top of page

Glossary of XC Ski Terms


Advanced juniors:  a minimum of two years in AWS program.

Backcountry skiing: Recreational cross country skiing away from developed land and open roads.

Base: The bottom of a ski; its running surface, typically coated with polyethylene or carbon fiber.

Basket: The cup at the bottom of a ski pole, which encircles a sharp tip that bites into the snow to prevent slipping.

Biathlon: A competitive event that combines cross country skiing and marksmanship.

Binding:  An attachment on the ski that clips onto the boot, thus holding the ski to the foot.

Camber: A lengthwise arch or bow built into a ski to make it more flexible. Generally speaking, a lower camber is

better for Alpine skiing, because it makes turning easier, while a higher camber is better for cross country, because it allows for better gliding.

Catch an edge: To have an edge of a ski dig into the snow, causing a fall or near fall.

Circuits: uses apparatus set up in the Kincaid bunker to do various core strength building exercises, usually held Wednesday or Tuesday night.

Classical technique: A cross country ski technique in which skiers use the traditional straight striding method, leaving distinct parallel tracks, with considerable assistance from the ski poles. Skis are generally sized to the heel of a hand extended above the skier’s head and flexed to provide both glide and compression of the wax pocket during different points in the classic motion. Boots generally have low to mid ankle support with a wide forward flex. Poles are sized to fit under the skier’s armpit. In classical events, a skier must give way when being overtaken, even when the second track is vacant. The skier in the rear yells a request to move, usually “Track!” This rule does not apply in the final 100m before the finish line or the exchange zone in a relay race.

Double camber: A double arch built into some skis, typically used in cross country rather than Alpine skiing. Both the weight-bearing area beneath the bindings and the tips of the skis are slightly raised so there’s less surface area in contact with the snow when the skier is gliding.

Drafting: Skiing directly behind another skier in order to take advantage of his or her slipstream. Drafting enables the skier to do less work, and makes it easier to maintain an even pace.

Duathlon: A cross country event that requires a racer to switch skis and poles mid-race. The race generally begins as a classic race and switches to a skate race half way through without stopping the clock. Equipment controller: An official who checks skis, bindings, and ski boots to ensure that the equipment meets competition standards. Elite skiers-  top six skiers from Junior Olympic try-outs and collegeage skiers.

Flex: The flexibility of a ski, due partly to the camber and partly to the materials used. A ski with more flex is desirable for softer, deeper snow and most cross country skiing.

Freestyle cross country: A cross country race in which skiers are allowed to use any technique, including skating.

Glide wax: A wax that decreases the friction between the skis and the snow, which is applied to the entire ski for freesyle races, but only to the tail and tip for classical races.

Grip: The part of a ski pole that the skier grasps.

Grip wax (kick wax): A wax that increases the friction between the skis and the snow. It’s applied to the middle section of the ski for classic races.

Groom: To prepare a ski trail by smoothing it with machinery, allowing more consistent skiing.

Interval: A short sprint at a quick pace done at practice for training and during the warm-up before a race to get the heart pumping.

Intermediate junior: Junior high students, new high school age skiers. 

Jury: A group of officials who ensure that a competition is run safely and in accordance with the rules.

Klister: Gooey gel used for kick waxing in conditions such as old transformed snow and very wet snow.

Mass start: A type of race in which all of the skiers start at the same time. Nordic camber: The high arch built into Nordic skis to allow better gliding in cross country skiing.

Pole: A round, lightweight shaft with a basket and spike on the lower end, a handle and strap at the upper end. In Nordic skiing, the poles are used primarily for propulsion.

Powder: Fresh, dry, light snow that hasn’t been groomed.

Pursuit (combined pursuit): A race which features both a classical and a freestyle race. The order in which the competitors finish in the classical section determines their starting order for the freestyle leg of the race, and the first athlete over the finish line wins.

Pursuit start: A type of start in which the skiers go in the order in which they finished the first portion of the pursuit.

Relay: A cross country race among teams made up of four skiers, each of whom races one of the four legs. Legs can range from 1, 2, 3, 5, 7.5, to 10 kilometers long. The legs can also vary in technique.

Rollerskis: Short (2-3 ft.) metal shafts with rubber or polyethylene wheels attached to both ends. They are used primarily on pavement although some models work off-road. Primary off-snow training method for cross country skiers.

Scramble leg: The first leg of a cross country relay race, so called because there’s a mass start and the skiers have to scramble for position.

Sidecut: The measured difference, usually in millimeters, between the waist of the ski and the tip and tail.

Sitzmark: An indentation in the snow caused by a skier’s fall.

Skate technique: A cross country technique that is similar to ice skating. The skier pushes the inside edge of the ski backward and outward at about a 45-degree angle. Skating is permitted in freestyle, but not in classic. Skis can come in a wide variety of sizes depending on snow conditions. Performance and all-purpose skate skis are generally 10 cm shorter than classic skis. Boots are generally designed with superior ankle and lateral support. Poles are sized to fit to the cleft of the skier’s chin.

Snowplow: A method of stopping in which the front tips of the skis are brought together, almost touching, while the tails are spread outward. Sprint: The shortest cross country race between 0.5 and 2km.

Staggered start: A type of cross country race in which the skiers start at set intervals and the result is based on elapsed time, not on the order in which the skiers cross the finish line.

Strength: this means doing various explosive or plyometric exercises outdoors, such as bounding and on-the-ground pushups.

Tail: The very rearmost section of a ski or the entire rear section, from the back of the binding to the very end.

Timing clock: An electronic timing device that’s automatically activated when the skier begins a race.

Tip: The very front most section of a ski, where it is tipped upward or the entire front of the ski, from binding to top.

Wax: A soft substance applied to the base of a ski for protection and to improve its snow-going properties. Glide and grip waxes are applied to different parts of the skis to decrease friction and improve traction respectively. Alternately, skiers sometimes use a technique known as harries to scuff the base of their skis with a wire brush.

Waxless skis: Skis that have small ridge patterns (fish scales) on the middle area of the base to provide grip and are used for classic technique.

Younger junior: Ages 10-14

bottom of page