Fresh winter air and outdoors in nature, where fun and fitness come together. Step on your cross country (XC) skis and go. You want good glide on the flat terrain, effective grip going up hills, and controlled turns down the hills.

The XC ski equipment and clothing is designed for skiing on groomed trails or in the snow covered untracked terrain; for sunny days in fresh powder or whiteout snowstorms in freezing temperatures. With regard to gear, there are many factors to make or break the XC ski experience. XC skis for example provide varied width, flex, and edges, all designed to perform optimally in different XC skiing conditions.

Every year, ski magazines and websites deliver their annual gear review with a focus on what's new for the XC ski expert or racer. It is thought that the technology used in these products geared to advanced skiers will "trickle down" to be incorporated and become beneficial to recreational skiers in the future…well, wants to provide a view specifically for recreational interests, to look at select products that offer a great experience XC skiing.

To address the lifestyle interest in XC skiing, there are more progressive colors being introduced by the clothing suppliers. Bright colors as well as muted color ranges are becoming more mainstream with neon highlights. Waxless technology continues to be refined for better performance across the classic ski product range eliminating the need for kick wax, streamlining the pre-ski process and get on the snow quicker.

XC SKIS: Rossignol touring skis within their EVO category are compact skis that are easier to maneuver, transport, kick, etc. EVO skis are also a bit wider to feel more stable in softer snow. There are two levels of EVO skis designed around how much someone will use the equipment.

The EVO Trail, Tour and Action are designed for skiing more frequently, which could be in different snow conditions – new, old/glazed, unconsolidated, etc – which impacts how the pattern will grip in the snow. With these three models, the Positrack waxless pattern gives excellent grip in varied snow conditions. The ski cap construction allows a bit of an edge where it meets the base and this adds grip and confidence when snowplowing and getting around turns.

The EVO Glade and First are designed for skiers that may not plan on skiing on a regular basis but would like to have some skis on hand. A cut pattern in the base for grip works great in many snow conditions, but it does not have the same range as the Positrack base. The construction changes from cap to sidewall with the Glade and First and that change does not allow for the slight edge that is in the cap construction. Glades and First are great skis for ski areas with prepared tracks, golf courses or open meadows and the Trail, Tour and Action will be more dynamic on snow and have increased versatility.

With the EVO skis, it's easy for skiers to choose their model determined by the level of use or performance to suit the skier's needs. The ski width would be based on where they'll be skied and how much floatation is needed.

The Spider 62 is Fischer Nordic's most popular ski for a variety of uses including machine-groomed tracks at the ski area, in man-made tracks, or on unmaintained terrain. The Spider is available in three sizes, has a steel edge for control, and a base pattern that holds going uphill.

A few years ago, Fischer XC introduced the NORDIC CRUISING line of skis. The unique shape and look of these skis help you understand the benefits and simple, but effective logic behind this series. Fischer's Wide Body Technology (WBT) is the original concept behind Nordic Cruising, and is responsible for the stability and grip features. The shape creates a ski that is noticeably wider under foot with a narrowing in the forward and tail sections. Nordic Cruising sidecuts are defined by 3 measurements. The Cruiser series features a wider waist, which provides control and stability by allowing more pattern contact with the snow to improve uphill grip without reducing glide.

The Alpina Sports Corporation's Control 64 Edge ski is for tracked or untracked terrain with a ¾ steel edge (is only on about three quarters of the ski edge rather than fully tip to tail) for better gliding. There's a waxless base and good flex on the ski so it is great for shuffling skiers and those who want more downhill control.

XC SKI BOOTS: The biggest change in XC skiing is that the ski boots are built for support, comfort, and warmth. For recreational touring boots, Fischer has 5 men's models and 5 women's models to address different fit, performance, and pricing needs. Fischer's models of boots are available in a men's or women's fit. There are differences between a male and female foot, which are addressed in the last of the boots. There's Thinsulate insulation in the boots and the women's boots have a fleece lining to provide increased warmth. Similar to skis where use will help determine the model, boot models can also be determined by increased support or warmth.

Alpina Sports has the T40 boot that includes a supportive cuff and counter system for support and a better sole to prevent slippery walking. The T30 version of the boot for women has the same features but is lasted for a woman's foot with more curvature, narrower heel, and a rounder toe box. Alpina's T30 also has a plush liner inside the boot and Thinsulate insulation where needed for warmth.

XC SKI CLOTHING: Sporthill's Super XC versatile medium-weight pant crosses a wide spectrum of temperatures and weather conditions. Perfect for both running and Nordic skiing, the slim fitting, low profile Super XC features front panels that are made of Windshield, a water-repellent stretch knit softshell that sheds water, breathes, and blocks the wind. The back panels are made from SportHill's soft, stretchy SwiftPro fabric which allows the pant to wick moisture from the inside out. The articulated knee overlaps a stretch panel built in for extraordinary mobility. Ankle zippers reveal an inner gusset, so unzipping allows hem to go over a wider boot without exposure.

For comfort, fit and convenience, the Super XC also has a contoured elastic waistband with a draw cord and a back zippered pocket.

The Craft AXC Touring Pant has zippers along the entire length of the legs and at the ankle there is an elastic area closed with a zipper and a snap. This pant ankle set up is the most significant aspect of the pants because it tightly fits around the boot and keeps snow out of the shoe top to avoid getting wet socks while skiing. And if you've ever lost a set of keys, the zippered side pockets are comforting to lock away your valuables. The comfortable lined material of the Craft pants is also enough to stay warm with or without a base layer underneath.

The Sporthill Symmetry II Jacket has everything you might want in a jacket except pit zips to provide an extra way to cool off and transport perspiration away. The jacket's mesh liner and material are comfortable when you have to zip up the collar on a very cold day. The packable hood on the jacket is a valuable asset in frigid temperatures or when it suddenly gets cold out on the trail. The high-hip fit keeps you warm and the zipper side pockets can be closed to avoid losing pocketed items. The jacket arms have extended fleece cuffs, which are a nice touch to keep snow out of your glove. The inside chest pocket has a zipper and a hole for an IPod and earbuds for the times that you want musical accompaniment on solo trail outings.

The Sporthill Women's SwiftPro Zip Top is a jacket that follows the contours of the body with flattering chafe-free seam lines that form the underarm gussets and side panels. It has a shaped body hem with a slight drop tail to help keep the cold out. This quick-wicking, breathable top has special touches like a zippered key pocket on the left front hem, and curved, built-in thumbholes as well as inner mitts. The fabric's stretchy comfort and ability to block the wind (up to 25 mph) are good characteristics. The 13-inch front zipper helps regulate your temperature and the zipper features a storm-guard at the top and reflectivity at its base. The SwiftPro Zip Top is embossed with a snowflake pattern that makes this high performance top fun and feminine and it can be worn alone or as a base layer under a jacket.

Socks and Gloves: Folks at Darn Tough, one of the hottest brands at the moment say look for a form fitting performance sock in a micro crew height (that means that it will come up just to the top of your boots), ensuring maximum comfort and support. Depending on the fit and comfort of your boots you might want either a minimalist lightweight pair or one with some light cushioning, but any pair of socks for XC skiing should have seamless toe construction to prevent bunching and pressure points in your boots. You want a reinforced heel and toe and some elastic around the arch for miles of blister-free bliss.

Merino wool socks (actually, Nylon and Spandex are in the socks, too) are especially good for high output winter activities like XC skiing thanks to their many natural attributes. Merino wool socks are breathable, non itchy, wick moisture away from the skin of your foot so that you won't feel clammy, stay warm even when wet, don't rub and won't cause blisters!

On top of all that they are naturally thermo-regulating, which means they will adapt to your body temperature because Merino sheep live in extreme climates so their wool has evolved to work equally well in hot and cold environments. Merino wool socks can be machine-washed on a warm cycle and then thrown in the dryer with the rest of your load, although Merino wool socks are naturally anti-microbial (no stink) so you can always wear them for another workout if needed. There are plenty of other great sock producers but a really cool thing about Darn Tough is that there is an unconditional lifetime guarantee – no strings attached!

The Yoko Convertible glove has a pull out waterproof and windproof cover (hence the name). This versatile glove is perfect for cycling commuters, back country skiers, and for those who want the flexibility this glove offers. Different pairs of gloves are needed to correspond to various temperatures, so more insulation is needed for extreme cold. Additionally, it is useful for the glove to be reinforced in the areas that grip the pole and have some cuff method to shut out cold air and snow.

So there you have it, a few name brands and products along with some tips for the recreational XC skier. Now get out there before the winter ends!