New to XC Skiing? Tips for Beginners

Skate skier (L), Classic Skier (R) credit: Fischer Sports GmbH

Are you new to the sport of xc skiing?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the decisions you have to make when starting a new sport, like cross country skiing.

The term “cross country skiing” covers a variety of activities including classic and skate skiing, backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering and telemark skiing.

What kind of xc skiing will you do? What sort of equipment should you buy? What’s cross country ski wax for? What should you do on your first day on skis?

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked beginner questions and links to other helpful resources. Our focus is on skate and classic skiing.

What kind of cross-country skiing should you do?
  • If you plan to ski at Nordic ski areas where the trails are machine groomed and track set buy lightweight skate or classic gear.
  • Backcountry cross country ski gear is for un-groomed snow. Background gear is heavy weight and rugged. The skis are wider and often metal edged.
  • Skate vs classic: Which is right for you? Classic is the easier for beginners but lots of people get started with skate skiing. Choose which most appeals to you and don’t worry that skate skiing is “too hard”.
  • Equipment Decisions
    Buy gear for the skier you want to become, not the skier you are.
  • Want to ski like a racer? (You can! Our videos will help!)
  • Buy gear that matches your long-term goals.
  • Buy from the pros at a real-life Nordic ski shop.
  • Buy the best gear you can afford. You get what you pay for.
  • Do you plan to classic skiing? Buy skin skis. You won’t regret it.
  • Buy ski poles with a harness strap, not a loop strap.
  • Poles matter more than you think. Don’t skimp on quality.
  • Learn more about buying cross country ski poles >>>
  • Buy manual bindings, not automatic bindings.
  • There are different binding systems. Make sure your boots and binding are compatible before you go skiing.
  • It’s OK to buy combi boots (also known as Pursuit boots) but it’s better to buy seperate skate and classic boots. Combi skis are not OK. Skate and Classic poles are different lengths and not interchangeable.

Waxing Decisions

  • There are 2 kinds of wax for cross country skis glide wax, which is used on classic and skate skis, and
    kick wax, which is for waxable classic skis.
  • The bases of your skis need to be regularly treated with glide wax. Glide wax is applied along the whole length of a skate ski base. On classic skis, glide wax is applied to the tips and tails of the skis. The middle section of the classic ski base, under the foot, is where the kick wax goes.
    Waxable classic skis need kick wax. Buy waxless skis if you don’t want to bother with kick wax.
    Waxable vs waxless cross country skis: how to choose >>>
    If you have the time and money, you can learn to wax your own skis. You’ll need to invest in some equipment and supplies to get started. Ask at your local Nordic Ski Shop. You can also choose the easier options, which is to pay the pros at the local Nordic Ski Shop to glide wax your skis.

Getting Started

We have free, step by step video lessons to guide you through your first day on cross country skis. Follow along with “First day lesson plan absolute beginners”.
Find more free videos lessons on our Free Nordic Ski Videos page. After you’ve worked out the basics, take some lessons and/or join Nordic Ski Lab and follow along with more of our drills, demos and techniquer analysis videos.
Practice putting on ALL your equipment at home. Make sure your boots attach to your bindings. There are different system and not all boots and bindings are compatible.
Practice putting on your poles. Do they fit over your gloves?
Learn all the techniques. It will make skiing much more enjoyable. Learn more about cross country ski techniques >>>
Join a competitive ski club if there’s one in your area and they have suitable programming. Even if you don’t want to race, it will help you to ski with better skiers.
Consider registering for a loppet (fun race). It will keep you motivated and help you connect with other skiers.
If you are interested in ski technique and want to accelerate the process of becoming an expert, join Nordic Ski Lab.

Nordic Ski Lab is subscriber-supported. The subscription fee is nominal and the quality of the videos and clarity of the lessons are unmatched.

Follow us on InstagramFacebook and YouTube.