8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels

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8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels

Cross-country or nordic skiing is where skiing began. While you don’t get top speed and lift-assisted help, it’s a great workout and a beautiful way to get in touch with winter nature. Choosing the wrong skis, however, can leave your muscles sore and lead to foot pain.

In this guide, we’ll go over the details of cross-country skis and how they differ from regular skis. Then, we’ll list out the best skis you can find, along with a buying guide to help you on your journey. If you’ve ever been curious about cross-country, this article is for you.

Our Review process

Coming from a proud Scandinavian background, it was a common sight to see my parents and grandparents on cross-country skis. In many arctic regions, it's the prime mode of transportation. I’ve been to races, skied recreationally and developed a well-rounded understanding of the discipline.

The best cross-country skis will offer glide, grip and support on long journeys. There are many nordic skis that allow for an easier transition into the sport. Remember to check out our buying guide to unpack the technical details and considerations that go into cross-country ski design.

With those things in mind, let’s check out my top ski picks.

Rossignol EVO OT 65 XC

Best Overall Cross-Country Skis

My winner
8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels - Rossignol EVO OT 65 XC
Pros

Stable underfoot

Great control

Positrack grip system

NNN compatibility

Versatile

Cons

Not as fast as other skis

The Rossignol EVO OT 65 XC ski is an equal opportunity player and my pick for best overall cross-country skis. These skis can handle a groomed trail just as good as deep snow, which is impressive for a cross-country model. They also feature a partial metal edge which improves grip over difficult terrain.

The downside to this hybrid model is a loss of speed. You can achieve decent glide and grip, but you won’t be moving as fast as more specialized skis. However, with NNN compatibility (see our buying guide below), a proven grip system and great control, this is a fantastic choice for aspiring cross-country skiers.

Rossignol EVO OT 65 XC

Fischer Spider 62

Best Nordic Classic Touring Skis

My winner
8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels - Fischer Spider 62
Pros

Waxless

Full metal edges

Great glide and sturdy grip

Great for multiple ability levels

Good price

Cons

Doesn’t perform well in deep backcountry snow

The Fischer Spider 62 is my pick for the best classic nordic skis. These skis can handle the ski track along with some backcountry trails. The waxless base is easy to manage, and the Fischer Spider 62 sports fantastic glide.

These are not backcountry skis, so the one downside is performance in deep snow. It’s a top performer in most other conditions, and its effective edges add extra grip on the uphills. Whether you're just starting out or a veteran of nordic classic skiing, I recommend the Fischer Spider 62s.

Fischer Spider 62

Atomic Redster S9 Gen S

Best Skate Skis

My winner
8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels - Atomic Redster S9 Gen S
Pros

Progressive skate design

Versatile (track, trails and soft snow)

Fast and responsive

Deep sidecut

NNS compatible

Cons

Price

The Atomic Redster S9 Gen S has made its mark on the skate skiing world. Unlike most skate skis, this model has a deeper sidecut, which rewards big strides with a lot of speed. The Redster is at home on groomed tracks, rutted trails, and soft snow.

Because of their progressive design and versatile use, these skis are more expensive than many varieties. The price will be a deterrent to many beginners looking for more value. However, if you’re looking for an all-mountain equivalent in the ski skating world, this is it.

Atomic Redster S9 Gen S

Salomon Snowscape 7

Best Value Cross-Country Skis

My winner
8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels - Salomon Snowscape 7
Pros

Great value

Good for beginners

Versatile

Waxless

Sturdy grip

Cons

Not as fast

SNS bindings

These easy-to-use nordic touring skis are my choice for those on a budget. The Snowscape 7 is a well-priced model that can double as a great introductory cross-country ski. Sporting a versatile build, the Snowscape 7 is a waxless option with good balance and grip.

Specialized skis achieve a faster top speed than the Solomon Snowscape 7, and SNS bindings aren’t compatible with anything in the NNN field, which limits options (see buying guide below). However, for its great value and ease of use, the Snowscape 7 is a popular and dependable option.

Salomon Snowscape 7

Fischer Twin Skin Cruiser Ef

Best Waxless Cross-Country Skis for Beginners

My winner
8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels - Fischer Twin Skin Cruiser Ef
Pros

Lightweight

Responsive

Dependable glide

Fantastic beginner skis

Reliable on groomed tracks

Cons

Limited appeal for advanced skiers

The Fischer Twin Cruiser Ef is a great beginner choice. Unlike the waxable options, these skis come with a strip of mohair (also used in backcountry ski skins) to give extra grip. The mohair is underfoot, while the tip and tail remain gripless for dependable glide.

Unlike more specialized cross-country skis, the Fischer Twin Skin Cruisers focus on beginners, which limits the skis' overall glide speed. This shouldn't matter to newcomers but will for advanced cross-country skiers.

However, the lightweight design, responsive feel, sturdy grip and reliable performance make it my choice for the best waxless beginner nordic touring ski.

Fischer Twin Skin Cruiser Ef

Salomon RS 7 Skate Skis w/ Prolink Bindings

Best Skate Ski for Beginners

My winner
8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels - Salomon RS 7 Skate Skis w/ Prolink Bindings
Pros

Stable underfoot

Versatile

NNS compatibility

Easy gliding

Speed and control

Cons

Narrow skill level focus

Skate skiing is faster and more involved than classic nordic skiing. A lot of your power comes from a good stride and skating motion. The Salomon RS 7s are stable enough to support you in finding your stride, versatile enough to handle multiple snow conditions and sport NNN compatibility.

As they are designed with beginners in mind, experienced skiers should look for something more specialized. However, for those looking for a great beginner choice, the combination of speed, control and easy gliding make this an easy purchase.

Salomon RS 7 Skate Skis w/ Prolink Bindings

Fischer Speedmax 3D Classic Plus 902 soft

Best Skate Ski for Racers

My winner
8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels - Fischer Speedmax 3D Classic Plus 902 soft
Pros

Versatile

Top speed

Easy weight transfer

Excels in wet snow

NNN compatible

Cons

Average in very cold conditions

The Fischer Speedmax 3d classic plus 902 soft is my choice for the best racing skate ski. This unusual ski excels in warm conditions, just below and above freezing. Few skis offer this level of performance. This means you can take these race skis out more often than other models.

The warmer focus does mean the Speedmax’s performance in cold weather is good but not great. However, if you want a versatile ski that handles most winter conditions, allows for easy weight transfers and excels in wet snow, this is the best pick.

Fischer Speedmax 3D Classic Plus 902 soft

Fischer Transnordic 66 easy skin xtralite

Best Metal-Edge Cross-Country Skis

My winner
8 Best Cross-Country Skis For All Levels - Fischer Transnordic 66 easy skin xtralite
Pros

Steel edges

Versatile performance

Climbing skin compatible

Great for off-trail exploration

Reliable performance

Cons

Too much for groomed trails

Fischer has a great lineup of cross-country skis, and the Transordic 66 continues the tradition. Featuring steel edges, versatile performance, climbing skin compatibility and reliable performance, these skis were meant for off-trail adventures.

If you plan to stick to groomed trails and classic tracks around nordic centers, these skis are overkill. However, if the dulcet tones of the backcountry beckon, the Transordic 66 will get you there and back again with its durable performance and edge control.

Fischer Transnordic 66 easy skin xtralite

Pros
Cons

Verdict:

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What are Cross-country and Nordic Skis?

Nordic skiing, also known as cross-country skiing, is a fun winter activity and a fantastic workout. Cross-country skis are much narrower than normal skis and belong to a few categories, namely, skate skiing and classic nordic skiing.

In all cross-country skis, you have specialized boots that attach to specialized bindings (SNS or NNN). Although there has been a push for more interchangeable bindings pairs, many are highly specialized. Make sure to match bindings and boots.

Compared to regular skis, nordic skis are longer, thinner and have a taller sidecut. The boots and bindings are also generally smaller than downhill skiing varieties and rely on different attachment configurations.

Cross-Country Skis Buying Guide

If you're a recreational skier or ski racer looking to get into cross-country skiing, take a look at some of the points below. While nordic and downhill skiing share some characteristics, it's the differences that will determine the pair of cross-country skis you choose.

Price

Like downhill skis, the prices for cross-country skis vary. You can find great beginner nordic skis for between $200 and $500. Once you get into the sport and want performance-level skis, you could pay anywhere from $700 to over $1,000.

Length

Nordic ski length, like regular ski length, is a prime consideration. In general, with classic nordic skis, you want to measure your height in cm and add 15-20cm. That should get you the ideal ski length. Once you’ve made that calculation, consider your weight.

Check your weight with regional or national averages. If you consider yourself a heavier skier, you should add another 5cm to the length. If you’re a lighter skier, it may help to subtract 5cm from the overall length. Like regular skis, longer is better for sustained improvement over time, but shorter is easier to handle for beginners.

Width

Classic nordic skis are very narrow and rely on preset or maintained cross-country ski tracks to guide movement. In contrast, general all-purpose touring and backcountry skis can be much wider to handle variable conditions.

If you plan to use a nordic center, where cross-country ski tracks are laid out and maintained, you’ll never want a ski width wider than roughly 68mm. 68mm is the maximum width of nearly all groomed tracks. If you want to try skate-skiing, you’ll want something even narrower (41-45mm).

For backcountry terrain explorers, cross-country skiing without a groomed track means you need wider skis. Wider skis operate better in deeper snow and rugged terrain. These metal-edged skis resemble a lot of backcountry skis and can run from 68mm to over 100mm wide.

Camber

Camber is part of a skis profile, or how it looks from the side when it's lying on a flat surface. Downhill and backcountry skiers often rely on a combination of traditional camber (an upward bend underfoot) and rocker (an upward bend at the tip and/or tail). Nordic and cross-country skis are all about camber.

Skate skis usually work with a single camber, where the ski is elevated underfoot, flat at the tail, and has an upward-pointed tip. The tip shape is similar across all nordic skis and allows you to stride out without the tips getting stuck in the snow.

Classic nordic skis take it a bit further and use a double camber. A double camber doesn't mean two instances of camber; it means the camber arch is much more defined. A taller camber means you can rely on the tip and tail portions to glide when the ski is weighed evenly. On the uphill, the ski will bend down enough to engage the textured pattern to grip the snow.

Ski Flex

For most, ski flex is not a huge issue. If you are into competitive cross-country skiing or are a long-time veteran, there are some subtle differences. A stiffer flex, like what’s found in a double-camber ski, is better on hard-packed snow. A softer flex (think single camber) will allow for more comfortable skiing in soft snow.

Waxable or waxless base

To go uphill, you need grip. Classic nordic skis accomplish this by manufacturing a textured pattern (sometimes called a fish-scale pattern) under the center of the ski or using wax. Skate skis rely on metal edges to grip on uphill climbs.

Waxless skis are popular because little maintenance is involved. If you split the length of the ski into thirds, the third closest to the tail and tip are smooth and glide like regular skis. The textured pattern (in lieu of wax) is the middle third, located under the bindings.

Waxable classic skis require a bit of maintenance but are more performance-oriented. You apply rub-on wax to the central third of the ski before strapping in. For temperature consistent days, this is the superior option providing both grip and excellent glide.

Despite the name, in both cases, cross-country skis need a coat of wax on the tip and tail to increase glide proficiency. It should be noted that there are multiple wax types: grip wax for uphill and glide wax for downhill.

Bindings and Boots

Cross-country skiers use specialized bindings that always leave the heel free. This allows you to stride out and adopt a good rhythm when you want to move faster or ascend uphill. However, binding type matters.

Traditionally there were two types for both bindings and boots, NNN (New Nordic Norm) and SNS (Salomon Nordic System). The annoying part was that they weren’t compatible.

Now, you can choose from Prolink, NIS, NNN and Turnamic bindings, which are all compatible with NNN cross-country ski boots. SNS is off on its own so keep that in mind when shopping. NNN boots do not fit on SNS bindings and vice versa.

Other considerations

Once you have your skis, bindings and appropriate ski boots, think about other cross-country ski gear and conditions. Most cross-country skis handle flat terrain well, but wider models are much better for deep snow. Additionally, classic touring skis can go far on groomed terrain, but skate skis put more emphasis on speed.

If you want downhill performance, backcountry skis won't be the best choice. Look for waxable or double-camber skis that can handle steeper terrain. A full or partial metal edge will allow for more uphill grip but makes it easier to catch an edge and fall. Beginner and intermediate skiers will want something that delivers more balance and support.

As for gear, know that nordic poles are usually much longer than regular ski poles. There are also nordic specific uniforms and clothing options that can help you manage your workouts or race speed. The nordic world also includes specialized sunglasses, gloves, wax options and specific maintenance processes.

Make sure you round out your nordic purchases to get the most effective setup possible.

Summary

If you’re interested in cross-country skiing, I highly recommend the Rossignol EVO OT 65 XC. For Nordic classic skiing, it’s hard to pass up on the Fischer Spider 62s. Skate skiers gravitate towards the durable and versatile Atomic Redster S9 Gen S ski.

For waxless nordic touring skis, the Fischer Twin Skin Cruisers are easy to love. Value shoppers will love the Salomon Snowscape 7, and backcountry-oriented skiers should check out the Transnordic 66 easy skin xtralite.

Common questions

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I’m happiest on long backpacking trips into little-known pockets of wilderness, skiing down backcountry mountains, and on all-fours, scrambling the rocky spines of alpine ridges. When I'm not adventuring in the outdoors, I'm most likely writing about them.

*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.

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