Skiing is one of the most popular winter sports and you may be in the market for new skis right now. Every year millions of people hit the slopes for some fresh air and fun, and every year more people discover the joys of skiing.
Because it is an equipment oriented sport, however, those without the proper ski gear, new or old, may get frustrated and discouraged. This article will guide you in selecting the best equipment for your level and style of skiing.
New skis are arguably the single most important piece of ski equipment. Choosing the right pair of skis for your level and skiing style will help you get the most enjoyment out of your skiing time. Your skiing ability is the single most important factor in choosing a pair of skis.
Beginners and intermediate level skiers need skis that can be easily maneuvered and experts require more specialized skis. The variables in choosing a pair of new skis include materials, type, length, shape, and stiffness.
Skis were originally made of wood, but very little wood is used in modern skis. The most common materials are fiberglass and aluminum. Other more exotic materials like Kevlar, titanium, carbon, and boron fibers are also used. New skis these days are often made from a variety of materials to provide various degrees of flexibility and strength in the different parts of the ski.
The core of the ski can be made of wood, foam or some other material. The tops and sides are usually made of fiberglass or aluminum. The base of the ski is a synthetic polyethylene edged with steel.
Type of Skis
Skis are designed for different types of skiing. For example, cross country skis are longer and thinner than downhill skis because they are made for gliding along straight paths rather than making quick turns down a hill.
But there are more than just two types of skis alpine (downhill) skis come in a variety of shapes and styles depending on whether they will be used for racing, freestyle, powder or packed trails.
Shorter skis are easier to turn. This is why most beginners start off with a pair of short skis. Short skis are also used by certain types of freestyle skiers. Longer skis are faster, so they are used by racers and expert skiers who like the challenge of a fast run. Longer skis are also suitable for a greater variety of snow conditions.
The proper length of ski is determined by skiing style, ability, and the weight of the skier.
Skis come in various shapes which are suitable for different types of skiing. For example, skis which are narrow in the boot area are capable of making sharp, fast turns. Skis which are wider in this area offer more stability and will make broader turns.
The overall length of the ski when taken into consideration with the various shapes results in skis with a wide range of characteristics.
Stiffness is determined by the materials and shape of a ski. Longer skis are usually stiffer than short ones and are therefore more stable at high speeds. Shorter skis are not as stiff, so they offer greater manoeuvrability at the expense of high speed stability. Knowing your skiing style and level will allow you to choose new skis of the appropriate stiffness.
5 More Things to Consider When Buying New Skis
Still, finding and buying a new pair of skis is a big commitment that falls somewhere in-between the decision to do pizza or burrito and whom you marry. We want you to get it right, so we reached out to AJ Cargill, a 15-year ski shop veteran who grew up ski racing in Sun Valley before joining the Freeskiing World Tour in the ’90s. She went on to compete in moguls after college and has spent the last seven years working as a buyer for Teton Village Sports in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she also works part-time on ski patrol.
Whether you buy your skis direct from the manufacturer, online, through our non-profit program Moving Mountains, or at your local shop, Cargill says go slow and avoid choosing a ski based on what your friends are skiing on. “Work with someone who asks a lot of questions, is invested in you getting the right product,” she says. “If it’s not working out, maybe step away or go to another shop. Take your time. This is an investment.”
Pro tip: If you can find a demo nearby, Cargill recommends taking a ski out for a run or two—it’s the best way to know if it’s the right fit for you. These tips will help, too.
2. Get waisted. A narrow waist underfoot will allow you to get your ski on edge sooner, which is great for firmer East Coast snow or for skiing on groomers. A wider waist gives you more surface area, which will help you float through that dreamy Alta pow.
“If you’re looking for that one-ski quiver, you want something between a 99 and a 107,” says Cargill. “You can go a little wider if you’re more advanced at feeling the arc of your turn.”
3. Turn it up. “If you can feel that you’re using the tip and tail of your ski, not just your middle, but the whole ski through the beginning, middle and end of turn, you want a camber ski,” says Cargill. Think of camber as the spring in your ski—the more you have, the more energy and power you will get back when you explode out of a turn. Reverse camber, or rocker, refers to the rise in the shovel-like parts of your ski at the tip and tail.
“If you like to pivot your turns, and keep your balance right in the middle, you might want the tip and tail to rise up, which is also great for powder and more mixed terrain,” Cargill adds.
Skis made with metal are going to be stiffer, have less flex, and require more strength to maneuver than skis made of purely wood or carbon. While a metal ski weighs more, it can also provide more stability in variable terrain, and more power for speed.
5. The long and short of it. When you’ve found a ski that fits your needs in all other areas and you’re really narrowing it down, it’s time to consider length. If you’re less experienced, Cargill says your ski should hit at chin height.
For more intermediate skiers, skis should be between the nose and eyes. If you’re advanced, you’ll want a ski that reaches the top of your head or a few centimeters over.
“If you’re pretty inexperienced, you might get undersold on the length and that can prohibit growth in the sport,” says Cargill. “But if you’re kind of talking your game up, you can get oversold too.”
Bonus: Your new skis are just one piece in a whole system. Your boots are also a big part of the equation and should be taken into consideration when buying a ski. Read more about what to look for when buying a boot here. “If comfort is the most important part of your boot, that’s going to steer you into a different ski,” says Cargill. “I like comfort and if a ski is heavy, I hate it because in Jackson we carry our skis a lot here.”
Find out when you should rent and when you should buy skis.