Cross country skiing has evolved into almost two separate sports - one using the skating technique, and the other using the diagonal stride or classic skiing technique. Here at Brian's Bicycles and Cross Country Skis in Mammoth Lakes California we get the question of whether to buy skate or classic skis when starting out. What's the difference? And can one package be used for both skating and classic xc skiing?
Most are familiar with the classic xc ski technique or otherwise known as striding. Many just wanting to venture out their back yard choose a touring ski - an all around ski that can be used both in ungroomed and groomed xc trails. These classic skis are wider than a racing ski, and have fish scales that serve to replace kick wax in the area below the foot. This allows the user to propel forward up a hill without sliding backwards, or "missing" a kick. For the more serious athlete race classic xc skis, boots, bindings and poles are much different than the touring ski. The race ski is lighter and thinner than the touring ski equivalent. A classic nordic boot is flexible, allowing the foot to bend as you propel forward. The binding serves mainly to keep the boot on the ski, and offers little stability compared to a skating boot. Ski pole length for the classic technique typically extends to the arm pit. These poles are light, and rigid and are typically made of carbon fiber or the equivalent light material.
Skate skiing xc equipment is very different than the classic nordic equipment. The skate skis are typically shorter than the classic skis, but are also light and thin. Unlike the classic boots, skating boots are extremely rigid and tend to fit the foot snugly. The skating boots extend above the ankle, allowing for greater support when pushing from side to side. The skate binding is also rigid, allowing for greater stability than the classic binding. XC pole length is also longer than the classic pole. Skating poles extend typically to the height of the skiers nose. These poles are also light and rigid.
The cross country ski world does make a "combi" boot than can be used for both classic and skating, but the disadvantage of this boot is that is does neither well. For classic skiing, it tends to be a bit rigid and fairly uncomfortable. For skating, the boot tends to be too soft resulting in a less stable ski.
For the serious cross country skier, separate ski packages for skating and classic skiing is ideal. To answer the question of what to buy first - skate skis or classic skis. Here in Mammoth Lakes California we have seen a general trend of purchasing skate skis first. Skate skiing is faster, more dynamic, and generally a more cardiovascular workout. It is well worth taking a skating lesson if you are a beginner - or even if you are an experienced xc skier - good technique will go a long way. There is nothing wrong with the classic skiing - but it does tend to require greater skill in the technique to become proficient at it. There are some that choose only to skate ski, but this limits the number of ski days available, since on snowy days or after heavy snows classic skiing will be ideal. After heavy snows or on snowy days, skate skiing is cumbersome since the ski tips tend to get caught in the loose powder.
If you are considering purchasing a cross country ski package, visit our online shop at http://xcskistore.com or come into our Mammoth Lakes shop at 3059 Chateau Road. Tel (760) 924-8566. Happy nordic skiing to you!