|There are a wide variety of cross-country skis. They are very narrow (45-50mm) and generally have no edges. They are taken 20-30cm longer than your height. Test this by standing next to the ski and reaching up: the tip should come to your wrist. Racing skis are narrower than recreational skis and are taken slightly shorter. True aficionados also distinguish between classical and freestyle (skating) skis.
Cross-country skis are very cambered (arched), so much so that when you are gliding, the camber pocket under your foot should stand clear of the snow. Test this in the shop with a piece of paper: with your weight on both feet on a hard floor you should be able to slide the paper under the skis; if you stand on one foot, the paper should be held firm.
Part of the base of the ski is either covered in scales, or can be treated with a sticky wax to prevent sliding backwards. Scaled bases tend to be more stable, but they do not slide so well downhill. Beginners' skis and most rental skis are scaled; for long promenades on variable snow, this is the more convenient option.
The treatment of a waxed ski can be very complicated. Only the centre of the ski is treated and there are different waxes - hard, soft or klister - for different temperatures and types of snow. If you use the wrong wax, you end up with a lump of congealed snow frozen to the base of the ski, or no grip at all. When the skier is climbing, snow crystals penetrate the wax and make it sticky. On the descent, the friction of the ski on the snow melts the crystals, and a layer of water is created between ski and snow, helping the ski to slide.
|These should be light but strong and come up to the armpit. Racers should take poles 5cm longer, skaters 15cm longer. |
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|Racers and very serious cross-country skiers wear 'lycra' stretch suits. |
The traditional garb for recreational skiers, however, is wind pants, windjacet, thick woollen socks, over thermals.
Gloves are important, but should be much thinner than Alpine ones, with reinforced palms to protect against the rubbing of the poles.
Sunglasses and hat are also necessary.
|Bindings, Shoes and Boots |
|The bindings are very light and hold only the tip of the toe, leaving the rest of the foot free. If you are skiing on prepared tracks, a shoe resembling a running shoe should be used. It must bend forward and back, while retaining its lateral (twisting) rigidity. For skating, a slightly higher boot exists, while for deeper snow you should use a boot.