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Expert Shopper Sports & Fitness

Best cross-country skis

Expertly reviewed by Judd Nesmith

Which cross-country skis are best?

Cross-country skis are made for skiing across flat terrain as well as going uphill and downhill. They are generally narrower, longer and lighter than regular skis that are made for fast speeds and quick turns. 

Choosing the right ski makes all the difference, and learning about the different types and sizes will tell you which is right for you. If you're looking for skis to fit someone weighing 180 pounds or more, take a look at the Whitewoods Classic Cross-Country Ski Package.

This article was reviewed and approved by Judd NeSmith, the BestReviews Fitness Expert.

What to know before you buy cross-country skis

Snow skis are made differently for Alpine, freestyle, racing, jumping, backcountry and cross-country skiing. Cross-country skis come in different sizes, and the right one for you depends on your weight and skill level.

Classic cross-country skis

These are what people think of when they picture cross-country skiers. The skis are parallel, and forward progress is provided by a kick-and-glide motion. This technique takes a bit of time to learn and even more to master.

  • Waxable skis require you to apply a sticky wax on the bottom that works in defined temperature ranges to give you the right amount of grip so you can kick without reducing your glide.
  • Waxless skis have a scaly pattern underneath that is used to generate kick, just as the scales on a snake provide the traction that lets it smoothly glide along the ground. When you choose waxless skis, you are removing a layer of complexity and confusion.

Skate skis

These are so-named because forward progress is provided by the same diagonal motion used by ice skaters. Every stride starts with pushing off on the inside edge of the opposite ski or skate. Skate skis have a base that is smooth from tip to tail, just like the blade on an ice skate.

Backcountry skis

These are Alpine skis, lightweight versions of downhill skis and made for walking uphill and skiing back downhill. Backcountry skiing is the most physically demanding of the types of cross-country skiing. 


  • Classic boots are cut low and have flexible soles and ankles to make kicking and gliding easier.
  • Skate boots have stiff soles and a high ankle cuff for support. They should fit snugly, but not as tightly as an Alpine ski boot.
  • Combination boots have a sole that is soft enough for classic push-and-glide skiing and a supportive ankle cuff for skating. As with most combination designs, performance on both is compromised to find an acceptable middle ground.


Ski bindings are the devices that connect ski boots to skis and are made in several versions. With cross-country ski bindings, the toe is fixed to the ski and the heel releases to allow for a natural walking or skating motion. Match your bindings to your boots:

  • SNS means Salomon Nordic System. These bindings work with SNS boots.
  • NNN means New Nordic Norm. They work with NNN boots.

What to look for in quality cross-country skis

Match your skis to your activity

Serious skiers are into waxing as much as surfers are. If you're just starting out or don't like the high-maintenance aspect of constantly waxing your skis, choose no-wax skis.

Find the right materials

Most skis are made of layers of materials, including wood, foam and metals in the core and at the edges. Look for outer layers made of fiberglass, epoxy or carbon fibers for cross-country skiing. 

Your weight affects your ski’s stiffness 

  • Too light: Skis made for someone lighter than you won’t be stiff enough, and you’ll get too much friction. 
  • Too heavy: Skis made for someone heavier than you will be so stiff you won’t get enough traction.

Your height is important, too

Choose skis that are 6-8 inches longer than you are tall. Skis that are too short sacrifice stability and skis that are too long are harder to maneuver.

How much you can expect to spend on cross-country skis

Cross-country skis cost anywhere from $40-$400. Ready-to-ski packages that include boots, bindings and poles cost $300 and up.

Cross-country skis FAQ

Should I start with short skis or long ones?

A. Beginners should stick to shorter skis so they can learn how to maneuver under control, at slower and more manageable speeds.

What happens if my skis are too long?

A. Too-long skis won’t have enough contact with the snow, which means you won’t have the traction and grip you need for both stability and maneuverability.

When should I wax my skis?

A. For the best performance and longest life, use liquid rub-on wax every time you ski, and don't forget the tips and tails. Experts also advise hot-waxing your ski bases at regular intervals.

What are the best cross-country skis to buy?

Top cross-country skis

Rossignol BC 120 Waxbase Ski 

What you need to know: This Nordic backcountry ski moves efficiently uphill and swiftly downhill.

What you’ll love: The full-length steel edges add extra grip and control in icy conditions and the tip rocker base and generous sidecut make turning easy, even in difficult terrain. The low-density wood core has air channels underneath and the construction balances flex and rigidity.

What you should consider: These skis will not give the long glide Nordic skiers want.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cross-country skis for the money

Atomic Pro S2 Cross-Country Skate Ski 

What you need to know: These skis are made for new skiers.

What you’ll love: The Easy Edge sidecut provides greater stability while the Densolite core delivers a forgiving flex. The lightweight and edge design makes these skis easy to steer and the double-grooved base lets you not only push off efficiently but also glide consistently long.

What you should consider: Bindings are not included.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Whitewoods Classic Cross-Country Ski Package

What you need to know: This package with skis, poles and NNN boots and bindings is made for skiers weighing 151-180 pounds.

What you’ll love: The skis have machined bases so they need no wax and the bindings require no mounting plates. The Nordic fiberglass poles have a multidirectional wrap for lighter weight and greater strength. 

What you should consider: These skis are best for beginners.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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David Allan Van writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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