XC Ski Styles and Sizing

Cross country skis come in two basic styles and two basic size systems. The styles are called classical and skate. The sizing is traditional (or modified traditional) or compact.

Classical skiing is the well-known style that goes from walking to shuffling to full-on kick-and-glide. The arms swing in the opposite rhythm to the legs. The skis have a kick zone in the middle, stiff enough to stay off the snow during gliding, but soft enough for a skier to kick it down into the snow to get traction and go forward.

Skate skiing uses the same motion as ice skating or in-line (wheeled) skates. Some skate skiers have used in-line skates for off-season training. Skate skiers usually plant their poles together, double-poling in different rhythms depending on how fast they are going.

Classical skis include racing, touring and back-country skis. Racing skis are skinny, with stiff kick zones to favor fast gliding and a vigorous style. Touring skis are wider, with softer kick zones for better stability, control and less strenuous climbing. Back-country skis are even wider, too wide to fit in groomed tracks. They often have more pronounced shape, for better turning, and metal edges to provide more security on hard-packed and icy downhills.