Proper Fit for Cross-Country Skis & Poles

Proper Fit for Cross-Country Skis & Poles

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Use your body weight as well as your height to properly fit cross-country skis.

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Cross-country skiing is a winter activity that provides you with a great aerobic workout. This is due to the walking motion used for cross-country skiing. The type of skiing you intend to do -- racing, recreational touring, in-track or out -- will make a difference in the type of skis and poles you buy, but there are some commonalities regarding the proper fit. Your height, weight and experience level factor in to your purchase decisions.

Ski Length

The length of a cross-country ski is measured in centimeters. Classic skis for recreational touring are the longest. Touring skis offer more control in deep snow and are a little shorter. Skate-style skis, used on frozen, groomed trails, are the shortest type of cross-country ski. The length accommodates the short, skate-like strides of skating used on hard-packed snow. Nat Brown, author of "The Complete Guide to Cross-Country Ski Preparation," recommends proper fit of a classic ski to be your height plus 30 centimeters. A skate ski will be approximately 10 to 15 centimeters shorter than a classic model, with touring skis falling in between the two measures.


Flex refers to how flexible or "soft" a cross-country ski is. The flex affects your speed on the track or trail, and your ability to turn. Stiff skis with little flex help you go faster, especially on firm terrain. Beginning skiers often find softer, more flexible skis more comfortable and easier to handle. Experienced athletes have the technique, level of fitness and control required to use stiffer skis more effectively.


Your weight also plays a role in finding the proper fit of a cross-country ski. Many size charts give both height and weight ranges to correspond to ski length. The camber or arch of a ski also relies on weight as a determining factor for ski fit. A ski flat on the ground arches off the surface. This is the camber. The heavier you are, the more camber or higher arch you want to use. Lightweight skiers choose skis with less camber. You must use your body weight to press the ski to the ground and propel yourself forward. People who do not weigh as much can become fatigued when using a ski with high camber.


Choose your ski poles based on your type of skiing. Skiing in-track is on packed snow, meaning you'll need a strong pole to break through the firm snow. In-track poles feature small baskets, and are quite long, reaching to just below your armpits. Poles used for out-of-track touring or backcountry terrain are generally heavier and have larger baskets to help you balance in deeper, looser snow. Many touring poles are adjustable in height so you can tailor the length to the skiing conditions. Skate-style ski poles, used for a rapid stride, measure level with your chin.