The following was copied from RXCSF
The Paper Test. If you’re looking at used gear, or buying from a store without a test board or cross-country ski expertise, you can approximate a test board with an assistant and a piece of paper (normal thickness) – a tried-and-somewhat-true method to see if your skis are in the right ballpark:
– Stand on your skis (toes at binding pin, or balance point of an unmounted ski) on a flat, smooth surface (a hardwood floor, a table/counter top, or even a firm smooth carpet will be better than nothing – do not try on asphalt, rough tile, uneven floors, shag carpet, etc).
1. With weight evenly on both feet (and feet flat), slide the paper under the ski beneath your foot and see how far it slides in front and in back before pinching between the ski and floor.
2. Do the same with all weight on a single foot – first with the foot flat (weight evenly between heel and ball of foot)
3. Repeat with all the weight on the ball of the foot.
For classic skis, the zone identified in #1 will be the wax pocket (where kick wax is applied) – this should extend from the heel to about a boot length in front of the toe. When moving to one flat foot (#2), the zone should shorten somewhat (especially at the front) but should remain open under the foot and a little ahead (this will keep kickwax off the snow when gliding on one ski). With all weight on the ball of the foot (#30), the wax pocket should be closed (fully compressed against the floor) and you should not be able to slide the paper at all (for some skis there may be a small section that remains open toward the front of the wax pocket – OK as long as the part under the foot is closed). If you can’t close the wax pocket with weight on the ball of the foot, the ski is too stiff and you’ll never get good kick. If the wax pocket does not open when shifting weight toward the heel (or on both feet) the skis are too soft and will not glide as well. For most skiers, it’s better to err on the softer side.
• Keep in mind that without a very flat/smooth surface, the distances above will be inconsistent. Try several times with the ski in different places, and focus on the area under the foot and just in front. If you can consistently close it with weight on the ball of the foot, and open it when shifting back or to 2 feet, you’re doing OK. Wait for a perfectly flat surface to mark kick zones (we’ll do this at an early season practice).
For skating skis, it’s less important to define the distances but you should check to see that there’s a gap between ski and ground with weight on both feet, on a single flat foot, and ideally a small gap when on the ball of one foot (allows for some pop when you push off dynamically). If you compress the middle of the ski too easily, your foot becomes the pivot point and the ski is very squirrelly (unstable in the glide, and hard to control in turns). If you can’t flatten the ski (almost), the tips and tails plow through the snow and bog you down (especially on uphills).