Nordic Ski Colorado - The official cross-country ski guide
Article: Got Nordic Ski Equipment Questions? - We've Got Answers!
By Cindy Kleh & Tim Carter / Photo courtesy of Boulder Nordic Sport
cross country skiing at YMCA Snow Mtn Ranch

We all have questions, but sometimes we hesitate to ask them, and for this reason, there is much misconception and confusion associated with Nordic skiing.

We want to provide correct information about everything Nordic skiing and snowshoeing to our readers. We invite you to visit our Nordic Ski Colorado Facebook page and ask away! We also welcome other readers’ comments, because those can be valuable.To get the ball rolling, we offer some commonly asked questions:

Q. What is the difference between a classic ski and a skate ski?

A. Both skis have approximately the same width (44mm). A skate ski is a little shorter than a classic ski, with only one camber. (Camber is the arc of the ski, visible when the skis is lying flat on the snow, built-in to distribute the weight from tip to tail.) The skate ski is stiffer both in flex and torsion.

A classic ski has a second camber built in, called the “wax pocket,” also known as the “kick zone.” When standing on both skis, the second camber does not have enough weight to grip the snow, allowing the ski to glide smoothly. When kicking off with all the weight on one foot, there is enough weight to bring the second camber (wax pocket) into play, gripping the snow and allowing the skier to push forward.

Q. Should I purchase waxable or waxless skis?

A. Waxless skis are the best choice for beginners or those who don’t want to bother with waxing. Waxless skis have a special “fish-scale” pattern on the kick zone that grabs in the snow when the skier puts weight on that foot, and releases when the weight is transferred and the other foot glides forward.

Waxless skis are not as fast, because there is more friction, and they take more energy to glide forward. The waxless ski is more versatile, adapting well to changing temperatures and working well on almost any snow conditions except ice.

TIP: With new snow and a temperature of 32 degrees, use a silicone spray on the “fish-scale” section for a better glide.

Most experienced Nordic skiers and virtually all Nordic classic-style racers use waxable skis to achieve the best gliding sensation and gain the most speed and performance. Matching the kick wax exactly to snow conditions makes for the most effortless, long glides.

Editor’s note: Waxless skis DO need glide wax occasionally on the tip and tail, but never use any type of wax on the scales. For waxing newbies, we recommend a waxing clinic to learn the basics, then practice and experimenting to refine the art. We also recommend searching for Nordic waxing instruction on We've already started a collection of videos on waxing, so check out our Waxing Videos section for visual instructions.

<< Go back to articles in the Nordic Equipment & Clothing section >>

<< Check out our Waxing Videos for visual instructions on waxing cross country skis >>


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