A wide range of skis for cross country and backcountry skiing are available. Information on skis can be obtained from specialist outdoors shops, ski friends and online sources.
Some ski shops have on-snow demo days and ski hire. It is best to hire skis, boots and bindings to try them out prior to buying.
Some characteristics of skis that affect their performance and suitability for different snow conditions are summarised below.
Soft flexing skis are easy to turn and good for skiing powder and heavy snow
Stiffer skis can be harder to turn but perform better in icy conditions
Stiffer skis are better for carrying a heavy pack
The camber is the degree of arch the skis have
Stiff skis usually have high camber and are more difficult to turn
Softer skis generally have less camber
Longer skis go faster but can be harder to turn
Shorter skis are easier to turn but are slower
Shorter skis are easier to handle in narrow chutes, on ice fields on glaciers and when skiing through dense trees
Heavier and taller skiers are suited to longer skis
Sidecut is determined by the width of the ski at its centre (under the boot) and width of the ski at its tip
More sidecut provides better turning
Wide skis provide better flotation and turning in soft and heavy snow but are more difficult to edge on ice and firm snow
Full metal edges are now the norm for ski touring and backcountry skis
Skis with a pattern base to provide grip for going uphill are generally the best for most ski touring locations and conditions in Australia
They are very convenient to use in undulating terrain as skins are not needed
Backcountry skis are generally lighter than equivalent downhill skis to make them easier to carry on packs. The lightest skis are now made using carbon fibre.
In general, lighter skis are less durable and more prone to breakage
Heavy and aggressive skiers should consider using a heavier ski
Heavier skis can punch better through rough disturbed snow