Cross-Country Skiing for Beginners


woman cross country skiing

If you’re looking for a low-impact winter activity that allows you to enjoy nature while still getting a good workout, cross-country skiing is for you! Cross-country skiing, a type of Nordic skiing, has two main types—classic and skate skiing. Many people wonder what the difference is between Nordic skiing and cross-country skiing. Simply put, nordic skiing is often used to reference competitive skiing while cross-country refers to recreational skiing. If you’re wanting to get into cross-country skiing but not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn about the types of cross country-skiing, how to find the right size of cross-country ski gear, and what to wear while outdoors! 

Types of Cross-Country Skiing

The most popular types of cross-country skiing are skate skiing and classic skiing. Other variations of cross-country skiing include telemark and alpine touring which are types of backcountry skiing where you go on unmarked areas outside a ski resort’s boundaries. Since classic and skate skiing are the most popular types for beginners, we will focus on those in this blog.

classic cross country skiing

Classic Skiing

Classic cross-country skiing is the original version of the sport and involves a straight-line stride called a “kick and glide.” This is most often done on groomed trails that have tracks you can follow. This is the most popular type of cross-country skiing and easiest style to learn. 


Skate skiing

Skate Skiing

Skate skiing uses a technique that makes the skier look like a speed skater on ice. This style of cross-country skiing is also done on groomed trails without the tracks. If you’re looking for a faster-paced experience and higher calorie burn, skate skiing is the best option.

Sizing Cross-Country Gear

Ski Sizing

Finding the right size for your cross-country skis shouldn’t be difficult! The formulas below will help you calculate the exact length your skis should be. Otherwise, the simple chart provides an estimate of your size based on your weight. 


Classic Skis: (Your Height in Inches) x 2.6 + 15 = Approximate ski length

Skate Skis: (Your Height in Inches) x 2.6 + 5 = Approximate ski length

Skier WeightClassic Ski LengthSkate Ski Length 
100-110 lbs.
180-190 cm
170-18 cm
110-120 lbs.
182-192 cm
172-182 cm
120-130 lbs.
185-195 cm
175-185 cm
130-140 lbs.
187-200 cm
177-187 cm
140-150 lbs.
190-205 cm
180-190 cm
150-160 lbs.
195-210 cm
185-195 cm
160-180 lbs.
200-210 cm
190-200 cm
>180 lbs.
205-210 cm
199-200 cm

Boot Sizing

Cross-country ski boots are measured in European sizing. The chart below creates an easy conversion chart from American to European sizing. 

Kids' SizeMen's SizeWomen's SizeEuropean Size
3.5-535
4-5.536
4.5-636-37
5-6.537
5.5-737-38
667.538
6.56.5838-39
778.539

7.5939-40

89.540

8.51040-41

910.541

9.51141-42

1011.542

10.51242-43

1112.544

11.5
44-45

12
45

12.5
45-46

13
46

14
47

15
48

16
49

17
50

Pole Sizing

An easy way to make sure your ski poles fit correctly is if they come to the height of your armpit. If you’re ordering online or unable to go to the store and try the poles, follow the chart below!

Kids' Size Chart

Skier HeightClassic Length (cm)Skate Length (cm)
3'6"8595
3’9”
90100
4’0”
95105
4’3”
100110
4’6”
105115
4’7”
110120
4’8”
115125
4’9”
115125
4’10”
120130
4’11”
120130

Adult Size Chart

Skier HeightClassic Length (cm)Skate Length (cm)
5’0”
125
135
5’1”
125
135
5’2”
130
140
5’3”
130
140
5’4”
135
145
5’5”
135
145
5’6”
140
150
5’7”
140
150
5’8”
145
155
5’9”
145
155
5’10”
150
160
5’11”
150
160
6’0”
155
165
6’1”
155
165
6’2”
160
170
6’3”
160
170
6’4”
165
175
6’5”
165
175
6’6”
175
175

What to Wear Cross-Country Skiing

cross country ski clothing

Make sure you check the weather before you head out for cross-country skiing. You’ll want to make sure you dress in warm, moisture-wicking layers that can easily be removed as needed. We recommend a base layer as your first layer made of synthetic or wool material. For a middle layer, we suggest a fleece or lightweight jacket topped with a water-resistant windproof layer that’s still breathable. If you’re looking for more information, check out our blog on how to choose a base layer or our tips on how to dress for outdoor workouts in the winter. Don’t forget your accessory essentials like merino-wool socks, gloves, and a hat or headband. Once your ensemble is complete, you’re ready to hit the trails!