Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors in winter, plus it’s an excellent workout too. Naturally, you wouldn’t want to spend more time in the wax room than on the snow itself, and that’s where waxless cross-country skis come into play.
These skis are ideal for both beginner and advanced cross-country skiers, however ski manufacturers constructed several methods to circumvent the necessity of ski waxing: while skis with scale patterns work well in most snow and weather conditions, the latest skin skis glide better and faster.
Choosing the right waxless cross-country skis can be challenging, especially when there are a plethora of options available. We have narrowed down a list of the best waxless cross-country skis that are worth the investment. Let’s have a look!
Waxless Cross-Country Ski Technologies
The invention of waxless skis has brought a revolution in the cross-country ski industry. With waxing being so time-consuming and sometimes a hard task to recreational skiers, Trak, a company of two Vermonters introduced the first-ever waxless, fish-scale skis to the world in 1970. Over the years, there have been various improvements, and many competitors like Fischer and Rossignol came up with their own models to meet customer demands.
While the evolution of waxless technologies is still ongoing, the most common types of waxless cross-country skis are the following:
Scale Pattern Skis
The first technology to be ever used on waxless skis was the scale pattern, also known as “fish” or “fish-scale” pattern. Placed at the bottom in the middle section of the skis, the scale pattern offers the necessary grip, meanwhile offering stability when climbing uphill.
On the other hand, the same stability which proved to be beneficial going uphill, made downhill sections slower and tiresome for the first scale pattern models, compared to regular waxable cross-country skis. In time, developers managed to fine-tune the pattern shape to make downhill gliding just as smooth and fun as with waxable skis – but in all snow conditions.
Note, that scale pattern cross-country skis are also considered extremely durable, and while scale skis can give you years of nordic fun in almost any snow conditions, rocky trails and extremely poor snow conditions could still damage the scale pattern irreparably.
Crown Pattern Skis
The crown pattern is Fischer’s variation to the regular scale pattern construction. The crown pattern is cut into the grip section of the cross-country ski in order to allow easy gliding with lesser energy. Thanks to the long grip zones, it works really well on all snow conditions.
One of the latest technology in cross-country skiing, skin skis combine the grip and stability of patterned skis with the gliding efficiency and easiness of actual wax skis. This new ski construction applies skin strips that are placed at the bottom of the skis to prevent backsliding during a climb.
Usually, cross-country ski skins are made from mohair (angora goat hair) and nylon to emulate the gliding effects and general feeling of freshly applied kick wax, however there is a trick: while these skins are smooth in one direction, allowing smooth gliding, they are rough and grippy in the other direction, providing perfect traction for uphill climbing.
Meanwhile cross-country ski skins are generally low maintenance and in most cases require gliding liquid in certain weather conditions, its main drawback is that compared to patterned cross-country skis, the skins themselves are much less durable. One the bright side, they are relatively cheap, and can be easily replaced when necessary.
Fischer: Twin Skins
One of the most advanced waxless skis technologies, the twin skins were introduced by Fischer, and it involves the use of two separate skin strips per ski rather than one. These are placed parallel to each other in order to provide an even more balanced experience between gripping, gliding and kicking.
Twin skins shine the most in glazed tracks, providing efficient grip solution even in hard snow conditions.
Madshus: Intelligrip Skis
With so many versions coming from rivals, Madshus introduced its own waxless ski technology named Intelligrip. The Madshus Intelligrip technology uses similar skins made from mohair and nylon. They are relatively thicker at the middle of the skis yet very lightweight.
Rossignol: R-Skin Skis
The Rossignol R-skin technology eliminates the problem of high-pitched noise while descending the hill. It is a significant Nordic kick skin that is virtually silent and lightweight to meet the needs of all types of skiers, along with all the benefits of other ski skins.
Atomic: Skintec Skis
Atomic Skintec technology prevents easy icing and slow gliding by using special skins. These are made from a special Mohair material with a synthetic fabric that’s quite similar to Teflon. While the Mohair provides excellent grip, the fabric prevents the icing. Ultimately, the skiers can glide effortlessly on trails.
Fischer FibreCrown XC Skis w/Tour Step-in Binding
Best for: Both beginners and intermediate skiers
Technology: Crown pattern
A reliable ski companion, this pair of Fischer cross-country skis incorporate a great set of features. Let’s talk about the construction first: this model features a wood core with milled-out zones to ensure durability. The sturdy build is well-complemented by a sleek and appealing design that is user-friendly as well. Thanks to its excellent design, you don’t have to be an experienced skier to use it. This makes them a great option for newbies as well as intermediate skiers.
With Fischer’s efficient forward technology, you can have better control. You can glide much easier with lesser energy. The Vario Crown pattern provides excellent power transfer when gliding, as well as great kick and grip properties even if you are not yet the master of the technique.
That’s not all.
With a thin power layer and integrated air channels into the core, this model is extremely lightweight, making the Fischer Fibre Crown skis perfect for recreational classic skiing.
Fischer is an internationally acclaimed brand for manufacturing high-end products in the cross-country ski industry. This pair of skis is no less than other models from the company. It is meant to deliver an easy-going cross-country skiing performance, and by no means a racing ski, its great construction and no-wax crown pattern will prove a loyal and forgiving companion for any beginner cross-country skiers.
Madshus CT 140 Intelligrip Cross-Country Skis
Best for: Beginners
Technology: Intelligrip skin
The most noticeable feature of Madshus’ CT 140 Intelligrip is its rugged and sturdy construction that is capable of taking abuse without compromising on the performance. With a Paulownia Carbon Hybrid core, the ski tends to last in the long run.
While the skis feature incredible stiffness, they are quite lightweight. Another great thing is the narrow design that is stylish yet functional. The width is enough for stability during descents, however narrow enough to provide exceptional speed for a classic ski. Not only is it good on speedy downhills, but it is also a perfect choice for excelling on a steep uphill.
They work well in a range of temperatures, from cold to warm and from wet to dry. The versatility and efficiency of these skis make them a top-notch option for beginners and those who like to head out only a few times every season.
Those who didn’t like our first recommendation would definitely fall in love with this pair of skis. It outshines the others in terms of stability, gliding as well as kick. With a narrow design, the skis provide great speed. They are suitable for a number of applications rather than a particular area. All in all, these skis are an all-round performer.
Alpina Sports Control 64 Cross-Country Skis with NNN Auto Tour Binding
Best for: Beginners, intermediate skiers, and light off-trail skiing
Technology: Patterned Multi-grip base
One of the finest set of skis from Alpina, this model is built to last in the long run. The skis feature a CAP build with an enclosed air-channeled Ultra-Lite wood core that makes them capable of withstanding harsh conditions.
When it comes to design, the skis boast a compact yet trendy body. The compact size is available in four different lengths, including 165, 175, 185, and 195 cm. This means you can easily choose one according to your needs.
The great grip comes handy and proves effective especially on off-trail uphills, thanks to the multi-grip embossed base. It also allows you to glide easily with enough stability to enjoy your skiing experience. Another fantastic thing is the pre-mounted Rottefella NNN Touring Auto Bindings that make the skis ready out of the box. Just step in, and off you go!
Additionally, the bindings are cross-compatible, so you can use them with 3-Pin, NNN and NIS boots. Its functionality is not limited to only one style of cross-country skiing. In fact, these skis are suitable for all-day touring and light off-trail skiing as well.
Alpina is a leader in the cross-country ski industry for introducing high-quality models for both recreational and elite racing skiers. The Control 64 is no exception. These skis are not only sturdy but also easy to use. They offer easy-gliding stability and control that every sports enthusiast would desire. The phenomenal set of features makes these skis a go-to choice for anyone who likes to enjoy long days on the trail for fitness or pleasure.
Salomon Escape 64 Outpath Cross-Country Skis with Prolink Auto Bindings
One of the finest backcountry skis out there, this model from Salomon is incorporated with high-end features to stand out from competitors. First of all, it features a wood core that ensures durability in the long run, while the fiberglass lamination improves the overall build.
Naturally, you will find steel edges for easier climbing and turning in backcountry conditions.
When it comes to the design, you will be amazed by the pleasing aesthetics. The wide skis offer a lot of stability, floatation, as well as traction, which might make it a good choice even for beginner backcountry skiers.
The base uses a fish scale grip offering maximum control in almost any snow condition. This is extremely important, especially when you are moving downhill. Another remarkable feature is the PLK Auto bindings that enhance the connection on the ski. You can freely pivot your foot up and ace the skiing performance.
If you are looking for the ultimate skis when it comes to adventurous versatility, you must get your hands on the Salomon Escape 64 Outpath skis. The wider dimensions improve the maneuverability while offering great balance on the trails. Both the design and build are satisfactory. Get these skis and enjoy a day-long tour in the winter wilderness.
Salomon Escape 68 Outback Cross-Country Skis
Best for: Intermediate skiers
Technology: Classic Fish Scale grip
Another great pair of skis from the 2021 Escape series of Salomon, this model could be a great addition to your ski equipment. With a wood core, there is no question about its flexibility and durability. It adds a sense of confidence and safety for the skiers no matter if skiing inbound or in backcountry areas.
The tip width of 68 mm and metal edges serve well the outbound, backcountry conditions, meanwhile the whole construction is perfectly balanced with it being relatively lightweight. Salomon’s fish-scale grip system provides the necessery grip for climbing steep hills, but still forgiving enough for a smooth gliding. Naturally, you don’t need to worry about waxing, except for the routine glide waxing to the tips and tails.
All these features make these skis a prime choice for intermediate skiers looking for a superb combination of adventurous terrain and classic groomed tracks.
Salomon’s Escape 68 Outback offers a healthy compromise between the light backcountry or off-piste skiing and the well-maintained trails of cross-country ski resorts. Being a multi-purpose ski, this could be a fantastic choice for intermediate skiers who’d like to get more confidence outside the ski area perimeters.
It’s a fun and stable in-between ski, but you won’t get the same kind of freedom as with a regular classic, let alone with a backcountry ski.
Fischer Ridge Crown Cross-Country Skis with Tour Step-in IFP Bindings
Best for: Beginners and intermediate skiers
Technology: Double crown waxless pattern
A top-notch product from the most reputable brand in the ski industry, the Fischer Ridge Crown skis have set the bar quite high. This cross-country ski is the ideal choice for trails and light touring. Its air-channeled core that makes it ultimately light and easy-going, a quality that makes all the difference for beginner skiers.
The wood core and Fischer’s Hybrid technology ensures a extra level of resistance to mechanical influences, including breaking. However, it is still a classic set of skis designed for trail use.
The feature that sets this model apart from others is the Integrated Fixation Plate (IFP). Being weight-optimized, this modern interface allows you to adjust the ski performance according to snow conditions and your overall needs. Furthermore, you don’t need any tools, IFP works simply by sliding the binding back or forth between the 7 click-in settings available.
Additionally, the ultra-tuning feature helps you glide faster on different trails no matter the snow conditions. The waxless base also features a double crown pattern, so you can enjoy maximum grip with a solid kick. This feature can be of great help also while moving downhill with a superior gliding effect.
The Step-In binding makes the use much quicker and easier. All you need is to step in and make sure the binding is closed properly.
Lastly, this is one of the most reasonably priced models currently available on the market, making it suitable for skiers on a tight budget.
Fischer’s skis pack a punch for the price. Not only are they capable of withstanding years of active use, but they have some versatility by being able to adjust your skis to snow conditions on-the-go. Its impeccable functionality makes them a popular choice among beginners and intermediate skiers. So, if you are looking for an ideal ski on a budget, this product is the one for you.
Rossignol Unisex Delta Comp R-Skin IFP with Race Classic Bindings
Best for: Advanced skiers, High performance
Rossignol brought us a set of ultra-lightweight performance skis that could be the best companion for anyone who seeks speed and reliable performance.
The Delta Comp uses the same materials and constructions that many world-class cross-country skier athletes have, from the ultralight Nomex-honeycomb core, the Active Cap construction, as well as the K7000 base material which is regularly applied on race level skate skis too.
If it’s still not fast enough, the natural mohair-based skin offers maximum glide and still an easy kick. The grip comes into play with the Integrated Fixation Plate (IFP) that allows you to change between your skis level of ability to grip and glide. If you move your binding up, it increases your grip on steep climbs, while moving backwards you will get back the superb gliding ability. This allows you to glide with confidence, no matter the terrain conditions. This way you get all the control.
The Rossignol exclusive Nomex honeycomb core with additional air channels offer the perfect balance when it comes to lightweight strength and energy. The Cap construction combines multi-direction fiberglass to increase torsional rigidity. The versatile and compact design makes these skis user-friendly and suitable for classic trails.
For those who have the ambition and like to glide fast, Rossignol’s Delta Comp R-Skin skis are the perfect investment. The stable and steady performance of these skis won’t let you down in any conditions. The increased rigidity with maximum control results in a fully-functional ski that helps you ace your skiing experience.
Atomic Pro C3 Skintec Ski
Best for: Beginners, Training
Make the most of your skiing experience with the Atomic Pro C3 ski. It has a great combination of features that makes it a popular choice among athletic cross-country skiers who love to head out on snowy winter days.
With the Pro SkinTec carbon construction, there is no question about the durability of these skis. Thanks to the Ultra High Densolite SDS chamber build, your kick zone is away from the snow. They are meant to last in the long run in order to bring value to your money. The sleek and stylish design is user-friendly and, therefore, offers great control.
Additionally, the waxless base consists of skins to improve the gliding and grip while moving on the terrains. It facilitates acceleration and improves maneuverability with enough stability under different conditions. The best thing is you can easily change the skins yourself. You can either replace it with a universal skin or a speed skin for a faster glide.
Another fantastic feature is the extended weight corridor, which makes the skis useful for men and women of different weights. These versatile skis can be used even in extreme weather situations without worrying about the damage.
Last but not least, this Atomic Prod ski makes its way to our list for exhibiting quality, reliability, as well as versatility. The high-end build is durable and offers excellent area-pressure distribution. The easy-to-use waxless design makes it highly suitable for recreational skiing.
Cross-country skiing is surely a great way to enjoy the beauty of nature for any sports enthusiast. However, it can be more enjoyable with the right pair of skis by your side. Finding the skis that match your style and skill level can be cumbersome, so you have to do your research beforehand. All our above-mentioned models are known for delivering excellent ski performance. Hopefully, this article has helped you with the decision when it comes to purchasing cross-country skis.