One may think that the sport of cross country skiing you slap on some skis and head out your back yard for a day of touring. There is more to the sport than just that. This sport actually has for sub-sports within the discipline. Four types of “free heel” skiing will be describe below. The first, being the most obvious is ski touring aka backyard skiing and recreational touring. The second is performance-based – skate skiing and classic (diagonal stride) skiing. The third is backcountry skiing and the fourth uses telemark skis for the athlete looking to take some turns in deep powder or deep off trail. For those who want to participate in all four disciplines, each discipline requires different ski equipment. Some choose just one type, and others jump in and learn more than one.
Cross country ski touring is by far the most common of the four and is familiar to most Americans. Touring skis are made to use out your back door – in groomed trails or ungroomed trails. The skis themselves can be hot waxed in the tips and tails or just treated with a rub-on wax. The center of the skis, known as the “kick zone” have fish scales that serve to grab the snow allowing you to move forward without sliding backwards (usually). Sometimes the kick zone ices up, and if this happens the ice must be removed, otherwise you will not have any glide to go with the kick! Touring boots and binding are flexible, and are attached only at the toe. The boots should fit the foot well and be comfortable, not pinching in any way. Touring boots come in different qualities. The less expensive quality will be more slipper-like whereas the higher end will extend above the ankle and give a bit more support. Touring ski poles are typically aluminum and should extend to just under the arm pit. The baskets on the poles are typically round and are fairly large to keep the pole from sinking in the snow.
The second cross country ski discipline is geared towards the serious athlete. Many who skate or classic ski train to stay in shape or race. Skate skiing is very popular and a great cardiovascular sport. Classic or striding requires good technique and good kick wax, and is also a great way to get in shape. Usually this discipline takes place on groomed trails, where diagonal stride lanes are created by the groomers, and the skate lanes are even under foot. Without grooming skating or striding can be challenging. Performance based ski gear focus on weight of the gear as well as stiffness for the ski, boot, binding and pole. High end cross country skis get lighter as the quality goes up – ultimately requiring less energy for the athlete to propel him/herself forward. The skate boots and bindings are stiff, which provides greater stability when skating. Poles are light and stiff, with swing weight making a big difference when training and racing. Classic skis are light and thin; poles are also light and stiff, only shorter than skate poles but bindings and boots are more flexible. Remember, the higher end products will result in overall better performance as well as ski experience!
Backcountry skiing is for the person who wants to ski tour, but not necessarily on groomed trails. These skis have a metal edge and are wider than the typical touring ski. This allows for greater turnability as well as stability on the ski. They are also heavier, which helps in stability. Backcountry boots and bindings are beefier than the touring ski, again to allow for greater stability when on snowmobile trails or when breaking trail in the back country.
Telemark skiing is for the athlete that wants to ski the backcountry and have great ability to turn the skis. Typically it is for someone who wants to go deep out of bounds. These skis are really designed to go downhill, only the heel is not attached to the ski. Skins are typically used to ski up the mountain, which effectively serves as a “kick zone” along the entire ski bottoms. These skins are not permanent, and are removed when arriving at the destination – and the skier is ready to go downhill. Telemark skis use a plastic boot, somewhat similar to an alpine boot, only lighter. The binding is beefy and has a strap that runs around the back of the heel. A lease is often used to attach the binding to the boot so the ski is not lost in deep powder. Metal edges and wide berth give the athlete stability and turnability. So when you are ready to start nordic skiing, or just need to upgrade your equipment visit us online at http://xcskistore.com for all your nordic needs.