Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Cross Country Ski Stuff Post!

Shane in Utah was kind enough to ask me about the difference between skate ski and classic ski stuff, so I thought I'd take some pictures and show you.  A caveat:  I'm a beginner, and have newer equipment, but beginner level equipment.

We'll start off looking at the skis themselves.  First the bottoms.  Newer classic skis have these sort of ridgy, patterned bottoms (except, I gather that real classic skiers use non-ridged skis and special wax to do the grippy thing to kick off).  The ridgy stuff is in the middle third (or so) of the ski.  Skate skis just have the one groove.  (I THINK older classic skis just had the groove, too.)  Newer classic skis can be "waxless"; you don't have to do the melted wax into the bottom thing.  (But, again, real classic skiers do a special wax thing where they wax the kick area with a grippy wax, and the glide area with a slippery wax.  You can guess why I went with the more basic beginner set up.)  You are supposed to put this liquid stuff on, but I haven't used these much lately (since I started skate skiing), so I haven't.  And now I can't find mine, so I need to go get some.  That's why my classic skis look so dry.

Here's a shot of my classic skis, one upside down, so you can see the full extent of the ridgy area.

As far as I understand it, when your weight is on the ski (which is when it's just under you to when you're pushing off), the ridgy things sort of grip at the snow and help you push off more.  Since you're using the bottoms of the skis to push off, basically mostly in a straight push, the ridges help.  And you're doing that mostly from your toes, so that's why--I think--the ridgy part is more in front than in back of the binding.  But somehow the ridgy things don't keep you from gliding too badly.

What's hard to see here is the the skate skis (on the right) have a tiny edge to them, and when I say tiny, I mean tiny.  You can feel it, but it's not sharp.

And now the tops of the skis.

This picture was taken with the rear ends of the skis even.  You can see that the skate skis are a little narrower, and a slight bit shorter.  They also aren't quite as curved up at the end.  I think they have a bit more bow to them.  I don't know what the groove is for, but I would GUESS it's one of those i-beam things, which would give the ski more lateral strength?  (You're supposed to push off to the sides with skate skis, like an ice skater, sort of.  Thus the name.)

One last bit on the skis.  In both cases, the skis are bowed so that if there's no weight on them, the middles stand up, as you can see in the picture below.  My skate skis are more strongly bowed than my classic skis.

So, let's look at the uppers of the boots.

As you can see from both of these photos, the skate ski boots are bigger, and there's a lot more support around the ankles.  I'm told you need that support because of the way you push off in skate skiing.  They're sort of in between classic boots and downhill boots (which are HUGE and way more solid).

That and, as you can tell, my skate stuff is yellow and orange, so it goes WAY faster.  /nod

Finally, let's look at the poles.

My skate pole is on the right here, and as you can see, it's a bit longer than the classic pole.

Let's look closely at the straps.

The skate straps wrap around more fully, so that you don't really need to hold on, sort of, to push.  And they're like gloves in that the right and left are different (which I don't think the classic poles are).

 (Again, I'm guessing that if I'd started as a skate skier, I'd use the same poles and the same boots, because the greater structure wouldn't be a big problem for classic skiing--though maybe pole length would--but you need it more for skating, supposedly.)

And there's my tour of classic and skate skis.  We had RAIN yesterday, which means our snow is now not great, and we need more so that I can go out and play on my skis.  The cool thing about doing this post, though, is that I've now figured out that I could use my boots on either ski, but that the bit that keeps you from going too far forward wouldn't work as well.  I don't know if that's really important, but I'm going to guess that I need all the help I can get at my ability and skill level, and so long as I have skis and bindings that go together, I'll use them.

Who else feels like going skiing now!


Now I've been looking at real ski sites, and learned that my bindings are different more because I got skate bindings to work with the used boots I'd already bought, rather than that the bindings for the two different sorts of skis are different.  Anyway, here's what I said earlier about the bindings, and pictures.

Let's take a look at the bottoms of the boots, because that will help us make sense of the bindings.

The toes are down in this picture. The classic boot is on the left, the skate on the right. First, you can see that the classic boot is smaller than the skate boot even though they both fit my feet well. More on that in a bit. For now, notice that on the classic boot there are two little metal bars, let's call them the toe bar (on the bottom) and the arch bar (up an inch or two). On the skate boot, there's just the toe bar.

The next thing to notice is that on both, there's a wide recessed area in the center, and on either side, a sort of raised area. That fits with the ski bindings so that when you're standing on the skis, you don't slip laterally. (The toe thing keeps the boot attached.)

Let's look more closely at the bindings on the skis.

If you look at the left, classic binding, from the top of the picture (the front toe part), you can see the pale grey area, and just behind that (towards the bottom of the picture, a slot. That's the toe bar slot. Then there's a black piece, which has a little hook to it. That's where the arch bar fits. That black thing pivots up and down and slides forward and back so that you can be on your toes basically, and stay attached, still. (I have no idea why that seems important, but there you go. I have a friend who uses her skate boots on her classic skis, so it may not actually be necessary?)

Here's a shot from the side of the classic binding.

And here's a picture of my boot in the binding, showing that pivot bit. As I look at it, I think the pivot hook thing probably keeps you from tilting forward too easily, perhaps. When we look at the skate binding, there's another bit that seems to do that, too.

On the skate ski, there's the toe bar slot, and just in front of that, a black plastic piece. You have to push that down to close the toe bar slot so it holds the bar in (and the boot on). You lift it to let the boot loose. In contrast, on the classic skis, the toe bar slot clicks closed when you toe your weight in there, and then to let it loose, you push on the recessed area of the light grey part with your ski pole.

Here are side pictures of the skate binding and then of the binding with a shoe in.

In the upper picture, the toe slot is open. In the lower one, with the boot in, it's closed. And you can see that the red rubber thing sort of acts as a spring to keep the skier from tilting too far forward (or at least to provide some resistance). I'm GUESSING that the space where the arch bar is on the skate ski means that you could have an arch bar on the boot but it wouldn't get used?

As I look, I'm guessing that you could probably get classic skis with the different way of stopping you from tilting forward, but I'm not sure why one of mine works one way and the other works the other. (I bought the basic beginner stuff for classic, so got the basic package. But when I got my skate skis, I was able to find used boots at a swap, and they fit, and then bought the skis to fit the boots, if that makes sense. So MAYBE if I'd bought skate stuff first, I could have gotten the same binding for classic skis and used the same boots?


  1. I learned so much from this--thanks!

  2. "Who else feels like going skiing now!"

    I am shuddering. I think I need to go and lie down for a bit.

    My idea of winter exercise is a good long swim followed by lying in the steam room pretending that I am in Sri Lanka or similar.

  3. Shane in Utah11:58 AM

    Wow, I didn't expect a full-blown tutorial, but thanks! I'm irritated (with myself) to discover that I'm supposed to have been treating my classic skis with something. Off to the sporting goods store to spend MORE money, I guess. (Downhill skiing is costing me a fortune this season...)

  4. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Hi! I would like to go skiing today but our weather is awful - put in some time for me.

    I read your post this morning on my RSS reader before you edited about your bindings. The difference you have there really just has to do with the brand - Salomon uses a different type of binding than other brands (like Fischer boots/bindings) use.

    You can still get classic skis that are waxable and don't have the fish scales you showed - from the bottom, they look just like your skate skis. I actually have two identical pairs of Rossignol classic skis, except one pair is waxable and one is waxless. The waxless skis are much easier to just pick up and leave the house with because, as you said, all you need is a little glide wax and you're good to go. On waxable classic skis you would need to find your kick zone, apply special kick wax to that zone, and glide wax to the rest of the ski. A little (ok, a lot) more time-consuming but much better for fine-tuning for snow conditions. Of course, I have not mastered kick wax and never seem to get it right.

    Also, I was going to add that the fish scales don't slow you down gliding because they (should) only come in contact with the snow when your weight is fully on that ski. With your weight balanced on both skis, a properly-sized ski won't be fully in contact with the ground (you should be able to slide a piece of paper back and forth under the kick zone). You'll also notice this if, like me, you're a little light for your skis and don't get your weight just right over that kick zone to push off.

    And now I'll stop. I'm really just a huge ski nerd and couldn't resist! Many wishes for a winter full of perfect skiing snow :)

  5. Yay! Yay! This is what winter is for, baby! You know that I think of very little else from November to May...

    And: Orange IS WAY faster. /nod

    And: Shane: Drive south. I'll be happy to help you spend your money--though it'll be less than on the downhill slopes.