The essential equipment requirements of cross country ski racing are skis, boots and poles. A basic introduction to these components and where to get it is covered on the Discover XC getting started section. Some additional tips are included below.
For recreational racing only one or two pairs of skis are needed, depending on whether you are participating in Classic or Skating races or both. Unless there’s an experienced coach to assist you, beginners should stick to waxless skis (often called fischscales) in Classic races in Australia. For both Classic and Skating skis the stiffness (or camber) of skis is the most important factor – seek professional advice when buying skis.
As athletes progress through the sport the number of skis needed increases. It is useful to have a warm-up pair for important races. Different pairs of skis can be faster or more effective in warm or cold conditions, or hard or soft snow conditions. National Team athletes will usually have a pair of micro-base Classic skis for new falling snow conditions when waxing is really tricky.
At World Cup level it’s common for Australian athletes to travel with 8-10 pairs of skis, testing before the races to find the fastest pair.
Ski poles should be different length for Classic and Skate, approximately armpit height for Classic and chin height for Skate. At FIS level competition a maximum pole length of 83% of the skiers’ height was introduced in 2016.
Top of the line poles are incredibly stiff and light, but are also easy to break. For beginners and Interschools racers, it is recommended to stick with a more robust pole that will handle a bit of argy-bargy. IMPORTANT. With new poles take care that the grips and baskets are glued on properly.
There are two main binding systems in use in Australia and around the world, SNS (Salomon) and NNN (Rottefella). All the major ski/boots brands are aligned to one of these systems:
SNS – Boot brands include Salomon, Atomic and Oneway
NNN – Boot brands include Fischer, Madshus, Alpina and Rossignol
The Australian Team has an approximately 50/50 split of athletes using these two systems.
Grip waxing for Classic racing in Australia is not straight forward, as snow conditions usually change throughout the day. This is why waxless skis are recommended for beginners and Interschools Classic racing. If you are taking the plunge to race on wax skis and are waxing yourself, this Advice on Classic Waxing in Australia by Level 3 coach Bob Cranage is essential reading.
Glide waxing can be incredibly complex or relatively simple. In 2016 a Low-Fluor Waxing Protocol was implemented for state junior championship level competitions and below to help keep a level playing field. Save your money for the Australian Championship events (or the Kangaroo Hoppet where you can have fast skis and support the National Team).
If all else fails, employ a wombat to wax your skis.