences. You might even want to consider purchasing more than one set of skis depending on your skill level. If you are more advanced go for a set that is marketed for advanced users to ensure you get the most bang for your buck and your expertise level, whereas if you’re a bit of a beginner seek a set of skis that are easier to use and maneuver.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cross country skiing, or Nordic skiing, is completely different from skate skiing and the skis should not be used interchangeably as they serve different purposes. Cross-country skiing is primarily straight style on groomed or off-groomed terrains and tracks. Skate skiing, similarly to what it’s called, is a sort of gliding “push and move” style that we’re used to seeing on skates and rollerblades. Because of the movement of this type of skiing, this can only be done in wide tracks that provide for ample movement.
We’ll look at two different types of skiing- downhill and cross country. If you are the type to enjoy faster, straight up-and-down movements, downhill skiing provides the speed and accelerating downhill at a rapid pace. Cross-country skiers have the ability, because of the way the skis are designed, to move up and down and side to side, providing more room for exploration. Downhill speed provides more challenge as it takes more effort to stop and turn and has a steep learning curve to get to an intermediate or expert level. Cross-country skiing follows your body’s natural movement, so it’s easy for children to learn at the beginning.
If you are in the United States, there are over 500 resorts that offer the trails needed to cross-country ski. When you go definitely may decide on the climate and season, but it may be only a short drive away depending on where you are.
Because you will be in cold conditions, you want to make sure you are wearing warm, padded clothing. Wear insulating layers that protect your skin. Skiing pants may be a good investment to limit bulk and are designed to allow for movement. It’s also a good way to protect yourself with these thick layers of clothing in case of falls or injuries.
You want to keep your head warm because you will be in a cold climate and the fast movement may be harsh against a bare face. Sports sunglasses are always a good investment because they protect your eyes, especially if the sun is out. The sun can reflect against the snow and cause harsh lights with direct sunlight, so make sure to protect your eyes. This will help your performance as you will be able to see better and this will limit accidents. A pair of insulated gloves are a good idea to keep your hands warm. If you fall, this is especially important to have so your hands are protected from any damage that the snow or ground can cause.
Yes. When snow thaws and then refreezes into an almost ice-like substance, it can be incredibly slippery for waxless skis, or any ski in general. There is virtually no grip on the snow that will stick to your skis. This pertains to both waxless and waxable skis, but waxable skis also do not get good grip on situations where the snow is thawing and gets mushy and wet. You may notice that in certain areas of the track or trail, you get a good grip and in others you don't. This is because of shadows, thawing, and where the sun hits. This can affect the quality and temperature of the snow, causing it to melt and turn into an unfavorable temperature.
Camber is what forms the arc in the shape of the construction of the ski. In certain models above, there were arced tips or cambers that provide the skis flex for a natural progression in movement, especially at the start of the run. It's what is used to initiate the momentum in the beginning of the run, while in skate skiing, it provides the movement necessary to glide from side to side, much as a skater or rollerblader would do. The slight arc, especially in a narrow pair of skis, makes all the difference in movement, especially in times of high speed and velocity.