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General information for New XC Skiers 

  1.  It is highly recommended that beginners take a lesson to learn the basics, especially if they have no experience on skis.
  2.  Suggest renting equipment to try different skis and have an opportunity to talk with more experienced skiers for their recommendations before you buy.
  3. Experienced skiers in the group can give tips to refine your technique.  Let them know if you would appreciate it.


The key to cross country clothing is to dress in layers that are easy to add or subtract on the trail.  XC skiing is a much warmer sport than downhill skiing because you work harder on the flat and uphill and build up considerable body heat.

Be sure that all of your clothing is synthetic or wool.  Breathable fabric is best.  Never wear cotton.  It absorbs and retains moisture when you sweat and then chills you when it cools down.  This can lead to hypothermia.

If you already hike in the winter you likely already have what you need.  Costco, Marshall’s, and T.J. Max can be excellent sources for what you need as well as the pricier outdoor clothing stores.

  1. Upper Body:  Recommend 3-4 layers. E.g. thin long underwear, UnderArmor type thermal top, sweater/fleece layer (preferably with a zipper or buttons for easy clothing adjustments on the trail), and a water resistant jacket.   The jacket need not be especially heavy.  In general, a thinner jacket might require warmer under layers, and a warmer jacket might require lighter weight under layers.  BUT, it’s important to keep all the layers.
  2. Lower Body:  Wear water resistant, stretchy pants and a long John layer.  If your outer pants aren’t especially heavy you may want a lightweight fleece under layer for especially cold days.
  3. Feet:  Wool socks  are the best!  You might want a thin liner sock to help prevent blisters.  You can use thin trouser socks or knee high nylons instead of official liner socks.  Most skiers use toe warmers.
  4. Other appendages:  It’s your choice depending on your preference and your circulation.  You will need something toasty for your hands, neck, and head.  Hand warmers are a necessity for many.

    An important clothing rule of thumb is that if you aren’t a little chilly when you start out skiing, you are overdressed.


Here are a few basics to know when you are ready to buy.  (Look at the “equipment” section of the pull-down menu if you want detailed information.)

Ski sizes are determined primarily by weight.  The fish scales of waxless skis grip the snow to give forward motion.  They are in the slightly bowed part of the ski under your boot.  If you are too heavy for your ski size the scales are pushed strongly into the snow and you won’t have much glide.  If you are too light the scales won’t hit the snow enough to give you forward push or climbing ability.  How fast you prefer to ski is also a factor if your weight is between sizes.  A good salesperson will ask you your weight and the type of skiing you prefer ( e,g, hills or flat, groomed trails or back country) before recommending a ski size.

  • In general, narrower longer style skis are faster.  Wider shorter style skis have more control and have less glide.  
  • Notice which skis the experienced skiers are using and ask them why they chose them.
  • Boots and bindings must be compatible.  Choose boots for comfort and ankle support.  Any one ski store might not have much, if any, choice of bindings to fit the boots you choose.  Good bindings should be easy to step into and easy to release from a standing position with your pole.
  • Suggest you buy your equipment up north near or in xc ski centers.  Salespeople in NJ likely have little knowledge of xc skiing.

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