How to Select the Right Ski
How to Select the Right Ski
This guide will help you learn about the specs of skis and what features work better for different types of skiers.
Sidecut is the width of a ski at the tip, waist, and tail, measured in millimeters. Most manufacturers will refer to the sidecut as "turn radius". This is a more technical term that deals with the difference in width between the tip/tail and the waist of the ski. A larger turn radius means there is less sidecut. A smaller turn radius means there is more sidecut.
Typically, beginner skiers will like more sidecut. The more sidecut to a ski, the easier it will turn at slower speeds. A ski with a lot of sidecut (aka a short turn radius) will make smooth carving turns on groomed runs without needing to go very fast.
The flex of a ski is the physical stiffness or rigidity of the ski. Softer skis are easier to maneuver at low speeds but can become unstable at high speeds. Generally, beginners will want a softer ski because they are more forgiving. Stiffer skis carve better and are more stable at high speeds, but are more difficult to control at low speeds. Generally, advanced skiers want stiffer skis.
The width of a ski is measured at the middle or "waist" of the ski.
Narrower skis, less than 80mm at the waist, are generally good for beginners. There is less surface area on the ski which means it is easier to maneuver. They are best suited for groomed trails at ski resorts.
Mid-width skis, between 80mm and 100mm, are generally called "all mountain" skis and are ideal for varying types of terrain. These skis are generally stiffer and better for intermediate to advanced skiers.
Wide skis, greater than 100mm, are mostly for powder or off-trail skiing. These skis will "float" on top of deeper snow and stay more stable in choppy, variable snow conditions.
The camber of the ski refers to the arc as seen from the profile of the ski when laid flat.
The camber determines the responsiveness of a ski and generally works hand-in-hand with the stiffness of the ski. A typical beginner ski will have a camber profile with an earlier rise or rockered tip.
Rocker is the opposite of camber. The ski will appear to bend upward from it's center point on a fully rockered ski. Typically, you will not find fully rockered skis unless they are wide, powder-specific skis.
It is much more likely to find a ski with a camber profile and a "rockered tip", which means that the nose of the ski begins to bend upward earlier than a traditional ski. This makes turn initiation much easier and reduces the amount of surface area that is in contact with the snow, which then allows for more maneuverability.
Kids skis are the Level Nine speciality.
The honest truth is that there is very little difference between kids skis. For the most part, kids are too light to require the varying stiffness and other technologies that are put into adult skis. Unless you have a kid skiing in a race program at your local mountain, we recommend you let them choose their favorite graphic.
Types of Skis
They don't make skis like they used to. Thank goodness! Skis today come in more shapes and sizes and configurations so you can have a great day on the slopes no matter your ability level, the terrain, or the snow conditions. We've thrown together this little ski guide to help you know what to look for when shopping.
Carving skis are designed to excel on groomed runs. They are easy to turn, with wide tips and tails and a narrow mid-section. This allows the skier to rely on the skis to do most of the work.
Proper turning technique is easily learned on these skis, so you can ski faster and maintain greater control.
Apline ski racers go really fast on groomed runs and use advanced race skis. Race skis are built purely for speed and should only be used by experienced skiers.
If you need a ski that will do everything, from groomed runs to steeps and powder, this is your ski. These skis are especially good for people who only want to purchase one pair of skis to get them through a season. However, skiers with gear closets full of skis also like to have a couple sets of all-mountain skis on hand because of their versatility.
Freeride skis are wider versions of all-mountain skis. They hold an edge well on steep, icy slopes, but still offer great flotation for powder skiing. Their ability to ski groomed runs usually suffers, but most freeride skiers are good enough to overlook that.
When the snow is deep and soft, these skis really shine. Powder skis are wide and quite flexible. They are the perfect skis to make skiing in the powder incredibly easy because of the added surface area.
Their downfall is their sluggish feel on groomed runs and mogul fields (but why would you ski on groomed runs on a powder day anyway?).
"Park Skis" is short for "Terrain Park Skis." These have tips on both ends (aka twin tip) to allow skiing backwards or switch. These skis are percect for anyone that enjoys jumping, sliding rails, and any other skiing in terrein parks.
A lot of these skis can be used as a versatile all-mountain ski, with the added benefit of being able to shoot rooster tails at your slow friends.
For advanced skiers who want to escape the resort crowds, touring skis allow them to climb up the mountain with skins on the skis. At the top, the skins are removed for skiing down the backcountry. Touring skis also come in a variety of shapes and sizes for snow conditions and terrain. To learn more about touring, visit our Backcountry Essentials guide.