This page is meant to cover the basics of the different pieces of a ski package for newer skiers.
It is not meant to be a full analysis of flex characteristics of skate skis for different conditions, or what makes a klister classic ski different than a hardwax ski. If you want to get into the nitty gritty, stop by the shop or give us a call, and our knowledgable staff will tell you all that we know about what makes skis fast!
Your ski boots are the #1 most important piece of ski equipment that you will own, as they are the only piece of equipment that touches your body aside from the pole straps. If your boots are not comfortable, your feet won’t be comfortable, and you most likely won’t have a good ski experience, and if you aren’t having fun with it, then why are you skiing?
Skate boots are designed to give lots of ankle support, and have a stiff sole as well. They feature a “cuff” of either a plastic or carbon-fiber material that wraps around the ankle to provide lateral support. The more you pay for a skate boot, they generally get lighter and stiffer, offering more stability and a more powerful transfer of energy into the snow.
Skate boots should be snug from the ball of the foot back to the heel of the foot. The boot should hold the foot well so that the skier is in control of the ski, and power is efficiently transferred from skier to snow. Skiers should have plenty of wiggle room in the toe of the boot. If the toes are crammed up front, blood flow will be restricted, most likely resulting in cold feet. If the boot is too large, the heel will likely slide up and down, and blisters may form.
Racing classic boots are essentially a running shoe with a binding sole attached. They offer very little ankle support, and have a very flexible sole, allowing for lots of freedom of movement while classic skiing. The idea is that the less resistance the boot gives to bending, the more power that the skier is transferring into kicking down their classic ski, which should move them faster down the trail.
Touring classic boots are similar to racing classic boots, but they are designed with warmth and comfort in mind – not speed. They are an awesome option for recreational skiers and skiers who struggle with cold feet.
A classic boot should fit similarly to a skate boot, in that it should be “comfortably snug” from the ball of the foot to the heel, and have plenty of wiggle room in the toe box. When you roll up on the ball of your foot, your toes should not hit the end of the boot, and your heel should not slide, otherwise blisters will occur.
Combi boots are designed to be used for both skate and classic skiing, and are a wonderful option for growing high school racers, or budget minded adults who plan to do both skate and classic. They feature an ankle cuff like a skate boot, but also have a flexible sole like a classic boot.
Combi boots should be comfortable, and fit similar to a skate or classic boot as discussed above.
You may have heard that there are two main binding types used by nordic skiers. They are NNN and the SNS (or Salomon) binding systems. Unfortunately, they do not work together, which can create many headaches for skiers. We recommend that you find a comfortable boot for your foot, and let that dictate your binding choice. The performance differences between the two are very small, and most skiers will not notice a large difference. Having a comfortable foot should be the #1 priority.
Poles are as simple as it gets. If you are going to be skating and classic skiing, you need two different sets of poles. The poles themselves will be the same, but the lengths of the two pair will be different.
When standing straight up while wearing normal street shoes, the top of a skate pole should rise up to somewhere between the chin and nose of the skier. When in the store fitting a new set of poles, we aim for the upper lip.
Classic poles are generally somewhere between the armpit and the top of the shoulder while standing up straight wearing normal street shoes. When in the store fitting a new set of poles, we aim for a small bump on the shoulder about halfway between the armpit and top of the shoulder.
On the lower end, poles are made out of mainly fiberglass or aluminum, two durable materials that are good low-cost options for recreational skiers. As you pay more for a pair of poles, they start to get lighter and stiffer due to the addition of carbon fiber. This allows skiers to use more of their energy propelling themselves forward instead of wasting that energy bending the pole. We are happy to offer many poles at various price points that are made with varying levels of carbon fiber. We have poles that fit every level of skier, from toddlers up to world cup racers.
Two sets of skis are necessary for skiers to have a good experience both skate and classic skiing. Ski manufacturers used to produce “combi skis” that were meant to be a lower cost alternative to buying two sets of skis. Nobody makes them anymore because they are a hassle to use, and don’t work very well. Getting two sets of skis will help you have a better experience as a skier.
Skate skis are pretty straightforward. The entire length of the ski is used as a gliding surface, and glide wax is applied to maximize speed. They are generally shorter than classic skis, and the tip is slightly less curved. You never want to flatten out a skate ski. This is much easier to explain in store, but at its simplest, if a skier is too heavy for their skate skis, they will experience a pivot point under the ball of their foot, and the ski will want to twist on them, making skate skiing difficult.
Classic skis can be divided into two groups – waxable and waxless, there are racing and touring models available in both groups.
Classic skis need to flatten out completely when the skier shifts their weight onto one foot correctly, but the ski needs to have enough camber to keep the sticky kick wax or waxless material up off the snow on the downhills.
Racing classic skis are generally narrower than touring (recreational) models, as they are made to be used on a groomed track. Touring skis are often slightly wider, as they are aimed at skiers who want to venture off the groomed trails. The wider skis offer more floatation in deep snow, like snowshoes.
Waxable skis are designed to be used with kick wax in order to provide traction to climb hills. Waxless skis use either a raised pattern in the bottom of the ski (fish scales), mohair strips (skin skis), or a chemical treatment (OptiGrip) to provide this traction. Give us a call or come in to the shop to determine which waxless models are the best fit for your needs!
If you have any other equipment related questions, please don’t hesitate to call or come in to the store. We love to help people get outfitted to hit the trails and enjoy winter!