The 9 Best Cross-Country Skis for 2020

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is an excellent way to quickly traverse snowy terrain – and it’s a fantastic workout to boot!

To make the most of your next cross-country skiing adventure, it’s important to select the best cross-country skis for your skill level and preferred style of cross-country skiing as well as the expected terrain and conditions.

We’ve gone through the best cross-country skis available in 2020 to find the very best ones for you. Our reviews focus on weight, performance, durability, ease of use, and special features.

Here are the best cross-country skis for 2020.


Top Cross-Country Skis Comparison Chart

 Product

Image

Overall Rating

Cost

 Salomon Snowscape 7

 
 ★★★★
$$ 

Rossignol Evo OT 65 Positrack

  ★★★★ $$$

Madshus Epoch 68

  ★★★ $$$

Fischer Spider 62 Crown

  ★★★★  $$

Madshus CT 140 Intelligrip 

  ★★★★  $$$

Asnes Ingstad

  ★★★★★ $$$$

Fischer Fiber Crown EF Tour

  ★★★★  $

Salomon RS Skate

  ★★★★★$$$ 

Black Diamond GlideLite 147 Snow Trekker

  ★★★★  $$$$

Best Cross-Country Skis Reviews

Here are our picks for the 9 best cross-country skis for 2020:

1.     Salomon Snowscape 7

Salomon Snowscape 7

The Salomon Snowscape 7 are our top-ranked best cross-country skis for beginners.

The wide-bodied skis offer plenty of traction, stability, and flotation for newcomers, especially when learning basic maneuvers like turning. A partial metal edge further helps with turning, climbing, and more.

Not only do these Salomon cross-country skis perform remarkably well, but they are durable and lightweight to boot.

What We Like:

The Snowscape 7 is ideal for beginners thanks to their wide, stable design that provides plenty of traction and flotation on both groomed and ungroomed trails.

What We Don’t Like:

Since they’re designed specifically with beginners in mind, these Salomon cross-country skis are far too basic for advanced and even most intermediate skiers.

2.     Rossignol Evo OT 65 Positrack

Rossignol Evo OT 65

For a versatile pair of all-around cross-country skis, look no further than the Rossignol Evo OT 65.

Not only are they incredibly durable and easy to use, but theses top-of-the-line skis perform just as well in groomed tracks as they do in the backcountry. Much of this performance is thanks to the wide dimensions, partial metal edges, and waxless bases.

These Rossignol cross-country skis are also notable for their lightweight construction which not only increase performance, but help ensure you can ski for longer without getting tired.

What We Like:

The Evo OT 65 is perfect for intermediate recreational skiers that find themselves tackling a variety of terrain types, including groomed tracks, maintained trails, and backcountry snow.

What We Don’t Like:

Because they’re created with more advanced skiers in mind, these Rossignol cross-country skis are probably a bit too expensive for most beginners. Their wide design also limits their speed somewhat.

3.     Madshus Epoch 68

Madshus Epoch 68

The Madshus Epoch 68 clocks in as one of the best backcountry touring skis for ascents, descents, and flat terrain.

Full-length metal edges and a progressive sidecut make it easy to traverse ungroomed backcountry terrain and make controlled turns in deep snow. The skis are wide for increased flotation and boast a single camber for improved performance, especially on steep climbs.

The Epoch 68 is a veritable jack of all trades cross-country ski. Their unique design enables them to easily climb uphill but hit fast, fun carves and lines on the way back down.

What We Like:

These Madshus cross-country skis are versatile and perform well for both cross-country skiing and basic downhill skiing. They’re specifically created for backcountry conditions and handle excellently in deep snow, ice, and steep terrain.

What We Don’t Like:

Although the Epoch 68 is a jack of all trades, it’s also a master of none. It’s a very versatile ski but it doesn’t exactly excel in any one area. This is most evident on groomed tracks and trails where its relative lack of glide (compared to other top-level cross-country skis) is more noticeable.

4.     Fischer Spider 62 Crown

Fischer Spider Crown 62

Another popular all-around cross-country ski, the Fischer Spider 62 Crown is an excellent choice for experienced skiers that demand versatility.

The ski performs well both on trails and off. Their lightweight design and relatively narrow stature coupled with progressive-depth waxless bases makes for excellent gliding speed on groomed tracks. Yet the double camber keeps the ski tips above deep snow without minimizing traction and propulsion with each kick.

Also noticeable is overall stability and easy maneuvering. The metal edges provide traction and bite, no matter the terrain, without ever becoming overpowering.

What We Like:

This popular, low-maintenance Fischer cross-country ski is just about as versatile as they come, whether you’re gliding across tracks on a groomed trail without tracks or fording through fresh snow.

What We Don’t Like:

Despite their metal edges, the Spider 62 Crown offers a little less “bite,” especially on steep uphills, than other metal-edged touring skis in their class.

5.     Madshus CT 140 Intelligrip

The Madshus CT 140 Intelligrip is a top-notch recreational cross-country ski for beginners and those that only head out a few times per season.

Perhaps most noticeable about these skis is their rugged and durable construction. They’ll last you for years on end. They boast remarkable stiffness while still remaining lightweight.

Waxless bases, using Madshus’s Intelligrip skins, make for excellent grip on all terrain. Kicks are secure and stable, no matter the conditions. Although narrower than previous model years, the CT 140 Intelligrip is still fairly wide for plenty of stability during speedy descents.   

What We Like:

These Madshus skis really shine in terms of stability, kick, and glide. They are narrow enough for all groomed tracks and provide a lot of speed here. However, they also excel on steep uphills and are plenty stable on speedy downhills.

What We Don’t Like:

Like many of the best cross-country skis on this list, the CT 140 Intelligrip is more of an all-around ski, rather than one designed to excel in a particular area. While this is no problem for recreational beginner skiers, it is probably a setback for intermediate to advanced skiers that favor a particular type of activity.

6.     Asnes Ingstad

https://snp.link/db92e336

Not only is the Asnes Ingstad one of the best cross-country skis on the market, but they’re also among the most unique.

Created specifically for the backcountry, these skis boast traditional double camber but have seriously rockered tips. This helps the otherwise skinny skis (just 62mm) at the waist to stay on top of deep snow. The wider tail (74mm) and tip (84mm) further help provide flotation.

This Asnes ski provides an excellent combination of stability and turning in the backcountry and on groomed trails. They are a good choice for long traverses in deep snow, steep terrain, and otherwise demanding conditions.

What We Like:

There’s a lot to love about the Asnes Ingstad. In addition to a unique design which performs very well for its intended purposes (telemark and backcountry skiing), the Ingstad is remarkably robust. Like all Asnes skis, this pair will last you for years on end.

What We Don’t Like:

The Asnes Ingstad is quite expensive. They also boast a unique, specialized design which makes them suitable only for more advanced skiers.

7.     Fischer Fibre Crown EF Tour

Fischer Fibre Crown EF Tour

Perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers alike, the Fischer Fibre Crown EF Tour is one of the best cross-country skis for navigating groomed trails without breaking the bank.

These Fischer skis are built from the ground up with beginners in mind. They are intuitive and easy to use. The efficient design means you don’t have to be very experienced to successfully use these (and have a great day) on groomed trails.

The skis turn fast and easily. They are stable and provide an efficient kick. Robust construction throughout, especially on the nose and tail, ensures durability.

What We Like:

The Fibre Crown EF Tour excels on groomed trails and fresh snow. They are beginner-friendly enough for just about anyone to use. Plus, their affordable price makes them a great choice for those that are brand new to cross-country skiing.

What We Don’t Like:

The things that make these Fischer cross-country skis so easy to use, namely the increased stability and excellent turning control, have one downside: a lack of speed. Although this can be a problem for some intermediate skiers, it shouldn’t steer most beginners away.

8.     Salomon RS Skate

Salomon RS Skate

For skate skiing on well-groomed, hard-packed snow, you have few better options than the Salomon RS Skate.

These skate skis are prefect for the groomed tracks at your local Nordic club. The skis are very responsive thanks to their single camber design. The waxed bases provide an all but perfect combination of grip and glide.

The skis themselves are incredibly high performance. They are lightweight and more than responsive enough for racing. Fast acceleration and high glide speeds are possible. All this without sacrificing anything in the way of stability.

What We Like:

Light and fast are the two things we love most about the Salomon RS Skate. They are incredibly responsive and are perfect for both working out and racing at your local Nordic club.

What We Don’t Like:

Like many high-end cross-country skis, these Salomon skate skis are expensive and specialized. They can only really be used on groomed trails. They are not a versatile all-around cross-country ski.

9.     Black Diamond GlideLite 147 Snow Trekker

Black Diamond GlideLite Snow Trekker

The Black Diamond GlideLite 147 Snow Trekkers are chief among the best all-around cross-country adventure skis available now.

Their unique design makes them ideal for backcountry exploration on relatively flat or mildly rolling terrain. They do not perform well on steep or difficult terrain but do make quick work of deep snow and even ice.

That said, these skis aren’t exactly cross-country skis in the traditional sense. Instead, they’re something of a combination between cross-country skis, alpine touring skis, and even snowblades. In fact, their function sort of reflects those of snowshoes, interestingly enough.

What We Like:

These purpose-built skis are very easy to use. They provide one of the funnest and easiest ways to traverse mellow backcountry terrain.

What We Don’t Like:

The fact that they’re purpose built severely limits the functionality of these skis. They really only work well in very specific conditions: mellow terrain with soft snow. Anything too steep, too deep, or too rough and skiing becomes difficult.


Cross-Country Skis Buyer’s Guide

Classic Cross-Country Skiing

A little knowledge about the various components and features of cross-country skis will help you select the best pair for you.  Here are the most important factors to consider:

Type

There are three main types of cross-country skis to choose from. The type that best suits you depends on your intended style of cross-country skiing and your skill level.

  • Touring – These fast, efficient all-around cross-country skis are designed for use on groomed trails and tracks.
  • Racing – These high-performance cross-country skis are built with speed in mind for racing on groomed trails and tracks.
  • Backcountry – These metal-edged cross-country skis are typically shorter and wider than other types for increased flotation in deep snow. The metal edges bite into ice for more traction. They are best used in backcountry terrain, including on steep slopes.

Know that there are many sub-types of cross-country skis. However, most cross-country skiers will do well with one of these three main types. Beginners, for instance, almost always do best with basic recreational touring cross-country skis.

Ski Length

Your height and weight are the main factors regarding which length of cross-country skis are right for you.

The taller and/or heavier you are, the longer your skis must be. Most manufacturers offer a sizing guide that will recommend a suggest ski length based on your height/weight.

Although you should use your height and weight as a guideline when buying cross-country skis, it’s also important to consider your skill level, expected terrain, and style of skiing.

Shorter skis are typically easier to control than longer skis. This means that beginners should select a set of skis on the shorter end of the spectrum. Those that are more experienced might prefer longer skis since they allow you to move more quickly and efficiently.

As for terrain, shorter skis are best for very rugged terrain, especially in the backcountry. For skiing only on groomed trails, however, you’ll likely be far happier with a slightly longer pair.

Width & Sidecut

The width (and sidecut) of your cross-country skis directly influences which activities they’re best suited for.

Narrower skis are generally better for skiing in groomed tracks while wider skis are best for out-of-track touring. Something in the middle (around 65mm to 70mm at the tip) is best for a general-use ski that works for both groomed trails and backcountry terrain. For those skiing solely on groomed tracks, a ski with a tip no wider than approximately 70mm is ideal. 

That said, cross-country skis have an hourglass shape known as a “sidecut.” This means that the ski is actually different widths throughout. The actual shape of the sidecut can also be important to consider, especially if you’re buying a high-performance set of skis, such as racing cross-country skis. 

Camber

Cross-country skis are bowed upwards in the middle. This is the board’s camber. For instance, if you place the ski on a flat surface, you’ll notice that the middle sits up off the ground while the tip and tail rest flat on the ground.

Camber can affect the performance of the ski. The majority of cross-country skis have what’s known as a double camber (sometimes called Nordic camber). The bow is larger in a double camber ski which makes them ideal for groomed terrain.

Although single camber is fairly uncommon on cross-country skis, some metal-edged touring models have single camber for rougher, steeper terrain, like you’d find in the backcountry. 

Ski Flex

Ski flex is related to camber. Generally, a double camber ski is noticeably stiffer than a single camber ski.

Flex not only influences speed and ease of use, but also turning ability. Softer flex is generally better in soft snow while a stiffer flex is better on harder pack.

Fortunately, ski flex is of minimal concern unless you’re into cross-country ski racing. Most recreational and touring models have only subtle differences in flex that you likely won’t notice unless you’re quite experienced.

Waxable or Waxless Bases

Cross-country skis grip the snow in one of two ways: waxable bottoms or with a built-in textured pattern.

Waxable bases are less common but are arguably higher performing. You must regularly apply rub-on wax to your skis to maintain traction. In addition to the time it takes to perform this maintenance, waxable skis lack performance in very cold temperatures.

Waxless bases, on the other hand, feature a textured pattern. This manufactured texture provides traction without the need for wax. Not only does this minimize maintenance, but these skis also perform well in all weather conditions.

Do note, however, that waxless cross-country skis still actually require you to apply wax to the tips and tails (just not the middle like waxable skis) for maximum performance.


Recommended Cross-Country Skiing Accessories

Cross-Country Skiing in Deep Snow

The best cross-country skis are just one piece of the puzzle. At a minimum, you also need bindings, boots, ski poles, and the right clothing. Here are the most important cross-country skiing accessories to add to your gear checklist:

Cross-Country Ski Bindings

Cross-country ski bindings are what keep your boots attached to the skis during use.

There are several different types of bindings for cross-country skis, although the differences are relatively minor. Most important is selecting a pair of boots and bindings that work well together.

Some cross-country skis come with pre-mounted bindings. Others come with the bindings included but not mounted. Still others require you to buy your own bindings separately.

A ton of different types of bindings are available, although NNN (New Nordic Norm) bindings and NIS (Nordic Integrated System) are two of the most common.

Cross-Country Ski Boots

As mentioned above, make sure to select a pair of cross-country ski boots that are compatible with both your bindings and your cross-country skis.

Also important is to buy boots suited to the type of cross-country skiing you prefer. Models for touring, racing, and backcountry use are quite a bit different from one another.

Of course, comfort is also essential. A well-fitting pair of boots will make or break your enjoyment of cross-country skiing. We recommend always buying cross-country ski boots in person so you can try several pairs on to find the model that’s most comfortable.

Cross-Country Ski Poles

Different ski pole models might all look the same but they’re actually quite different in use.

Models are available with specific uses in mind, such as touring, racing, and backcountry. Look for cross-country ski poles that match the activities you tend to use them for.

For example, touring ski poles are typically lightweight while backcountry ski poles are usually heavier duty.

Cross-Country Ski Clothing

The right clothing will help keep you warm and try while cross-country skiing, no matter the conditions.

Although well-insulated, waterproof clothing is often necessary, especially in very cold or snowy weather, breathability is also important.

Cross-country skiing is an often intense aerobic activity. You’ll likely sweat a lot. It’s essential that your clothing allows your sweat to evaporate in short order.

Like most winter outdoor activities, your best bet is layering. Start with lightweight, moisture-wicking base layers and add additional layers as necessary. The outer layer should be a waterproof shell.


Cross-Country Skiing FAQ

Cross-Country Skiing

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about cross-country skiing:

Q: What size cross-country skis do I need?

A: The best length of cross-country skis for you depends on your height, weight, and preferred type of skiing. Most manufacturers include suggested ski lengths (based on skier height) for each model. 

Q: Is cross-country skiing difficult?

A: There is a bit of a learning curve (more than with snowshoeing) but most beginners will learn to cross-country ski in no time at all.

Q: How much snow is required for cross-country skiing?

A: Only a few inches of snow are required for cross-country skiing, especially if you’re skiing on a flat surface like grass. Skiing on a trail with roots, rocks, and uneven ground requires more snow, usually at least 6 inches or more.

Q: Is cross-country skiing easier than snowshoeing?

A: Because snowshoeing is basically just like walking, it’s easier to learn than cross-country skiing. That said, most beginners will begin to feel comfortable on their cross-country skis after the first few hours.

Q: Is cross-country skiing easier than downhill skiing?

A: Cross-country is much easier to learn than downhill skiing since you typically start on flat ground instead of a slope.


Final Thoughts

Woman Cross-Country Skiing in Mountains

Take your time and do the research to find the best cross-country skis for you.

Whether you’re a beginner or advanced skier, whether you ski just a few times per season or all winter long, whether you’re on a tight budget or no budget at all, choosing the best cross-country skis relies on finding a pair that most closely matches your needs.

Still not sure which model is best for you? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here