Easy Sliders: The 7 Best Cross Country Skis

Whipping down a mountain at 90 miles per hour isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun winter sport. Some people still think that risking life and limb just to go down a hill really fast isn’t the most fun you can have standing up. For these people, there is cross country skiing, where they can get all the work of skiing without any of the joyous, adrenaline-soaked fun. Those that like a slower pace where they can actually experience nature rather than having is scream past them, or slam into them painfully, will want to invest in a pair of cross-country skis.

Cross country skiing, or Nordic skiing as it is sometimes known, hasn’t evolved much since its invention when some lazy person strapped planks to their feet. Though the sport itself hasn’t altered much, the equipment has. Modern skis devoted to this type of skiing are broken into groups depending on how they will be used with touring skis for those leaving the trail, racing skis for going along well-worn paths, and wider or narrower choices. Keep in mind that your skis must be suited to you, so while we can guide you toward the 7 best cross country skis, they still need a personal touch.

Salomon Snowscape 7

Salomon Snowscape 7

Pro: Wide body
Con: Too basic for experienced skiers

Best for Beginners: These are almost certainly where you will want to start if you have never strapped on a pair of skis or have only been alpine skiing up until now. The wide body will keep you stable as a table when you take a turn and prevent you from suddenly sinking into the snow. The easy heel-toe camber lets you learn how to climb easily without overtaxing your legs. They have a waxless bottom and a partial metal edge that will help you take turns without digging too deep into the snowpack. They’re light enough for easy kicking without throwing your hips out of whack. Made of durable Densolite which holds up well without packing on the pounds giving you the ability to grow into them and use them until your skill improves and you’re ready to take on a tougher challenge. [Purchase: $129]

Rossignol Delta CL

Rossignol Delta CL

Pro: Flexibly soft core
Con: Wide body limits speed

Basic Racer: Racing skis are hard to choose since they are typically very costly and require lots of experience to use properly. That being said, if the world is just moving too damn slow and you want a ski that lets you pick up the pace while you learn, the Delta CL is an easy choice. The core is honeycombed to reduce weight and improve speed, but also doesn’t make the center as stiff as your standard skate ski, which is better for beginners. It also means that as you push harder into the ski, the pressure is transferred to the back end for better dig and acceleration. The platform is wider than high performance racing skis so you won’t hit maximum velocity nor will you find your control level slipping. [Purchase: $100]

Fischer Orbiter

Fischer Orbiter

Pro: Works well on established trails
Con: No metal edges

Most Balanced: Once you’ve got the knack, and a taste for the XC lifestyle, then you may want something that works for an advanced skill level, doesn’t cost a fortune, and let’s you take a leisurely gentleman’s tour of cross country ski resorts. For all that, the Orbiter is one of your best bets. The core is basalite which is light enough for you to start getting some serious speed behind you but not so much that your control will slip. The lack of metal edges means you won’t be able to break ground in the deep woods, but also aren’t going to be slowed down. You also won’t rip up trails. These mark the pinnacle of the intermediate to advanced ski level for the athlete that isn’t sure a career in nordic skiing is for them but still wants to hit the trails. [Purchase: $230]

Fischers S-Bound 88

Fischer’s S-Bound 88

Pro: Large metal edges
Con: Steep learning curve

Backcountry Beginner: Fischer seems to have cornered the market on mid-range skis that aren’t too costly. If you find the Orbiter a little too tame and you either want to move away from a waxless body for improved speed, or you are dying to get deep into the wilderness, then the S-Bound 88 can help you out. It uses the same basic design as the Orbiter but includes a wider body for handling powder and staying afloat on loose snow. The full edges work nearly as well as snow shoes for climbing, then help you carve up turns. The 88 allows you even more room to grow and adapt your skills if you’ve gone as far as basic skis can take you. After using a waxless, this can be a tough leap, but it will keep you happy for a long time if you’re a cross country ski junkie. [Purchase: $299]

Atomic Redster Skintec

Atomic Redster Skintec

Pro: Come in options for more glide or more kick
Con: Rapid acceleration

Waxless Wonder: First, it should be noted that if you really want a great waxless and manage to find a pair of Atomic Skintec Classics, get them. Even if you have to kill and old woman and pry them off her, they are worth it. Atomic believes they have improved with the new Redsters. They are sorely mistaken, but these are still the best waxless skis you’re going to find on the open market. The grip is incredible whether you are climbing or training and when you drop into a downhill glide, they’ll pick up speed quickly. The grip zones use Mohair that bites like a work boot without tripping you up or backsliding. You can even get them in either a model for greater glide or one for improved kick. The center section is stiffer than most and requires heavier pressure so remember to bear down. [Purchase: $490]

Madshus Redline Carbon Skate

Madshus Redline Carbon Skate

Pro: Light core and responsive design
Con: Very stiff

Speed Freaks: You shouldn’t be shocked to learn that Madshus is a Norwegian ski maker and that their Redline series is largely considered the only ski worth having if you are going to take your racing seriously. The core is high-performance Rohacell PR100X foam made from acrylics, making it extremely light and easy to lift while also packing snow down admirably. It is surrounded by additional carbon to make the whole body stiffer for less flex and less loss of motion while moving. They are exceptionally responsive though if you are anything less than an expert, every turn will spin you head over heels since they cut hard and fast. These just soak up wax for a frictionless ride that has to be felt to be believed. [Purchase: $760]

G3 ZenOxide Carbon 105

G3 ZenOxide Carbon 105

Pro: High float
Con: Wide turning radius

Backcountry Premier: The prohibitive price will keep out the riffraff and once you’ll strap these on you’ll see where the money went. The core is made of poplar, so these won’t be as weighty as most of the chubby chicks that comprise the ZenOxide line. The additional float capability allows them to go easy on hard-core climbing skiers and traverse powder for big mountain men who take every hill as a challenge to bust through the sound barrier. You’ll get a smooth flexibility from the heavy carbon body that is guaranteed to put a literal spring in your step. The turning could be tighter, and the body feels a little long, but the added stability is necessary to compensate for the wispy weight. You’ll have some gnarly steel edges which might keep you out of dainty resorts that don’t want you hacking up their trails, but when they bite down on the worst the backcountry can throw at you, you won’t care. [Purchase: $870]

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