Ski Types
Light Touring (Classic) – A narrow, light ski suitable for skiing in prepared tracks
or on packed snow.
Skate skiing – light, skate specific skis designed for wide, groomed trails.
Racing (Classic) – narrower and lighter skis built for speed on professionally
track set trails only.
Racing (skate) – Super light weight, very stiff skis for well groomed tracks only.
Back Country (BC) – wider skis for touring in unpacked soft snow conditions.
Designed for breaking trails in light conditions.
Alpine Touring (BC) – heavy back country skis (usually used with skins) for long
tours in difficult conditions.
Telemark – very wide skis with a lot of side cut for easy turning in deep unpacked
Waxable or Waxless?
Waxable skis are faster and quieter, but require a correct kick wax for grip. A well
waxed ski will nearly always out perform an identical waxless ski – note that in wet snow
or at temperatures near zero waxing can sometimes become a little tricky, which is
where a good waxless ski will come into it’s own.
Waxless skis still need to be glide waxed to protect the ski base, and to ensure good
glide whilst in use. They have slower glide than waxable skis, but are quick to get ready
to ski, and require no grip (kick) wax. They are especially handy in wet, new or changing
snow conditions when waxing takes more care.
Metal Edged vrs Non Metal Edged
Metal edges provide excellent steering and stopping especially on hard or icy surfaces,
they also help to protect the ski bases in rough terrain conditions. They make a ski quite
a bit heavier and will slow a ski in track significantly (assuming your skis are thin enough
to be used in track).
Generally they are used only for back country (BC) skiing.
Non-Metal edge skis are much lighter, less expensive and better suited/faster for in
track and groomed trail skiing.
Skates and Classic skis do not have metal edges.
Previously measured by the ‘Rule of thumb’ (between raised elbow and wrist depending
on skill level and type of skis), modern skis are far better made as manufacturing
techniques allow the building of far stiffer (and higher performance) skis at much lighter
Usually a Classic ski will now be a little over head height, whilst a Skate ski will be very
close to the height of the skier – however, ski length will vary with the type of ski and the
skill level of the wearer. It is invariably best to speak to a professional ski fitter when
looking for your next set.
Camber (Camber is the measure of ski stiffness)
Camber is probably the most important component of a ski (particularly a Classic ski),
and the least fully understood.
Put simply, camber is the curve in your ski, or, more accurately, it is the amount of force
(weight) required to flatten out the curve in your ski. This is vital as it is the only way for
the kick patch (in the centre, and most curved section of your ski) to contact the snow
and give you traction.
For this reason it is vital that the camber of your skis matches your skiing weight (with
whatever gear you carry/wear). If your skis are too soft for you, you will never get any
real glide and will always find yourself slowly shuffling along. If your skis are too firm for
you, then you’ll have real trouble making the kick zone touch down, so you’ll never have
any grip and you’ll find yourself slipping all the time.
Ideally, when your weight is balanced on both skis (gliding down hill or on a flat, for
instance), your grip zone should float just off the snow. When you transfer weight to one
ski to kick off and move forward, that ski should flatten right out – giving you full grip and
pushing you forward.
Skate skis are a little different in that they are designed to take your full weight on each
stride, so they tend to be about twice the stiffness of a Classic ski so they only flatten
out at the peak of a push and offer some spring back into your stride.
Back country skis are measured for a much softer camber. This is because they are
designed to be used in deeper snow (rather than a packed trail) where the forces act
differently on a ski.
Buy the boot that fits your foot best. Everything else is of secondary importance – if your
boots don’t fit properly, your feet will hurt, or you’ll end up with blisters - you just won’t
enjoy your skiing experience.
Try not to get caught up too much by brands – all of the major brands offer a fairly
similar quality of boot, but they all make them in different shapes. That brand you were
keen on may simply not fit the shape of your feet. In a general sense, Rossignol seems
to have the thinnest boot cut, then Alpina, Fischer, Madshus (for that broad foot) and a
particular model of Fischer being the widest common boot. Salomon offers a boot with a
thinner heel section and a mid-sized toe box (a fairly triangular foot fit). Also, men’s
boots will always be wider than women’s boots of the same size.
Boot length should offer about ¼” of space between the longest toe and the inside front
of the boot for warmth and comfort. Too firm a boot fit will result in a loss of blood flow,
and cold feet.
Thankfully, most modern cross country boots are insulated with ‘Thinsulate’, making
them much warmer than many older styles of boot. Generally, racing styles of boot have
a lot less insulation (making the boot a lot lighter – and, really, if you’re racing you’re
probably generating a fair bit of heat), whilst back country boots tend to have a bit more
warmth to reflect the fact that they’re usually out in the field a lot longer (sometimes for
multiple days) than most other boots.
Classic and Skate bindings come in NNN (New Nordic Norm – not really all that new
any more) and SNS (Salomon Nordic System). Both of these types come in racing,
automatic, and manual style bindings. Whether you use NNN or SNS really doesn’t
really matter for most of us – you just need to match your binding to your boots (which
you should always choose first).
Back country bindings are more or less the same, with NNN-BC and SNS-BC bindings
being available in automatic or manual styles, with some additional heavy duty options.
They’re suitable for almost any backcountry or light alpine touring use.
Heavy alpine and Telemark bindings vary widely, beginning with lighter cable style
bindings and working their way right up to super heavy release and heel locking
bindings. Again, with these it is best to speak with an experienced ski fitter when looking
to find the style best suited to your needs.
Accepted pole length is another thing that has changed over time with the advent of
better materials and manufacturing techniques.
General consensus is that a pole should rise to the middle of the users shoulder joint for
Classic, and to their chin for Skating use. Please note also that a pole should be
measured from the strap connection, not the top of the pole, as this is the pole’s actual
pivot point when in use.
More experienced skiers may opt for slightly longer poles (particularly Skaters), but this
will be a very individual decision.
Pole materials tend to be quite light but strong. Most base to mid level poles are
aluminium (which is very forgiving of abuse), whilst race style poles tend to be made of
varying levels of carbon, making an extremely stiff, light pole (that is a little more
fragile). Some of the higher end poles can become surprisingly weightless and
incredibly technical.
Baskets will also vary quite a bit with racing style baskets generally being quite small
(for well packed/groomed trails), whilst light touring baskets are a little bigger.
Back country skiers are generally best off with a set of strong (often steel), adjustable
poles with very broad baskets to manage the very changeable conditions (as well as
deep powder snow) that BC skiing will frequently offer.