Buying a new pair of skis can potentially be a minefield, especially if you don’t know what you are looking for. Here’s our little guide which explains some of the features and technologies in the skis to help narrow your search.
First step in selecting a ski is to identify they type of ski you want and for your aspirations for the future.
The different types of ski's suit different terrain and while you can use all ski's in all types of terrain you can compromise one area if you aspire to do more of something else.
All Mountain Piste Skis
A piste is a marked ski run or path down a mountain (usually groomed) for snow skiing, snowboarding, or other mountain sports.
An All Mountain Piste ski is mainly intended to be used on a groomed run but can be used off Piste as well, 80% Piste / 20% Off Piste.
All Mountain Skis
Because the majority of skiers don't have the luxury of lugging around several sets of skis to match that day's conditions, All-Mountain skis are designed to perform in all types of snow conditions and at most speeds. We would classify ski's 80mm - 95mm wide in the waist as All-Mountain ski's. Narrower All-Mountain skis are better for groomed runs, while wider styles handle better in powder and cruddy conditions. Generally as the ski gets wider you gain off-piste performance but sacrifice on-piste grip. If you prefer faster speeds or firmer snow pick a ski with a flat tail. If you want something easier to use, more playful and want to venture into the soft snow, consider as ski with a twin tip.
Ski's around 80mm would be 70% Piste / 30% off piste and the 95mm skis would be your 50% piste / 50% off piste skis.
Freestyle skis are often designed with a more symmetrical shape to make switch (backwards) skiing much easier and with reinforced edges to withstand rails. A true park ski is completely symmetrical however many "freestyle" skis are non-symmetrical All-Mountain Twin-tip skis that can be used all over the mountain but have the bindings mounted in a centered position.
Freeriding is a style of skiing performed on natural, un-groomed terrain, without a set course, goals or rules. A Freeride ski has a wide waist width, 95mm - 110mm, making them ideal for places with soft snow. That extra surface area helps skiers to float above the powder. However, they can be difficult to use on slopes with less snow or groomed trails. These skis are intended for those looking for powder but will still have to ski the pistes to get there.
We have written a separate guide about Rocker Profiles.
Click here to learn more about Rocker.
Straight Flat Tail
A straight tail gives the most power transmission through the end of the turn and then a quick release to the new one. Great for hard piste’s, maximum control and speed. Usually a straight tail would not be combined with rocker.
Rounded Flat Tail
You will find a rounded tail on lower performance piste skis and most all mountain skis. The rounded tail helps the ski release when transitioning from the end of one turn into another. Great for beginners or less confident skiers, this is also an advantage in all mountain skis where a straight tail ski would want to keep turning. When rocker is added to this tail type it makes turning easier, but you compromise on some edge hold and stability at higher speed.
Rounded “Twin Tip” Tail
A lot of people look at these skis as “freestyle” skis, and while many of them are classified that way, a twin tip with its raised rounded tail gives the ski greater maneuverability in soft snow. Also makes the ski feel more playful, adds additional surface area for better float in the soft snow and you can ski backwards if you want to!
As you can see from our illustration, the contact point (the widest part of the tail) is in a different place on each tail type. This is one of the reasons that the size of ski required changes depending on the type of ski you get.
The flex of the ski determines its performance. You turn a ski by putting it on its edge and then bending it. How much it bends will be determined by its construction, by the skiers weight and by how fast / aggressively they ski. The faster you ski the more G-force you will apply. A skier can experience up to 4G or 4 times your body weight. So the more aggressively you ski the stiffer the ski you will need. A less confident skier would much prefer a softer more forgiving ski that will bend much easier. A beginner ski will usually be quite soft and a more advanced ski will be quite stiff.
There is no measurement for a skis flex but there are a few hints you can find in the construction of the ski. Any ski with Titanal aka Ti, in its construction will usually be quite stiff.
Radius / Sidecut
In addition to the flex the Sidecut has an effect on the performance of the ski.
The sidecut is made up of the difference in dimensions between the Tip, Waist and Tail of the ski which forms a curve. If you were to continue this curve to form a circle the radius of the circle is the sidecut.
E.g a Dynastar Speed Zone 7's dimensions are; Tip - 120mm, Waist - 73mm, Tail - 104mm with a Sidecut radius of 15m.
This is often called the turn radius but the flex has an effect on how the ski will turn. The general rule is that a ski with a short sidecut will turn more quickly than a ski with a longer one. But a ski with a soft flex and long sidecut will bend more and could make a turn just a tight as a stiff ski with a short radius.