Cross-country skiing is not only one of the best all-around workouts you can get, but it’s also a wonderful way to experience a winter wonderland outdoors. These are the best cross-country skis you can buy for winter 2022.
Imagine gliding over the snow just a little faster than you can run. You’re working up a sweat, but there is no pounding. Skis skim silently over a perfectly groomed corduroy snow track that courses through the rolling forest.
Sound idyllic? Well, the world of cross-country skiing really can be. And with its amazing full-body workout and mind-easing outdoors setting, it’s no surprise the sport is booming.
I spoke with the most expert cross-country skier I know, my father Lowell McCoy, to learn his opinions about the sport and what gear new skiers should buy. He bases his opinions on 15 years of level III PSIA Nordic ski instruction and rental/sales experience. And if you knew him, you’d know he’s pretty passionate about the sport.
“Nordic skiing is an admixture of fitness, technique, and equipment. For a satisfying experience, these three should be in balance,” he said. “Nordic skiing is a somewhat technical sport. The proper equipment makes the learning curve much lower.”
Choosing Cross-Country Skis: Which Style Is Right for Me?
Nordic skiing breaks down into classic, skate, and touring designations.
Classic and touring skis are similar in that both require a forward-and-back striding motion to move the skier forward. Touring skis are wider and meant for use off groomed trails.
Skate skis work with a sideways push-off, similar to that used by ice skaters. They’re only meant for groomed trails.
Many websites lump backcountry skis and cross-country skis together, but they have very little in common. So, I’m not including any backcountry skis (which use different boots and bindings and focus on downhill performance) in this article.
But I will include a few metal-edge touring skis — and explain when they make sense.
At the bottom of this article, find more advice about purchasing cross-country ski gear, including fit, fitness level, and more.
This article is for beginner and intermediate skiers; experts are probably well beyond this story.
A final note: Cross-country skis have been hard to find during the COVID-19 pandemic. While we’ll do our best to keep our links fresh to in-stock gear, you may need to look to alternatives in stock at major retailers. And when you do find a good ski for your needs, don’t hesitate to buy!
- Best Cross-Country Skis
- Cross-Country Skate Skis
- Best Cross-Country Skis With Metal Edges
The Best Cross-Country Skis of 2022
Best Cross-Country Skis for Beginners: Fischer Twin Skin Cruiser EF Ski
Fischer designed the Twin Skin Cruiser EF Ski ($259) for the masses. And if you’re new to cross-country skiing and want to hit groomed classic trails without the added complexity of wax, this ski is a great place to start.
The Twin Skin Cruiser EF Ski has two strips of mohair “skins” underfoot on each ski. These skins grip the snow during the kick cycle to propel the skier forward but also allow for good glide. This style of ski has been quickly gaining popularity even in more advanced skis in recent years thanks to its versatility and effectiveness.
For those who want to explore cross-country skiing and plan to ski mostly groomed trails, this ski will be a perfect entry. They also work on ungroomed trails and over trackless snow, although there are better options if most of your skiing will be untracked.
At $260, these are a good entry into cross-country classic skiing that won’t break the wallet.
Best Cross-Country Skis for Advanced Beginners: Rossignol Delta Comp R Skin Ski
The Rossignol Delta Comp R Skin ski ($375) is also an excellent choice for beginners. But at a slightly higher price, this ski can flex into an intermediate ski. So if you’re just getting into cross-country skiing but expect it will become a big piece of your training, it’s an excellent upgrade that will grow with you.
Similar to the Fischer Twin Skin Cruiser, the Delta Comp R uses a built-in mohair skin to grab the snow during the kick phase of your stride. It requires very little maintenance and works in a wide range of snow conditions. But unlike more advanced models, these skis have a large sweet spot that will forgive some errors in technique.
They have a super-light Nomex Honeycomb core, which translates to just 2 pounds 8 ounces for a 198cm pair. These are a solid choice for snowsports aficionados bridging into cross-country skiing or intermediate to advanced recreational skiers who want to leave hours at the wax bench in the past.
Beginning Classic Cross-Country Skis With Scales: Salomon Snowscape 7 Posigrip Cross-Country Skis With Prolink Bindings
The Salomon Snowscape 7 ($220) is another great choice for beginner to intermediate skiers who don’t want to meddle with kick wax. However, the Snowscape 7 uses a different method for traction, known as “scales.” In Salomon’s terminology, the “Posigrip” base has a texture that grips the snow during the kick cycle but glides while coasting forward.
This can be an advantage when skiing off the beaten (groomed) track. Designed shorter than many options, this is an extremely maneuverable and versatile ski.
The Posigrip skis with Prolink bindings are an affordable option that will work well for the beginning to intermediate cross-country skier who wants the dependability of a scaled base.
If you’re interested in a little more speed on your classic skis, consider stepping up to a ski that uses skins for grip during your kick. The Salomon RC 8 eSkin ($280) has an interchangeable mohair skin base under the foot that provides excellent grip during the kick portion of your stroke. It also glides extremely well for efficient skiing.
It comes with an eSKINGRIP+ mohair insert that aims for a compromise between grip and glide. Want to go faster? Exchange them for the eSKINRACE insert for a better glide on well-groomed trails.
Cross-Country Skate Skis
For many situations, skate skiing is faster. It requires somewhat more fitness and balance than classic cross-country skiing but is still very approachable for the moderately athletic beginner.
Best Skate Skis for Beginners: Salomon RS 7 Skate Skis With Prolink Bindings
Designed with newer skiers in mind, the Salomon RS7 ($250) gives you a solid foundation upon which to build your skate skills. The sidecut of the RS 7 aims for stability over speed, which helps newer skaters build confidence through their stride. The base grind aims for versatility over all kinds of snow conditions.
These come with Prolink bindings, which open and close manually and are compatible with Salomon Prolink boots and other two-rail binding systems (NNN, TURNAMIC).
Intermediate Skate Race Skis: Rossignol Delta Comp Skate-Race Skate Ski
The Rossignol Delta Comp Skate-Race Ski ($455) steps up the game with more speed and lighter weight for the advanced intermediate skier or those who want to take the leap into racing. This extremely responsive ski returns a lot of the energy you put into it for more speed down the track.
These are very light for a recreational-level ski at 1 pound 6.6 ounces for a 186cm pair. Rossignol designed them with what it calls Activ Cap to increase torsional rigidity, which also increases efficiency.
This is a great race-ready ski for those who want to take their skate skiing to a higher level.
Our Favorite Skate Ski for Intermediate Racers: Atomic Redster S9 Gen S Skate Ski
The Atomic Redster S9 Gen S ($800) is a unique ski. Designed with significantly more sidecut than most skate skis, the S9 Gen S is also shorter and sold by stiffness, not length. We put this ski through its paces over the last few winters and have fallen for its versatility in less-than-optimal conditions.
While we tend to find it slightly slower on perfect tracks, this Redster is a great choice for those who don’t want to own a full quiver of high-end skate skis. With appropriate wax, it handles variable conditions very well. The shorter length leads to good maneuverability, which is great for coaches or for those who love skijoring.
We’ve tested these with the included NNN-compatible Prolink Shift-In binding system, which allows very quick adjustments on the binding location.
In short, our testers liked these skis so much we’ve bought a second pair. Check out our full review.
Best Cross-Country Skis With Metal Edges
Cross-Country Expedition Icon: Fischer Transnordic 66 Easy Skin Xtralite
In 2021-22, Fischer replaced its iconic E99 Crown Xtralite with a new model, the Transnordic 66 ($320). Available in both Crown and Skin models, the Transnordic 66 is ready to traverse rough, off-trail terrain.
The skis have steel edges with air channels in a light wood core. This design enhances pressure distribution across soft snow. The Sintec base will offer versatile performance in variable conditions.
Finally, the big upgrade for this year is the Easy Skin technology. This allows skiers to “click-n-stick” a climbing skin to the skis for reliable grip on steep terrain.
As with other expedition skis, these are meant largely for off-trail travel. If you plan to spend most of your time on groomed trails, these are overkill!
Cross-Country Expedition Ski: Asnes Falketind 62 Xplore Skis
Asnes is a less-common brand to see in North America, but it builds some top-quality expedition skis. And at the heart of the brand’s offerings is the Asnes Falketind 62 Xplore Skis ($519). While still light enough for covering big miles, it’s a robust ski with full metal edges.
The Asnes Falketind 62 Xplore Skis have a moderate wax pocket, which allows the effective application of kick wax for general touring. But if the terrain gets steep and technical, these are compatible with “Skinlock” for secure attachment of climbing skins such as X-Skins and Pomoca and Colltex race skins.
A modest Nordic rocker combines with traditional camber to both grip the snow while touring and float for easy turning on descent. This ski is built for exploration off tracks, so it’s not a great choice if you plan to spend much time on groomed trails.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Cross-Country Skis
Speaking with Lowell McCoy, I learned a few more tips for people searching for cross-country skis. Here was his feedback.
Where you expect to use the skis is very important. Will you mostly use them at a groomed nordic center (where you probably need to purchase a ski pass) or social (dog walking) trails?
Groomed trails need 65mm-wide skis or less to fit into classic tracks. Off-grooming skis should be shorter for mobility and a little wider for flotation.
For downhill-experienced beginners, a metal edge helps on downhills and increases confidence off-grooming.
Consider your underfoot traction options. For experts, wax is still the gold standard. But other options are getting better and better. Skins use a soft fabric that grabs the snow for traction and work very well.
A fish-scale pattern is also effective and used on many beginner skis. Fischer calls its pattern a “crown,” and Rossignol uses the term “positraction.” Both are good. Skins are faster, more expensive, and require a little maintenance.
Waxless vs. Waxable Skis
You’ll see a lot of skis called “waxless” when shopping. But in fact, there is no such thing as a “waxless” ski.
While they may have traction like a fish-scale pattern, the glide zones still need occasional base wax. I recommend an easy liquid wax like Toko Express or Swix F-4. These are very easy to apply with a shoe polish foam applicator. Then just buff them with a towel.
Find the Right Fit
Fit is critical. Fit is mostly by body weight, not height. The ski doesn’t know how tall you are, but it knows exactly what you weigh.
Skis that are too stiff or too soft are unstable, especially on downhills. Skis that are too stiff will not reliably grip and result in slipping. Too soft, and you’ll have very little glide.
Fortunately, it’s easy to know which skis to buy. Look for a marked weight range. Longer skis usually have a higher weight rating.
Spend more on quality boots. Midrange boots are a good beginner choice, offering more control.
Beware ski swap bargains. Unless you have lots of experience or the help of an expert, you risk frustration.
Shop Your Level
Don’t buy racing or expert-level equipment and hope to grow into it. High-end equipment requires high-end skiing skills.
What Are the Best Cross-Country Skis for Beginners?
Most beginning cross-country skiers should use “light touring” gear that works with a classic skiing stride. Experienced downhill skiers who would like to transition to cross-country skiing may be able to start on skate skis if they desire. However, skate skiing requires more athletic skill and balance to learn.
What Length Cross-Country Skis Should I Use?
Cross-country skis come in various lengths, but you should choose your ski length based on your weight, not height. Almost all cross-country skis come with a weight rating listed on the ski or wherever they’re sold.
What Are the Different Styles of Cross-Country Skis?
Cross-country skis come in three main types: classic, touring, and skate. Telemark skis and backcountry skis have some similarities but are much more focused on the downhill portion of skiing such as fast descents and powder turns. Those are outside the scope of this article.
Have a favorite pair of cross-country skis we missed? Let us know for future updates to this article.