Move Up To New High Tech Equipment.

As a part of the cross country ski industry for more than three decades, I had to qualify my response when SeniorsSkiing asked me about new cross country (XC) ski equipment. There was an unknown research source in the 1990’s that proclaimed, in general, owners of XC ski equipment had their gear for about 17 years. With a view of the meager statistics of annual XC ski sales, the age of the average XC skier’s equipment is now probably a couple of decades older than 17 years.

The key element is to know how you intend to use your equipment – classic or skate skiing on groomed trails; skiing on ungroomed park trails; backcountry in deep snow; serious mountain excursions; or if you are hoping to find equipment to deliver some type of hybrid performance in a variety of uses. XC skis provide varied width, flex, waxless base designs, and edges, all designed to perform optimally in different XC skiing situations and conditions. The recreational skier may be one that wants to get out in nature a few times per winter or a serious fitness-oriented person who is into skate skiing after work three times per week.

Ski magazines and websites deliver gear reviews with a focus on what’s new for the XC ski expert or racer. It is thought that the technology used in these products geared to advanced skiers will “trickle down” to be incorporated and become beneficial to recreational skiers in the future…well, the challenge is to provide a view specifically for recreational interests and to look at select products that offer a great experience XC skiing.

At the outset, it is uncertain why a recreational skier would want to wax their skis these days. If you possess an encyclopedia of knowledge on the matter of snow texture, humidity and temperature, there could still be changing conditions that will make your decision on the proper wax a big mistake. They’ve simplified waxing and at the same time have also have increased the options – but, recreational skiers are mostly on waxless skis. Of course there are many different types of bases that provide the grip when needed to go up the hill but also allow the best glide on the flats and down hills. Enough said to acknowledge that the most significant aspect of ski fitting has to do with the weight of the skier, and the length and stiffness of the ski and the different waxless bases are subservient to these qualifications. The other issue is the width of the ski where a narrower ski is faster and usually does not control as well as a wider ski, but again the stiffness of the ski is relevant. If you are skiing in groomed tracks, the narrow lightweight waxless ski can provide excellent glides and it can still grip when needed, if the match is done well for skier weight, and ski stiffness and length. On another matter, many people glide and may provide better stopping capability, but depending on the skier, even edges may be of no consequence when in an emergency situation.

XC Skin Skis

Author Roger Lohr on Fischer Twin Skin Skis

The cross country ski waxless “skin” bases, use inserted mohair strips on the ski bottom, which are extremely effective for all temperatures and snow conditions. It is high performance waxless base technology for the classic skier, who prefers to use a waxless ski. The ski strips are like small climbing skins which are embedded in the base and they are resistant to icing because they have a Teflon-like coating. I’ve found that there are certain conditions where the performance of the skin skis are less than desirable such as when there are dirt and leaves on the trail.

XC Ski Bindings

Today people want the convenience of stepping down and snapping into the ski binding. One new concept is the adjustable binding. Technique, temperature and snow composition all have an influence on ski performance but the TURNAMIC® binding models provide tool-free adjustment for skiers to match their individual needs. Sliding the system forward provides more grip, while sliding it back will noticeably improve glide. With the optimized setup of the boot-binding-plate-ski components, TURNAMIC® gives you dynamic skiing performance like never before.

A suggestion is to find a cross country ski area or ski retailer that has a demo fleet of skin type skis from any product company and give them a try. Play with the binding settings on the ski binding to see the effect from adjustments on grip and glide. Expect the ski to perform better than you have ever experienced.

Of course you want some brand information and that is mostly beyond the scope of this content but with the Rossignol EVO skis, it’s easy for skiers to choose their model from the line of skis determined by the level of use or performance to suit the skier’s needs. The ski width would be based on where they’ll be skied and how much floatation is desired

The Spider 62 Crown is Fischer Nordic’s popular versatile ski for a variety of uses including machine-groomed tracks at the ski area, in man-made tracks, or on unmaintained terrain. This ski will not glide well compared to the lighter, narrower, stiffer line of XC skis. The Spider is available in three sizes, has a steel edge for control, and a base pattern that holds going uphill.

XC Ski Boots

Modern XC boots from the big brands.

The biggest change in XC skiing is that the ski boots are built for support, comfort, and warmth. XC boots should be easy to get on, well insulated, lightweight, stiff soled, keep you dry and most of all, feel like bedroom slippers. The plastic cuffs and straps around the shin will provide more support, but some higher-cut boots just keep the snow out and do not provide support. Molded footbeds are recommended (acquire them separately) and make sure that the fitting occurs with the socks that will be worn when skiing. Be aware of whether the XC ski boot is specifically for skating, backcountry, or general use. Make sure that the boot matches the binding. Salomon and Rottefella bindings need boots that go complement them; BC models have wider connections to a wider boot, etc.

It is recommended that XC ski equipment is tried prior to purchase and you can do that at an XC ski area or a demo held at an XC ski area. Again, it is likely that most of the demo gear is set up for advanced skiers rather than recreational. The XC ski area rental operations may very well have different recreational rental products for you to try. When in the retail store be mindful that retail salespeople should be cognizant of your needs (where you’ll mostly ski, how much performance you desire from glide or control, etc.) and that the products that you purchase fit your specific needs.

The issue of price is basic – you get what you pay for. If you save substantial money, you’ll likely be foregoing quality, performance, or fit. Expect a discount if you purchase a package of XC skis, bindings, boots and poles.

Happy hunting for the right gear.

This article first appeared in XCSkiResorts.com

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