The Best Nordic Skiing Gear of 2022
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Cross-training cyclists, alpine skiers, and the backcountry crowd already get it: skate skiing boosts your fitness while offering a reparative full-body workout that delivers a physique like Kikkan Randall’s. With a few lessons or the diligence to watch online tutorials, the skills are easy to pick up. But to really excel, you need light and powerful skis, boots, and poles and apparel that lets you move at your anaerobic threshold on the climbs without freezing on the descents. The gear that follows is suited to racing or just skiing at the limit of your fitness and capacity for fun.
Rab Phantom Pull-On Shell ($200)
Skiing in a midlayer works only if you can also carry a superlight just-in-case shell that’s wind- and water-resistant enough to get you back to the car when the weather goes bad. Rab’s Phantom anorak features a deep half zip to save weight and pack space. We scrunch it up into the compartment of a hydration waist pack, but it’s so small that you could even ball it up and tuck it beneath a base layer—Tour de France style—if you’re starved for pockets. The two-layer, DWR-coated Pertex Shield fabric shed sleet just long enough for one tester to ski ten kilometers back to the truck. (S–XL)
Salomon S/Max Carbon Skate Prolink Boots ($410)
Comfort or performance? If you’re shopping for skate boots, you typically have to choose one. No longer. While the S/max Carbon Skate isn’t as feathery as a World Cup race boot, it’s plenty light for recreational racing. It also has padded uppers and a more anatomical exoskeleton. Now the energy transfer and edging power are top-notch, but the pressure points are gone.
Atomic Redster S9 Gen S Skis ($960)
The Redster S9 represents one of the first major developments in skate skiing in years. The most radical change is also the subtlest: a new sidecut that engages more actively at the shovel. This means that as you glide from one ski to the other, the tip tracks straighter longer, saving you time and energy. As with most nordic-gear upgrades (except for nailing the wax), you don’t notice that effect immediately. But we did feel more efficient—and faster, too, at the end of a three-hour session.
Beyond the ski’s tracking straighter, what you will notice immediately is the S9’s handling. Especially on hard, fast downhill corners, it edges and arcs so well that we found ourselves carving sections we’d typically step turn. That’s a function of both the new sidecut—the forebody wants to arc—and the steep and powerful sidewalls, which deliver a secure feel on edge.
We’re also huge fans of Atomic’s bold move to produce the S9 in just one midrange length (183 centimeters). Skiers merely have to choose between a stiffer and a softer flex, based on their height and weight, which simplifies the buying process. On paper, that size might seem short for some skiers and long for others. It works because the S9 is so deceptively stout and easy to handle. A versatile base material and a stone grind, which glides well in a huge range of snow conditions, means the S9 is truly a one-ski quiver. Bindings come pre-mounted.
Swix Nybo Full-Zip Hoodie ($160)
I’ve owned many expensive nordic soft-shell jackets over the years but ski most often in simple wind- and weather-resistant hoodies like the Nybo. A DWR-treated shell material up front offers just enough weatherproofing for highly aerobic skating in marginal weather (although you wouldn’t want to stand around in a storm). In spring snow mixed with rain, it kept us dry enough to reach the top of a long climb before pulling on a shell for the cold, windy descent. Stretch panels over the shoulder blades allow for maximal range of motion while double poling—and reflective panels add safety for biking and running. (women’s XS–XL / men’s S–XXL)
Hestra Infinium Momentum Gloves ($60)
We’ve seen pairs of Hestra cross-country ski gloves last for 12 years—and counting. But the new Infinium Momentum is a serious upgrade thanks to the highly breathable and water-resistant Gore-Tex Infinium that kept our hands dry in all manner of conditions. The backing is a stretchy soft-shell material that’s easy on the hands. And because Hestra is famously attentive to detail when it comes to stitching articulated fingers, the dexterity is best in class. Carry a simple over-mitt with you to push this spring-weight glove into winter temps.
Balingsta Custom Project Pants No. 1 ($580)
Cut from Polartec’s hyper-breathable waterproof pants offer more weather protection than the standard bottoms engineered for skiers who’ll be popping in and out of warming huts and lodges. It’s cut from Polartec’s hyper-breathable waterproof material, NeoShell. During a long, sunny jaunt on snowmobile trails, the No.1s kept us plenty cool. On a wet, snowy day with the wind and weather at our backs, they kept us warm and dry. Most other wind-resistant nordic pants can’t do both. The brand makes every pair to order, which minimizes waste.
Bliz Breeze Sunglasses ($105)
The nordork code requires that sunglass temples be worn outside the touque. Bliz’s Breeze lets you one-up that fashion statement by swapping out the temples for an elastic strap that wraps around the back of your head, combining the stay-put fit of goggles with the fog resistance of shades. The lens hits a sweet spot: light enough to see well in dim forests, and tinted enough to preserve solid vision in full sun.
Swix Triac 4.0 Aero Poles ($500)
If, like me, you didn’t grow up racing nordic, it’s easy to assume that skating poles are like alpine poles: an afterthought unrelated to performance. In modern skate skiing, a significant amount of your forward propulsion comes from the upper body and core. You want poles that are lightweight, for a faster turnover, and stiff, for more energy transfer. The best nordic poles are lightweight, for faster turnover, and stiff, for more energy transfer. In pursuit of that sweet spot, the new Triac’s shaft is slightly pentagonal (rather than circular), diminishing drag and boosting rigidity. We’ve tested three generations of Swix Triacs, and each one has proven noticeably more rigid than the last. We tested the 4.0 head-to-head against a ten-year-old set of skate poles that were once top of their class. The improvement is instantly perceptible. Don’t need the mack daddy? Check out Swix’s range of Quantum carbon race poles for a range of prices.