If you are looking at purchasing your own skis, that generally means that you should be looking at skis towards the mid to upper range of quality. What does this mean? Generally, ski manufacturers make two to three basic lines of skis: backcountry, recreation/touring and racing. Within these lines there are levels of quality. The lower quality or less expensive skis tend to weigh more and be made with lower quality materials. This is the level of equipment that can be rented from Cross Country Ski Headquarters for the season. If the athlete is still growing, newer to the sport, or very rough on equipment it may not make sense to upgrade yet.
Fitting a pair of skate skis is not as intuitive as fitting a pair of classic skis. It is very important that you purchase skate skis from a reputable and knowledgeable ski shop that knows how to, at the very minimum, read the flex label on the ski. When you talk to the sales associate at the shop you should specify whether you would like a universal flex, warm/soft track, or cold/hard track. A universal flex ski will be appropriate for 90% of the racing that we do in Northern Michigan. Warm skis are for temperatures that are 32 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Cold skis are generally for 10 degrees and below. A universal ski should be flexed for approximately 120% of the skier's weight. Hard track can be as stiff as 130% of body weight and soft track can be between 105 and 110% of body weight. These flex percentages apply directly to Fischer skis, but apply to other brands of skis as well.
Classic skis are arguably easier to fit than a pair of skate skis. There are measurable markers that will tell you whether the ski is a good fit for you. Just like skate skis, there are three (or more) types of classic skis. The basic types are universal, hardwax only and klister skis. For most of our athletes a universal ski will fit most situations very well. A universal ski can be used for most conditions and be marked for both kick wax and klister wax. The main difference between all of these skis is the height of the wax pocket and the stiffness of the ski. A klister ski needs to have a higher pocket to accommodate a thicker application of klister. If the pocket is too low, the ski will be draggy and slow. A hardwax kick wax application is inherently thinner. Remember, thin to win! This means that a hardwax only ski can have a shorter kick pocket without the ski becoming slow. A universal ski is somewhere in the middle. The pocket is high enough under foot to accommodate klister, but low enough to get a positive kick with hard wax.
When you are buying a pair of classic skis, make sure that the ski shop flexes the skis for you and marks the skis using your weight. If the salesman squeezes the pair of skis in their hand to test flex, walk away. At a bare minimum the shop should perform the “paper test” on the skis to make sure that the skis fit. This test is a reasonable way to mark the ski’s pocket and tell if it fits the skier. Some skis own a flex tester that can be used to perfectly fit a pair of skis to a skier. This is the best option and highly preferred over the “paper test”.
Skis do not usually come pre-fit with bindings. We recommend that you buy NNN or Prolink bindings rather than SNS. This will give you the most boot options.
There are three things to think about when buying a pair of poles: swing weight, stiffness and durability. The lighter and stiffer a pair of poles are, the more efficiently they will translate force into forward motion. Unfortunately, they also tend to be a bit more fragile the lighter and stiffer they are. Generally, you will start to see diminishing returns when you look at moving from the mid/high range to the top of the line pole. There is a huge difference from budget poles to the mid/high range pole. If you are investing in poles, do not buy aluminum or fiberglass poles. While they are more durable, they are significantly heavier and less stiff. This detrimentally impacts ski technique.
Ski Pole Sizing
The basics: skate poles should be longer than classic poles. The actual length of the poles are personal preference as long as they fall within competition guidelines. Skate poles should come up to approximately the athlete's nose and be no shorter than their chin with ski boots on. FIS rule 343.8.1 states that classic poles may not exceed 83% of the athlete's height. In practice classic poles should be around shoulder height. Keep in mind that poles are typically measured in centimeters.
Boots should be comfortable! Every brand and model fits a bit differently, so it is important that you try them on before you buy them or are able to return them if they do not fit. When buying boots, the fit is the most important decision factor, but you should keep a few other things in mind as well.
Combi boots are a compromise in performance. They will do the job, but they will not perform or feel as good as a boot specifically made for that technique.
Skate and Classic boots will last longer than combi boots because they do not receive the same wear and tear.
The boots need to match the ski bindings
More expensive skate boots tend to provide more support and better power transfer
More expensive classic boots tend to be lighter and provide more stability
Suttons Bay Bikes
Don Orr Ski Haus
Do not keep race skis in stock, but will order flexed and fit skis
XC Ski Headquarters
Other - Call to order skis and will also provide hand picked factory skis