How to Choose Your Next Pair of Skis
With 100's of options on the market, buying a new pair of skis can appear to be a daunting task. Our experts at The Pro have compiled tips and steps to help find your perfect pair of new skis!
Step 1: Take a Self Assessment
You know yourself best, and the first step is to take an honest assessment of your current ability level, aspirations, how often you ski, and budget. All of these play an important role in choosing skis.
Step 2: Determine What Type of Skis You Desire
There are broad categories of skis that indicate the types of snow conditions and turns the skis will excel at. Matching the type of ski to your preferred skiing style and terrain is an important step to take. Often these categories include everything from skis suitable for those looking to improve their game to those that have perfected their craft!
All Mountain - One of the broadest categories, these skis are built to be taken anywhere on the mountain! All mountain skis perform at similar levels across groomed and ungroomed conditions. They often feature camber underneath the feet to provide edge hold on hard snow with mild rocker at the tip and tail to provide float in softer snow conditions. All mountain skis are generally identifiable by a rounded tail that is slightly turned up. All mountain skis come in a variety of stiffness levels to suit beginners all the way to expert skiers.
If you are looking for one pair of skis to do it all, all mountain skis are a one ski quiver killer!
Freeride - Freeride skis often look like wider versions of all mountain skis. However, pick up a pair and you can immediately tell the difference! Freeride skis are made with lightweight materials, usually slightly wider than their all mountain counterparts, as well as have more rocker throughout. This produces a ski that excels at tearing up soft snow off-piste with ease!
Those looking for a lightweight ski that prefers to skid turns as opposed to carve will likely enjoy freeride skis. Freeride skis are also the choice of those who take part in alpine touring!
Freestyle - Freestyle skis are best suited for those looking to hit rails and features in the terrain park or find natural hits over the mountain! These are generally twin tip skis meaning that the bindings are mounted in the center and the tail is equally as turned up as the front. This allows skiers to ski and land backwards with ease.
Freestyle skis are great for those that spend all day in the park or are looking for a fun, easy going all mountain ski to rip down the mountain!
Frontside Carving - Frontside carving skis are a popular type of skis that excel at groomed snow performance. Skiers that enjoy doing controlled turns and carves on-piste will enjoy frontside carving skis. Frontside carving skis are made for all ability levels in varying stiffness levels from softer skis for renters to skis stiffened with two sheets of Titanal for aspiring racers! Softer and wider frontside carving skis can handle mixed snow conditions with little penalty, but more race oriented skis do not handle well in soft snow. Generally these are identifiable with a squared tail.
Race - Race skis, as the name implies, are made for the race course. These skis come with different side cuts depending on the turn radius desired. Slalom (SL) skis are quicker turning while giant slalom (GS) skis are faster with a much longer turn radius. Junior race skis are softer, quicker turning versions of their adult counterparts. Adult race skis include "cheater" or "beer league racing skis" which are race skis not based on World Cup dimensions; race skis that are the same shape as their World Cup counterparts but are less stiff for lighter weight or progressing racers; then their are top of the line World Cup (WC) race skis.
These skis are not for the faint of heart but their is no equivalent to these on hard snow or the race course!
Step 3: Determine Ski Width
Choosing a ski width will largely depend on that type of ski you are looking to purchase. As a rule of thumb, a more narrow ski is quicker and easier to turn while a wider ski provides a more stable platform and provides more float. Skis are measured underfoot and often have their width in the model name. For example "XYZ 88 Ski" is likely to be 88 mm at it's most narrow point where your bindings will be mounted.
All Mountain skis tend to be 88 mm under foot +/- 10 mm. The wider the ski, the stiffer and more aggressive it tends to be. Intermediate - advanced skiers may enjoy skis 78 mm to 88 mm while advanced - expert skiers may enjoy 88 mm - 98 mm.
Freeride skis are similar to all mountain skis that the wider versions are targeted for more advanced skiers. Freeride skis usually start at around 88 mm and can get as wide as 115 mm. The wider the ski, the more it will excel at soft snow while a narrow freeride ski is better for those that spend most of their time in bounds at resorts.
The widths of frontside carving and race skis will most likely be dictated on the type of turns you are looking to make. Advanced carving skis and race skis will be very narrow for quick edge to edge turning. Wider frontside carving skis are more suitable for skiers looking to spend most of their time on groomers but may dip into the moguls for a couple runs during the day.
Step 4: Determine Ski Height
As a rule of thumb, skis should be sized between your chin and top of your head. Shorter skis are easier to turn while longer skis are more stable at speed. Other personal factors to consider while determining ski height include skier ability level and weight. The more aggressive or heavier the skier, the longer she ski should be and vice versa. Skis with more rocker at the tip and tail will ski shorter.
Ski height is a personal choice and there is no "wrong" height. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable on the mountain is the height for you.
Step 5: Picking Your Skis
Once you have determined your ability level, budget, desired type of ski, and preferred height it is now finally time to pick your new pair! You will likely be choosing from several similar skis. There may be small differences in weight, turning radius, or other features that may make each pair distinct. Ski graphics or brand preference can also play a role in picking a ski at this stage.
Step 6: Bindings
Skis are either sold with bindings, also called system skis, or without bindings, flat skis. If you purchased a system ski, you are good to skip this step! If you purchased a flat ski, you will also need to purchase bindings for your skis. Pay special attention that you do not purchase bindings with a brake size too large or too small compared to the width of your new skis.
Step 7: PHANTOM
Nobody likes having to perform routine maintenance on their equipment. Keep your new skis always gilding like new by adding PHANTOM at checkout!
PHANTOM is a permanent base treatment that provides consistent glide over the life of your new skis. Skis come from the factory with wax on the bottom that increases their ability to glide on snow. Since wax is a temporary topical solution, it wears off after about 3 days of skiing making the skis slower and glide more inconsistent. PHANTOM eliminates the need for waxing creating better on snow performance and saves money by eliminating the need to wax your skis!