The 9 Best Cross-Country Skis of 2022

Our top picks for beginners, racing, backcountry touring, and more

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The sport of cross-country skiing really taps into the most serene aspects of winter. Plus, it’s a great cardio workout with a fairly flat learning curve. Bonus: The overall experience is far more intuitive than alpine skiing. But that’s not to imply the sport is always tame. From the more aggressive skate skiing style to long forays into the backcountry on a pair of skinny skis, the sport is equally at home on groomed runs and in loose snow. Whether you're a skilled Nordic skier or dabbling, we researched the many cross-country skis on the market to find the best for many skill levels. These are the best cross-country skis of the 2021-2022 winter season to help you navigate your desired experience.

Best Overall: Rossignol R-Skin Ultra XC Skis

Rossignol Men's R-Skin Ultra

Amazon

What We Like
  • A one-quiver ski that handles almost all conditions

  • Lightweight

  • Mohair underneath reduces need for wax

What We Don't Like
  • Its thin waist may make it hard to track in deeper non-groomed powder

Built for fitness-oriented skiers, the R-Skin Ultra from Rossignol delivers a lightweight, classic cross-country ski experience. Sections of replaceable mohair underneath provide an easy, constant kick and maximum glide without having to deal with wax. The mohair lasts up to 150 hard-charging days on the snow, while the honeycomb construction is both powerful and precise, making the R-Skin Ultra ideal for racing. That strength-to-weight ratio is further buoyed by the Active Cap construction, which uses multi-directional fiberglass for an intuitive flex from tip to tail so that you glide over uneven terrain. The unisex ski is best suited for intermediate to advanced skiers.

Best Use: Groomed Trails | Lengths: 186, 191, 201 centimeters | Weight: 3 pounds | Dimensions: 48/44/46 millimeters

Best Budget: Salomon Escape 5 Grip PM Prolink Access Classic Ski

Salomon Escape 5 Grip PM Prolink Access

Salomon

What We Like
  • Inexpensive

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • More demanding Nordic skiers may want a more aggressive ski

Suitable for both in- and out-of-track skiing, the classic-style Salomon Escape Grip PM with Prolink Access ski is perfect for recreational skiers who want a performant ski that doesn’t require as much muscle and technique as a race, endurance, or backcountry ski. A low heel-toe camber works with the brand’s G2 Synchro grip to provide a secure waxless kick. Meanwhile, an S-Cut shape amps control and stability to encourage confident skiing. The ski package comes pre-loaded with Prolink Access CI bindings, which helps trim the cost and hassle of having to source new bindings.

Best Use: In- and out-of-track skiing | Lengths: 174-206 centimeters | Weight: 3 pounds, 14 ounces | Dimensions: 51/48/46/49 millimeters

Best for Beginners: Alpina Control 64 Edge Cross-Country Skis

Alpina Control 64 Edge Cross-Country Skis

REI

What We Like
  • Good for beginners

  • Pre-mounted with bindings

  • Full-length metal edges

What We Don't Like
  • Aggressive athletes may want a ski that grows with them

Alpina captures the core characteristic of their Control 64E skis in its name—the quick and easy way beginners can maneuver the ski for both in- and out-of-track cross-country skiing. They come pre-mounted with NIS bindings, removing the complexity of selecting a binding to let the novice skier get on the snow quickly. A multi-grip embossed BE base provides fast glide with reliable traction, and full-length metal edges help beginners to find purchase on ice and hard snow. A wider-than-average 54-millimeter waist also lets the ski float better in looser, deeper snow, and shorter-than-average lengths (down to 165 centimeters) really makes this an easy ski to learn the basics of the sport.

Best Use: In- and off-track skiing | Lengths: 165 and 195 centimeters | Weight: 3.5 pounds | Dimensions: 64/52/60 millimeters

Best for Intermediate: Madshus Active Skin Classic Cross Country Skis

Madshus Active Skin Classic Cross Country Skis

Madshus

What We Like
  • RFID chips connect to brand's app for workout tracking and performance enhancement

  • Integrated mohair and nylon skin

  • Lightweight, yet stiff

What We Don't Like
  • Thin sidecuts might not be best for all intermediate skiers

Madshus focused on maximum grip and solid stability control with their Active Skin cross-country ski—the ideal configuration to help intermediate-level skiers up their game. The integrated skin is a combo of mohair and nylon for constant grip and reliable glide. Performance is further amped with an even delivery of direct response energy return thanks to the paulownia carbon hybrid core that’s both lightweight and stiff, while the torsion-cap construction improves durability in all ski conditions. But perhaps best of all, the Active Skin comes with Madshus Empower—a series of RFID chips embedded into the core of the skis, which records legions of data to help you improve your ski performance via the brand’s app, including a GPS-enabled workout tracker.

Best Use: In- and off-track skiing | Lengths: 182, 187, 192, 197, 202, 207 centimeters | Weight: 2.5 pounds | Dimensions: 43/44/44 millimeters

Best for Kids: Rossignol Kid’s Speed Skin Classic Cross Country Skis

Rossignol Kid’s Speed Skin Classic Cross Country Skis

Rossignol

What We Like
  • Light

  • Easy to use

  • Reliable ride

What We Don't Like
  • The 47-millimeter waist is small enough to ride in-track, but some may want a faster, narrower ski

Optimized to deliver a balanced ride, the Speed Skin skis from Rossignol come with wider, touring-style dimensions to keep things stable—an essential factor in a kid-specific ski. Ready for beginners and intermediates, the ski gets its grip from patches of R-Skin replaceable mohair, providing maximum grip and a smooth glide for upwards of 150 outings. The wood air core cuts down the ounces, with air channels that improve off-trail performance and an ABS cap tail protector to improve durability.

Best Use: Groomed and ungroomed exploration | Lengths: 110-140 centimeters | Weight: 2.2 pounds | Dimensions: 51/47/49 millimeters

Best for Groomers: Salomon Men's Snowscape 7 PM Cross-Country Skis

Salomon Snowscape 7

Salomon

What We Like
  • Reliable control on the groomers

  • Pre-mounted with bindings

  • Wax-less design

What We Don't Like
  • Limited if you’re looking for a race- or backcountry-oriented ski

  • Heavy

Able to track and grip reliably both on-and off-track, the Salmon Snowscape 7 ski employs a classic design to deliver reliable performance on hardpack. A light and durable Densolite core, shorter-than-average length, and a dedicated S-Cut shape improve control when going up or sliding down. A G2 Synchro base glides smoothly and grips confidently, with an easy-to-maintain wax-less design. Stability reigns supreme and is suitable for both sport and recreational skiers. As with most Salomon cross-country skis, it comes with pre-mounted Prolink auto CI bindings.

Best Use: Groomed tracks | Lengths: Comes in sizes, S-XXL, which correspond to a skier’s weight (in ranges) | Weight: 4.3 pounds | Dimensions: 59/55/51/55 millimeters

Best for Backcountry: Atomic Savor Cross-Country Skintec Skis with Prolink Binding

Atomic Savor Cross-Country Skintec Skis

REI

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Customizable

  • 100 percent mohair grip zone underfoot

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive, though the bindings are included

If your skiing ambitions include leaving the track behind, go with the Savor XC Skintec Skis from Atomic. Versatility is key in these classic skis, which comes with a 100 percent mohair grip zone underfoot for confident grip—and the ability to easily swap out the stock mohair for other grips to match the conditions. The ski runs on the shorter side, which improves overall control, and boasts a 46-millimeter waist that floats in loose snow, though it’s still narrow enough to handle the track. High Densolite makes the core light, and stable so you can tour for hours. The Savor XC Skintec Skis also come with Atomic’s Prolink Shift Pro CL bindings, which can be shifted on the fly into one of five positions—forward for more grip, backward for more glide.

Best Use: Backcountry | Lengths: 174-204 centimeters | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Dimensions: 50/45/48 millimeters

Best for Racing and Performance: Fischer Speedmax 3D Classic Plus 902 Soft Cross Country Skis

Fischer Speedmax 3D Classic Plus 902 Soft Cross Country Skis

OMC Gear

What We Like
  • Wonderfully engineered for speed

  • Insanely lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Races happen regardless of the conditions, which is why you want the Speedmax 3D Classic Plus 902 Soft from Fischer under your feet. This high-performance, high-quality skis load in tons of racing-centric ski tech, including construction that integrates pressure relief at the tip and tail for a quick, safe kick that’s ideal for wet, icy conditions. The air core material—which uses over 80 percent air content—makes them crazy-light, with highly modular carbon fibers for strength, while the sidecut is configured to reduce differences in residual tension and camber pressure. Underneath, the ski has been engineered for max wax absorption, while the sidewalls have a thin layer that also can be waxed to reduce friction. In short, the ski does practically everything a ski can to help you go faster.

Best Use: Race | Lengths: 192-207 centimeters | Dimensions: 41/44/44 millimeters

Best for Long Tours: Madshus Fjelltech M50 Skin Cross Country Skis

Madshus Fjelltech M50 Skin Cross Country Skis

Madshus

What We Like
  • Reasonably priced

  • Versatile

What We Don't Like
  • A touch wide for groomed tracks

Equipped with a 50-millimeter waist that’s narrow enough to run in the tracks but wide enough to provide solid float in loose powder touring, the Fjelltech M50 Skin from Madshus comes with a paulownia core surrounded by carbon and glass reinforcements to add strength and stiffness. Mid-stride, the skier will appreciate the lively response provided by interlocking strands of fiberglass and carbon fiber that run the ski’s full length. Grip comes from a mix of mohair and nylon, with a smooth glide for assured forward momentum.

Best Use: Touring | Lengths: 177-202 centimeters | Weight: 3.9 pounds | Dimensions: 60/50/55 millimeters

Final Verdict

The R-Skin Ultra from Rossignol is a cross-country ski designed to progress with your skills (view at Amazon). A honeycomb construction makes the ski both strong and light, ready for a fitness-oriented skier to quickly graduate into racing, with fiberglass for a smooth glide and sections of mohair that grip with confidence. For those looking for an intro cross-country ski, you can't go wrong with the Alpina Control 64 Edge (view at REI).

What to Look for in Cross-Country Skis

Classic vs. Skate vs Touring or Backcountry

Traditional cross-country skis—often classified as classic skis—utilize a forward and backsliding motion of the legs, propelled by swinging arms holding ski poles. It's a movement that largely mirrors one’s walking stride, which is why this type of cross-country skiing is easy for beginners. As its name implies, skate skiing generates its forward momentum using body motions similar to ice skates, where you push out on the sides, so that the edges of the skis push against the snow to propel you forward. It’s a bit more aggressive, requires more exertion, and comes with a bit of a learning curve. Skate skis are used on groomed trails, rather than in powder or in a dedicated ski track. Backcountry and touring cross-country skis, meanwhile, typically have metal edges so they can handle loose snow and track better on steeper terrain. Expect these skis to be a bit shorter for better control, and a bit wider in the waist (underfoot) to float on powder, though some backcountry skis just boast greater sidecuts rather than metal edges to cut down on weight, which is always a consideration when going into the backcountry.

Wax-able vs. Wax-less

Most cross-country skis are wax-less because they’re easier to maintain. These skis utilize a grip zone underneath, which allows them to find the traction you need to generate forward momentum. Some wax-less skis also employ fabric-like strips of a climbing skin (similar to the full-length climbing skins used for uphill skiing). Wax-able skis use grip wax underneath to gain traction without sacrificing glide. The central value in these models is the ability to match the wax to the conditions, and they perform best when temperatures are constant. If conditions vary, the application of the wax can prove challenging.

Width and Sidecut

The sidecut of a ski is defined by the relationship of the ski’s width as measured by the tip, the waist (or middle), and the tail, which indicates how well a ski turns—the deeper the curve, the tighter the turn. For classic skiing on groomers, you don’t need an aggressive sidecut and should target skis no wider than 68 millimeters, which is the max width of most ski tracks. Race-specific classic skis go narrower to increase speed while touring and backcountry skis go wider (up to 100 millimeters), with a more aggressive sidecut to improve control on loose snow and ice. Skate skies are typically between 40 and 45 millimeters—the narrower the ski, the faster you’ll go. These skis typically don’t have much sidecut at all, so that it’s easy to set the skis on edge for great speed and control.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What size of cross-country ski should I get?

    Whether you’re targeting a skate ski or a classic set-up, the main rule of thumb on a ski’s length is the longer the ski, the faster the ride. So beginners should consider skis on the shorter side of the equation to benefit from better control. But your weight is equally important—if the ski’s too short it won’t support you and gliding will be a challenge, and if it’s too long, finding grip can prove challenging. Most online retailers and ski manufacturers provide specific weight-to-length suggestions that take into account each ski’s design and materials.

  • What’s the best way to learn how to cross-country ski?

    Classic cross-country skiing has a refreshingly low barrier of entry, making it a great sport for beginners. To start off, look for a rental company that can help you find the right entry-level set-up and point you towards groomed tracks with nominal elevation gain and loss. Dedicated tracks with paid entry is another smart choice. Oftentimes, these retailers offer lessons, which is a great way to get comfortable on cross-country skis. And the same goes for skate skiing—target a groomed track with rental gear and lessons to help you learn the movements needed.

  • Where are the best places to buy cross-country skis?

    Online retailers like REI and Backcountry carry loads of skis, as well as all the orientational information you’d need to assure that the ski you buy matches your weight and skill-set. But be sure to pay attention to whether or not the skis come with mounted bindings. If they don’t, that’s a separate product to purchase, and the mounting of those bindings should be handled by a ski shop. So there is some value in exploring the inventories and services of a few brick-and-mortar retailers.

Why Trust Trip Savvy?

Nathan Borchelt has been testing, rating, and reviewing outdoor and travel products for decades, with a particular emphasis on cold-weather sports. Professional and amateur reviews were both consulted, and the key characteristics of each ski were evaluated to assure that the ski would deliver what the manufacturers promise, taking into account ski conditions, skier skill levels, and other applications.

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