Q: I’m looking to rent or purchase cross country skis. Can you help me?

A: Several retailers in the area rent or sell cross-country skis. First check out our vendors page as most of them sell and/or rent skis. Other options in the Madison area include REI and Erehwon. Elver Park and Odana Hills Golf Course also have rentals on-site.

Q: We just joined the club. Where can we buy Madnorski clothing and bumper stickers?

A: The famous Madnorski bumper stickers are generally for sale at all club meetings. Check the events listing for dates. The club usually orders Madnorski clothing (jerseys, tights, jackets, etc.) every other year. The most recent order was placed in November 2011. The club may order t-shirts at some point in the future. Details will be posted on the website, the blog and the XC mailing list.

Q: Are there any member discounts offered by ski areas?

A: Any member discounts are listed on the vendors page. At this point in time there aren’t any ski area discounts.

Q: How do I prove I’m a Madnorski member to receive member discounts at participating vendors?

A: Print out the receipt you received when you registered online. If you registered manually, send an email to membership@madnorski.org and we’ll send you a membership confirmation letter.

Q: What are the trail distances at _________?

A: Most of the regional trails are listed and/or linked off of our trails page. If we haven’t included a map with distances for your favorite trail, try the linked website or send out a general inquiry to the XC mailing list as someone else may have the distance information.

Q: I’m new to cross-country skiing and would like to take some lessons. Where can I get ski lessons?

A: The club regularly offers popular free group lessons at local parks – dates are posted on the events listing and the XC mailing list. Some background about the lessons can be found on our lessons page. Madison School & Community Recreation also offers lessons. For those that are interested in private lessons, see the lessons page or
contact our Director of Instruction.

Q: Where can I find brushes for ski waxing and what kind of brushes do I need?

A: To learn about ski waxing and brushes, the club “vendor fair”, usually the first meeting of each season held in November, and the annual “wax demo” meeting, usually held in January, are two options. Many of our sponsoring vendors can also answer waxing questions. In general, there are all kinds of ski brushes out there, but you really should have 2 brushes: 1 coarse brush to open up the base prior to waxing and one polishing brush to clear wax out of the structure after scraping. I would recommend a combi brush. Toko makes a brush with copper bristles on one half and nylon on the other that sells for about $25 and would allow your brother to do a good job waxing skis for many years to come. If you wax a lot of skis, it is worth the extra money to get larger, more expensive brushes. Related topic: get a real wax iron. It is possible to wax skis with an old clothes iron but it is too easy to damage your skis.

Q: I’m interested in joining the club to improve my skill level and learn more about skiing in the area. I’m new to the area and my fiancee is new to cross-country skiing – we are both mid-30s – do we match your demographic? Last year I got a Dane County trail pass – is that included in membership?

A: You would match our demographic. With 50 new members this year you also wouldn’t be alone! The club is a great way to network with other active people who socialize and ski. The club is active in the community and you’ll have a chance to support skiing in many ways. We give lessons, raise money for grooming equipment, sponsor a race series and support youth skiing programs. The Dane County pass is not part of the membership fee structure – it will grant you access to ski trails as well as bike trails in the summer.

Q: Does anyone have advice on skijoring opportunities near Madison?

A: Several XC list members weighed in on this question recently. Here’s a compilation of their responses:

  • Gov. Nelson State Park has a very flat 1.3 mile loop (Morningside Trail) open for skijoring.
  • Minocqua Winter Park has a fun 5K loop for skijoring ($3 dog pass required, skijoring open every day except Saturday). Dogs are allowed on the Mercer Trails as well.
  • There is trail near Seeley open to dogs/skijoring.
  • The military ridge bike trail between Madison & Verona. Also at goose pond next to the trail.
  • Dogs are allowed on all 25K at Wolverine Ski Trails Ironwood.
  • The lakes are good places for it, too.
  • Quann Park (dog exercise area) or on lake Wingra. Both are ungroomed but after the first loop you will have a track to follow.

Q: I lost my skis at the Birkie this year. Any suggestions on how I might get them back?

A: Again, a compilation of ideas from the XC mailing list:

  • The Birke has a lost and found located at the Vet’s Center in Hayward.
  • The club used to produce Madnorski ski stickers and we’re considering making those available in the future. If you’re a club member, they make a great way to personalize your skis and hopefully prevent someone from inadvertently walking off with them.
  • Check with the local ski shops (New Moon, Riverbrook, etc.) – sometimes the person that “borrowed” your skis will contact a shop looking for their skis.
  • Write your name, phone number and email address on your skis with a Sharpie so that if someone walks off with them, they can easily contact you to return them.
  • Use a small lightweight ski bag to transport your skis and poles to the race and stow it in your gear bag. At the finish, put your skis and poles in the bag and it will be less likely that someone will confuse them with their skis.

Q: I recently got a waistpack for long ski sessions but have found that the valve gets iced up on the water bottle. Any recommendations on how to keep hydration available for 2-3 hours?

A: From the XC mailing list:

  • Add something to make the water less likely to freeze – e.g. energy drink. Other options that are not recommended:
    salt, essential oil, liquor.
  • Turn the bottle upside down in the holder as water freezes from the top down (make sure the valve is closed).
  • Preheat fluids before skiing.
  • Use a Camelbak with thermal control kit.
  • Use a low-profile hydration belt with multiple bottles that will fit under a jacket.
  • Use a Camelbak Podium Chill or Podium Ice (insulated) water bottle.
  • Use an insulated water bottle pack (e.g. Salomon Ultra Bottle Belt).

Q: I was told I should bring “ice picks” when crust skiing on the lakes. What are ice picks and why do I need them?

A: From the XC mailing list:

  • Go to a hardware store or someplace they sell ice fishing supplies. They use this setup of two ice picks attached by a coiled wire. They are more or less like screwdrivers, with a neat hole in the base of the handle, so you can stick the two together and the sharp blade nests inside the handle of the other pick, so that if you fall, you don’t impale yourself. You put the coiled wire around your neck like a mitten string. Then if you fall in, they are very readily available, and not in your back pocket. Apparently, the biggest problem if you do fall in the ice is pulling yourself out with wet gloves on slippery ice. I got mine for about $10, making for very cheap insurance in a potentially dangerous situation. If I’m out with other people, I might also bring a throw rope in a backpack. I tie one end around a wrench so it throws well.
  • Two 6″ lag screws, securely fastened to a cord roughly wingspan+24″. Wear the spikes through your jacket much the same way your mom made you wear your mittens when you were a little kid. Use elastic straps or rubber bands to keep the spikes up against your radiuses (radii?) for storage. When you fall through the ice, the spikes make it much easier to clammer back out of the water and onto the ice. I once fell through on a cold, windy morning when no one knew I was out there. Fortunately, it was cold and windy enough that my gloves froze to the ice after a few minutes and I was able to pull myself out that way. I now carry spikes.
  • Watch this video on cold survival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysnKtuUTt8k
  • I fell in up to my armpits one very cold  night on the Manasha river about 10 years ago, about 2 miles across the lake from my truck. I was very lucky that there was a dead tree stump underwater that I caught with one ski.  Had to take my skis off underwater as the hole I skied into was much smaller than the length of my skis, (I think this is the biggest issue with falling in while skiing, getting the skis off). Kept my poles within reach so I could use the carbide tips to pull myself out (don’t recall needing to do this however). Didn’t really get cold until I got out and started skiing back across the lake. The water evaporating from my ski suit really chilled me down. When I got to the truck my hands were so numb I couldn’t unlock the door. Did the keys in the teeth thing. Was a happy guy to hear the truck fire up. I still felt a bit uncomfortable out on the lake yesterday.

Q: Does anyone have any tips for flying with skis?

A: From the XC mailing list:

  • Don’t believe the weather forecast – pack for warmer and colder but limit to bare necessities.
  • Don’t bring your best race skis unless you are going to race
  • Put a plastic bucket inside either end of the ski bag to keep tips and tails from getting crushed. As an alternative, just pack extra clothing around the tips and tails.
  • Put carbon ski poles inside a PVC or stiff cardboard tube in the bag or use pipe insulation for protection.
  • Wrap plastic wrap around the kick zone of waxable classic skis, especially if they have been waxed with klister.
  • Fill the ski bag with clothes to pad things.
  • When traveling with multiple pairs of skis, tape them together in their ski sleeves so they don’t bang around.
  • If 2 of you are traveling with ski bags containing multiple pairs, trade a pair, so you each have skis for the other if one ski bag gets lost in transit.
  • Remember that your ski bag will usually come out in the oversize luggage area.
  • Consider mass transit from the airport if possible since most cabs will have a hard time hauling your skis (but they’ll figure it out if they have to).

Q: After freezing my toes in the Birkie, I’m looking for a new pair of boots. I’ve been using Xiums and my toes get cold
very easily in those. After almost 5 hours out, I still don’t have feeling in two of them, 4 days later. I’ve heard Solomon
boots are warm. Can anyone comment on that? I’m also in the market for new skis so I wouldn’t have any problem changing
entire systems if needed.

A: The XC mailing list members have many different ideas on how to keep your feet warm.

New Boots

  • Some theorize that newer boot models are warmer than older models although this may simply be a rumor promulgated by sales folks.
  • As you move up in the line to the high end boots they have less insulation in them. This translates to better control so most of the top race boots are about the same.
  • I have a pair of the Alpina top end race boot and a low end entry boot from the same model year. The insulation in the low end boot is absolutely thicker and warmer than the racing boot.
  • It is not so much the boot as it a personal body temp issue. The boots that don’t keep you warm might work perfect for the next skier.

Different brands of boots

  • Salomon:  I can vouch for the Salomon boots. I have an ancient pair, and a newer pair (Escape 7) and, with some wool socks, I have never had a problem with cold toes.
  • I purchased Salomon (Pro Combi Pilot?) boots a couple of years ago and these are the warmest and most comfortable boots I have ever had.
  • I did find that the new Xium boots were warm when I tried them, I also heard this from others.

Boot sizing

  • Make sure your boots are big enough. If your feet are cramped then blood flow is constrained and your feet get cold. If you use thicker socks when it is cold than you would normally use, if your boots do not have room to accommodate the thicker socks your circulation will be constrained and your feet will get cold. If you like wearing heavy socks, buy larger size boots!

Socks/Boot Covers/Overboots/Electric Heaters

  • Salomon has the neoprene sock which is warm but I have heard of fit problems.
  • Lil Sport boot covers ($65) – lightweight and worth 15 degrees of warmth.
  • They are somewhat system specific (Profil covers won’t work on Pilot bindings, but NNN works on Profil). Bring your boots/bindings to check compatibility. Neoprene overboots give more protection in really wet conditions, but the fleece ones are a little warmer in dry conditions. Both are pretty adequate in all but the coldest conditions, when I have been known to use both simultaneously.
  • Boot heaters work great for skating. They are really warm and cozy, though expensive, and one more thing to get working at the start line. I can’t use mine for classic, because the wire runs from the heel up the back of the foot and chafes when I stride. This hasn’t been a problem skating, but my feet are warmer when I classic anyhow.

Chemical hand/foot warmers

  • I use these frequently for my fingers and toes. For my toes, I get the type with adhesive and place the sticky side on the outside of my sock, under the ball of my foot.
  • Toe warmers work well on top of the instep (top of foot) where most of the blood vessels are close to the skin and most people have room in their boots there.
  • Toe warmers work great stuck on the outside of your sock on the *top* of your toes. They are pretty thin but still bulky enough to cause discomfort if you stick them under your toes. Make sure to use those specifically labeled as toe warmers because they are formulated to work in the low oxygen environment of your boots.
  • I placed a heat pad on top of my boot and then pulled a boot cover over them.


  • When you are enroute to a ski trail, put your boots on the floor of the passenger side of your vehicle and run your heat to come from below. Place your gloves over the toes of the boots. Your boots and gloves will both be warm when you hit the trail.
  • One trick is to put those chemical heat pads in your boot an hour or more before the race, then removing them just before the start. This way the boot is pre-heated and sometimes when you start warm, you can stay warm.

Boot Dryers

  • I use boot dryers after skiing. Just spending a short time checking your wax the day before the Birke can add moisture to the inside of your ski boot.


  • If your feet sweat, get wet & then cold, you could try using anti-perspirant on your feet.

Body Warmth

  • Warm-up before getting dressed to ski. Go for a jog in your snow boots while you are all bundled up.
  • Keep your core warm. You can ski bare handed without a hat if you warmed up first and keep your core toasty.

Technique Adjustments

  • When skating the foot rarely flexes as it does in a classical push-off. So when the skate push off is completed, wiggle & flex your toes
    like crazy until you set the foot on the snow again. This works best with V2 & V2 alternate. When tucking, you can try curling
    your toes up toward the top if the boot. Any toe movement will create heat & help your cause. For cold hands, I flick/rub each
    finger past the pole shaft as I release my hand grip at the end of each stroke.