There are two techniques used for cross-country skiing; Classic and Skate. As a cross-country ski technique, skating is actually comparatively young, first being used in the 1980s. Classic, on the other hand, has been included in the Olympics since 1924. Classic technique is comparable to running with alternate arms and legs propelling the skier forward up a twin-cut spur. Skate technique is more akin to ice-skating, roller blading and speed skating with power from the legs being generated by a side-to-side motion on wide, smooth trails.
After the Seefield 1985 World Championship, where all the medals were won utilising skate, classic and skate were separated and defined as separate techniques. Specific equipment has since been developed for each technique.
For both classic and skate, boots attach to the ski binding at the toe only, allowing a wide-range of motion and free heel. The equipment for both techniques is also lightweight – especially in comparison to alpine ski equipment.
Skate skis are typically shorter than classic skis and the poles are longer, reaching to between the skier’s shoulder and nose. The boots provide ankle support and are stiffer along the sole. Skate roller skis are typically slightly shorter than classic roller skis and have wheels that are free to roll backwards as well as forwards.
Classic skis tend to be slightly longer and cambered so that the central section makes contact with the snow when the skier kicks down on the ski. Forward propulsion is generated by the ski gripping the snow, which can be achieved through a variety of different technologies such as fishscales (notching in the base), hairiesor zeros (fibrous hairs on the base) or wax (sticky tub wax corked onto the base). The poles are slightly shorter, coming up to the skier’s armpits and the boots have minimal ankle support and are very flexible at the toe. Classic roller skis have a ratchetted front wheel to prevent the ski rolling backwards and providing the grip equivalent to the central section of a ski.
New cross-country and roller ski equipment can be bought online or at specialised sport shops in Scotland. Second-hand gear is also available from club kit sales or centre ex-rentals. The price for a complete roller ski package including boots, roller skis and poles starts from about £210. Second hand ski packages start from about £120.