It can be difficult to find the right pair of skis for you, especially if you’re new to skiing. There are so many types and sizes that it can be confusing and overwhelming. If this sounds like you, don’t fret—we’ve put together this basic guide to help you choose the right skis.
Types of Skis
There are different types of skis that can be used, depending on your terrain.
- Freestyle Skis: If you want to do tricks like you see in the Olympics, these are the best skis for pulling them off. They’re shaped to help ensure smooth landings, and they’re even used for normal downhill skiing, not just trick riding.
- Powder Skis: As the name suggests, these are best for skiing in deep powder snow. Many have a fully rocker profile to boost flotation and help with maneuverability. They are not built for precise turns.
- Cross Country Skis: These are lightweight skis that are designed for touring trails. If you want a relaxed skiing experience where you can enjoy nature and take the ride at your own pace, these are the skis for you.
These aren’t the only skis, however. There are many more different types that you can choose from that are built for many styles of skiing.
You want to choose a pair of skis that is the right length for you. If they are too short, they may feel too slow, and if they are too long, they can be hard to control. Start with your ability and height. With the tails of the skis on the ground, the tips should be between your chin and the top of the head. Shorter skis are better for beginners because they are easier to turn.
Other factors play into the length of ski you should use. For example:
- Weight: If you have a slight build for your height then pick skis on the shorter range.
- Style: If you want faster turns then choose a shorter ski.
- Terrain: If you have a lot of twisty and narrow turns, choose shorter skis.
- Personal Preferences: If you know you prefer shorter or longer skis, keep that in mind when you choose the length.
Getting skis that are the right length is important because they influence how much enjoyment you’ll get out of skiing. You aren’t going to have fun if your skis are too long and you can’t turn them, so you need to choose the right size.
The dimensions are measured by the width in three places: tip, tail, and waist. The tip initiates the turn, a wide tip will float easier on soft snow, while on hard snow you want a wider tip, and the tail helps sustain the turns. Waist is the most important because a narrow waist allows you to establish an edge sooner, which means a speedier ski.
The relationship between the tail, waist, and tip of the ski creates an arc. If you were to draw a giant circle that finishes the arc, this is known as the sidecut radius. The sidecut radius is usually expressed in meters and will give you an idea of whether or not a ski is going to be making tight turns or bigger arcing ones. A ski that has a narrow waist in relation to the tail and tip has a shorter sidecut radius, and a ski with a wider waist has a longer sidecut radius. While you can make both big and tight turns with the same ski, knowing this can give you an idea of the kinds of turns the ski excels at.
Rocker and Camber
When you set a ski down on the snow and peek at it from the side, you will notice certain things about the shape. With certain skis, you see the middle of it rises off the snow. Rocker and camber are what creates these differences in shape. Camber is the more traditional ski design and causes the middle of the ski to come off the snow. When a skier moves, camber gives the energy for the ski to snap back from turns.
Rocker is a newer design. Rocker skis give better flotation in powder and better maneuverability. There are different degrees of rocker and camber, and the standard alpine features camber, so the middle section comes off the snow a little. Standard alpine gives a controlled and stable ride on hard packed snow but it is more challenging in soft or deep snow.
Now that you know more about how to choose the right skis, you can go forth and buy your first pair, and don’t forget to start training for skiing before hitting the slopes!