XC SKI 101, Things You Need to Know

pooriggy

Well-Known Member
Team MTBNJ Halter's
#1
In order to help folks pick the right gear, find the places and learn about the sport, I put this together in hopes of encouraging others to give it a shot and make good decisions when it comes to purchasing equipment and how to use it.

Before we talk about buying stuff, its important to understand the dynamics, the how to of the sport. Most of us grew up riding a bicycle, we have that fundamental down, however not many of us grew up xc skiing, we probably went downhill skiing, however that is nothing like xc, other then they both require skis, poles and bindings.

How To
To understand the basics of xc skiing, watch this video. Saul is one or two jokes away from being Norm, if Sean wrote some lines for him he would be more entertaining, but I do like his no nonsense delivery and how serious he takes xc skiing, he kinda reminds me of Ben. Watching anything these days for 10 minutes can be painful, but do yourself a favor, save this and watch it, re-watch it as needed. I watch it several times a year, your brain always needs reinforcement and Saul does a good job explaining things.

But wait, Saul didn't teach me how to stop or slow down when going downhill, watch this or die.

Equipment
Only after you've watched the above video can you move on to finding the right equipment. Like mountain bikes, xc skis have changed over the last several years, technology has made it easier to have an enjoyable, comfortable experience on the snow. With that in mind, you should be aware that a pair of xc skis you find in a garage sale for $10 that are 30 years old will not be as user friendly as a pair of new skis you buy for $250. There is nothing wrong with doing the $10 thing, that's how I started 20 years ago, but I'm gonna insert the You Get What You Pay For line here and add that if you really enjoy xc skiing, you will make upgrades.

Below is a chart of ski sizing recommendations for various types of xc skiing and ski pole sizing. Most of you will be interested in Compact Touring XC or Back Country XC. Classic Touring sizing refers to traditional touring xc ski sizes, skis which still adhere to older, longer lengths more suited to groomed centers, whereas Compact Sizing are updated ski lengths which allow for greater versatility and allow the user to ski in and out of track. In a nut shell, Compact Touring Skis are what you want if you plan to break trail in a local park, with an occasional trip to a groomed center. Classic Sizing is what you want if you plan to go exclusively to groomed centers. If you have zero interest in going to a groomed xc ski center then you will want Back Country skis however keep in mind that this equipment is considerably heavier, bulkier and more expensive, also its much more difficult and will require stong alpine skiing skills. These days a lot of touring skis are suited for local mtb trails, provided they are not too steep. If you are unsure what type of ski to get, let me know where you plan to ski and I can make recommendations. Also, once you choose a ski, the manufacturer has sizing recommendations for that particular ski. Finally, these are recommendations within in a range, sizing up or down should be considered for ability levels.

Classic Touring Cross Country Ski Sizing

Your Height in Inches X 2.6 + 15 = Approximate Classic Touring Cross Country Ski Size



Compact Touring Cross Country Ski Sizing
Ski Size Skiers Weight
Small (160-165cm) <140

Medium (170-175cm) 132-185

Large (180-185cm) 176-209

X-Large (185-195cm) >209



Skating Cross Country Ski Sizing

Your Height in Inches X 2.6 + 5 = Approximate Skate Ski Size


Backcountry Cross Country Ski Sizing

For backcountry cross country skiing take your height and +/- 5 to 15 cm depending on your specific use and the skis you are looking into


Ski Pole Sizing
https://gearwest.com/cross-country-pole-sizing/

Just Tell me What to Buy
If I just totally overwhelmed you and you are now more confused and do not want to try and figure this stuff out, then just buy these skis. I run these in Watchung, local golf course/park/mtb trails and can be used a groomed ski centers.
https://www.skirack.com/rossignol-evo-tour-60-ski-with-control-step-in-binding-2018-19-13131326

Where to Buy
The following places have knowledgeable staff to assist you in buying xc ski equipment, also I included several places that rent equipment, which I highly recommend if you are unsure if this is for you and don't want to lay out the cash to find out. Of course there are internet deals but you need to be informed as to what you are getting and need., you are taking a gamble with buying xc ski boots on line without trying them on. Getting the right size boot, which is comfortable for you is very important, since this is the one piece of equipment that you have direct contact with, shoes that are uncomfortable are shoes that we do not wear.
https://www.rei.com/stores/east-hanover.html
To buy or rent.
Hans at High Point has good equipment, you can rent it, try it out and I think he puts rental fee towards purchase price.
http://www.xcskihighpoint.com/Rentals.aspx

If you go to New Paltz, there is good xc skiing and a knowledgeable shop in town that rents and sells.
https://www.rockandsnow.com/177/Rentals/

Where to Go
I strongly recommend going to a groomed center, they prepare ideal conditions for you to xc ski. Its a good place to learn, they usually have beginner sections suited to get you going which is helpful your first time out, when everything feels so awkward. Even if you prefer to hit up local parks when you get snow, going to a groomed center will make it easier to practice on the fundamentals, which will allow you to better transition to off trail skiing, which is harder. Its somewhat like mtbing, Allaire is suited for beginners, while Allamuchy your first time out can be discouraging. If you can't make it to a groomed center, then at least avoid tight single track with elevation, instead practice in open fields with little elevation and plenty of places to fall without getting hurt.
Groomed Centers nearby, nearby is relative term, day trips can be had in the NY region and High Point however going upstate and to VT is a destination wknd or over nighter, which I highly recommend Prospect Mountain in VT for a wknd get away, its real VT, if you don't know what this means, you will after you go there. For a day trip, my go to is Minnewaska, this link is old but still has useful info about the park, like trail maps.
High Point NJ
Fahnestock NY
Minnewaska NY
Mohonk NY
Lapland Upstate NY
Prospect Mtn VT
Trail conditions for New Paltz area (the Gunks) This is a FB feed, yes, FB can be useful.

Questions
Of course you have them, the more you learn the more questions come up. Post up your questions here, we will try to help you and in the process help others. If this is something you always wanted to try, then do it, do it now.
 

Jmann

Well-Known Member
#2
Thanks for all the info. What’s the deal with riding on golf courses? Or at least with our local jersey courses.
 

pooriggy

Well-Known Member
Team MTBNJ Halter's
#3
Thanks for all the info. What’s the deal with riding on golf courses? Or at least with our local jersey courses.
Some county courses allow xc skiing others do not, each one is different. Private golf clubs will most likely ask you to leave if they see you on the property. I go to Galloping Hill, a county course located 2.5 miles from my house. I'm not sure if xc skiing is allowed, but they've never kicked me off and I've seen other xc ski tracks there. Basically if you act like you belong there and don't ask for permission, you don't give someone the opportunity to say you can't ski here;)
 

Mitch

Well-Known Member
Team MTBNJ Halter's
#4
In order to help folks pick the right gear, find the places and learn about the sport, I put this together in hopes of encouraging others to give it a shot and make good decisions when it comes to purchasing equipment and how to use it.

Before we talk about buying stuff, its important to understand the dynamics, the how to of the sport. Most of us grew up riding a bicycle, we have that fundamental down, however not many of us grew up xc skiing, we probably went downhill skiing, however that is nothing like xc, other then they both require skis, poles and bindings.

How To
To understand the basics of xc skiing, watch this video. Saul is one or two jokes away from being Norm, if Sean wrote some lines for him he would be more entertaining, but I do like his no nonsense delivery and how serious he takes xc skiing, he kinda reminds me of Ben. Watching anything these days for 10 minutes can be painful, but do yourself a favor, save this and watch it, re-watch it as needed. I watch it several times a year, your brain always needs reinforcement and Saul does a good job explaining things.

But wait, Saul didn't teach me how to stop or slow down when going downhill, watch this or die.

Equipment
Only after you've watched the above video can you move on to finding the right equipment. Like mountain bikes, xc skis have changed over the last several years, technology has made it easier to have an enjoyable, comfortable experience on the snow. With that in mind, you should be aware that a pair of xc skis you find in a garage sale for $10 that are 30 years old will not be as user friendly as a pair of new skis you buy for $250. There is nothing wrong with doing the $10 thing, that's how I started 20 years ago, but I'm gonna insert the You Get What You Pay For line here and add that if you really enjoy xc skiing, you will make upgrades.

Below is a chart of ski sizing recommendations for various types of xc skiing and ski pole sizing. Most of you will be interested in Compact Touring XC or Back Country XC. Classic Touring sizing refers to traditional touring xc ski sizes, skis which still adhere to older, longer lengths more suited to groomed centers, whereas Compact Sizing are updated ski lengths which allow for greater versatility and allow the user to ski in and out of track. In a nut shell, Compact Touring Skis are what you want if you plan to break trail in a local park, with an occasional trip to a groomed center. Classic Sizing is what you want if you plan to go exclusively to groomed centers. If you have zero interest in going to a groomed xc ski center then you will want Back Country skis however keep in mind that this equipment is considerably heavier, bulkier and more expensive, also its much more difficult and will require stong alpine skiing skills. These days a lot of touring skis are suited for local mtb trails, provided they are not too steep. If you are unsure what type of ski to get, let me know where you plan to ski and I can make recommendations. Also, once you choose a ski, the manufacturer has sizing recommendations for that particular ski. Finally, these are recommendations within in a range, sizing up or down should be considered for ability levels.

Classic Touring Cross Country Ski Sizing

Your Height in Inches X 2.6 + 15 = Approximate Classic Touring Cross Country Ski Size



Compact Touring Cross Country Ski Sizing
Ski Size Skiers Weight
Small (160-165cm) <140

Medium (170-175cm) 132-185

Large (180-185cm) 176-209

X-Large (185-195cm) >209



Skating Cross Country Ski Sizing

Your Height in Inches X 2.6 + 5 = Approximate Skate Ski Size


Backcountry Cross Country Ski Sizing

For backcountry cross country skiing take your height and +/- 5 to 15 cm depending on your specific use and the skis you are looking into


Ski Pole Sizing
https://gearwest.com/cross-country-pole-sizing/

Just Tell me What to Buy
If I just totally overwhelmed you and you are now more confused and do not want to try and figure this stuff out, then just buy these skis. I run these in Watchung, local golf course/park/mtb trails and can be used a groomed ski centers.
https://www.skirack.com/rossignol-evo-tour-60-ski-with-control-step-in-binding-2018-19-13131326

Where to Buy
The following places have knowledgeable staff to assist you in buying xc ski equipment, also I included several places that rent equipment, which I highly recommend if you are unsure if this is for you and don't want to lay out the cash to find out. Of course there are internet deals but you need to be informed as to what you are getting and need., you are taking a gamble with buying xc ski boots on line without trying them on. Getting the right size boot, which is comfortable for you is very important, since this is the one piece of equipment that you have direct contact with, shoes that are uncomfortable are shoes that we do not wear.
https://www.rei.com/stores/east-hanover.html
To buy or rent.
Hans at High Point has good equipment, you can rent it, try it out and I think he puts rental fee towards purchase price.
http://www.xcskihighpoint.com/Rentals.aspx

If you go to New Paltz, there is good xc skiing and a knowledgeable shop in town that rents and sells.
https://www.rockandsnow.com/177/Rentals/

Where to Go
I strongly recommend going to a groomed center, they prepare ideal conditions for you to xc ski. Its a good place to learn, they usually have beginner sections suited to get you going which is helpful your first time out, when everything feels so awkward. Even if you prefer to hit up local parks when you get snow, going to a groomed center will make it easier to practice on the fundamentals, which will allow you to better transition to off trail skiing, which is harder. Its somewhat like mtbing, Allaire is suited for beginners, while Allamuchy your first time out can be discouraging. If you can't make it to a groomed center, then at least avoid tight single track with elevation, instead practice in open fields with little elevation and plenty of places to fall without getting hurt.
Groomed Centers nearby, nearby is relative term, day trips can be had in the NY region and High Point however going upstate and to VT is a destination wknd or over nighter, which I highly recommend Prospect Mountain in VT for a wknd get away, its real VT, if you don't know what this means, you will after you go there. For a day trip, my go to is Minnewaska, this link is old but still has useful info about the park, like trail maps.
High Point NJ
Fahnestock NY
Minnewaska NY
Mohonk NY
Lapland Upstate NY
Prospect Mtn VT
Trail conditions for New Paltz area (the Gunks) This is a FB feed, yes, FB can be useful.

Questions
Of course you have them, the more you learn the more questions come up. Post up your questions here, we will try to help you and in the process help others. If this is something you always wanted to try, then do it, do it now.
Wow. Great info Iggy.
 

qclabrat

Well-Known Member
#5
Good stuff Chris.
just planning mostly to hit the local parks to mix up fat bike and something different. Probably a good bit of trail breaking as well.
looking for a used set, what should I be concerned with?
Boots, what to consider?
Also to are XC skis also used for Telemark? No clue, just looks very painful and inelegant
 

pooriggy

Well-Known Member
Team MTBNJ Halter's
#6
Good stuff Chris.
just planning mostly to hit the local parks to mix up fat bike and something different. Probably a good bit of trail breaking as well.
looking for a used set, what should I be concerned with?
Boots, what to consider?
Also to are XC skis also used for Telemark? No clue, just looks very painful and inelegant
When buying used equipment for local parks, ideally you want compact touring skis. These may be somewhat harder to find, since this type of ski began being mass produced about 10ish years ago. Everyone has ancient 3 pin skis in there garage/basement, these are like 26"mtbs.

Look for NNN or SNS bindings and beware that the boots you get need to be compatible with your bindings.(NNN touring boots or SNS touring boots).

If you find something, let me know if you need help with a decision as to buy or if you have questions about equipment.

Telemark skiing is freeheel downhill skiing. There are lift served tele skis, which are similar to alpine downhill but use a different boot and binding. They also sell back country tele type skis, where you skin up a mtn and ski down(earn yo turns). People who are good at it are very elegant.
 

clarkenstein

JORBA Money Launderer
JORBA.ORG
#7
Telemark skiing is freeheel downhill skiing. There are lift served tele skis, which are similar to alpine downhill but use a different boot and binding. They also sell back country tele type skis, where you skin up a mtn and ski down(earn yo turns). People who are good at it are very elegant.
Wanted to mention the weird group of BC skis that are great for local parks and hills - like a hybrid of the “Skishoe”. Not necessarily a cross country ski and not a downhill ski, but something between. They are waxless longer skis that climb decently and descend better. Altai makes the hok which is closer to a snowshoe. It has a permanent skin on the bottom that makes for good climbing and ok descents. They also make the Kom which is a fish scale base waxless ski. Great for downhills. Voile and rossignol also make comparable versions of this type of BC ski.

Another cheaper alternative is the Marquette backcountry ski. Haven’t tried them yet but they also look fun, unless you hit ice.
 
#8
Another option on the "what to buy front" would be something along these lines:

https://www.skirack.com/rossignol-bc-70-ski-2018-19-13123222

I have the BC 65 model, but in general it seems like having metal edges makes them a bit more capable descending in a variety of conditions. I suspect they're slower/heavier than the touring skis that Iggy linked to, but as someone who always felt like I had zero control descending on more traditional XC skis (which I'm sure is more a function of skill level than anything) I think it's been worth the trade.
 

clarkenstein

JORBA Money Launderer
JORBA.ORG
#16
Curious, what exactly are these used for? And, weren't you building your own skis a while back?
I did build my own skis. They came out alright. Nothing worth writing home about. Hardest part was the bases. I tried a fishscale pattern on a plastic-based material and it just wasn’t flexible enough. So it was like having two boards strapped to my feet. For a first pass they weren’t too bad. I’m gonna try again in the spring I just need to find a fishscale base supplier. Sitting with a Dremel making hundreds of small cuts is mind numbing.
 

clarkenstein

JORBA Money Launderer
JORBA.ORG
#17
Curious, what exactly are these used for? And, weren't you building your own skis a while back?
Sorry didn’t see the Hok part. They are a “ski shoe” not a cross country ski, not a downhill ski. They don’t do anything “great” but I can slide around in the woods at the Sourlands and get a ski in at six mile too. They climb pretty well from what I hear too.

 

Bike N Gear

Shop: Bike N Gear
Shop Keep
#18
Sorry didn’t see the Hok part. They are a “ski shoe” not a cross country ski, not a downhill ski. They don’t do anything “great” but I can slide around in the woods at the Sourlands and get a ski in at six mile too. They climb pretty well from what I hear too.

3 Pin boots or NNN?
 

clarkenstein

JORBA Money Launderer
JORBA.ORG
#19
The Hok has a plate for any type of binding. I’m going with the universal binding where you can use a hiking boot. Most people say a 3 pin with plastic boot works best for downhill oriented or a leather boot with 3 pin for all around. The universal binding is a little heavy but I’m used to using my alpine set up to walk back after hitting lines in the Sourlands woods, so it will seem lighter.
 

clarkenstein

JORBA Money Launderer
JORBA.ORG
#20
Curious about why Hok vs Kom?
I actually got to email with the owner of Altai. Here’s the exchange:

Me:

I’m looking for a new ski set up and stumbled over your skis. I live in New Jersey, USA. I have short hills, but they are steep. Generally, when it snows I hike up a gas pipeline that’s been cut in the woods and ski down on my alpine set up. I snow shoe up and change into my alpine boots and strap everything to my backpack and slide down. Sometimes I’ll venture into the woods and do some short tree skiing. The lines are steep but very short.​
When I get to the flats stomping out on the downhill skis stinks.​
I also have another trail system by me that’s pretty flat where I would like to x/c ski.​
I’m looking for something that might be able to handle both spots. Would the hok or Kom be better? Can I use my hiking boots or would I need new bindings and plastic boots?​

Response:

Hi David
I would recommend the Hok 145. It will be a little slow on packed trails but really excel on the short, steep ups and downs, more so then the Koms.

You can try your hiking boots and they will work OK in soft snow but for good downhill performance (as well as touring and lighter weight the 3 pin system really excels.

Check out our FAQ page fro some good info on this. Since our skis have steel inserts (like on a snowboard), it is really easy to swap bindings if you want.

FAQ page

Q. What are the pros and cons of the Universal binding you sell for the Hoks?
A.

The universals work great but have limitations over a dedicated boot-binding combo like the 75mm/3 pin (my favorite).
– they are heavier
– they are not quite as free flexing as a nice leather boot and a 3 pin
– their control of the ski is very good for a universal, but not as good as a dedicated boot binding combination
On the plus side,
– the universal binding is very convenient in fitting most any flexible soled boot
– it is easy to share with friends
– it fits a warm insulated winter boot
– it’s a great option for rentals
If you are using the Hok more as a snowshoe in moderate terrain, the universal works well.


Nils Larsen
nils@altaiskis.com
www.altaiskis.com
(509)779-0030
 
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