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Sizing considerations for cross country skis

My wife would like to get skis... but she weighs 200+ pounds and is fairly short... It seems counterintuitive to have her get the longest skis (longer than mine... I am 6'/180#)... are there any other sizing considerations? This is for traditional/classic nordic.


Bill Zalenski

2 Replies

@bill414mke Thanks for reaching out!

Nordic skiing can be such a fun way to get outside in the winter! While skier weight is important, there are a couple of other sizing considerations for classic nordic skiing:

  • The skill level of the skier.
  • The height of the skier.
  • The kind of snow and terrain.

The main impact a skier's weight will have on a ski is regarding the glide of the ski. Generally speaking, the longer the ski the better the glide, as more weight is required to press down the center of the ski and engage the scales or kick wax. Given your wife's height, a longer ski that provides a lot of glide will be more challenging to maneuver and ski on. If your wife is new-ish to the sport, or is looking simply to get out and have fun in the winter then you could certainly go with a shorter ski, bearing in mind that she will likely sacrifice some glide performance. For your wife, we'll want to strike a balance between enough length for glide but short enough to be easy to use and fun.

Generally speaking, for classic skiing on a groomed track you want a ski length of 'height plus 20 cm'. If your wife is 5'2", for example, that is 157 cm so a 177 cm ski would fit her height. Based on the weight you listed, a ski of 210 cm would be correct. If your wife is new to nordic skiing we would recommend a ski length closer to that 177 cm length (something in the 175-185 cm range), if she is experienced then you could go a bit longer (something in the 185-195 range).

Your best case scenario would be to see if there was a rental option available to try out both lengths and see which works best. Additionally, choosing the correct wax for the snow conditions in your location can have a huge impact on the glide of your skis (particularly if you opt for the shorter models).

Hopefully this helps, thanks!  

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Hi @bill414mke 

A rule of thumb for the ski selection is that when she is gliding and stands on the both skis evenly, the skis underfoot, where the fish scales or the kick wax is, should not touch the snow surface. However, when she shifts the weight on one ski, that ski should be planted into the snow (this happens during the "kick" phase of the kick-and-glide stride). To test it in the room, slide a piece of paper under the ski. You should be able to pull the paper from under the ski when she shifts her weight evenly to both skis, while it should be clamped to the floor if she shifts her whole weight on a single one.

Different skis have different flex profile, and it is not as obvious which model from which manufacturer will be suitable. For example, my 13-year old son who is little over 100 lbs skis on Fischer Inbound Crown @ 189 cm and able to both kick and glide. I find this odd because Fischer has the reputation of making XC skis on the stiffer side, and 189 cm is the longest option of this model available. I am struggling on these and I am about the same build as you are.  This model was marketed as "backcountry" XC crossover, and those tend to be softer than racing models.

That being said, I'd check a few different models and consider them on the case-to-case basis using the rule of thumb I mentioned above. Another thing I want to mention is that the groomed XC/Nordic courses are, technically, built for skis that are 70 mm or narrower in its widest part (snow is not concrete, so I was able to ski groomers on Madshus Eon which is 83 mm in the shovel, but that's about it). A wider pair of skis will allow to explore ungroomed terrain but may not fit in the groomed track.