Waxless Cross Country Skis – Scale Pattern or Twin Skins

How to go up to the hill without slipping and how to go down the hill as fast as possible. The solution of these two oppositely standing factors is the long-lived problem of cross-country skiers. The wax was the solution for years, but then the other problem arose. How to spend less time in the wax room with skis preparation and spend actually more time outside skiing. Hence, the invention of waxless cross-country skis was an inevitable step forward. However, the evolution of waxless skis technology is still ongoing and we are moving from scale patterns via skins to twin skins cross country skis. Let’s look at the advantages of different types of waxless cross-country skis.

Go directly to:
Waxable Cross Country Skis
Waxless Cross Country Skis
Scale Pattern Waxless Cross Country Skis
Skin and Twin Skins Waxless Cross Country Skis
Skin Strip
Twins Skins

Confused with different types of Bindings? Check the differences between NNN and SNS in our quick guide.

Waxable Cross Country Skis

Before we move to waxless cross-country skis, we need to start with waxable cross-country skis. They are still used by professional cross-country racers. Professionals need to adjust the skis to any small difference in snow and weather conditions. Usually, they have a team of servicemen ready to help them during the practice and race. Generally, this is not a viable solution for recreational skiers. Using waxable skis means you have to spend time in the wax room before skiing. You need to know what wax to use and how to apply it. You have to re-wax your skis on long backcountry trips because of wax wearing off or changes in snow conditions on the trail. Moreover, if you choose the wax poorly you will hate the skiing that day.

Waxless Cross Country Skis

Waxless cross-country skis were a step in the right direction for every recreational skier. At least they save time spent in the wax room before skiing. Currently, there are three basic technologies used on waxless cross-country skis: Scale or Fish pattern, Skin, and Twin Skins.

Check out Rossignol Positrack Waxless cross-country skis here on Amazon

Scale Pattern Waxless Cross Country Skis

The scale (or fish) pattern at the bottom of the cross-country skis was at the beginning of the waxless cross-country skis era. The crown pattern introduced by Fischer in 1976 was the first universal climbing system. The pattern works in every snow and weather condition. The scale pattern is placed at the bottom in the middle section (under the binding plate) of the skis. The pattern provides the necessary grip and reduces the backward slide of the ski when going up the hill.

However, the negative side of the pattern was the reduction of the speed when going down. The grip which prevents slipping in climbing reduced the speed substantially.

Fortunately, the developers went further in modifying the pattern shape to improve the kick and slide behaviour of skis. Currently, the profile of the pattern is tuned to provide maximum kick effect and smooth gliding in every snow condition. The difference in speed between waxable and waxless skis is still visible, but the comfort when climbing levels it.

Another important point is the durability of the scale pattern. It should hold on for many hours, days and months of skiing. It is probable that your skis will be outmoded when your pattern wears definitely off. However, it has to be noted, that if you damage the scale pattern on a rocky trail, the repair of the skid with a pattern is very difficult and in many cases impossible.

Skin and Twin Skins Waxless Cross Country Skis

As we already mentioned the evolution of waxless cross-country skis is still ongoing. Ski companies are trying to improve the gliding effect and save the climbing one. The next step was an introduction of Skin Waxless Cross Country Skis which was followed by Twin Skins Skis.

Skin Strip

Skin strip is usually made from mohair or a combination of mohair (65%) and nylon (35%). The strip gives you additional grip or improves your kick action when climbing. Furthermore, the skin strip improves the glide compared to the scale pattern and can be used for any snow or weather condition.

The strips are not as durable as scale patterns but still should last for hours of skiing. The exact time till they wear off depends on the trails you ski on. For example, Madshus says their Intelligrip Skin lasts for hundreds of hours.

In contrary to the scale pattern, the skins can be replaced after they are worn off. The replacement is pretty easy. Usually, you do not need anything (no glue, no wax iron) to put new skin on your skis. You have to remove old skin, clean off the skid and stick the new skin. Replacement skins have glue on them, so just remove the plastic cover.

There are also a lot of ski skin care products (skin cleaner or anti-ice skin wipes) for prolonging the durability of skin.

Twin Skins

Some of the companies went further in skins technology and introduced twin skins technology. They applied two separate skin strips to a ski instead of one skin strip. Two separate skin strips are arranged parallelly in offset positions with variable base depths. This setup should improve gliding skills and kick slides when skiing.

Shop Fischer Waxless Cross-Country Skis here


The development of cross-country skis has been fast in recent years. As a recreational skier, you probably do not have a better choice than waxless cross-country skis. The professional skier will always prefer personalized preparation of skis with wax for subtle changes in snow and weather conditions. However, the recreational one can afford the luxury of a waxless solution. Less time spent in the wax room means more time on skis in nature and a decreased chance of error in picking the right wax. Waxless cross-country skis are a natural choice for beginners and even advanced cross-country skiers.

The choice between scale patterns and skis with skins is harder. The better gliding with skins (or twin skins) points to skins cross-country skis at least for advanced skiers. We will see what will be the trend in the coming years. I would say that twin skins skis is not the last word of skis engineers.

Posted in Best Skis, Blog, Cross-Country Skis, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , .

Ski Pro Guru

Simon is the leading editor of SkiProGuru.com for almost 3 years. He started skiing in his teens and now he switches from Alpine to Cross-Country Skiing regularly. He tried also snowboard for a few years, but then returned to conventional skiing :) In his free time he follows soccer, tennis and reads a lot of contemporary proses and novels.


    • I think it would be much easier to either buy new skis or use skins (and glue them to the bottom of the skis).

  1. I have a pair of waxable classic skis and I was wondering if I could turn them into skin skis by putting skins in the kick zone. Where would I purchase the skins and how would I prep the ski?

  2. When the snow is soft, it sticks to my waxless fishscale skis. Would you suggest putting any kind of wax on them in those conditions or do you have any other tricks to prevent that snow from building up underneath the ski? thanks,

    • I face the same problem and but do not dare to apply wax on skin. I am afraid I would not be able to take it down later. So just fighting and hoping for better weather.

    • Swix makes glide wax for waxless skis. I keep some in my backpack on warm days and it has gotten us out of a bind at times. I use it when the snow is clumping to the bottom of the ski and you just can’t move.

  3. There was a time when the step strip (patterned area) of a waxless ski was replaceable. Is this an extinct practice?

    My circa 1980 Rossignols were made with the pattern on piece of plastic that is separate from the rest of the ski, presumably for replaceability.

    • Jeff, I’m not aware of any ski manufacturers still making replaceable scale strips “(step” strips, the kick area) and I don’t know of anyone who has tried to smooth that plastic scale area in order to try waxing the ski. The finished surface would need to be just as smooth as the glide areas. If you don’t want to buy new skis but the scale pattern has mostly worn off, I wouldn’t advise trying to wax them because what little scale pattern is left will make it almost impossible for you to get the old wax off to maintain and change the wax; for this reason I’d either get removable climbing skins, or maybe try the newer stick-on replaceable skins which need replacing when they wear out. As already covered in these articles above there are 2 main types; (so far) my main concern would be the scale pattern already on your ski might not let the skin stick well, and would be slower since the scale pattern is going to be underneath the stick-on skin, making the skin stick up farther from the ski base & draggier.

  4. I own Fischer Outback 68 skiis. Upon return of my last outing,, I noticed that the scale pattern on my skiis is not smooth in a few areas. I can feel that the edges are raised. Is this a concern or will future use smooth down the scales? I read that some scale damage is irreparible. How would you describe irreparible damage to the scale pattern? The snow was frozen and scratchy so I am guessing that this may have caused some damage to the base, if considered damage at all. As a side note, I will not be skiing anymore this season as my Rottefella BCX Auto binding broke. The middle piece of plastic cracked just opposite from where the binding release plate is located. I am assuming this is from the pressure of trying to release the boot from the binding, or perhaps from the effort that it takes to engage the boot to the binding. Like many others, I have had trouble with this binding and probably should have gone with the manual binding.

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