What size cross country skis do I need? Calculate the best length for you

A cross country skier on a track
skiing require different calculations when it comes to choosing the right ski length. Ensuring your cross country skis are the right length means you can control your skis, turn with ease and stop with minimal effort (Image credit: Uwe Moser)

When gearing up for cross country skiing, the first question you should be asking yourself is what size cross country skis do I need? Different types of skiing require different calculations when it comes to choosing the right ski length. Ensuring your cross country skis are the right length means you can control your skis, turn with ease and stop with minimal effort. This means you’ll have a better time, be able to focus on refining your technique and reduce the risk of injury.  

 What size cross country skis do I need? 

A woman cross country skiing in the Alps

It’s quite easy to calculate the right length for you since we can easily determine exactly what type of cross country skiing you’ll be doing (Image credit: Westend61)

As we’ve discussed previously, cross country skiing offers phenomenal benefits but in order to really reap them, you want the right skis that help you with your technique and efficiency. It’s good to lead with the fact that there is no standardized system for choosing the right ski length, however, there are some helpful guidelines. 

For some types of skiing, the calculation depends on several variables, such as snow, terrain, height and ability level. Fortunately, when it comes to cross country skiing, it’s quite easy to calculate the right length for you since we can easily determine exactly what type of cross country skiing you’ll be doing beforehand.  

What type of cross country skiing will you be doing? 

Two women cross country skiing in the backcountry on a sunny day

you’ll need to know whether you’ll be doing classic cross country skiing on a groomed track, classic cross country skiing in the backcountry or skate skiing (Image credit: Tyler Stableford)

To start, you’ll need to know whether you’ll be doing classic cross country skiing on a groomed track, classic cross country skiing in the backcountry or skate skiing. Next, figure out your height in centimeters and use the following formula: 

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Formula for choosing the right length of cross country skis
Type of cross country skiingSki length
Classic XC skiing on a groomed trackYour height + 20cm
Classic XC skiing in the backcountryYour height
Skate skiingYour height + 5-10cm*

* For skate skiing skis, more experienced skiers will go a bit longer and beginners will go a bit shorter 

Factor in your body weight 

A couple cross country skiing

There is one other variable that you should take into account when choosing cross country skis, and that is your weight (Image credit: David Madison)

There is one other variable that you should take into account when choosing cross country skis, and that is your weight. Basically, if you are relatively heavy for your height, you’ll want to add another five centimeters to the formula above to account for the extra weight, and if you’re relatively light for your height, subtract five centimeters.

Cross country skis come in standard lengths, so if there isn’t a ski that exactly matches your requirements, round up or down to pick the one closest.

Choosing cross country ski boots and bindings 

A cross country skier in the mountains on a sunny day

Once you’ve chosen a pair of cross country skis, you’ll need to check if they come pre mounted with bindings or if you need to buy and mount your own (Image credit: Larry Kwan)

Once you’ve chosen a pair of cross country skis, you’ll need to check if they come pre-mounted with bindings or if you need to buy and mount your own. If they come with bindings, make sure you buy a pair of cross country ski boots that are compatible with the bindings.

If you need to buy and mount your own bindings, check the compatibility of the ski then take a look at our guide to the different types of cross country ski bindings. Once you’ve selected your bindings, all you need to do is buy a pair of cross country ski boots that are compatible with your bindings and best for the type of cross country skiing you plan to do. 

Now that you’ve got your skis, bindings and boots, all that’s left is to dress appropriately for cross country skiing – meaning for high intensity in cold weather – and get out there. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.