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How to Select Cross Country Skis

written by: Sylvie Colette • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 1/24/2011

Cross country skiing is a great way to stay in shape. Whether you need to know how to select cross country skis for touring, racing or cross training, be aware that all cross country skis have one thing in common: the heel is always free.

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    There are several things to consider when determining how to select cross-country skis. It is important to take both your size and intended use into account. The many options available allow you to customize the fit and provide you with the ultimate experience.

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    Waxable or Waxless

    Skis grip the snow either by a manufactured texture pattern on the bottom or by applied wax. Gripping the snow is especially important when you are climbing hills.

    Whether to select cross country skis with or without wax is a matter of personal preference. Waxless skis with a textured bottom are more popular due to their performance in a variety of snow conditions. The pattern digs into the snow and reduces glide, but succeeds in gripping the snow.

    Waxable skis, when the wax is applied properly for the condition of the snow, can outperform waxless skis. But since they require a bit more work to apply the wax correctly and use them in stable weather conditions, they are often not the choice for recreational cross country skiers.

    Waxless skis can have a small amount of glide wax applied to the tips and tails to improve performance giving you the best of both choices.

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    Ski Length

    Ski lengths are measured in centimeters. Refer to a ski size chart for the most accurate way of determining the proper ski length for your size. In general, shorter skis are often easier to handle on rugged terrain or for beginners, while longer skis will go faster and are good for the more athletic.

    Weight is also a factor to consider when learning how to select cross country skis. Heavy skiers need longer length skis, while the very light need a shorter model.

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    Ski Width

    Narrow skis are good for packed trails and wide skis are a better choice for stability in varied snow conditions. Take an overall look at where you plan on skiing before selecting your cross country skis.

    Ski width is measured in millimeters at 3 locations including the tip, which is the widest point near the front of the ski, the waist and the tail. These profile dimensions help you choose a ski that will perform the best for you. Look for a profile that is minimal so that the ski will glide straight and efficiently on flat terrain, while if you are expecting to encounter lots of obstacles such as deep snow, trees or hills, look for a wider profile to facilitate easier turning.

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    Camber and Flex

    Camber refers to the bow of the ski and flex influences speed and the ability to turn. Cross country skis are equipped with a double camber meaning it will remain arched in the middle so that you can continue to glide over the snow. When choosing your cross country ski, the camber and flex should be determined by your body weight as well as how you will be using the skis. A soft flex grips soft snow better, while a stiff flex is good for traveling over firm terrain at high speeds.

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