The Basics

Step 1: Know your skier's equipment needs.

We teach both skate and classic techniques in all of our programs. Below is a description of the equipment your skier will need for these techniques.

For those trying skiing out or for athletes engaging with skiing as a recreational sport, your skier will need the items below at a minimum:

  • One pair of combi (combination) skis
  • One pair of combi boots
  • Two pairs of poles: (1 for skate, 1 for classic)

For families interested in racing, we recommend separate skis for classic and skate techniques. We also recommend separate boots for classic and skate techniques, starting somewhere around age 11-12 (younger skiers will do fine with a good combi boot that fits snugly and has a stiff collar). Separate skis make a big difference in performance and also save time on waxing (combi skis have to be re-waxed when the club switches practice between skate and classic and vice-versa). If interested in racing, your skier will need:

  • One pair of skate skis
  • One pair of waxable classic skis
  • One pair of boots
  • Two pairs of poles: (1 for skate, 1 for classic)

Step 2: Decide whether you want to rent or buy equipment.

Renting is often a good option for families who are trying out skiing or looking to right-size the family budget. For first year families, we highly recommend renting equipment.

  • If you choose to rent, the Weston Ski Track is a “safe” choice - they know the ski track and the EMXC programs well. The Weston Ski Track typically offers a combi ski package (and a few skate + classic ski packages).
  • If you choose to rent somewhere else, be careful. Kid’s rental equipment at cross-country centers almost always falls into the “what not to get” category.

Buying is often a good option for families committed to skiing or families with multiple skiers, who pass equipment down from skier to skier.

  • Skis: When buying new skis, there is no substitute for guidance from an experienced shop like Bikeway Source in Bedford. Skis are primarily selected to match a skier’s weight and it can sometimes be difficult to assess a ski’s ‘flex’ without experience.
  • Boots and Poles: Bikeway Source is also a good option for boots and poles, but mail-order and online shops are also a reasonable option since boots and poles are easier to size/match to a skier without advice from a shop. Just make sure the boots fit if you buy them online - try them on rather than assume they’re the right size!
  • Used Equipment: There are opportunities to buy used equipment at our club’s ski swap and through the club’s used gear list (available in our Members Only page of this website), where you can often find a deal on equipment loved by other kids (and adults) during previous seasons. If you are buying skis from other families, be sure to check that they are a good match for your athlete’s weight (ask Chris Li or a coach for advice if you aren’t sure). Do not rely solely on sizing charts that you might find on the web. sums it up with their cautionary warning, "Be wary of generic size charts because ski sizing is not standardized between brands, and varies from different models of skis within the same brand."
  • Warnings:
    • End-of-year sales can be tempting, but it is difficult to know how much an athlete will weigh or how tall they will be next season, and equipment purchases often don’t fit when ski season arrives.
    • If you buy boots and skis from separate sources, be absolutely certain that the ski binding system matches the boots. (What is a binding system? See below.)
    • Feeling overwhelmed? Contact our equipment coordinator using the information found on the Members Only page.

Step 3: Consider These Additional Equipment Tips


  • Use waxable classic skis, not wax-less, fish-scale skis which will be slow and interfere with learning proper technique.

Boots and Socks

  • Use race/performance-oriented combi or dedicated skate and classic skis and boots, not touring skis or touring boots which are designed for off-track comfort, stability and warmth. Touring equipment will be too loose/flexible for learning proper technique.
  • Make sure boots fit well with one pair of light or medium-weight socks! The boot is the athlete’s connection to the ski and a loose fit makes it difficult to control the ski. This is very frustrating for athletes at all levels of learning. As parents we often buy clothing that our kids will “grow into” - this is not a good strategy for ski boots.
  • Adding extra socks to ward off the cold can actually make feet colder by reducing blood flow to the feet. Toe warmers are a better option in the cold.

Binding System (Connection between ski boot and ski)

  • Pick a single binding system for your family (NNN is the most common in the US market). Working with a single standard allows athletes to switch between multiple pairs of skis easily, and allows families to pass down equipment to younger siblings.
  • Use NNN or SNS racing bindings, not three-pin bindings which are optimized for touring and backcountry skiing and do not work for skating.
  • Be certain that the boot matches the ski binding. If you would like to learn more, read about bindings in the Additional Info section below.


  • Use racing pole baskets, not round-basket, touring-style poles which do not allow for a proper pole-plant with proper technique.
  • Use racing straps with Velcro closure that allow the athlete to easily release and retrieve the pole during skiing and are recommended in favor of 'single-loop' straps.
  • Proper pole length is important. Refer to info in the Additional Info section below.

Additional Information

Skis & Wax

Ski performance is primarily a function of ski flex and camber (the "curve" of the ski). Skis are therefore sized to a skier's weight. Skis are also waxed in different ways depending on the technique.

Classic skis are propelled in a straight-line by a "kick" impulse that connects kick wax with the snow, allowing the athlete a momentary base to push from. Therefore, classic skis are designed so the kick-waxed section under the foot sits on the snow when the skier "kicks" and stays off the snow when a skier is gliding.

Note: EMXC Youth athletes use waxable skis rather than wax-less/fish-scale skis. Wax-less skis are slower than waxable skis and, because the grip is so reliable, prevent skiers from learning proper technique.

Skate skis are propelled by an angled edge-push. Therefore, skate skis are designed so that the edge of the ski creates a stable surface while pushing, and also so the athlete's weight is distributed along the length of the ski while gliding.

Combi skis are designed to accommodate both classic and skate techniques. Combi skis receive different wax application depending on the technique being used that day.


Classic boots are designed to allow the foot to flex easily front-to-back. Because classic technique is quite linear, classic boots do not provide significant ankle support.

Skate boots are designed to enhance the skier's ability to push against the edge of the ski, and have a cuff that provides lateral stiffness.

Combi boots are designed to balance the flexibility required for classic skiing with the stiffness/support required for skate skiing.


There are multiple binding systems in the market. Boot and ski bindings must match - ask if you are not 100% certain.

In the past, there were primarily two competing binding standards: NNN and SNS. In recent years, Salomon, the maker of SNS systems, has introduced new SNS bindings and boots that are compatible with NNN. So, there are typically more options in the NNN system (this is the system most common on club roller skis and in EMXC Juniors). The trick is that older SNS equipment is not compatible with NNN. Make sure to check!


Pole length is specific to each technique.

Classic poles are approximately the same length as the distance from the ground to the top of the should joint (if athletes progress into more serious racing, the competition limit for classic pole length is 83% of a skier's height, measured in their classic boots).

Skate poles are approximately the same length as the distance from the ground to the top of the upper lip (usually ~10cm longer than a classic pole).

A sizing chart is included below to help navigate pole-length decisions.

Skier’s height

Skate Poles

Classic Poles

106 cm (3’6″)

95 cm

85 cm

114 cm (3’9″)

100 cm

90 cm

122 cm (4’0″)

105 cm

95 cm

130 cm (4’3″)

110 cm

100 cm

137 cm (4’6″)

115 cm

105 cm

140 cm (4’7″)

120 cm

120 cm

142 cm (4’8″)

125 cm

115 cm

145 cm (4’9″)

125 cm

115 cm

147 cm (4’10”)

130 cm

120 cm

150 cm (4’11”)

130 cm

120 cm

152 cm (5’0″)

135 cm

125 cm