In early January, the Cross-Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA) and Snow Sports Insights conducted a survey of cross-country ski areas to get a reading on how the season is going so far. We learned that season pass sales are up, day pass sales are down slightly, demand for rental equipment is up, retail sales at ski areas are up, and lesson sales are up.
According to CCSAA, 53% of the ski areas and clubs responding indicated that season pass sales are up and over half of the ski areas that are seeing season pass sales growth have double digit growth. This result indicates that the skiers who started cross-country skiing or came back to cross country skiing after a participation lapse have come back for more.
Roger Lohr, founder of XCSkiResorts.com, and long-time cross-country skier has a plethora of information to share for those not so familiar with the sport. The following guidance about selecting and using XC ski gear is somewhat general and intended to help interested parties to be informed.
According to Lohr: Standard equipment packages include skis, bindings, boots, and poles are usually less expensive because they are discounted as a package compared to purchasing individually.
Novices and average recreational XC skiers should rule out super lightweight very narrow skis (used by racers), wax-able XC skis or wide steel edged XC skis used by backcountry mountain skiers unless you are undertaking serious mountain skiing. Instead, consider looking at a lightweight XC ski with a waxless base. In general, these wax-less bases include skins or a pattern milled into the base (e.g., a crown or fish scale pattern) which allow one ski to grip the snow and push off, while the other is intended to glide. Wax-less bases also keep the skier from slipping backwards while traveling up a hill. The ski length selected should correlate to the skier’s weight.
Ski choice is also a function of where the ski will be used. Places like XC ski areas with groomed, packed trails are best experienced using narrower skis. Wider (e.g., 55 millimeters wide) and softer skis provide some stability in places without groomed trails such as golf courses or city parks.
It’s tempting to compromise and get wider XC skis to accommodate both groomed trails and ungroomed trails. Skiers might best choose one type or the other or purchase separate skis for each type of skiing for the better performance. A wider, softer, shorter ski will glide less comparatively. The less a ski glides, the more work you have to do to go a certain distance. The glide is sort of a free ride where you are not working.
For many newbies, the biggest obstacle to XC ski control is the incomplete use of the snowplow. Unlike heavier Alpine ski equipment which accommodates snowplow turns, with XC skis it’s important to feel the weight on the boot heel against the edged ski and command it to push outward to plow. Without this “feel the heel” and push movement, the skis won’t plow and speed can increase rather than decrease.
XC ski boots are an important component of the ski equipment package. Most boots have similar characteristics such as an ankle cuff, covered easy lacing, dry, warm, comfortable, etc. In general, higher boots with more substantial plastic cuffing and a strap provide better control compared to a lowcut soft boot. Stiffness or softness of the boot sole is associated with the torsional rigidity of the sole. is as easy Twisting the sole is a way to determine whether or not a boot’s sole is stiff. Stiffer boots provide more stability and can help the skier glide and maintain control on the downhill.
Bindings are likely integrated with the ski (meaning they are already on the ski when you purchase it) and they will match the boot sole (NNN type of Salomon type) to work together. Thanks to technology, ski poles are very light weight. Pole straps have Velcro and are put on between the thumb and forefinger and the outside of the hand. These pole strap systems tend to be more comfortable and work better than the other traditional types of looped ski pole straps.
Time to enjoy the snow!