NEW OR RETURNING TO SKIING AFTER A LONG BREAK?
WHAT TYPE OF SKI IS BEST FOR YOU? *
Helpful information for those new to the sport of xc skiing, or, who used to ski and have been away from it for some time, or, have gear but it may not be right for you now. Our goal is to clarify the various types of Nordic skiing and briefly review of three primary types of skis. We will then discuss the variety of terrain and conditions enjoyed by skiers. Finally, we will add self-evaluation and suggest what ski might be most fun for you.
TOURING: Recreational skis for both in (groomed) and out of track skiing. Touring skis have “sidecut” which means the tips and tails are wider than the waist (middle of the ski). Tips range from 46mm in width all the way to 62mm and the waist ranges from 42mm to 52mm. The narrower the ski, the faster the glide and the better the performance in groomed tracks. The wider the ski, the better the performance outside of groomed tracks, because they will float more easily on top of snow. These skis are also more stable in groomed tracks than narrow skis. But, fat skis are slower even if they do not have metal edges (which add more weight and slow speed). Fischer labels touring skis as FITNESS CRUISING and FITNESS SPORT. They are available with either the Vario Crown pattern (waxless) or Twin Skins (a ski that has ‘furry strips’ for the kick, and the glide (tips and tails) can be waxed.
RACING: Consider the following. Not everyone who invests in a lightweight carbon bike frame races the Tour. Not everyone who buys racing skis and enjoys a light weight, energetic ski on groomed tracks, competes in skiing. Racing skis can make recreational skiing super fun. Their tips and tails are narrower than the waist which means they work the best on groomed trails. Racing skis are for either the Skating technique or the Classic technique. Even if you are new to skiing, you might want to consider racing skis if you are athletic, enjoy top of the line equipment and have access to groomed tracks.
BACK COUNTRY: This category is for breaking your own trails. These skis have metal edges for control and stability and have the deepest sidecuts of all xc skis. Back country tips can be as narrow as 62mm or as wide as 112mm. These skis offer the highest degree of flotation, stability, and downhill control on steep, icy and/or non-groomed snow. Fischer’s Back Country line is made up of ADVENTURE – BC, ADVENTURE – OFFTRACK and ADVENTURE – SBOUND.
The most important consideration for Cross Country Skiing is end use, where will YOU be skiing? Persons ski in three primary places:
1. GROOMED TRACKS:
Machine set tracks that are found at a public or private designated cross country ski area for skate (flat) and classic (tracks).
2. SKIED-IN TRACKS
Can be a park, golf course or any other place where a lot of people ski and the skiers simply set tracks by skiing over the same ground.
Skiing in deep snow or icy rolling terrain, or on lakes, where you are making the first set of tracks.
Let’s look at what kind of skis work best for these types of skiing:
The best skis for groomed tracks are racing skis and touring skis. Keep in mind that racing skis have tips and tails that are narrower than the waist of the ski. Touring skis have a little “sidecut” which means the
tips and tails are a few millimeters wider than the waist. This makes touring skis more stable than race skis and therefore easier to control. However, light weight narrow race skis will scoot around the track faster than touring skis which makes them fun for athletic folks who like to ski fast.
How about the wider metal edge skis we call Backcountry? If they are fairly light and narrow compared to other Backcountry skis, such as the Spider with only a 62mm tip, they can be a great choice in groomed tracks for some people. Narrow Backcountry skis could also provide better control than Touring skis for some skiers. Folks concerned with downhills at groomed tracks will find metal edges and wider shapes of Backcountry skis make downhills easier (but slower). If you buy a metal edge ski with a tip much wider than 60mm, and your friends have Superlights or Fibre Crowns, you most likely will have difficulty keeping up with them on groomed tracks. So consider your goals and your skill level in selecting your ski type.
What is the best ski for YOU in Groomed Tracks? Keep in mind that the learning curve for Nordic skiing is easier than Alpine. Even if you are new to this sport, you may consider racing skis if you are quite athletic and put a serious effort into everything you take up. How about people who are active but do not see themselves as athletes? Best skis may be the light and narrow touring skis such as the Fischer Superlights. If you ski both in and out of groomed tracks, consider slightly wider and heavier models such as the Fischer Fibre Crown, or Twin Skin Power. These wider models are also a good in-track choice for casual skiers who like easy control.
SKIED-IN TRACKS or OFF-Track:
The best choice for non-groomed (skied-in) tracks are touring skis. Because these tracks are somewhat rough and uneven, the sidecut and softer flexes of touring skis will perform better than racing skis with narrow tips and stiffer flexes. Even very skilled skiers will find Classic racing skis to be somewhat unstable and difficult to control in non-groomed conditions. Skating skis will not work at all because the snow deck is too uneven and soft.
When you are making your own tracks, a wide ski creates flotation which Is needed to remain more on top of the now. Therefore wide Touring skis or Backcountry skis are the best choice. If it’s hilly backcountry, you will need metal edges for better control and a deep sidecut for easier turning. For those reasons, the Fischer ADVENTURE series are great for making your own tracks. The narrower ADVENTURE skis with more pronounced double camber such as the Spider 62 and Outback 68 offers great kick and glide on rolling terrain in snow that is not overly deep. The SBOUND 98 and 112 are the widest Backcountry skis and best perform on steep vertical, and float the best in deep snow. The Traverse 78 and Outback 88 fall in the middle, their kick and glide in rolling terrain is almost as good as the Spider and their vertical performance in serious Backcountry conditions is close to the SBOUND skis.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO KEEP IN MIND:
1. Many people new to the sport to think, “Gee, I want a ski that I can use anywhere, both in and out of groomed tracks.” Most people, with a few exceptions, find skiing in groomed tracks considerably more fun than skiing outside groomed tracks. Often people who buy skis for all conditions regret that they did not buy specifically for groomed tracks. However, if you live where groomed tracks are not convenient but there is plenty of snow nearby, you will enjoy gear that you can use both in and out of groomed tracks. Keep in mind that you cannot find a ‘combi’ ski
that works for both classic and skate. A ski that is soft enough in the middle to ‘kick’ will make a terrible skate ski. Specifically, skate skis are build to contact the snow on their tips and tails and that design will NEVER kick. So, a skier must purchase the type of ski designed specifically for either skate or classic.
2. Don’t underestimate yourself. Many new skiers choose a wide metal edge ski even if their skiing is primarily in groomed tracks, believing they need to go wide since they are beginners. However, after skiing a few times, they might try something narrower (along the lines of a Fischer Superlight), and often regret their original purchase. A wide metal edge ski can be a lot of work in a groomed track while the narrow touring ski is just plain fun. Take a lesson with a certified instructor and you will be surprised at how quickly you develop good technique.
3. Don’t overestimate yourself. This happens the most often in resort towns or those observing any groomed, popular ski area. People who are not real active will drive by groomed tracks and see athletic young people skating with ease. They do not consider how active and fit those skiers are. Older or less active people often buy skating skis and become frustrated with how much work that technique can be, especially on uphill’s. They might be far happier with quality light touring skis such as the Supreme or Superlight. These skis use the classic technique and can be a lot easier to use.
4. Finally, to clear up any waxing confusion: Classic skis may either be 1) Waxable. That means the tips and tails are glide waxed and the kick zone needs to be waxed with a sticky kind of kick wax (depending on temperature) 2) Skin. Skin skis usually have tips and tails that are glide waxed but the kick section is similar to a the coat of a short haired dog, it does not need waxing and glides and kicks directionally. 3) No Wax. These skis do not need ANY waxing. They kick and glide pretty well in most all temperatures. Super easy, yet slower than most waxable or skin skis.
Skate skis always need some sort of glide applied to the entire length of the ski. Kick wax is never put on skate skis. Glide wax is not as temperature dependent as is kick wax.
That’s it for a short tutorial. Please remember that Gear West is not a big box store. We are here to answer your questions on all kinds of skiing. We love skiing, we know skiing and we are here to support your passion about skiing.
- Rick Halling/Jan Guenther