Something happened when I crossed the 30-year-old threshold. All of a sudden, my hard core ski friends had a new obsession: Skate skiing.
With the high-output side of Nordic skiing, it combines the adrenaline of downhill with a trail run-like lung burn, all while balancing on toothpicks.
It’s accessible pretty much anywhere there’s winter and it’s better when it’s not a powder day. Even if you’re not fully ready to convert to nordorkism, it’s the best brand of fitness you can get in the winter.
Here’s all of the basic gear you need to get started.
Skis: Rossignol Zymax Skating NIS ($230)
Rossignol’s Zymax Skating NIS brings the brand’s World Cup racing technology into an entry level ski, so it’s light and nimble, but has a slightly softer flex, which makes it more forgiving on tight corners and tricky uphills. This means you’ll be fast and efficient, but not totally out of control. The ski is stable and it tracks well, thanks to a tiny bit of sidecut, which is nice when you’re just getting started. Make sure to pair it with boots and bindings that are compatible with each other.
Poles: Leki CC 2.6 Carbon ($90)
Unlike alpine skiing (where poles are pretty negligible) poles are a critical part of nordic skiing. You want your poles to be long and strong, so you can use your arms to propel you forward. Strong and stiff, with comfortable cork grips so your hands won’t cramp in the cold. The Leki CC 2.6 Carbon is made from carbon composite, so you have the lightness and stiffness of carbon without the price. They’ll save you energy on long slogs, which makes a difference when you’re going for more than a few kilometers.
Hats/Headbands/Neckwarmers: Skida Tour ($20)
You’re bound to hit that tricky thermal zone where you’re sweating bullets and it’s freezing out. To keep you warm and wick-ed (without overheating) check out Skida’s line of Nordic hats, headbands and neckwarmers. The thin breathable Tour can act as any of the three. Plus, it gives you some nordy flair. Skida was started by a Vermont ski racer, Corinne Prevot, who made hats for her friends and teammates while she was in college, and her gear became a cult favorite.
Pants: Craft Voyage Wind Tights ($100)
Layering can be hard for skating, because your body temperature will vary so much. A breathable but still element-proof pair of pants, like Craft’s Voyage Wind Tights (which are windproof in the front, but stretchy and breathable in the back) hit the middlepoint of speed and protection. If you don’t like the idea of tights, they also make slightly less formfitting options, like Voyage Pants. But if you’re really embracing this nordy thing, tights are the way to go.
Gloves: Swix Split Mitt ($40)
Hand temperature is a key to winter comfort, and it’s hard to know which is worse: popsicle fingers or swalms (that would be sweaty palms). The lobster claw-style Swix Split Mitt combines everything good about gloves and mittens into one Primaloft-insulated package. Plus, the thumb has a soft spot for snot wiping, which we’ve professionally analyzed as being not gross. Perfect on chilly days and warmer ones, too.
Pack: Salomon S-Lab Insulated Hydro Belt ($100)
Skate skiing might be the only venue where you can unabashedly rock a fanny pack (and where you might get hazed for wearing a backpack instead). The Salomon S-Lab Insulated Hydro Belt, keeps your water, shades and snacks close to your body without bouncing around or making your butt sweaty.
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