The Best Cross Country Skis

Whether you’re going on a ski trip or you live somewhere with snowy winters, you might be interested in giving cross country skiing a try. Although you may be able to hire cross country skis from a resort or ski complex, the cost soon adds up. If you regularly go cross country skiing or are serious about taking it up as a hobby, you’ll ultimately save a lot of money by buying your own skis. What’s more, you can buy a pair that fits your individual requirements and will perform well for how you want to use them. To complete your ski gear, check out our list of the best ski goggles.

We reviewed dozens of cross country skis to identify the best of the best. We examined a range of factors, including material, shape, size, intended purpose, cost, and average customer reviews. 

Top Pick
Rossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis

Shorter than average, these capable cross country skis offer excellent maneuverability

Having considered a large number of cross country skis, we chose the Rossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis as our top pick. They offer great all round performance, whether you’re skiing on well-worn trails or forging a new path of your own. These stable cross country skis will give you good control, no matter your ability.

The 5 Top-Rated Cross Country Skis for 2018

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best OverallRossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis5.0
Runner UpFischer Desire My Style XC Skis5.0
Best Budget BuySalomon Elite 5 Escape Grip XC Skis5.0
Best Kids Cross Country SkisNordic Rocks Kid’s XC Skis and Poles5.0
Best Backcountry SkisAltai Hok X-Trace Universal Pivot 145
4.2

*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change

Our Top Pick: Rossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis

After careful consideration, our favorite cross country skis out there are the Rossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis. They’re excellent for both groomed and ungroomed/off-piste trails, as well as hills, although we wouldn’t try anything too steep. Costing around $210, they offer extremely good value for money, too.

Crafted from wood with air channels, these skis are strong, yet lightweight, which means you can move more quickly and easily. The unwaxed base is low-maintenance and comes with gripping teeth, which improve traction without affecting how you glide. It’s also worth noting that they’re made using the Nordic Integrated System (NIS), which bonds plates together without the need for screws. This gives the skis more strength and structural integrity.

The Rossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis come with bindings already mounted. It’s worth noting that they’re only compatible with NNN boots, which is fine if you need to buy boots, too, or you already have NNN boots, but is convenient if you already own a different type of boot.

The body of the skis is slightly shorter and wider than average, which gives you increased stability and maneuverability. This is great if you’re exploring winding, ungroomed paths, but may slow you down a little bit on groomed trails.

Rossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis Key Features: 

  • Waxless AR plus base
  • Shorter and wider than average for stability
  • Mounted bindings

Our Runner Up Pick: Fischer Desire My Style XC Skis

Runner Up
Fischer Desire My Style XC Skis

With premounted bindings, these nifty XC skis are ready to go out of the box

If you want something a bit more affordable than our top pick, but that will still get the job done, the Fischer Desire My Style XC Skis are worth your consideration. At around $125, they certainly won’t break the bank, but they’re solid skis that will help you traverse those cross country trails.

Users love how quick they are on all kinds of surfaces, though you may find they’re better suited to groomed cross country trails than ungroomed ones, as they can slow down a bit in deep, powdery snow. While they’re most suited to beginner and intermediate cross country skiers, rather than those with a lot of experience, the My Styles certainly shouldn’t be discounted.

The automatic bindings are compatible with NNN boots and are convenient for most users, though they can be tricky to get out of if you suffer from arthritis or other complaints of the hands. The wood and fiberglass cores of these skis feature air channels to reduce weight and allow for better distribution of pressure.

Fischer’s “wide body technology” increases the width of the skis under your feet, which gives you more stability and improved traction.

Fischer Desire My Style XC Skis Key Features: 

  • Waxless graphite bases
  • Automatic bindings
  • Single crown in the front and rear, double crown the the middle

Best Budget Pick: Salomon Elite 5 Escape Grip XC Skis

Budget Pick
Salomon Elite 5 Escape Grip XC Skis

An affordable choice for cross country skiers on a budget

If you’re on a tight budget, the Salomon Elite 5 Escape Grip XC Skis retail for less than $90 and are perfect for beginners or for occasional use. You shouldn’t have to put up with poor-quality XC skis just because you haven’t got a lot of cash to splash, and with these skis you won’t.

They’re excellent on all kinds of cross country trails, whether groomed or ungroomed, and seem to float across even deep snow. The mid-length helps to make these skis more maneuverable and easy to use. They’re made with plenty of heel-toe camber, which aids you in turning more quickly and gives you a more controlled ride.

The waxless G1 base is designed to provide exceptional grip in all conditions, so you can safely roam wherever the moment takes you, without having to worry about losing traction. They might not be as fast as some options, but they’re lightweight, and give you all the stability and control that you need.

Salomon Elite 5 Escape Grip XC Skis Key Features: 

  • S-cut design
  • Tail protector
  • Digital dynamic flex control

Best Kids Cross Country Skis: Nordic Rocks Kid’s XC Skis and Poles

Best Kids
Nordic Rocks Kid’s XC Skis and Poles

Lightweight, stable skis designed with the needs of kids in mind

If you need some skis for a child who enjoys XC skiing or wants to start, Nordic Rocks Kid’s XC Skis and Poles are an excellent choice. These versatile skis are designed for both groomed and ungroomed trails, as well as trail breaking and tackling rolling hills.

At 47 inches long, they’re suitable for the majority of children between 6 and 13 years of age. They come with poles that are adjustable between 35 and 51 inches, to suit a wide range of heights. The easy-to-use step-in binding system fits shoes of all sizes, utilizing three spring buckles.

The skis themselves have wood cores and a waxless fish-scale base, which makes them ease to use and maintain. The whole set costs roughly $125, which is great value, considering it comes complete with skis, bindings, and poles—everything you need to get started.

Nordic Rocks Kid’s XC Skis and Poles Key Features: 

  • Waxless base
  • Step-in binding
  • Comes with adjustable poles

Best Backcountry Skis: Altai Hok X-Trace Universal 125

Best Backcountry
Altai Hok X-Trace Universal Pivot 145

These sturdy, stable skis will take you off the beaten track

Want to get away from all official skiing areas and out into the wilderness? Then you’ll need a decent pair of backcountry skis, and the Altai Hok X-Trace Universal Pivot 145 are some of the best. They look quite different from your average cross country skis, and that’s because true backcountry skiing requires a shorter, wider ski to increase grip, stability, and maneuverability.

The integrated climbing skin, made from nylon “fur,” gives you enough grip to make ascents, without sacrificing glide on flat ground or down slopes. Thanks to the universal pivot binding, you can wear any kind of shoes or boots, not just ski boots. The forward mount position helps you out when you’re trail breaking through new snow.

If you’re looking for durability, look no further. The full wood core construction means that they’ll stand the test of time. Although they’re not the cheapest skis out there, costing around $300, these are excellent backcountry skis that could last you many years to come, so we still think they offer great value, all things considered.

Altai Hok X-Trace Universal 125 Key Features: 

  • Full steel edges
  • Full length wood core construction
  • Skin inserts for grip

Who Should Buy Cross Country Skis?

If you’re already an avid cross country skier or you know you want to take it up as a hobby, then you should probably buy a pair of cross country skis. Sure, you might be able to rent them in some areas, but if you don’t live near a ski resort, it can be hard to find places that hire out cross country skis.

Cross country skis are a great investment if you live somewhere that gets extremely snowy winters, as they’ll allow you to get out and about more, and venture into nature, when thick snow is on the ground, particularly if you opt for backcountry skis.

Top Pick
Rossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis

Shorter than average, these capable cross country skis offer excellent maneuverability

Important Features to Consider

A pair of cross country skis should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting cross country skis:

  • Length. Cross country skis come in a range of lengths, so you need to pick the right length for you. The length you’ll need depends on your weight, with heavier skiers requiring longer skis. Check the FAQ section below to help you find the correct ski length for your weight.
  • Camber. The term “camber” refers to the curve between the front and the back of of ski. If you put the full weight of both your feet on your skis, then this curve will flatten out. Camber is important on cross country skis, as flattening out the skis will give you more grip, while leaving the camber in tact allows you to glide over snow more easily.
  • Flex. Stiff flexing cross country skis are ideal for going fast on groomed trails. Soft flexing skis are better at tackling ungroomed trails.
  • Waxed vs. waxless. Traditionally, cross country skis require waxing on the bottoms to improve grip. However, many modern skis are waxless. Instead, they feature a ridged fish-tail pattern on the bottom which improves grip, without the need for wax.
  • Shape. Classic cross country skis are longer and thinner, whereas backcountry skis are shorter and wider. Shorter, wider skis give you more grip and stability when on ungroomed trails.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are cross country skis and how do they work?

As the name suggests, cross country skis are designed for partaking in cross country skiing, which is where you use your own locomotion to traverse various types of terrain. This is different to alpine skiing where you take a ski lift up to the top of a steep slope and ski down it. With cross country skis, the heel of your boot isn’t attached to the ski, which allows you to take steps, much like regular walking. Cross country skis are also specially designed to give you extra grip and stability so that you make small ascents, rather than just descents.

What length of cross country skis do I need?

What length of cross country skis you need will depend on your weight and the type of skis you’ll be using. Most cross country skis are measured in centimeters (cm) rather than inches.

If you’re buying classic cross country skis:

  • Skiers under 100 pounds require skis under 145 cm (57 inches) long
  • Skiers between 100 and 120 pounds require skis between 145 and 155 cm (57 and 61 inches) long
  • Skiers between 120 and 150 pounds require skis between 155 and 170 cm (61 and 66 inches) long
  • Skiers between 150 and 200 pounds require skis between 170 and 185 cm (61 and 73 inches) long
  • Skiers over 200 pounds require skis over 185 cm (73 inches) long

If you’re buying backcountry skis, optimum lengths vary, so refer to the manufacturer’s size guide.

What is the difference between cross country and Nordic skiing?

Essentially, Nordic skiing and cross country skiing are the same thing. However, the term Nordic skiing is more commonly used when referring to competitive cross country skiing, whereas the term cross country skiing is associated with recreational pursuits.

When (and how) do you wax cross country skis?

As we touched on above, many modern cross country skis are waxless, so there’s no need to wax them. However, if you do choose a variety that requires waxing, you’ll need to do it anywhere between every one and seven days of skiing, depending on how long you ski for each day and how much you like to feel of freshly waxed skis. Different types of wax are applied in different ways, so it’s best to refer to the manufacturer’s directions.

Other Cross Country Skis We Reviewed

Top Pick
Rossignol EVO Glade 59 NIS Cross-Country Skis

Shorter than average, these capable cross country skis offer excellent maneuverability

We looked at 20 other pairs of cross country skis. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best cross country skis list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.

Backcountry Skis

Alpina Sports Discovery 102 Back Off

Alpina Sports Discovery 102 Back Off

Although suitable for both touring and backcountry use, their excellent grip for climbing puts these skis more firmly in the backcountry camp.

Key Features: 

  • Early rise tip for easier turning
  • Waxless base
  • Available in three sizes

Cost: $200

Rossignol OT 65 IFP Skis

Rossignol OT 65 IFP Skis

Although they’re narrow enough to work well on groomed trails, too, the extra width on these skis makes them ideal for trail braking and backcountry exploring.

Key Features: 

  • Positrack waxless base
  • Active cap
  • Wood core with air channels

Cost: $300

Rossignol BC 70 XC Skis

Rossignol BC 70 Skis

The full-metal edges make these skis perform excellently on all kinds of terrains, meaning they won’t let you down on backcountry adventures.

Key Features: 

  • Tall camber zone
  • Waxless Positrack base
  • 170cms long

Cost: $275

Rossignol BC 110 Positrack Ski

Rossignol BC 110 Positrack Ski
These stable and sturdy backcountry skis are designed with off-piste descents in mind, though they’re suitable for general use on ungroomed trails, too.

Key Features: 

  • LDC wood core
  • Full length steel edge
  • Low rise camber

Cost: $340

Cross Country Touring Skis

Alpina Sports Discovery 80

Alpina Sports Discovery 80

Ideal for general touring use—the metal edges give you excellent grip on icy surfaces while the early rise tip helps keep you on top of snow, rather than sinking it.

Key Features: 

  • Full length metal edges
  • Waxless base
  • Lightweight air-edge wooden core

Cost: $190

Fischer Spider 62 Crown NIS Ski

Fischer Spider 62 Crown NIS Ski
These good all-round touring skis work well in-track as well as off. A good combination of traction and glide is ideal for ice and hard snow.

Key Features: 

  • NIS plates
  • Waxless bottom
  • 189 cm long

Cost: $190

Madshus Cadence 90 SE Metal-Edged Ski

Madshus Cadence 90 SE Metal-Edged Ski
While they’re not as high quality as some of their more expensive counterparts, these basic touring skis are highly affordable and great for occasional use.

Key Features: 

  • Steel edge
  • Waxless base
  • Available in three sizes

Cost: $75 to $100, depending on the size

Rossignol Evo Action 50 Cross Country Skis with Bindings

Rossignol Evo Action 50 Cross Country Skis with Bindings

If you’re looking for a general touring ski that can handle some ungroomed trails, but you do most of your skiing on groomed tracks, these skis are an excellent choice.

Key Features: 

  • Pre-mounted NNN bindings
  • Waxless Positrack base
  • LCD wood core

Cost: $150

Kids Cross Country Skis

Kids Skis Plastic Mini Snow Skis

Kids Skis Plastic Mini Snow Skis

These basic plastic kids skis are an alternative to regular skis for young children or beginners and are suitable for light cross country use.

Key Features: 

  • Straps attach to any find of boot or show
  • Short 40 cm length helps beginners balance
  • Suitable for ages 3 to 12

Cost: $20

Rossignol Evo Action 55 Junior XC Skis

Rossignol Evo Action 55 Junior XC Skis

From a trusted name in cross country skis, these are excellent for young people who are serious about cross country skiing.

Key Features: 

  • Bindings included
  • ActiveCap design
  • Waxless base

Cost: $120

Sporten First Step XC Skis for Kids

sporten First Step XC Skis for Kids

These basic wooden cross country skis measure 80 cm long and are designed for children between the ages of 3 and 6.

Key Features: 

  • Adjustable bindings
  • Waxless fish-scale base
  • Soft flex

Cost: $50

Whitewood Snowman Children’s Nordic Skis

Whitewood Snowman Children's Nordic Skis

These small 50cm Nordic skis are suitable for young children who want their first pair of skis for cross country use. The snowman design appeals to little ones.

Key Features: 

  • Universal bindings fit all shoes and boots
  • Poles included
  • Suitable to ages 2 to 4

Cost: $50

Cross Country Ski Packages

Whitewoods 75mm 3Pin Cross Country Ski Package

Whitewoods 75mm 3Pin Cross Country Ski Package

With skis, bindings, boots, and poles included, this cross country ski package provides everything you need to get out there onto the snowy trails.

Key Features: 

  • 157 cm skis suitable for skiers between 90 and 120 pounds
  • Laminated wood core
  • Waxless base

Cost: $230

Whitewoods Cross Country Ski Package

Whitewoods cross country ski package 150+

This is much like the package above, but with larger 197 cm skis designed for people of 150 pounds and upwards.

Key Features: 

  • Comes with skis, boots, poles, and bindings
  • ABS tail
  • Negative waxless base

Cost: $240

Other Cross Country Skis

Altai Hok Ski with Universal Bindings

Altai Hok Ski with Universal Bindings

These attractive cross country skis are crafted from a sustainable paulownia wood core plus a mixture of fib and natural fibers.

Key Features: 

  • Steel edges
  • Natural fiber base for grip
  • Shorter length for maneurverability

Cost: $320

Madshus Intrasonic Classic XC Skis

Madshus Intrasonic Classic XC Skis

These entry-level racing skis are designed for use on groomed cross country trails, favoring speed over all-terrain capabilities.

Key Features: 

  • Air-channeled wood core
  • Polytex base
  • Available in three sizes

Cost: Between $70 and $110, depending on the size

Madshus Terrasonic Skate XC Skis

Madshus Terrasonic Skate XC Skis

As cross country skate skis, these are perfect for those with a need for speed, who’ll be zooming across groomed trails, rather than trail breaking.

Key Features: 

  • Speed tips
  • Medium camber
  • Polycell core

Cost: $110

Rossignol Evo Glade 59 IFP Cross Country Skis

Rossignol Evo Glade 59 IFP Cross Country Skis

Featuring smaller sizes, these skis are more maneuverable, stable, and easy to control, and were designed with beginners in mind.

Key Features: 

  • Waxless AR base
  • Lacquered sidewall
  • Turnamic® binding system

Cost: $200 to $230, depending on size

Rossignol OT 65 NIS Cross-Country Skis

Rossignol OT 65 NIS Cross-Country Skis

If you’re looking for good all round cross country skis for groomed and ungroomed trails, these are a good choice, though they won’t stand up to extreme backcountry use.

Key Features: 

  • NIS bindings
  • Wood core with air channels
  • Positrack waxless base

Cost: $250

Rossignol Delta Skating NIS XC Skis

Rossignol Delta Skating NIS XC Skis

Looking for high end skating/racing cross country skis at a competitive price? These are professional-level skis that won’t put too much of a dent in your bank balance.

Key Features: 

  • Nomex honeycomb core
  • Active cap and extended edge
  • Lightweight for increased speed

Cost: $210

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