Cross country skiing is a great way for any winter sports enthusiast to enjoy the great outdoors. Though it takes quite a bit of effort, the extra work is more than worth it for those that want a truly unique experience. I still fondly remember the childhood days when my dad used to tow me behind his skis.
The reason cross country skiing is so demanding is because you have no help when moving through the trails. While there may be a downhill section here or there, you spend most of your time cruising along flat or uphill terrain. That makes the sport a great form of exercise. It can also be a good form of transportation for those who live in places with a lot of snow and enables you to experience nature away from the resort crowds.
If you want to cross country ski, you need the right equipment. There are a few different key pieces of gear, but none are more important than the skis themselves. Picking out just one pair from the crowded market is not easy, but this article breaks down some of the best cross country skis out there to help you make a well-informed purchase.
- One of the best all-around cross country skis is the Rossignol Evo XC 59 IFP. This option is great for anyone looking to get a solid, versatile set.
- Another great performance option, that also works for those on a budget, is the Fischer Ridge Crown XC Skis. Fisher makes another great budget option in the Fischer Country Crown Ski.
- The Salomon Snowscape 7 Siam Women’s Skis are perfect for female cross country skiers.
- If you’re someone who values speed, it is best to check out the Rossignol Delta Sport Skate IFP or the Atomic Pro S1 Skate Ski. The Delta Sport is one of the best skate skis around, while the Pro S1 is a good budget option.
- If you’re a beginner cross country skier, you’ll want to take a look at the Rossignol Evo First 49. These skis have a nice, approachable feel that makes it easy to kick and glide across the snow.
- If you want to go cross country skiing in the backcountry, the Altai Hok Xtrace can handle serious terrain or tough conditions.
Who Should Get This
If you’re interested in cross country skiing and looking to purchase a set of your own skis, the below options all make great choices for different reasons. It does not matter if you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced level cross country skier, the skis in this guide will give you a way to enjoy the snow.
Many of the options have features that meet specific conditions or requirements. The best all-around options work well for a variety of different skiers, while other skis are much more niche.
If you’re new to cross country skiing, you might want to rent skis instead of purchasing them. Renting allows you to experiment with different styles, lengths, and features without fully committing. This is a good way to get comfortable with cross country skiing and helps you familiarize yourself with various elements before making a final purchase. If you’ve never cross country skied before, I’d recommend renting first.
Best Cross Country Skis: What to Consider
As I mentioned above, there are many different styles, designs, and options available in a cross country ski. Many will work with a wide variety of skiers, and some are specific to a certain style. The ski you choose typically comes down to personal preference. Even so, there are a few elements to be aware of before making your final decision.
Cross country skis can be a lot longer than standard or alpine skis. Typically, a longer ski is better in cross country skiing because it allows for more grip and slide on the snow. However, longer skis are much more difficult to control. They are best suited for intermediate or advanced skiers.
Beginner cross country skiers tend to do well with a shorter ski length that allows for better control. The best beginner options listed in this guide are on the shorter side.
Style of Ski
Cross country skis are designed with different skiing styles in mind. If you have a particular style of cross country skiing that you like to do, then you’ll want to get a ski that matches it. Here is a quick look at the different styles out there:
Classic/Compact Touring Cross Country Skis are becoming the most popular type on the market. These skis are good for resorts and groomed trails. They are also longer than most modern varieties, and tend to run both wide and short. Such features help beginners navigate different snow conditions.
Skate Cross Country Skis are another common type that is specific to a skate style. You’ve probably seen this style of skiing before, as it looks similar to how you would ice skate. Skating style is almost always done on groomed trails, due to the fact that you need a smooth surface to skate, and it is faster than other types of cross country skiing. It’s a great exercise as well.
Backcountry Cross Country Skis are designed with the needs of backcountry skiing in mind. These tend to be shorter and wider than more traditional cross country skis, which makes them best suited for the deep snow conditions you can find out in the backcountry.
As with all skis, another factor to consider when purchasing cross country skis is their flexibility. You can’t always choose different levels of flex in a particular model of ski, so it’s good to know what you’re looking for beforehand.
As a general guideline, if you’re a beginner or light in weight, you want a cross country ski with more flex. If you are an intermediate to advanced skier, get a stiffer model.
Wax or Waxless Ski
You can also get wax or waxless skis. This choice comes down to personal preference, but it can change based on your ski style and experience level.
Waxable cross country skis are a little more versatile than the waxless variety. With this type of ski, you should learn how to wax them yourself. Grip wax is often used in the middle of the ski to help you reach and pull through the snow, while a glide wax is used on the tip and tail to allow for more speed.
Waxless skis, unlike their wax counterparts, never need to be waxed. These skis have a textured material on the bottom that helps them grip the snow in one direction while allowing for glide in the other. This is a popular ski choice for beginners and average skiers.
Best Cross Country Skis: Our Picks
The Rossignol Evo XC 59 IFP cross country skis are a great well-rounded option perfect for all skiers. Rossignol is a trusted brand in the ski world, known for both alpine and cross country disciplines. These particular skis offer a lightweight-but-strong construction that features a wood air core.
They also work well on both groomed and ungroomed trails, making them a solid overall choice for different skiing levels. These are the best overall because they meet the needs of different skiers, are stable and fast in a variety of conditions, and are affordable as well. If you want a cross country ski that performs in many different conditions, this is the way to go.
- Great all-around ski
- Lightweight but sturdy
- Comes with bindings
- Natural flex and feel
- Performs well in various conditions
- Shorter in length – not great for heavier skiers
- Won’t do well off-trail
If you want an affordable cross country ski that functions well in different conditions, check out the Fischer Ridge Crown XC. These skis are another solid all-around option that works well with both beginner and intermediate skiers. However, they do best on groomed trails rather than any serious backcountry runs.
The Ridge Crown XC skis feature an Integrated Fixation Plate binding system that’s weight-optimized and gives you the option of 7 different settings. They also have hybrid technology built into the ski that generates extra sidewall and surface protection. The offset base structure design also makes this ski glide with ease in many different conditions.
- Great all-around ski
- Well-designed binding system
- Sturdy and secure
- Glides well on multiple snow conditions
- Nice width
- Better suited for groomed trails
- Not a good option for advanced skiers
The Fischer Country Crown Ski is another solid cross country ski for those on a budget. The main appeal of this model is that it is affordable, but still performs well in heavier snow. Though they aren’t the best off-trail option, they can handle transitions with ease.
These skis feature Fischer’s Vario Crown technology that combines elements from single, double, and gliding crown designs to enable them to handle any conditions that may come their way. They also have an air channel built into the core that cuts weight without sacrificing strength or stability. The offset base also increases glide.
- Another great budget option
- Sturdy and reliable
- Intended more for groomed trails but can hold up in light off-trail use
- Vario Crown technology
- Won’t perform well in deeper snow
- A little narrow
- Bindings not included in cost
These skis have an efficient and functional design that works well for women skiers. Built to tackle a wide range of conditions, these can easily handle both groomed and ungroomed trails. They are shorter in length than average skis, a feature that adds maneuverability, and have a camber specifically optimized for female skiers.
The Snowscape 7 Siam skis also have a light-but-strong Densolite 1000 core. They feature a G2 grip along with a glide waxless base to allow for easy setup and use in many different conditions. This design helps to grip on the uphill trails so you can cruise through groomed sections.
- Designed specifically for women
- G2 grip design base performs well
- Optimized camber
- Not great for expert skiers
- Shorter length can reduce overall speed
If you like to skate ski and want to go fast, the Rossignol Delta Sport Skate IFP is the ski for you. These come with a skate design that allows them to zip around groomed and snow-packed trails. The Delta design has the needs of both ski racers and high-performance athletes in mind, meaning they perform extremely well when going at high speeds.
These skis are based on the well-liked X-ium race skis from Rossignol, but have extra features that allow them to meet the needs of other skiers as well. The result is a fully-functional, high-performance ski that delivers race-like speed while also being accessible to everyone.
- Fast, skate ski
- Great for racers and athletes
- Well designed
- Did I mention fast?
- Won’t perform well in deep snow
- Better for intermediate and advanced skiers.
The Atomic Pro S1 Skate Ski is another solid cross country ski choice if you are looking for a skate specific style. These are an affordable, well-performing skate ski that works well for beginners and intermediate skiers alike. They are designed not to be too aggressive or fast as a skate ski, making them a great option if you’re just starting with skate-style skiing or don’t have the desire to go too fast on the slopes.
- Great skate ski for beginners
- Approachable design
- Easy to steer and control
- Not the fastest skate ski
- Not intended for advanced skiers
- Bindings not included
The Rossignol EVO EX 49 IFP is a great cross country ski choice for beginners. What makes these such a great option for newcomers is their short length and lightweight design. That combination makes them easy to control and maneuver in a variety of different conditions.
These skis feature a wood air core that keeps them light and strong, as well as a waxless AR Plus base feature that creates an easy kick and glide feel. That feature allows for great grab and glide in all sorts of snow conditions, which is a nice plus for beginners getting comfortable with the sport.
- Great choice for beginners
- Lightweight and strong
- Can handle varying conditions
- Waxless base ideal for beginners
- Short length not ideal for heavier or taller skiers
- Can be slow
If you want to combine the fun, excitement, and exercise of both backcountry and cross country skiing, you’ll want to check out the Altai Hok Xtrace skis. These are not your traditional cross country skis, but they can handle the varying and steadily changing conditions that the backcountry creates.
The Xtrace skis have a synthetic skin built into the base to help you with serious ascents. They also have a universal pivot binding system that can fit boots up to size 15. They have steel edges, which are unique in cross country skis, but provide you with added control and stability when traversing or skiing in deep conditions. These are heavy-duty cross country skis intended for backcountry specific use.
- Unique backcountry specific design
- Can handle a wide range of conditions
- Binding system works well
- Stable and strong
- Well designed
- Only designed for backcountry use
Useful Tips and Resources
Cross country skiing is a great way to enjoy the mountain. However, it takes some getting used to if you’ve never tried it before. Your feet will not feel as stable with bindings that only clip in at the toe, and you will also have a soft boot that might feel foreign. If you want to learn some of the basics of cross-country skiing, check out this video.
There are also some pieces of gear and equipment that you’ll need to go cross country skiing. While some of the basics are pretty similar to downhill/alpine skiing and other winter sports, it is always best to be prepared. Check out this information on some of the essential gear needed for any cross country ski trip.
Every skier can appreciate cross country skiing. While it’s not for everyone, the discipline is a fun, unique way to enjoy winter and access some areas you typically wouldn’t see at the resort. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across a wild animal or encountered a serene winter scene while out in the backcountry.
In addition, if you’re an athlete of any sort, cross country skiing is an amazing way to train endurance and aerobic capacity. It takes a lot of skill and athleticism to perform at a high level, which is why it keeps you in shape all winter long.
Do you have a favorite cross country ski that wasn’t listed here? How about a favorite location to go cross country skiing? Let us know in the comments below.