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Photo by Xavier Fane

Cross-Country Skiing in Colorado: How to Decide Between Classic and Skate Skis

Selecting your preferred skinny skis—classic or skate—should be more about predilection than popularity.

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There’s no doubt that the powerful, athletic, fluid movement of skate skiing has serious sex appeal. After all, it just lookssogood. Classic cross-country is, of course, beautiful in its own way. “Each technique has its place,” says Boulder Nordic Sport’s Hennie Kashiwa. “Classic is great on cold days when the snow is slow and squeaky. Skating is more fun and preferable when the snow gets warmer and more slippery.” Unfortunately, the gear is different for each discipline, which means you’ll want to rent until you decide which pursuit is best for you. In the meantime, we asked Kashiwa to help us break down the setups for you.

Classic

Skis should always be sized relative to the skier’s weight—but helpful sizing tables can be found online that estimate ski length based on weight.

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Beginners should be fine on most classic skis, but skis with less flex and camber and with greater width (but not wider than 62 millimeters, lest they become too wide for typical parallel tracks) can be helpful.

Kick wax is applied to the grip zone for traction—that is, unless the skis are “waxless” and have a scale pattern printed into the ski that creates friction.

Purchase bindings—specific to classic skiing—at the same time you buy your boots. Shopper’s note: Not all bindings are compatible with all boots.

Pole height should be between the armpit and top of the shoulder.

Boots should have ample room in the toe box (so the foot can slide forward slightly while striding) and excellent heel security (heel movement leads to blisters and miserable days).

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Skate

As with classic skis, skate skis should be sized relative to the skier’s weight. A good sales associate can help with ski selection.

Skate skis are generally shorter and stiffer than the classic iteration; beginners will want a medium-flex ski with a moderate camber.

Skate skis do not have a grip zone; skiers rely on setting edges to create forward motion.

There are several binding systems for skating—New Nordic Norm and Salomon Nordic System among them—but they are not interchangeable. Your boots must be compatible with your bindings system.

Pole height should be between the mouth and nose.

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Boots for skate skiing should fit snugly but comfortably with good lateral security and with the skier’s toes close to the ends of the boots but not touching.


Local-ish Gear

Colorado-made Nordic equipment is nigh impossible to find, but Broomfield-headquartered Dæhlie delivers XC-specific clothing we love.

Born and raised in Norway but with its North American headquarters in metro Denver, 23-year-old Dæhlie has evolved from a purely technical ski brand into an active lifestyle apparel label selling handsome yet hardcore duds made precisely for kick-and-gliders. New for the 2019-’20 ski season, the Skill Jacket ($180) offers medium warmth (courtesy of a merino blend lining) and great range-of-motion flexibility (ideal for beginning XC skiers who aren’t quite coordinated yet). If you’re also in the market to keep your caboose warm, the company’s Pro Pants ($150) perform well through wind, rain, and (ideally) snow.

Winter in Colorado

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