All About Classic Skis

There are 3 parts to this article:

  1. Quick Facts About Classic Skis
  2. How to Find Your Wax Pocket
  3. Waxable vs Waxless Classic Skis

1. Quick Facts About Classic Skis

  • Classic skis come in two varieties: waxable and waxless.
  • Waxable skis need 2 kinds of wax: kick or grip wax and glide wax.
  • Waxless skis don’t need kick wax, but they do need glide wax.
  • On well groomed trails, wide heavy skis are more difficult to handle than lighter, skinny skis. The opposite is true in ungroomed snow.
  • Avoid skis that have more than one groove in the base. It might not affect the speed of the ski, but it makes it more difficult to apply glide wax.
  • Metal edges are unnecessary for skiing on groomed trails and add unwanted weight.
  • Long skis are not necessarily faster than short skis.
  • Stiff skis are not necessarily faster than soft skis.
  • The speed of a ski depends on many factors and changes with snow conditions. Racers have multiple pairs of skis so they can choose the fastest pair for the conditions on race day.
  • Regular skiers can own 1 nice pair of skis that performs well in a broad range of conditions.
  • Classic skis are fit to the skier’s weight and height. Of the two factors, weight is most important.
  • Classic skis are flexed. The flex is called the camber. If you hold the skis together with their bases touching, you can see the gap between the skis. If you squeeze the gap, you can feel the skis’ stiffness.
  • If the camber is too stiff for the skier’s weight, he won’t be able to push his wax pocket against the snow and will constantly slip. He’ll be frustrated and unhappy.
  • If the camber is too soft for the skier, he’ll “bottom out”. His kick zone will rub against the snow too much, which will slow down his glide. He’ll be frustrated and unhappy.
  • “Combi” skis are supposed to work for both skate and classic skiing. In reality, they won’t be good for either. We do not 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. Here’s an excellent explanation of how classic skis are fit:

2. How to Find Your Kick Zone/Wax Pocket

What is a Wax Pocket?

The wax pocket is the section of a classic ski base where you apply kick, or grip wax. It’s also called a kick zone.

Roughly speaking, it extends from under your heel forward about 50 cm towards the tip of your ski. It’s boundaries depend on your weight and skiing style. You’ll want to know the exact edges of your wax pocket so you know where to apply kick wax.

How to Find the Edges of Your Kick Zone or Wax Pocket

The person who sizes your classic skis can give you a good estimate of where you should apply kick wax but he won’t be able to tell you the exact edges of your wax pocket. That’s something you have to figure out yourself, on snow.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Apply kick wax beyond where you think your wax pocket starts and ends. Apply the wax behind your heel and well in front of the toe of your boot (maybe 20 cm). If the store tentatively marked your wax pocket for you, apply kick wax about 5 cm beyond those marks.
  2. Go for a long ski (~ 1.5 h). The kick wax will rub off your glide zones faster than it wears off your true wax pocket. Where you see kick wax left on your ski is your wax pocket.
  3. Use an indelible marker and clearly mark your sidewalls where the your wax pocket starts and ends.
  4. If your body weight changes significantly, you may have to re-measure and re-mark your wax pocket.
  5. Klister and warm temperature waxes are thicker than cold temperature waxes. This means you need to wax about 3-5 cm shorter on each side of your wax pocket. (If you’re serious, you can always repeat the test with klister and have klister marks on your sidewalls as well.)

3. Waxable vs Waxless Skis: The Toughest Decision You’ll Ever Make

That headline is a joke.

We hate to see people get anxious about waxable versus waxless skis, so we wanted to begin with a reminder that, in the big picture, this isn’t something to worry too much about.

The reason people get so confused over this choice is because it’s actually a 2-part question:

1. Should you buy waxable or waxless skis?

2. If “yes” to waxless, which kind should you get?

It’s the second question that causes all the problems.

If you decide yes, you want waxless skis, you’ll discover there are many choices. By the time you’ve researched the pros and cons of each, you might circle back to the first question and wonder if you made a good decision.

Let’s try to prevent that from happening.

First Question: Should You Buy Waxable or Waxless Skis?

First, let’s clear up a major point of confusion: all but the cheapest “waxless” skis still must be glide waxed (at least a few times per year). You can have performance without waxing, but you have to pay the shop to glide wax for you.

In general, people who are serious about cross-country skiing ski on waxable skis. That’s because kick wax almost always gives superior performance over the various grip materials used on waxless skis.

The superior performance comes from the fact kick waxes are almost infinitely adjustable. There’s a wide range of waxes, even within one brand, and you can select different kick wax for different conditions.

You can fine tune both the grip and glide characteristics of your kick wax. For example, you can layer and lengthen your wax application to adjust your kick and glide.

This sounds more complicated than it is. It doesn’t take long to figure out which waxes work well in your area. It can be really useful to make these sorts of adjustments and using kick wax almost always results in skis that are faster than waxless skis.

Problems with Waxable Skis

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns with waxable skis. There are some drawbacks to kick wax:

  1. Added cost for buying waxing tools and a selection of kick waxes
  2. The time it takes to apply and remove grip wax
  3. It can feel overwhelming to teach yourself about waxing, especially when you’re new to cross country skiing and have so many other things to learn
  4. Changing conditions (it starts snowing part way through your ski, the temperature changes dramatically, etc)
  5. Tough-to-wax conditions

The first 3 of these problems can be overcome in “baby steps”. Yes, you have to climb the learning curve, but there won’t be any big failures. Many people have learned to be proficient with wax and so can you.

The fourth problem is a nuisance. Sometimes you have to stop along the trail, scrape your wax and reapply a new wax. No one likes that.

But it’s the fifth and final problem: “tough-to-wax” conditions, that really drives demand for waxless skis.

Tough Waxing Conditions

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of conditions people hate for waxing: warm temperatures, and/or fresh snow.

The first, warm temperatures, is not really a problem if you don’t mind klister. Klister, like kick wax, is applied to the kick zone. It’s a sticky goo that oozes out of a tube. People hate klister because it makes a mess of their hands, clothing and car.

The good thing is that it’s pretty easy to get great grip and glide with klister. If you can just get someone else to apply it for you…

The really tough problem for wax technicians is fresh snow, at near zero degrees Celcius. These conditions have terrorized skiers for years.

Whichever wax company solves the problem of “fresh snow at zero” will be laughing all the way to the finishline for years to come.

The trouble is that fresh snow crystals have sharp edges that easily embed in kick wax and klister. Once even a tiny ice patch forms in your grip wax it will seed larger crystals and you’ll end up with big clumps of snow stuck to your kick wax. The snow will continue to build up and pretty soon your skis have “snow stilts” and no longer glide at all.

This can happen at a range of temperatures, but it’s worst at or near zero degrees Celcius. As it gets warmer it’s less of a problem as the sharp edges on the snowflakes round off from melting. Cold temperature kick wax is harder so snowflakes can’t embed as easily. That’s why cold temperature waxes are more resistant to icing.

It’s these “unwaxable” conditions that make even diehard cross-country skiers dream of owning waxless skis. The big disappointment is even waxless skis can occasionally ice up in these conditions.

Second Question: Which Kind of Waxless Skis Do You Want?

There are 3 Kinds of Waxless Skis

"Fishscales" provide mechanical grip in classic skiing.
“Fishscales” provide mechanical grip in classic skiing.

1. Fishscales

We don’t recommend fishscales. They’re noisy, and they vibrate against the snow on the downhills. They feel “chattery” and we find them unpleasant to ski on.

Plus, they don’t work in all conditions. For example, they’re not reliable on icy trails.


2. “Zeros”

Zeros are specialized classic skis, specifically designed for the tough wax conditions described above. (Fresh snow at zero degrees Celsius.)

The ski base has a kick zone made of a rubber-like material that you have to roughen with sandpaper. Sanding the kick zone creates little “hairs” in the rubber that grip the snow.

You can adjust your grip by sanding rougher or smoother. There’s also a silicone spray you apply to the hairs so they last longer and resist icing.

"Zeros" A specialized classic ski for fresh snow and near zero degrees. The red, rubbery area is shaded to create hairs that provide grip.
“Zeros” A specialized classic ski for fresh snow and near zero degrees. The red, rubbery area gets sanded to create hairs that provide grip.

You can actually take a regular pair of classic skis and give them the same treatment. (Heavy sanding of the P-Tex base in the kick zone. But don’t sand your glide zones!)

In this case, they’re called “Hairies”.

In terms of speed and performance, Zeros are the best and are the only waxless skis used in competition by serious athletes.

But remember, Zeros are not an all purpose, grab and go ski like other types of waxless skis. They’re designed to work in a narrow range of conditions.

If you wanted, you could apply kick wax or klister to “Zeros”, which would broaden their usable temperature range. This isn’t a great choice as the skis are softer and not as versatile in terms as what you can do when waxing them. Plus, it would be difficult to clean grip wax off their kick zones.

3. “Skin” Skis

These are pretty new arrivals on the cross-country ski scene and many people are falling in love with them.

They have a mohair strip inset into the kick zone. It’s the same material backcountry skiers use as “skins” for climbing mountains. The mohair has a nap, so it glides in one direction and provides grip in the other.

Skin Skis are waxes skis with a mohair inset in the kick zone.
Skin Skis are waxless classic skis with a mohair inset in the kick zone.

Skin skis work in a wide range of conditions. We tested them for a couple of months and they worked great in every snow and temperature condition we tried.

The grip is excellent, the glide is excellent, and they go remarkably fast for a waxless ski. You still have to glide wax them periodically, of course, but they are genuinely a “grab and go” classic ski that’s a pleasure to ski on.

They sound awesome because they are, but before you rush out and buy a pair, remember:

  1. You still have to apply glide wax to the tips and tails.
  2. On “fresh snow at zero degrees” they might still ice up (It can happen to fishscales and Zeros as well.)
  3. They’re a little difficult to move across the snow in a sideways direction. This matters when you are snowplowing or  step turning around a corner. The mohair glides and grips really well in a front to back direction, but doesn’t handle lateral movement very well.
  4. They’re not as fast as waxable skis or Zeros. (But they are surprisingly fast.)

The final thing to mention is that some skin skis come with 2 sets of interchangeable mohair inserts. This allows you to “adjust” your grip but switching between the 2 sets.

In our opinion, this is unnecessary. We found the difference in grip small and the system that allows you to interchange the inserts makes the skis a little heavier. (The insets are held in place with magnets. They’re small, but they still add weight.)

If we were buying skin skis, we’d choose the lightest pair we could find.

Here’s a great overview of Skin Ski technology:

How to Choose

(You might also want to read our Buying Advice article)

Once you’ve decided you want a pair of waxless skis, you have to choose which kind. When it comes to choosing, don’t forget your original reason for wanting waxless skis.

Which of the following 3 options most closely matches why you want waxless skis?

1. Waxing is Your Problem

You don’t have the time to wax, you don’t want to spend money on wax, you don’t want to learn about waxing, etc. You want a convenient, grab and go classic ski and you want a ski that will handle tough to wax conditions better than a waxable ski.

Decision: Buy Skin skis

2. Tough to Wax Conditions are Your Problem and You Like the Idea of a Grab and Go Pair of Skis

Decision: Buy Skin Skis

3. Tough to Wax Conditions are Your Problem and You Want Performance

Decision: Buy Zeros, but you’ll need a regular pair of waxable classic skis as well.

43 thoughts on “All About Classic Skis”

  1. Your section title
    “Second Question: Which Kind of Waxable Ski Do You Want?”
    Maybe you meant
    “Second Question: Which Kind of Waxless Ski Do You Want?”

    Otherwise, great articles on this site.


      • Thanks, Kim! However, I got a reply from Atomic the other day and it only said something like “our Skintec skis have skins”. That is the usual uninterested reply one normally gets from the big manufacturers when writing to them with issues like this.

        It would also be interesting to have some inlays with just the same base material as the rest of the ski so one could grip wax as usual and then have an array of waxings saved for future use.

  2. Hi great article, loved the Salomon RC skin review.

    I am an average skier, I usually ski about 12 times a year.
    Nonetheless I really enjoy it, I use this as a training to keep in general shape.

    I have a 10yr old pair of Fischer SCS classic.
    They have lost flex and I have gained weight over the years.
    I was able to borrow some Fischer CRS Crown (Waxless).
    I skied with them twice, but I feel as if with a normal kick, I just cannot get the ski to grab properly.
    I can see the grip works, because when I kick with all I’ve got, it grabs great. Just can’t ski like this for more than 15-20min.
    The calculated rating seemed fine, I weigh 76kg, the ski was marked 39kg.

    I really felt like an Alien trying to ski for the first time.
    Could it be what Fischer calls the Classic 812 wax pocket, that I just can’t seem to master?
    I have also read that Fischer’s have residual camber…?
    My boots might be starting to be flexier, can this reduce power transfer to that extent?
    Should I be looking somewhere else for a more conventional leaf spring design ski?

    Thanks for your toughts.

    • Hi Pascal – I’m sorry I can’t help you. I don’t know the answers to your questions. Maybe you should contact Fischer. But, to make you feel better, most people gain weight and lose flexibility as the years pass. Good thing it was only skis that lost flex ;)

    • Hey, Pascal. I don’t think your flexier ski boots reduce power transfer. Some high-end classic ski boots are made with very flexible soles, so this probably increases power transfer. Then I think you should try a pair of skin skis.

  3. Hi, as far as I can see, you haven’t mentioned about third option – Optigrip. It’s patented so it’s made by only one producer in Finland named Yoko. It’s unique construction makes them waxless but they don’t have any horrible fishscales or hair stripes in the kick zone. They adapt to snow conditions after few minutes. Finns love them, them, I love them. It’s a great alternative for all those who hate fishscales but don’t want to spend time on waxing. I tested Optigrip’s unique ability to adapt to changing snow conditions and I’m still amazed how good they work.. They’re not perfect for beginners, because they don’t forgive backward kick, but intermediates will love them. Profs gladly use them as training skis.

    If someone’s interested, here’s link with revue in swedish
    and here you’ll find information from the manufacturer in English.

    By the way, Kim – you and Kai are doing a great job. I love your site, your tips are extremely helpful especially in the matter of improving the skiing technique. My personal request, please give some more articles about balance training and some ideas of “games” or “plays” on skis for adults (like crazy 8).

    Hugs, Tatiana from Poland

    • Hey, Tatiana! Thanks for informing about Yoko Optigrip. I looked them up and it seems they are something like zero skis — with a rubber-like kick zone base — but with a broader use. Yoko is an innovative company; their Skating Mini is intriguing.

  4. Hi Magnus. Probably you’ve seen the zero type of Yoko skis called Optigrip 2.1 with optigrip only in the kick zone. It’s produced in only one racing model.

    “Normal” Optigrip 2.0 used in sport and competition skis doesn’t seem like zero type. It’s difficult to describe it, because it’s company’s secret and Yoko doesn’t explain it. It’s neither rubber nor mohair strip. I can describe it as a microscopic texture under whole base of the ski, NOT only in the kick zone. Without magnifying glass it looks like normal waxable ski base. It glides when you go forward and sticks to the snow when you kick. When I first tried it I couldn’t believe how it’s possible, it seems a bit magical, but it works great;) They’re especially useful for long distances and in changing conditions. Including hard and icy or very humid soft and warm tracks.

    Yoko is a finnish ski manufacturer with great traditions, formerly called Karhu, but due to some legal issues they had to change their name.

  5. No, I’m a very satisfied Yoko customer:) And I like to know what there is to know about my skis. Anyway selling xc skis in my country is not a good business. People are more interested in downhill skiing. There are only few professional shops here as I suppose. I get most of my klowledge during my journeys to Sweden, Norway and Czech Republic where xc skiing is a religion.

    Magnus, thanks for link, I’ve read about Peltonen and I think it’s similar system to Yoko. I didn’t know it, because I didn’t have an opportunity to use or even touch new Peltonen skis. I have one quite old pair of Peltonens which is great for backcountry skiing with such bindings that you can use with your normal walking shoes.

    • You’re welcome, Tatiana. Regarding Yoko, isn’t it so that Karhu went bankrupt and Yoko took over its manufacturing including Optigrip?

      It is remarkable that you say cross-country skiing is a smaller sport than alpine skiing in Poland since you have had a number of world class cross-country skiers — with foremost Justyna Kowalczyk — but not so many alpine ski stars.

      Even if Poland isn’t a cross-country ski nation in a cultural sense, it is where a lot of equipment is made: The Swedish glove brand Lillsport, for example, has its factory in Poland.

  6. Oh, I don’t know exactly what happened. All I know is that the same manufacturer with the same people in the same place produce skis under new name (it’s on their fb site).

    Cross coutry skiing became known in Poland since Justyna Kowalczyk’s first medal in Torino 2006. Poles are the greatest audience of cross country skiing and ski jumping in the world (about 10 mln people watch world cup contests every weekend). But knowledge and practise of xc skiing is really poor, as we don’t have snowy winters in Europe anymore.

    And Therese Johaug’s gloves are also made in Poland.

    • After a little further research it seems like Järvinen now has taken over Yoko’s ski production:

      Perhaps Poles are busy producing ski equipment and don’t have time to ski themselves, but it is somewhat peculiar that the interest for watching cross-country skiing is so big in Poland while the skiing activity of the same kind is so little. Our warm European winters probably play a role. (+4 C when writing this and no snow.)

  7. +10 and rain in my place now. Look at the marathons (f.ex. Jizerska 50, Marcialonga) this year – artificial snow or shorter distance. Last years Vasaloppet was almost on water. I wonder how it will be this year.

    Voleyball is like religion in Poland, while nobody plays it for fun:) But people like running and cycling, so it’s not that bad. And nordic walking is very popular, so it’s at least something close to xc skiing.

    • I’m a relative newbie to XC skiing as an Aussie living in Finland. For 2 winters I’ve used classic style skis that I bought used. I use them with grip tape (because waxing seems confusing and also maybe tricky and messy to maintain in an apartment, also expensive if I’m taking them to the shop every time the weather changes, also I want to be able to just pick up and go at the drop of a hat).
      So yesterday I decided to try some rental skins to decide whether I should upgrade from my used skis. I really struggle with knowing how to buy good skis for me.
      Anyway, I don’t know why, but with this pair of rental skins I just had a terrible time with the grip. It was -2 degrees C on pretty fresh snow. The rental shop staff told me the conditions were good for skins and optigrip (those are the styles the rent these days; no more classics). I figured that it’s a problem with my technique because I’m self-taught and don’t get out so often. I returned the skis and the shop suggested I just take out some optigrip skis for a try (both the skins and the optigrip had Karhu brand written on them, so I don’t know what the deal with the company is). Waaaaay easier to use. I practically ran up the hills and had absolutely no trouble on the flat and didn’t land on my arse on the downhill.
      So there you are. From that one experience, I just found the optigrip far easier to use, but I don’t feel any clearer on what to buy if I want to upgrade, or if they’ll be generally best for me or if it was just the conditions on the day :)

  8. Thank you for the very nice summary and suggestions.
    I wonder if the skins can be attached to skate skis as a cheap solution for non-skate-able occasions.
    I am new to XC skiing and I only own skate skis now. To be honest i am not really fond of classic skis, but there are occasions when only classic ski tracks are available and I do not want to miss such occasions. Since I do not need much performance, the idea came to mind. Would there be any major problems if I do so? Could the more experienced skiers kindly share your thoughts? Thank you!

    • The message we are trying to convey with our website is: performance-style cross-country skiing is a fast-paced, exciting sport. Both classic and skate skiing are dynamic, technically challenging and rewarding sports when done on quality gear. We don’t even advocate combi skis and would never suggest anyone jerry rig their skate skis with skins. Classic ski on good quality classic skis – it’s fun!

    • My advice is to get a good pair of classic style skis and not try to use your skate skis for classic style skiing. For classic skiing one also needs ski boots with more flexible soles than skate ski boots normally have and then also shorter poles (body height x 0.85).

  9. For classic waxless skis, between zeros and skins, which works better in the wide range of klister (transformed) snow conditions? Would skin skis replace klister skis for racing?

    • Hi John. Skins work in the widest range of conditions, but are too slow for racing. Zeros provide grip with less icing when temps hover around zero and there’s fresh snow. Klister is never used in fresh snow.

  10. One thing you might cover about classic skis, is the difference between race skis.., performance or “sport” skis.., and beginner/compact skis.

    I pretty much know what compact skis are.., i have some.., but what about the different levels of longer traditional length skis?

    If i am a beginner or intermediate skier and I find a great deal on a race ski.., should i buy it? I am guessing the answer is “no”.., but why? I guess it will be too stiff, but is there more?

    • Hi Jeff – Thanks for the suggestions. If you find a great deal on a race ski AND it fits you AND you want to ski more in a performance or racing style, then yes, I would say you should buy it. The stiffness of a ski is related to the snow conditions. Stiff skis are good for firmer snow but the tips can drive into the snow too much when the snow is soft.

  11. Neat thread! And funny to see new posts pop up just now as I was reading!

    I like Magnus’ idea about replaceable strips with different kickwaxes on them! Well, maybe the companies just think that kickwaxing is pretty easy. I’d like a ski that could have all the options: zero, skin, wax!

    That Optigrip Omnigrip stuff sounds awesome also!

    I notice a big omission here — in the overview and reflected in Jeff F’s new comment — and that is describing the new mid-length skis as “beginner” or not even mentioning them at all. To me the huge elephant being missed in the room in skiing today is TRAIL SKIING. By this I mean singletrack ungroomed trail skiing. Most of the world of snow trails is ungroomed. Most beautiful trails are ungroomed. Today’s new ski gear is HUGELY more stable and controllable than ever before but this is not appreciated! We don’t need grooming anymore for ski control! In short, a midlength ski and a pivot-cuff boot with any modern binding (and especially with a BC binding) gives us — ta dah! — the MOUNTAIN BIKE OF SKIS! We can use them on any old fun trail we like. Groomed skiing is like road-biking. A whole new world of fun, skilled skiing awaits those who play anywhere there’s snow!

    What is hilariously, pitifully ironic is that guess who has NOT overlooked snow trail fun? …Mtbikers! They’ve invented yet another booming new multimillion$ sport, snowbiking, while skiing has IGNORED singletrack. Snowbikers are also inventing singletrack grooming. They are cooperating with snowshoers and snowrunners to do this. Skiers are hardly mentioned! (Skiers most often seem to appear in snowbike stories as *complainers*.) This new singletrack movement needs to develop groomers that are wide enough for skiers to be able to use the trails, so skiers need to get in on this! We are VERY FAR BEHIND presently. (It’s enough to make one cry.) I note that specifically, the groomers need to be wide enough to let a skier snowplow. At least w one ski. Or we will have to reinvent our sport (we can possibly adapt a bit by dragging a foot/poles off the grooming in deep snow). This means that groomers should maybe be another foot wider. If skiers helped FINANCE this exploding new trail scene they cd be part of equipment design. …As it is, I predict we’ll see skiers fatbiking on singletrack before we see them skiing it. Sigh.

    Whew! : )

    • Hi Jeff,

      Iowa skiers have little choice. Break trail or don’t ski. The new mid-lengths are terrific for it.

      An older pair of touring skis, wider but heavier, also work well in the wild.

      Most mountain bike trails are too twisty, steep, and rough for comfort. Horse trails tend to be wider and less rutted and twisty.

      It is said that many x-ski parks can also be used for golf in the summer, but that is mere rumor. With enough snow, corn fields are ski-able.


  12. A couple more points: Trail skiing can be just as performance-oriented as groomed skiing, especially as regards ski-handling. It’s like the diff b/w mtbiking and road biking. Also, the group that’s taking up trail skiing the most around here are indeed mtbikers. Far more of them are fatbiking, but a fair number are also having fun skiing their fave singletrack. Maybe someday the skiers will catch on! (Right now the skiers have to drive so far to grooming! Singletrack is much closer, more common, and more scenic.) We’ll try to put together some videos showing what we mean… : )

  13. Hey,

    i wonder if it is possible to attach skins on normal cross country skies. I thought about take a little material away and then glue the skin inside the notch. Do you have any experience with that or might it even work without taking material away?

    • Magnus, I wonder if we remove the base from a normal ski we might find air or honeycomb. I suppose we could notch in a bit further and install a reinforcing platform then insert skin sections. I have some ruined skis that I could experiment on.

      • Guess it is a good idea experimenting on old skies ;). I think it is only necessary to remove a few millimeter so that the skin lines up with the base. I have no clue if the are air or honecomb under…

  14. Want to know if waxless Skin Skis are more fragile than classic one ? How the skin hold , magnet on every type ? You mentioned they’re a little difficult to move across the snow in a sideways direction . That mean occasional skating with them is difficult or to ban totally at the risk of breaking them on their lateral edge ?

  15. Absolutely fascinating article. I just had my first proper cross country ski session today, skiing 17km on what I now realise were skin skis. They were superb and I certainly found them fast enough for my liking. That said, I did struggle a little more in downhill snowplough than I did during my previous experience of XC skis.
    Thanks for some great articles.

  16. I recently purchased ultrasonic skiis with skins. I’m having trouble with snowplowing .. any recommendations? Thanks!

    • Hi Liz- I’m a big fan of skin skis, but they have one major drawback: they don’t skid well. The “hairs” are angled backwards, which is perfect for “kicking” the ski and moving forward, but not great for when we need to angle the ski across the direction of travel, such as when parallel skidding and snowplowing. With practice you’ll start to get the knack, but you’ll always want to be a little extra cautious because if the ski grabs unexpectedly you’ll likely fall.

  17. I have traditional resort alpine skiis and a pair alpine back country skis. The back country skis are 105 under foot with attachable ski skins and bindings that allow free heel and to lock the boot in toe and heel. The problem is I want a touring ski that is wider under foot that will handle deeper snow with out the hassle of taking ski skins on and off. Thus a ski with fishscale on the bottom and wider than a traditional touring ski. Solutions?

  18. Awesome article – thanks for the help. I have waxless fish scale skis which have been fine, but really slow. I hate to admit this but I thought waxless meant they weren’t meant to be ever waxed – oops. :-) But glad to know I can now get some speed! Thanks!

  19. For backcountry, breaking trail in the Sierra, I am sick of the arguement that waxable skis are better. On virtually all long day or overnight trips, I’ve spent time waiting for someone who needed to change their wax. Yes, we hover around freezing conditions alot. But even in Colorado in consistent snow I’ve had the experience of waiting for slower skiers with the wrong wax.

    I started cross country in 1975, and have maybe 7 pairs of skis for different types of backcountry skiing and telemarking, so I do have a little experience. The question is, for everyone who isn’t a racer, do you want to ski or do you want to be a wax geek?


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