Discover cross-country skiing cross-country skiing glossary

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 that is for everyone, whatever their age and physical condition.
Today there are different techniques and disciplines, each with their own gear.
Discover the whole world of cross-country skiing with our glossary of technical terms.



Refers to classic cross-country skiing technique called the diagonal stride technique - See"diagonal step"



This is the underside of the ski that is in direct contact with the snow. While there used to be a single groove in the base, today a double groove has become the norm. The base of cross-country skate skis should be regularly waxed with glide wax depending on the hardness or temperature of the snow.


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 an Olympic discipline that combines two disciplines: cross-country skiing and riffle shooting.


Part of the cross-country ski that binds the ski to the front end of cross-country skis without holding down the skiers 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 clothing or shoes to allow the person wearing them to breathe, avoiding damp inside the clothing and therefore cold.

Bronze brush

Abrasive bronze brush for preparing and cleaning the base of skis before waxing. It also removes excess wax immediately after scraping.



The camber of a ski refers to the gap between the ski and the snow, when the ski is flat on the snow without being weighed down by your weight and/or the bindings.


The camber of a ski refers to the gap between the ski and the snow, when the ski is flat on the snow without being weighed down by the skier and/or the bindings. The tip of the ski can glide forwards on the snow when the ski is pressed down, thereby removing the camber.


Traditional cross-country skiing technique (see diagonal step).
Classic cross-country skiing is practised in the tracks, on the right side of the piste, with the skis parallel. The skis have fish scales or grip wax under the binding.

Classic style

Free ski style known as "skating", developed in the 80s, looks like 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. Free style is usually faster than classic skating.

Classic style

Traditional cross-country skiing technique. Cross-country skiers using diagonal strides ""with parallel skis.

Collar (skating boot)

Part that encloses the top of the cross-country skating boot and maintains the support.

Construction (of the ski)

A skate or classic ski can be have a cap or sandwich construction. The core is located in the centre of the ski. This is the main material of the ski and the different "layers" (base/fibre, etc.) are assembled around it.
The core can be made of wood (better durability) or have a honeycomb structure (better weight/stiffness ratio)


Cork block used to spread the wax on the base.

Cross-country skiers

Happy people who practise Nordic skiing ;)

Cross-country skiing

Sport consisting in travelling on snowy surfaces with low gradient using light, narrow skis, with a binding on the front of the foot and a free heel, using poles. It can be practiced on marked piste or off-piste. Cross-country skiing has been an Olympic discipline since 1924.

Crusty snow

Snow with a top player that has hardened to a greater or lesser degree because of a change in the weather conditions: wind, rain, frost, thawing…


Damp or wet snow

Heavy snow containing a large quantity of liquid water.

Diagonal step

CLASSIC CROSS-COUNTRY STEP - This is the basic step of cross-country skiing. 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

Simultaneously planting both cross-country skiing poles in the snow and using them to push forwards while keeping legs parallel.

Double pole

CLASSIC: as its name suggests, it means pushing on both poles at the same time, without using legs, which stay parallel.



Although the edges are not metallic like on an alpine ski, they still need to be sharpened regularly. They "bite" into the snow, so that you can confidently initiate turns.


Hormone produced by the body, with a molecular structure close to opioids. It is produced during exercise, cross-country skiing particularly. It is the happiness hormone, with a feel-good effect that acts against anxiety and depression.


Fish scale (base)

The bases of classic cross-country skis sometimes have them to stop the skier from sliding back.


Friction of the ski on the snow.
Friction in cross-country skiing is variable. At higher temperatures, the contact surface between the ski and the snow increases, creating a suction effect that restricts the glide performance.



Wrist strap shaped like sleeveless gloves, facilitating grip on the pole and helping back into the palm of the hand after being let go.

Glide phase

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

Glide wax

Also known as "Glider", this wax is applied on the base of the skis to slide faster. In skate cross-country skiing, it is applied on the full length of the skis whereas in classic cross-country skiing it is only applied on the front and back ends 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 cross-country ski base that is in contact with the snow both during the push phase and the glide phase.

Gliding stride

Classic cross-country skiing movement, consists in sliding on one leg at the end of a push.


Essential accessories to protect your hands. Depending on your practice and weather conditions, you don't necessarily need waterproof (low snow fall), very warm or very thick gloves, but you do need gloves that protect from the wind and are breathable to wick away perspiration. Some gloves have an attachment for wrist straps


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

Grip wax

Substance applied on the base of the skis to increase "grip" on the snow and improve traction. This wax stops the skis sliding back.
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) which is supposed to touch the snow during the push phase to create grip and not touch it during the glide phase.


Tracks left on a cross-country skiing piste for classic cross-country skiing. Grooves are carved using a track setter (a special groomer).



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


Step used on extremely steep slopes or when the skier is tired. Herringbone is used with the skis in a V-shape, tails close together and tips apart, without sliding, moving one ski after the other.



It is different depending on the type of skiing. In classic cross-country skiing, the impulse is given by "clawing" with the tip of the foot and then rolling our. In skate mode, the skier bears down on the entire length of the ski.


The ability of clothing or shoes to insulate you from outdoor conditions like wind or cold, enabling you to not feel it and comfortably enjoy a day outdoors despite conditions that can be difficult for the body.



Kick double pole

CLASSIC: Propulsion technique consisting in combining the impulse of diagonal stride with a simultaneous push. It's the technique used on flat ground when sliding is difficult or on low gradient uphill portions; The specificity is that it mixes diagonal stride with a double push.
SKATING (1:1 or kick double pole technique): the hardest technique in skating, as it requires greater limb coordination. One skate involves one leg push for each push of the arm.

Kick wax

Usually in stick form, hard wax is a grip wax applied manually by "rubbing" it on the surface of the ski when the snow is cold.


Type of grip wax used on groomed snow.



Long distance racing (20km and more) with mass start.


No climb

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

Nordic skiing

Nordic skiing is the origin of cross-country skiing. It was invented by Nordic people to easily travel in snowy terrains.

In France, it is known as Nordic Touring Skiing, SRN for the enlightened. In Quebec, its Nordic Skiing and in the United States it is called Backcountry skiing or Nordic backcountry 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, the system that keeps the heel free enables the foot to roll well.

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 slippers placed above cross-country skiing boots to insulate from the cold.




Essential equipment for cross-country skiing, the poles are used for propulsion.
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 which type of cross-country skiing is practiced (classic or skating).


Rubbing the base of the ski to smooth the wax on it.

Powder snow

"Dry" snow that has just fallen, and procures instant euphoria. It is very light and its texture is like powder.


Sticking a cross-country ski pole in snow and using it to push forwards.

Push phase

Phase during which the skier propels themselves forward.


Roller ski

Roller skiing is a cross-country skiing training method as well as its own sport and is practiced on roads in the summer.
Just like cross-country skiing, it can be practised in skate or classic mode.



Removing surplus wax from the base of cross-country skis, using plastic scraper.


Plastic or plexiglass tool for scraping the base after waxing in order to remove excess wax effectively.


The width in millimetres of the cross-country ski: in the tip (front of the ski), the waist (under the binding) and tail (back of the ski).


Side of the ski located between the base and the top of the ski.
The sidewall is engineered for strength and durability.


The most recent cross-country skiing technique (1980's) using lateral movement to move one ski out of the axis and the other remaining in the trajectory. This technique is reminiscent of speed skating or roller skating.

Skating step

Propulsion technique that consists in alternating forwards movement in the left arm and right leg with the right arm and left leg.

Ski to wax

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

Ski without wax

Cross-country ski with an anti-slipback system (scales or skins), on which no grip wax is needed.


Pattern on the ski base. The structure improves slide while reducing contact between the base and the snow (reducing fiction).


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



Temperature plays a key role in the choice of wax, as they are more or less efficient depending on their category and the snow temperature. Cold snow will be more abrasive (harder wax, cold temperature rating), while warmer snow will contain more water molecules (hydrophobic wax, high temperature rating).


Thermal clothing is clothing that provides warmth, like a first layer. We often call first layers "thermals".


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


Machine used to carve parallel tracks for classic cross-country skiing.

Transformed snow

Snow that has changed several times through 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 consisting in moving the tip of one ski and bringing the other ski parallel to the first, to change trajectory quickly.


Underfoot wax zone

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


V1 (offset)

CLASSIC: Rarely used, this technique involves two leg pushes like in diagonal technique, followed by a simultaneous arm push on the second leg push.
SKATING (2:1 technique or fast two time): 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.


Value used to calculate the maximum quantity of oxygen the body uses per unit of time during intense effort. Cross-country skate skiing requires more than running or swimming. This makes it excellent for cardio!



Greasy substance applied on the base of cross-country skis to modify the slipping (slide wax) and gripping (grip wax) properties on the snow.
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 remover

Liquid solvent used to clean wax off the ski base.

Wrist strap

Loop on the end of the top part of the ski pole, in which the cross-country skier places their hand to not lose their ski pole. The strap should be tight enough so that the pole is slightly suspended when the arm is extended backwards.



1St layer

Clothing worn against the skin, as a first layer, to provide warmth and wick away perspiration.

2Nd layer

Clothing worn over the first layer, like a jacket, fleece or thin padded jacket for example, to insulate and provide warmth.

3Rd layer

Clothing worn as a last layer to protect against outdoor conditions such as wind, rain, snow, but not provide warmth, 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.