Anyone who says nordic skiing is geeky is both right—and very, very wrong. look past the neon Lycra and knickers, and you'll find Nordic skiing—both the traditional kick-'n'-glide or "classic style and the lung-busting "skate technique—challenging, fun, and, perhaps most important, the most punishing cold-weather workout around.
Which way should you go? Both skate and classic skiing will burn your thighs and redline your heart-rate monitor. Skate skiing is a more natural motion, making it user-friendly and easier to learn how to go fast. Classic, on the other hand, has a more elegant, if less efficient, style. If fitness is the priority, consider a skate-ski setup, with short, stiff skis and extra-long poles (10 to 15 cm longer, for more power, than classic picks). But if you favor versatility—gear you could bang around with friends and family who've found old sticks in the garage—opt for classic equipment.
We tested a garage full of this year's best skis, boots, bindings, and poles, and then organized them into three groups: two skate and one classic. As for knickers or neon, that's up to you. Just leave the treadmill behind.