How to Choose Nordic Skis

How to Choose Nordic Skis

With a huge variety of models and sizes to choose from out there, buying skis for the first time can be a little overwhelming, especially for first-timers. If you’re trying to figure out how to choose Nordic skis, including cross-country, telemark and alpine touring skis, you’ve come to the right place. For information on alpine skis (a.k.a. downhill skis), check out our other article: How to Choose Skis.

Ready to get started? Answer the following questions to find your next pair of Nordic skis:

  1. Will you primarily be skiing on flatter terrain like hiking trails and golf courses? Enjoy a good cardio workout? Less interested in backcountry and downhill? Consider choosing cross-country skis. These skis are much narrower and lighter than alpine skis. Combined with a free-heel binding system, this design makes cross-country skis ideal for traversing flat terrain, maintained trails and even moderate inclines.
  2. Interested in backcountry skiing without lift access? Go with a pair of alpine touring skis. Although they look very similar to downhill skis, AT skis incorporate a binding system that can switch between free-heel and locked-heel modes. This allows alpine touring skis to be used with skins for climbing (in free-heel mode). When it’s time to descend, simply remove the skins, lock down the heels and carve just like you would on the slopes.
  3. Like a challenge? Telemark skis closely resemble alpine touring skis and operate the same way on flat terrain and inclines. The primary difference is that Telemark bindings are always in free-heel mode, requiring a different downhill technique to be used. This technique is sometimes called the “drop-knee” Telemark style. It does take practice, but with time, many people really enjoy this style of skiing.

Keep in mind that there are several different variations of cross-country skis and a range of different boot and binding systems to choose from. Sizing for Nordic skis is typically determined by weight. Because different types of Nordic skis are manufactured and shaped differently, it’s important to consult a manufacturer’s sizing chart when choosing a ski length.

To learn more about Nordic skis, bindings, boots and backcountry safety, visit our Nordic Skiing Guide.