find out everything about cross-country skiing with the INOVIK glossary by Decathlon

Discover cross-country skiing:
lexicon of cross-country skiing

Born in the Nordic countries at the time of antiquity, cross-country skiing is the oldest ski discipline. Over time, practice, techniques and equipment have evolved. Do you talk cross-country skiing?

Cross-country skiing is a sport accessible to all, suitable for all ages and all fitness levels. Today there are different techniques and modes of practice which each has its own equipment. Explore the world of cross-country skiing with our lexicon of technical terms.



Under the ski... or the shoe!


On your pole, the basket is on the bottom, a few inches from the tip. It stops the pole sinking too deeply when you plant it in the snow. There are different sizes of basket to adapt to the different types of snow: wide for powder, small for hard snow, medium for versatility.


Biathlon is a winter sport that combines two disciplines: cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.


Part of the cross-country ski that connects the ski at the front end of the cross-country ski boots without immobilizing the skier's heel.
There are several binding standards: NNN, PROLONK, SNS... that adapt to different brands of shoes.

Bottle holder

Belt with a compartment that can hold a water bottle. Essential for hydration and convenient to wear!


Ability of a garment or shoe to provide breathability to the person wearing it, avoiding the accumulation of moisture inside the garment, and therefore the issue of becoming cold


Classic style

Classic technique of cross-country skiing (see "Alternative step").
Cross-country skiers move alternately (see "Diagonal stride"), with parallel skis.
Classic cross-country skiing is practised in the tracks, on the right side of the piste, parallel skis, skis are equipped with scales or grip wax under the binding.

Climbing stride

SKATING – This step is achieved with one push of the arm for every two pushes of the leg.

Copper brush

Brush used to remove the wax from the hollows of the structures after using a scraper on the base of the skis.


Cork block used to spread the wax over the base.

Cross-country skier

Happy person who practises cross-country skiing.

Cross-country skiing

Board sport that consists of traversing slightly hilly snow-covered surfaces on light and narrow skis with a binding at the front of the foot leaving the heel free and with the help of poles. It can be practised on marked trails as well as off piste. Cross-country skiing has been an Olympic discipline since 1924.

Crusty snow

Snow whose surface is a layer of varying softness or hardness depending on the weather changes: wind, rain, frost, thawing…


Diagonal step

CLASSIC – This is the basic cross-country skiing step. It looks like walking, using propulsion by the upper and lower limbs on the same side (explanation: right arm and right leg) working simultaneously.

Double pole

CLASSIC – Consists as its name suggests of planting both poles in the snow and pushing to propel oneself without using the legs, which remain parallel.



The edge is the metal part that comes to rest on the angle formed by the base and the rim of the ski (side of the ski), or the structure (top). This part is sharpened to allow the ski to grip in the snow during rotations (turns) or braking (skidding). Cross-country skis are not equipped with edges when alternative (classic) or skating mode is practised. Only skis used for Nordic ski touring (cross-country skiing) are equipped with edges, allowing you to ascend and descend outside marked areas and cross-country ski trails.


Hormone produced by the body which has a molecular structure close to that of opiates. It becomes secreted in particular during sporting activity like cross-country skiing for example. It is a happiness hormone which fosters a feeling of well-being and counters anxiety and depression.



Wax with a high fluorine content, very powerful.


Friction of the ski on the snow. The friction in cross-country skiing is variable, at a higher temperature, the contact surface between the ski and the snow increases, and ends up creating a suction effect that reduces sliding.



Fingerless glove-shaped strap, making it easier to grip the pole and helping the pole to come back into the palm of the hand after being released.

Glide phase

Phase during which the skier glides on their skis or on one of them, between two push phases.

Glide wax

Also called "glider," we apply this wax on the base of the skis to glide faster. For cross-country skate skiing, it is applied across the length of the skis while in classic cross-country skiing it is applied only to the front and back tips of the skis.
There are several categories of these: depending on the fluorine content, temperature and type of snow, etc.

Glide zone

Smooth part of the base of the cross-country ski which is in contact with the snow both during the push phase and the glide phase.

Gliding stride

Motion in classic cross-country skiing, which consists of gliding by leaning on one leg at the end of a push.


Essential accessories that provide protection for your hands. Depending on your practice and the weather conditions, it is not necessarily a requirement to have waterproof gloves (few falls in the snow), or very hot or very thick ones, but it is essential to have gloves that provide wind protection and that are breathable to wick away perspiration. Some gloves are equipped with a strap attachment.


Appearance of snow crystals and snow-covered surfaces (fresh snow, hard snow, groomed snow, etc). Granulation is one of the factors that determines the choice of wax.

Grinding (or sanding)

Specific operation carried out in only a few specialist shops which resurfaces a damaged base.

Grip wax

Substance that is applied to the base of the skis to "stick" better to the snow and improve traction. This wax prevents the skis from sliding backwards.
For classic cross-country skiing, the wax is applied to the middle part of the base of the skis. There are two types of grip waxes: hard wax and klister wax.

Grip zone

Central part of the cross-country ski (under the foot) that is supposed to touch the snow during the push phase for grip and then no longer be in contact during the glide phase.


Tracks hollowed out on a cross-country ski trail for the practice of classic cross-country skiing. The grooves are created using a tracker, a special machine that is similar to a groomer.



Part of the pole which is held, located at the top, positioned over the tube and often covered with anti-slip material.

Hard wax

Generally stick-shaped, hard wax is a grip wax that is applied manually by "crayoning" the surface of the ski when the snow is cold.


Step used when the slopes are extremely steep or when the skier feels tired… The herringbone is achieved with the skis in a V, heels close together and tips apart, without gliding, advancing each ski alternately.



This varies depending on the type of skiing. In classic cross-country skiing, you press down on the tip of the foot to grip before stretching it out. In skate mode, the skier bears down on the entire length of the ski.


Ability of a garment or shoe to insulate you from external conditions like wind or cold, so that you do not feel them and can comfortably enjoy a day outdoors despite conditions that can sometimes be difficult for the body.



See "Impetus."

Kick double pole

CLASSIC – Technique of propulsion which consists of both arms pushing at the same time as an alternate step with each leg. This stride is used on the flat if sliding is difficult or on a slight incline; its special feature is that it combines the diagonal stride and the double pole.

SKATING (one-skate) – The most difficult step of the skating technique because it requires enormous coordination of the limbs. One skate involves one leg push for each push of the arm.


Type of grip wax used for transformed snow.



Long distance race (20 km and over) with a mass start.


Nordic skiing

Nordic skiing is at the origin of cross-country skiing. It was invented by northern populations to move around easily in snowy areas.

In France, it is known as ski de randonnée nordique, or SRN for the experts. In Quebec it's Nordic skiing too, and in the United States it's called back-country skiing or Nordic back-country skiing.

The shape of Nordic skis is between those of cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. These are wide skating skis (60 to 110mm) with an anti-slip system with scales and equipped with edges. In addition, for climbs, we can add a climbing skin (seal skin... synthetic!). As for the binding, this is a system that keeps the heel free which allows the foot to properly roll out.

The width of the skis provides lift in the snow when you are making your track and the metal edges are useful for guiding you downhill. For the length of the skis, it is recommended to go for a size about 10cm smaller than you. This will provide good downhill control.

Nylon brush

Brush used to polish the base of the ski after waxing.



Synthetic liner that we put on top of our cross-country ski boots for insulation from the cold.


Pole size

CLASSIC – The poles should reach around the height of your armpits.

SKATING – They must reach the height of your chin.


An essential piece of equipment in cross-country skiing, poles are used to propel yourself forward.
They are made up of a light metal or composite tube, with a handle and a strap at one end for a good grip, and at the other end a plastic basket to prevent the pole from sinking into the snow. The size of the poles is different depending on the practice of cross-country skiing (classic or skate).


Action that involves rubbing the base of the ski in order to smooth the wax located there.

Powder snow

A "dry" snow, which has just fallen, and provides an immediate feeling of euphoria. It is very light and its texture is similar to that of a powder.


Action that involves planting your cross-country ski pole in the snow and leaning on it to propel yourself forward.

Push phase

Phase during which the skier propels themselves forward.



The base of classic cross-country skis is sometimes equipped with these to prevent the skier from sliding backwards.


Plastic or plexiglass instrument used to remove excess wax from the base (either for cleaning or to leave a thin layer of wax on the base before polishing).


Action of removing the surplus wax from the base of cross-country skis, using a scraper.


Resembling running shoes, classic cross-country ski boots are low while cross-country skate skiing shoes are higher with good support at the ankle. On the front, these shoes have a metal bar that fits into the binding: depending on the binding model, you have to adapt the right model of shoe.


These are the dimensions in millimetres of the cross-country ski across its width: at the level of the tip (front of the ski), the skate (under the binding) and the heel (back of the ski).


Side part of the ski located between the base and the top of the ski.

Skate stride

Technique of propulsion which consists of alternating the forward motion of the left arm and the right leg with the forward motion of the right arm and the left leg.

Skating style

The most recent cross-country skiing technique (1980s) with a lateral action that allows a ski to leave the glide axis while the other stays in the trajectory. This technique is reminiscent of speed-skating or roller-skating.

Cross-country skiers rest on the inner edge of one ski then on the inner edge of the other ski, thus passing from one foot to the other and pushing each ski alternately outwards, at an angle of 45 degrees. Skate-style is generally faster than the classic style.

Ski to wax

Cross-country ski with a smooth grip area that must be covered with grip wax.

Ski without wax

Cross-country ski whose base is fitted with an anti-slip system (scales or skins) and for which no grip wax is required.


Ski-wheeling, roller-skiing or roller-ski is a training practice for cross-country skiing but also a discipline in its own right, which is practised on road in summer.
Just like cross-country skiing, it can be practised in skate or classic mode.

Slushy snow

Heavy snow which contains a large amount of liquid water.


Loop attached to the upper end of a ski pole, in which the cross-country skier puts his hand in order to avoid losing their ski pole. The strap should be tight enough so that the pole is slightly suspended when the arm is extended backwards.


Pattern on the base of the ski. The structure improves glide by reducing the contact between the base and the snow (therefore reducing friction).


Tool for structuring the base of a cross-country ski.



Temperature plays a key role in the choice of waxes, since these vary in effectiveness according to their category faced with the temperature of the snow. Cold snow will be more abrasive (harder wax, cold temperature rating), while warmer snow will contain more water molecules (hydrophobic wax, high temperature rating).


A thermal garment is a garment whose function is to ensure heat provision like your first layer. The first layers are often called "thermal."


Raised part at the front of the ski. It is more rounded for skate skiing and more pointed for classic cross-country skiing.


Machine for marking out parallel grooves for classic cross-country skiing.

Transformed snow

Snow that has experienced several transformations between freezing and thawing. It is most often an end of spring snow, which is frozen in the morning and that becomes transformed as it warms up over the day.

Turning step

Turning technique which consists of pushing the tip of one ski away and then bringing the other ski parallel to the first so as to change direction quickly.


V02 max

Value which calculates the maximum amount of oxygen that the body consumes per unit of time during intense exercise. Cross-country skate skiing requires more than running or swimming. This makes it excellent for cardio!

V1 (offset)

CLASSIC – Rarely used, this step involves two pushes of the legs like in an alternative step followed by a push of the arms at the same time as the second leg push.

SKATING (2-skate) – Consists of one arm push for every two pushes of the legs while keeping the arms centred.


Very popular annual race in Sweden taking place over a 90 km course.


Water resistance

Capacity of a garment or shoe to repel the external moisture (dew, fog, rain, snow) and to keep you dry. Fabrics are measured in schmerber. Ski clothing generally has a waterproofness that varies between 5000mm schmerber and 20,000mm schmerber for the most high performance.


Greasy substance that is applied to the base of cross-country skis to alter the gliding properties (glide wax) and grip to the snow (grip wax).
There are several types of wax that can be used depending on the weather conditions (air temperature) and the condition of the snow (temperature of the snow).

Wax chamber

Located on the base of classic cross-country skis under the binding, it is the central part of the ski intended to receive the wax.

Wax iron

Device resembling an iron to melt the board wax in order to spread it evenly over the base of the ski.

Wax remover

Liquid solvent used to clean the wax from the base of the ski.


Action of waxing the base of your skis.


The exclamation that we make between 2 breaths when we arrive at the top of a hill and discover the beauty of the snowy landscape.


1St layer

Garment worn on the skin, as a first layer, whose function is to ensure heat provision and the wicking away of perspiration.

2Nd layer

Garment worn as a first layer, such as a jacket, a fleece or a micro-jacket for example, which has an insulating function and, if necessary, heat provision.

3 Layers

Way of dressing consisting of superimposing 3 layers with different functions such as heat provision, breathability, water-resistance... to ensure a maximum of comfort and protection during outdoor excursions, especially to the mountains in winter.

3Rd layer

Garment worn as a last layer whose function is to protect yourself from external conditions like wind, rain, snow, but not to provide heat input, normally provided by the first and second layer. Sometimes 2nd and 3rd layers are found in a single garment which then provides heat input in addition to protection against external conditions.