Skate skiing is most fun on hard packed or groomed snow. A little fresh snow over groomed trails is OK, but skate skiing through deep snow is almost impossible.
The entire base of a skate ski is smooth and should be regularly glide waxed.
Avoid skis with more than 1 groove. It might not affect the speed of the ski, but it makes the ski more difficult to glide wax.
More expensive skis are easier to learn on because lighter skis are easier to handle than heavier skis.
Skate skis are fit to the skier’s weight and height. You shouldn’t buy a skate ski that extends much above your head or below your nose when held vertically in front of you.
Skate skis are flexed. The flex is called the camber. If you hold the skis together with their bases touching, you can see the gap in between the skis. If you squeeze the gap, you can feel the stiffness of the camber.
When you push your skate ski against the snow, you compress the camber and dig the inside edge of the ski into the snow. This gives you something to push against and also gives you a rebound spring at the end of your push which helps push you forwards.
Skate skis are built with different camber profiles and different flexibility at the tips to handle different conditions. Most racers have a number of skis. They select a pair on race day depending upon conditions. For example, warmer conditions usually call for a skate ski with a high camber and softer tips. However it’s not 100% predictable which ski will be fastest in which conditions.
Regular skiers can be perfectly happy owning one pair of skate skis. It’s best if our skis are optimized to mid-range conditions (not built for very cold or very warm conditions).
“Combi” skis are supposed to be good for both skate and classic skiing. In reality, they won’t be good for either. We don’t recommend buying combi skis.
You should buy cross-country skis from a professional who knows how to properly fit skis. These people work at your local Nordic Ski Shop.
Before you buy skate skis, read our Gear Advice Guides: