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How and why to buy cross-country skis

4.12.2010 22:33:19     Autor: Jirka

How and why to buy cross-country skis

Firstly, why should you buy cross-country skis? Simply because you don?t have them or you need a new and better pair instead of your old one. If you haven?t tried cross-country skiing yet, you probably don?t know how beautiful sport it is. It?s an outdoor activity in the fresh air. It doesn?t have to be physically demanding unless you want to tone up your body. You can go for short trips through Vysočina or around your abode, but on the other hand you can become a fit sportsman. Cross-country skiing is healthier than walking. It doesn?t hurt your joints at every step, but your body ? arms, legs, abdominal and dorsal muscles ? is exerted evenly. In comparison with downhill skiing you don?t have to pay for a ski lift, wait in a queue, but you can go downhill just the same. Moreover, you can see lots of new places. There are many more reasons why you should try cross-country skiing, but I suppose I have already persuaded you that you can?t live without it any more.
If you have got cross-country skis, but they are old and damaged, or they simply don?t fit you, there?s no need to linger over buying a new pair. Skiing on skis with remnants of a base, round edges, old bindings, which hold drenched soft boots, cannot be pleasant. There is a whale of a difference between recent good-quality cross-country skis and the skis we were used to buy few years ago. Not only the skis improved, but the main differences are the bindings and the boots that go with.
So, it is clear now that you need cross-country skis, but how to buy them? How to choose a suitable pair?
Firstly you should decide how you are going to use the skis. Are you planning quiet family trips mostly in groomed trails? Are you going to ski away from trails and paths at all? Will you ski in steep slopes? Do you wish to improve your fitness but you aren?t interested in techniques? Do you prefer performance or racing skiing? Or do you want a bit of everything? You should even choose a style. Will you prefer classic style? Or are you going to have a pair of skis for classic and another one for skate skiing? Or do you want one pair of skis for both styles? Answer these questions before you continue reading this article.

Categories of cross-country skis according to their purpose
Touring skis
Children´s skis
Backcountry skis
Nordic crossing (fitness)
Performance skis - skating, classic
Racing skis - skating, classic

Touring skis
Touring skis are probably the best selling cross-country skis. The ski width is between 48-55mm. It allows skiing both in groomed trails and out of them, even in deep snow. These skis allow principally the classic style of cross-country skiing. We recommend buying skis 15-25cm longer than the stature of the skier. You can choose the shorter length, if you are slim, but if you are heavier or you prefer faster skiing, choose the longer skis. The skis are made with a soft camber for easier kick without slipping, so even a less experienced skier has no difficulty when waxing correctly. The soft skis are very pleasant and you don?t have to be afraid of them, unless you are a fit athlete. They are slightly slower than hard skis, but touring isn?t about speed. There are also touring skis made with wax less finish in a wax pocket. Such a finish has its advantages as well as disadvantages. The advantage is that you don?t have to apply any kick wax, but don?t forget about glide wax. (More about waxing in waxing courses - ?Kdo maže, ten jede?? organised by Vodák sport) The main disadvantage of the wax less (fish scale pattern) bases is that they cannot be waxed, because on some types of snow they don?t work and then you cannot do anything. The second, even though less important disadvantage is, that these skis are slightly slower. I rather recommend waxable skis with that you learn to wax them. Waxing really isn?t as complicated as it looks.

Children?s skis
Children who are starting with skiing can have ski shorter than their stature. We choose touring skis which are more suitable for children thanks to their width and better stability. We can start teaching children to glide when they are about 5-6 years old. Then they need longer skis, which should be about 15cm longer than the child?s stature. We better teach children the classic style of skiing which isn?t as physically demanding as skating. For total beginners you can also get the wax less skis, but if you wax your skis, it is sensible to get the waxable skis for your child too. The skis will glide better and the child can learn a bit about waxing. If you ski more sportingly with your children, you can buy them narrower performance skis after about two years of skiing. From the age of ten we buy children skis by the same rules as adult.

Backcountry skis
So called Backcountry skis are becoming fashionable again. They are suited for skiing in terrain - something like an off-road car or a mountain bike. In general they are as wide as the touring skis or wider ? up to 70mm (similar to downhill skis). They have one or both steel edges. Thanks to the edges you can ski on hard icy surfaces, which is very pleasant especially during downhilling. Yet the steel edges are more resistant, so the skis last longer. So, if you ski somewhere in mountains out of groomed trails, the backcountry skis are the right choice. There are also models up to 55mm wide that fit into groomed trails. Those are ideal multi-purpose skis for both terrain and a trail. Suitable length of these skis is 10-15cm longer than the skier?s stature.

Nordic crossing (fitness)
These are the skis for those who are keen on active fitness style, especially those who got hooked on summer ?nordic walking? style. The skis should be much shorter than the classic cross-country skis. We recommend the height of your stature. The skis are mostly delivered with a wax less base so that their user has to do very little to prepare them. The skis aren?t intended to get you from place to place, but they are made to improve your fitness regardless of your style or experience in cross-country skiing.

Performance skis for classic style
These skis are principally suitable for groomed trails, but thanks to their tough design they can also stand up to skiing on ungroomed snow. They are narrower than the touring skis (45-47mm), so you may sink into softer snow on them. Their camber is slightly stiffer, so they aren?t suitable for total beginners, who haven?t yet mastered their kick. If you have bought new skis and they keep slipping however you wax them, their camber is probably too stiff for your weight or technique of skiing. Then you need to buy a new softer pair of skis or improve your kicking technique. The length of the performance skis for classic cross-country skiing style is 20-30cm longer than the skier?s stature. If you are slim, choose softer, i.e. shorter skis, otherwise choose the longer.

Performance skis for skating
Skating cross-country skis have much stiffer camber than the classic skis. That?s why they aren?t suitable for classic style of skiing and if you try it, your kicking will be difficult and unsteady. The stiffer camber, the faster skis, but be careful. Too stiff ski doesn?t grip the snow well, it is unsteady and it slightly floats on the snow. So, choose the stiff skis when you are starting with skating but not the stiffest. The length of skating skis should be 5-15cm longer than the skier?s stature.

Performance skis - combi
These skis are both excellent and no big deal :-). I will explain? Having one pair of skis for both classic skiing and skating is great but it?s got also some disadvantages. The combi cross-country skis have a stiffer camber than the classic skis. That?s the cause of your troubles when you aren?t heavy enough or your kick style isn?t perfect, because your skis keep slipping. On the other hand they are be very fast. Another disadvantage is skating with kick wax applied in the kick zone of the skis, because they are slower than skating skis waxed with glide wax. Moreover the combi skis should be longer than skating skis, which may cause troubles in narrow tracks. The length of the combi cross-country skis is 10-20cm longer than the skier?s stature. I would recommend them if you want to have only one pair of all-round cross-country skis. If you don?t mind carrying two pairs of skis it?s definitely better to have a pair for classic and a pair for skating. However heavier skiers can take advantage of the stiffer camber, so they don?t need to buy too long skis for classic style and the skis are still able to bear them.

Racing skis for classic style
Racing cross-country skis are simply great. Beautiful at sight. Costing about ten to fifteen thousand Czech crowns. With amazingly fast base the skis simply fly over the snow. But watch out, as the category suggests, racing skis are for competitors. If you haven´t mastered your kick and glide precisely, you will suffer on them. They are quite stiff but very light, so they aren?t as resistant as necessary. They are usable only in groomed trails. If you learn cross-country skiing well, you will have really great time on the racing skis. The skis are faster on firm groomed snow thanks to their width, which is only 43-46mm, but for softer trails it´s better to choose slightly wider skis. Some producers even make one type of racing skis with different width that are used on different types of snow. The length of the classic racing cross-country skis should be about 20-30cm longer than the skier´s stature.

Racing skis for skating
Previous sentences also apply to skating racing cross-country skis. They are simply racing skis. They are quite narrow hence unsteady. But they are pretty fast and if you are good at skating, you will really enjoy them. The length of these skis should be about 5-15cm longer than the skier´s stature.

I hope you have found at least some new and important information in this long text. Hopefully you know a bit more about buying cross-country skis now and you won?t believe those profit-mad salesmen every word :-) Though I recommend consulting your choice with shop assistants in specialised cross-country skiing shops and accept their well-meant advice. Also be careful when buying second-hand equipment. Cross-country skis that have been used in foreign ski rentals for a few years look like new but their condition is poor. Their camber has softened or it will go soft during your first few trips. That´s because there is enough snow in Austrian or Swiss ski areas and the base of the skis doesn´t suffer on stones or other inconveniences. But they are used very intensely and often and every ski goes soft after some X kilometres. In our winter conditions the skis soften when they are completely damaged, but there they are practically new? Yet beware of cross-country skis being sold in supermarkets. Although they bear renowned trademarks, they are useless for decent skiing. These cheap skis have bad base, to which waxes don´t adhere well. Their inner structure isn´t usually same in a pair, so their camber is different, too. Moreover, the used materials cause up to ten times quicker softening of the skis than the materials of quality skis.
You should also pay special attention to bindings and boots. Connection between a ski and a boot is quite an important thing. Very common N75 binding should be recommended only to those who want to walk in boots rather than ski. Then there are different types of more or less suitable bindings. I wouldn´t recommend trying to save money on it. You simply cannot save money on boots and bindings. If you buy them cheap, they are of poor quality. The only suitable bindings are Rottefella and Salomon. Sometimes they appear under another name, for example Rossignol, Fisher and so on, but they are still the same two types. As for their quality the two types of bindings are entirely equivalent. Recently it is probably better to buy Rottefella thanks to NIS system. But there could be other long articles written about boots, bindings, clothing, waxing etc. Maybe some other time.
Now, I can only recommend visiting one of VODÁK sport shops, where we will help you willingly. To learn more about maintaining and waxing of your cross-country skis I suggest attending the "Kdo maže - ten jede" waxing course organised by VODÁK sport company.
I wish you lots of great adventures on snow!!!!

If only it would snow.. :-) But it´s possible even without it, isn´t it?

Jirka Šťastný

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