Best Crosscountry Skis – 2021 List
Crosscountry skis are a little bit different than your standard skis. Due to the fact that you are propelling yourself forward, they need to be shorter and stiffer than Alpine skiing. We wanted to select designs that are made from high quality and durable materials that hold up incredibly well season after season. While the sport hasn’t changed much in 100 years, the gear has improved a good deal. We selected current designs from trusted brands that are ideal for novices as well as veterans. Whether you want to hit top speeds or simply take in the scenery, we have you covered.
In the guide, we have provided a list of some of our favorite crosscountry skis to help you get the most out of the snowy season.
This is the best product on our list that is currently in stock:
Great for beginners
Top 10 Picks
1. Rossignol BC 80
Active cap construction
Full metal edges
Prevents sliding backward
Not ideal for beginners
This updated design from Rossignol is an excellent choice for intermediate users that are just starting to get the hang of things. Smart design choices make this set perfect for fresh snow and more challenging terrains. Many basic designs demand that the snow is just right in order to pick up speed or navigate through hills. The BC 80 Positrack Backcountry, however, is built for all types of winter terrain.Read more
The full-length metal edges are a great accent that allows you to effortlessly cut through deep and fresh snow while maintaining control. The Positrack base offers users just the right amount of grip to the snow that allows them to make quick turns as needed while maintaining a good level of control.
If you find that you have little endurance to keep up with longer trails, this design is worth checking out. The Active Cap Construction constantly pushes the user forward and prevents sliding back. This results in easier movements without as much push from the user, meaning you can stay out there longer without becoming completely exhausted.
If you are in the market for something that is a little more advanced for difficult terrains, this design from Rossignol is an excellent choice. As far as price is concerned, it lies about in the middle of the pack. It isn’t the more expensive design that we have seen, but it isn’t the most affordable either.
2. Atomic Redster C7 Skintec
Great for beginners
Not great for advanced skiers
This design is a great option for beginners to intermediate users. We love that it has a lightweight feel that is easy to use all day long, and it also boasts smart features that are ideal for difficult terrains. Plus, it comes in at a reasonable price point that won’t break the bank.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it provides users with an SDS camber construction which gives you an excellent glide on fresh tracks. This means that you will continuously propel forward without sliding. You will need to exert minimal effort to push yourself forward on flat surfaces so you won’t exhaust yourself as quickly.
We also like that this design doesn’t require the use of wax. The base of this unit offers Skintec performance that is composed of 100 percent moleskin hair. This design really grips the snow under your feet which allows the users to gain more control, and it makes turning a little bit easier. If you are an advanced skier, however, you may want to opt for a waxable design for more difficult trails.
If you are in the market for something that is great for beginners and intermediate users that won’t break the bank, this design is worth checking out. Smart features built right into the planks provide users with unmatched control and require minimal effort so you can be out there on the trails longer without becoming overly exhausted!
3. Madshus Propulsion Plus
Great for fresh snow
Full-length metal edges
If your snowy adventures take you through hilly and winding terrain, this design from Madshus is a great choice. While it may provide a little too advanced for beginners, it is a great choice for users looking for a challenge. It comes in at a pretty steep price point, but it is perfect for the winter adventurer that likes to travel off of the beaten path.Read more
The edges of this design are coated in full-length metal, which will make it easier for you to navigate through deep snow to forge your own path. These metal edges also make it quite easier for the user to pick up speed on inclines, make quick turns, and pick up speed while maintaining control on declines.
The style, weight, and cut of this design not only works well on fresh snow but also in icy conditions as well. If you love to navigate through the hillsides and not just open fields. It’s important to note that the bindings for this design are not included with the purchase.
The design of this option from Madshus is designed specifically for deep snow and challenging terrains. The choice in this design, however, means that it is not ideal for simple terrains. The base of this design doesn’t quite have the same level of glide on flat surfaces as some of the other designs that we have seen.
4. Alpina Frontier Skin NIS
Narrow frame for a natural range of motion
If the distance is your number one goal. This design from Alpina is a great choice. It is constructed from materials that hold up well in all types of wintery conditions and allows the user to travel farther without becoming overly exhausted. This newer model has a few key changes that allow for easier movements for a wide variety of trails.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it is more narrow than some of the options that we have seen out there on the market. The narrow design provides for easier movements that feel more natural than wider designs. It also allows for tighter turns as well.
The tips measure to be 50 mm wide, which means that they are also able to pick up speed pretty quickly. We also love that the bindings are included with this package. Even beginners found that this design is super easy to clip on and hit the trails! This super-versatile design is great for beginners and intermediate users as well.
If you are in the market for something that is snappy that is also built for long distances, you can’t go wrong with the Alpina Frontier. We love that this set includes binding that snaps on easily, and it is built for speed as well as distance.
5. Fischer Twin Skin Pro IFP
Twin skin strips
Great for beginners
Not great for hilly terrain
What we liked most about the Twin Ski Pro IFP is that it is designed for both beginner and intermediate users. This is a set that is able to grow with you as your skills start to advance. It is composed of quality materials that allow for excellent control in a wide variety of snowy conditions. It may not be the most affordable design out there on the market, but it is a perfect fit for dedicated skiers!Read more
What makes this design from Fischer stand out from the pack is the offset twin skin strips that run along the base of the unit. These strips allow for more balance and even control which is ideal for icy conditions. Users also love that these planks also provide a little bit of bend to them, giving you added control and movement on the trails.
As with any Fisher product, it is composed of multiple layers of premium materials that work together to give you better control and stability. Inside, it boasts an air-channel construction that makes this unit lightweight and easier to push yourself forward with ease. The construction of this unit also prevents sliding back which is ideal for flat tracks.
If you are in the market for something that is built with beginners in mind, this design from Fischer is a great choice. It provides users with excellent traction in icy conditions that give you more control of your movements, and it is incredibly easy to steer. While it cost a little bit more than some of the other budget-friendly designs that we have seen, we feel that it is worth every penny!
6. Rossignol Delta
Wider body not great for more experienced skiers
For those that want skis designed to help them move faster, the Rossignol Delta offer a racing edge without emptying your pockets. While racing skis can be very expensive, these skis come with a fast edge while still providing extra learning benefits to help boost your skills.Read more
These feature an Activ’Cap construction and a honeycomb core. The honeycombed core has a design that’s focused on speed. It is important to keep in mind the center area of these skis won’t be as stiff as your typical skate ski, the type of ski used for beginners. You’ll also need to push a bit harder with the ski to increase your acceleration.
These are designed to increase your pace and help you move. The core of these skis is honeycombed, which helps make these skis lightweight and boosts their speed.
This option is made with a wider platform to help those learning how to ski achieve what they need to improve. Plus, the design, with the focus on speed, will help you increase your velocity easily.
7. Fischer Orbiter EF
Easy to use
Bindings not included
Unreliable size chart
These have been designed to be easy to use, easy to control, and consistently flexible. With all of these features, the skis allow you to focus more on the sport of skiing itself, and less on what's happening with your skis.Read more
Perhaps one of the most head-turning features of these skis is the fact that they are not made from fiberglass. Instead, they have been manufactured with volcanic basalt fibers. The lightweight air core is made from wooden basalite and the waxless bottom and double camber provide you with a great ride.
The Orbiter skis feature a reversed sidecut, providing you with a wider body. The wider body brings you better grip and stability. The volcanic materials used in the skis give you consistent flexibility in all temperatures. If speed is what you’re after, you will appreciate the narrow body of these skis as well.
Made for beginners and intermediate level skiers, this pair is lightweight and responsive. The stone ground base provides a smooth ride and great glide. They are very easy to control and pack a powerful kick.
8. Madshus Intrasonic
P-Tex 2000 Electra base
Not for advanced users
Looking for something that is a little more affordable? If you are just getting started and need something that won’t break the bank, this design from Madshus is a great option. This set comes from a trusted brand, but it lacks some of the advanced features found in their intermediate sets. The best part is that it cost a little less than a good pair of running shoes!Read more
While it boasts an affordable price tag, this set is still great for beginners. It utilizes P-Tex 2000 Electra bases that hold on to wax really well. This allows users to control the amount of wax held on the base to adjust the level of glide. Are you a little wobbly? By simply limiting the wax on the base, you are able to gain more control while on the snow.
The wood cores on this design are ai-channeled, which provides users with a lighter unit that is easier to control and takes corners with ease. Unlike some of the other designs that we have seen, this set has a little bit of flex to them which creates a smoother and easier ride which is great for those just starting out.
If you are reluctant to spend the big bucks for one of the higher-end sets, this design from Madshus is a perfect option for newbies. While it comes in at a super affordable price point, it is packed with features that help beginners get a feel for the motion without feeling too heavy and cumbersome.
9. Fischer Affinity EF Crown
Vario crown traction
Efficient Forward Technology
Not for advanced users
The Fischer Affinity EF Crown is a great choice for newbies for a few reasons. First of all, it comes in at a super affordable price point that won’t break the band. Secondly, it has a few design features that help you glide along the path without as much effort on your part.Read more
What makes this design stand out from the pack is the inclusion of Efficient Forward Technology. The basic design of the frame gives riders a little boost through the snow that makes it easier to pick up speed without exhausting their upper body. This design allows you to stay out on the trails for longer without feeling completely exhausted.
We also like that it utilizes a vario crown pattern on the base of the unit that allows you to keep your traction and control on super slick snow. While this may slightly affect your speed, it allows beginners to regain better control in a wide variety of trails. These patterns are specially placed in points of the ski for increased traction.
If you are in the market for something that is packed with smart features that make it a little bit easier on the user, this design from Fischer is a great option. Users love that it is a perfect starting point for newbies, and can transition easily to intermediate users as well.
10. Salomon Snowscape 9
Great for beginners
Won’t work well for more experienced skiers
Salomon Snowscape 9 offer an excellent product. Salomon Snowscape are designed with a wide body, which will help your stability and keep you upright so you don’t have to worry about sinking down into the snow when you’re learning how to ski crosscountry.Read more
Salomon’s Snowscape 9 come not only with a wide body to help stabilize newbies, but have an easy heel-toe camber to help you climb so you don’t overly stress your legs. Also, the waxless bottom and partial metal edge assist with turns.
Salomon’s Snowscape 9 skis are made to be lightweight. Designed into the skis is a strong Densolite material, which helps with durability.
These skis are made to help beginners.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When trying to determine what type of skiing you want to practice and what skis you’ll need, you need to consider where you’ll be skiing, and what the conditions will be like. Depending on this, the material of the ski is important.
If you prefer more on-track ski then you can opt for touring skis or race and performance classic skis. If you’re a beginner hitting the ski tracks, you’re probably better off with touring skis, since race and performance classic skis require more advanced skills and better technique.
If you’re planning on going out off-track and hitting hard terrain, then you’ll need some metal-edge touring skis.
Cross-Country Ski Camber
You’ll want to look at the camber, or the bow of the ski on your cross-country skis. Typically, cross-country skis are manufactured with a Nordic or double camber that features two different parts.
The first part of the camber helps you when you have equal weight on both skis when gliding down a hill. When you do this, the ski’s “grip zone,” or waist area stays arched upwards off the snow so that you can travel downwards more quickly.
The second part of the camber helps you when you put all of your weight onto one ski, and you flatten your ski against the snow for extra grip and traction before your kick forward. At this point, the ski is focused more on the grip than balance or movement.
Most crosscountry ski manufacturers design skis with both types of camber features, but some metal-edge touring skis do come with a single camber, making the arch more gradual at the center of the ski. Skis that have a single camber help equalize weight better over the whole ski base, making it easier to turn well.
When you’re looking at the camber features on your crosscountry skis, you’re likely to find that options feature double cambers, and this usually works just fine for what most skiers want to do. If you do plan on purchasing metal-edge touring skis and want to do more hardcore off-trail skiing, then you might want to consider that single camber.
Cross-Country Ski Flex
Another criteria point you’ll want to consider when evaluating your skis is their flex, which dictates how well your skis will turn and how fast they’ll move. Soft-flexing cross-country skis help you grip for better turning capability on softer snow and if you ski at slower speeds. On the other hand, a stiff flex works well when snow is firm and you’re moving at high speeds.
If you know where you’ll be skiing, how quickly, and what the snow will be like, then that can help you determine what type of flex you want in your crosscountry skis.
All components come together to create a smooth ride - shape, length, and materials. One thing that stands out on a smooth ride is how well waxed the skis are.
These skis are very popular on the market since they give you grip. Waxless skis don’t use kick wax to help you with your grip, but instead, have a textured pattern in the middle are of the ski. Even though waxless skis typically state you don’t need to apply glide wax, they still perform better on hard terrain when you do.
Waxable skis get grip from using rub-on kick wax that’s placed on the middle area of the ski. You’ll get great glide out of these skis and excellent grip.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Skiing is an intense sport and provides a great cardiovascular workout. You wouldn't expect to run a 5k without any training, right? It's the same on the slopes. It is important to prepare your body and strengthen your muscles before hitting the Black Diamond.
Clothing can be just as important as skis, ski poles, or wax. You will want to avoid cotton because it can easily soak up water and takes a while to try. Breathable materials and fleece are the best for this sport.
Other Factors to Consider
Most crosscountry ski types fit one of three designs: touring skis, race and performance classic skis, or metal-edge touring skis.
These types of skis are made for groomed trails and tracks. The design is narrow, longer, and lighter in weight. Typically, the combination of this design makes touring skis very quick and efficient to use.
Race and performance classic skis
Like touring skis, race and performance classic skis are usually designed to be used on groomed tracks. Unlike touring skis, these types of skis are made for faster, aggressive types of skiing. With race and performance skis, you usually find that they are designed with a stiffer flex than most touring skis.
Metal-edge touring skis
If you plan on doing off-track skiing, then you’ll want to opt for skis like this. Metal-edge touring skis are usually designed to be shorter than touring skis, making them easier to maneuver. Plus, metal-edge touring skis are also wider to give you more stability and flotation when you’re hitting difficult snow.
Remember that to determine what type of ski length you’ll need, you’re going to have to factor in your bodyweight. So, do you need shorter or longer skis? If you’re a recreational skier or like rugged terrain types, shorter skis are usually slower on the trails, but a lot easier to use. Also, if you find that you’re between sizes when you’re measuring your body weight for your ski size, it’s almost always better to go with the shorter length if you are still new to the game.
Ski width is usually a three-location measurement with most cross-country ski manufacturers. First, skis are measured at their tip or the widest point at the front part of the ski, then the waist, which is the narrowest part in the ski’s center, and last, the tail found at the back of the ski. The hourglass shape made by most ski designs is known as the sidecut, and the three-point measurement of skis helps determine how this sidecut will appear.
The middle, narrow point of the ski, or the waist, sometimes has two parts dedicated to it on the ski and features a broad center. Skis made like this are designed to support ski boots.
If you’re going to be hitting groomed tracks and trails when you ski, then you’ll want the tip of your ski to be no wider than 70mm, which is the maximum width of ski tracks. Also, you’ll want a small sidecut so that your skis can move along on a straight path more easily. If you are considering race and performance skis, remember that they’ll be narrower than touring skis. Metal-edge touring skis should have a good width and an average sidecut so that you can glide well and turn easily.
If you’re a skier that likes a lot of variety and wants a versatile ski that can cover everything, in-and-out-of-track skiing, then get a touring ski that’s 65 to 70 mm and doesn’t have metal edges. Or, you can get a narrow metal-edge touring ski. Either one of these ski types has a lot of versatility in the design.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What are some different characteristics in skis that can affect their performance?
First, the width and weight of your skis will matter if you care about your ski velocity range. The base material’s quality can also affect your speed. However, you’ll also want to consider the camber or flex of your ski when figuring out how you’ll be skiing, and whether you want a single or double camber.
Probably the most important thing you’ll want to look at is your skill level when you’re looking at characteristics that can affect how your crosscountry skis perform. Beginner skiers usually ski with their weight on the back while learning the sport, while an expert skier will put the weight forward.
With that in mind, a beginner skier is going to “kick” a ski differently than an expert will since an expert will get a lot more kick power with less effort (Remember that “kick” means pushing against the snow and compressing the camber to spring the ski back into its shape so you can glide more quickly).
Now, recreational skis are typically easier to kick and control and can work well for beginners but also limit how and where you’ll be skiing. Also, if you know you’ll be skiing a lot and are likely to improve quickly, you might want something else besides a recreational ski so you don’t have to spend money on yet another pair of skis.
q: What is the difference between XC skis and Alpine skis?
Downhill skiing and cross country skiing require two different types of skis, as well as poles. When skiing cross country, you need to have more control of your range of motion. This means that XC skis are only attached to the toe, unlike Alpine skis that affix to your entire foot. To maintain control, these designs are a lot shorter, heavier, and stiffer than downhill skis.
q: Should I buy skis for my current or goal skill level?
You don’t want to buy expert skis when you’ve never skied before and have quite a bit of learning to do. But, you do need some room for growth, and as long as you are realistic about that growth, you should consider purchasing a pair of skis that will help you learn.
If you’re up to the point where you’ve got some skill and can handle yourself well enough to get around, you might want to consider racing skis. Racing skis are not that hard to use, and you can put wax on them if you have issues with grip. Plus, they’re the types of skis that will grow with you.
q: Can I wax my skis at home?
Yes, you can wax your skis at home. Without wax, your skis will not glide easily. The process can be quite tedious, but it is possible.
q: How long should my poles be?
Don’t forget about your poles! Unlike the Alpine pole, XC poles are slightly longer for a good reason. These poles are not only used for balance, speed, and maneuvering, but they also help you set the speed. That means they need to reach a little farther behind you than downhill poles.
So, how do you know what size is right for your body type? Measuring the right size is pretty simple. Measure the length from the ground to the base of your nose and that is the size that you need. If you inherited your poles or picked them up at a yard sale, you can cut them to fit your body type as needed.
q: Where can I buy crosscountry skis?
The availability of skis in your town is based on a few factors. Many local sports stores don’t offer ski equipment because there is only a brief window each year where people buy them. For these stores, it is more cost-effective to sell them online. If you want to stick to your area, be sure to check out thrift stores, yard sales, and used sporting goods stores. Just keep in mind that used gear may not fit your body type as it should.
For gear that is made for your body type, frame, and weight, online is the way to go. Many manufactures provide detailed sizing charts so you can easily make the measurements to get the right size for you. Plus, with guides like ours, you can ensure that you are buying the best of the best!
q: What should I wear when I ski?
Without proper attire, your day on the slopes can be everything but fun and exciting. If you would prefer to stay at the lodge and sip hot chocolate, go ahead and skip this paragraph.
Let’s start with base layers. A good skiing base layer will add a layer of warmth, be moisture-wicking, and comfortable. Wool is one of the most popular materials for a base layer because it is a great insulator and naturally wicks away moisture. There are also synthetic options available.
Depending on your ability to handle cold weather, you may have a mid layer, or just wear outerwear. Your outerwear should be durable, breathable, and waterproof.
Many outerwear options come with layers. There is sometimes an inner, warm, insulating layer that can be removed. This is a great feature to add extra warmth.