Summary: Save money on new gear by buying mid-range skis, combi boots and mid-priced poles. Buying used gear from a racer is another great way to save.
We recommend you buy the best gear you can afford because there are performance advantages to quality gear and you definitely get what you pay for.
But you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have and we know everyone has to work within a budget. What follows is advice for saving money while still enjoying quality equipment.
Most ski manufacturers offer a mid-range model that’s terrific value. Often these skis were the top of the line race skis a few years back. The benefits beyond this tier are incremental. Those margins are important to competitive skiers, but perhaps not to you.
Buying at this level helps you save money on start up costs. After a few years, if you decide you love the sport and want a top of the line race ski (many adults reach this decision), this first pair of skis can transition to “rock ski” status. Having a pair of rock skis helps extend your ski season because you won’t mind using them in less than ideal conditions.
Boots and Bindings
If you want to skate and classic and are looking for ways to save money, buy combi boots (also known as pursuit boots). This option is not as ideal as owning classic and skate boots, but it’s not a bad compromise. Just remember, never compromise on comfort. Nothing about your boots matters more than comfort.
Buy manual bindings, not automatic bindings. Automatic bindings are slightly less expensive, but are prone to icing and can be difficult to attach and release.
You can find excellent quality mid-range poles. Even at the low end of the mid-range you can find poles that will serve you well and won’t break your bank account.
We always recommend that you buy poles that have a sling or harness handle grip, rather than a simple loop strap. Also, make sure you get poles that are long enough. Check How to Buy Cross Country Ski Poles, if you are unsure about correct pole length.
You can buy a cheap iron. In fact, you can even use an old clothes iron. You’ll lose a bit of wax in the steam holes, but it’s not a huge problem.
As for brushes, you only need one brush (a bronze one) and it doesn’t have to be the large size. The smaller sized one is fine.
If your local ski area has a public wax room, you can save a lot of money by using their wax bench. They may even have wax irons for public use.
Stagger Your Investments
You don’t have to start classic and skate skiing at the same time. Start with one style and do it for a year or two before buying equipment for the other. Learning one style is challenging enough for most new skiers.
As for which technique is best to start with, we discuss that in Skate, Classic or Both.
Buy Used Gear From a Racer
If you live near a large competitive club or training centre, you may be able to buy used gear from racers or ex-racers. You’ll get great gear at a fraction of the price and you’ll have the added satisfaction of supporting a young athlete.
Don’t be shy about contacting local racers. They’ll probably be happy for the chance to convert some of their gear into cash.
Support Your Local Retailer
Please support your local Nordic ski shop. No one in the business of Nordic ski retail is making huge profits and business is getting tougher every year, especially with the rise of online shopping.
Nordic ski stores are small, but they’re big supporters of local skiers and local ski areas. They’re the good guys and we want them to be around for years to come.
Join XC Ski Nation
XC Ski Nation is our membership site for Nordic skiers and has a large collection of top rate videos for nordic skiers. Given the quality and scope of the video lessons and demonstrations, the cost for a one year membership is trivial. You can preview the site for free, no credit card required.