Want your own skis but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place. With so many different types of skis to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow your search. Luckily, we’ve created this expert ski buying guide to help you own the mountains this season.
There are plenty of things to consider when you’re buying skis, and it’s important to get it right at every stage to make sure your skis feel like they were made for you.
Things to consider:
- Length and size
- Ski width
- Turning radius
- Rocker type
- Your riding style and preferred terrain
Choosing the right length ski largely depends on your height, body weight, and what type of riding you want to do.
A good starting point is to pick a ski length that hits somewhere between your chin and the top of your head before thinking about your preferred riding style, snow, and terrain.
If you’re a beginner or improver and don’t tend to ski fast, a short ski will suit you best. If you ski fast or aggressively, or plan to do a lot of off-piste skiing, go for a slightly longer ski.
Advanced or racing skiers tend to prefer skis that are longer than head height, but for less experienced skiers, shorter skis are easier to turn.
Your ability level is no longer as relevant when choosing skis as constantly evolving ski technology allows for a better match to your style and terrain. However, it’s still a good place to start so it’s worth talking to one of our experts in-store who can find you skis appropriate for your ability level.
Think about your ability in terms of beginner, intermediate, and advanced, using the following guide for help.
It could be your first time skiing, or you’ve been a few times before. You’ve learnt to link turns, control your edges, and can stop with control on blue and red runs.
Skis that have softer flex, narrower widths, with specific designs such as carving will allow for an easier turn and more control.
You’re more confident in your ability to turn and stop, improving your carving and confidently taking on red and black runs. You’ve begun to play with riding switch and on different terrain such as in powder or off-piste.
You ride the mountain with confidence and style, looking for new adventures and challenges and often like to charge at speed. You have control carving on icy pistes and steep terrain and are confident riding a variety of snow conditions and terrains.
The width of your skis will contribute to how it feels and performs. The measurement is taken from the middle of the ski, usually at the narrowest point. Narrow widths will offer a quicker turn, while wider waist widths offer better flotation in powder.
Ski dimensions will be given in a 3-number format; tip, waist, and tail.
The turn radius will also contribute to how your skis feel and perform. The turn radius is given in metres. The narrower the ski’s width in relation to its tip and tail, the shorter its turn radius and deeper the sidecut.
Skis with a shorter turn radius are suitable for all mountain and some powder skis with tapered tips and tails. Carving skis often have a shorter turn radius and are good for quicker turns.
A medium turn radius is good for all mountain riding, park, and pipes.
Skis with a long turn radius are good for powder and big mountain skiing, turning more slowly and usually more stable at high speeds.
The camber profile is the curvature of the base of a ski, with different profiles suiting different styles of skiing. These vary slightly by brand, but below is a rough guide to the different camber profiles.
Traditionally skis are cambered, giving them an upward arching curve in the middle to help distribute pressure evenly across the length of the skis. Cambered skis ask for a more precise turn but give maximum energy on groomed pistes and hard snow, as well as good edge hold and pop.
Camber is often preferred by racing skiers and advanced park riders.
A rocker, also known as reverse-camber, is a camber turned upside down. Ideal for both beginner and advanced riders, the rise of the tip and tail away from the snow results in easier float in deeper powder. A rocker will also give a looser, more manoeuvrable feel, freeing up the contact points for less edge catching and more confidence.
Flat camber skis, or zero camber, is when the ski is completely flat along its length. As it is flat it does not have the same edge control as a camber or reverse camber ski, so it may not be best as a piste ski. These are best for powder skiing or freestyle skiing, where you will typically be skiing on piste to get to the park or the powder areas.
Camber, rocker, and flat profiles can be combined in a variety of ways to create different rocker profiles. These combination rockers give riders the best of each type for different mountain rides. Brands are constantly experimenting with new and combined rocker types.
Any skis can be ridden on any terrain but are usually designed with a specific terrain or style in mind; for example, powder skis are designed to be wider at the nose to help keep you afloat.
Have a look at the following descriptions of the major ski categories. If you’re new to skiing, all mountain skis are a good place to start as they perform well across all terrains.
Designed to go anywhere and work well in all snow conditions, all mountain skis are ideal for everything from groomed pistes, to park runs, and powder. Now the most popular ski ahead of piste, all-mountain skis tend to have fairly fat waist offering good support and stability, and plenty of versatility. If you want a ski that does it all, this is it.
Freestyle or park skis tend to be a little bit shorter and are suitable for park riding, from rails to boxes and jumps and more with softer flex to allow for increased agility. Park skis usually have twin tips and more durable edges.
Designed for riders who spend their days off-piste and in varied terrain, exploring the entire mountain, freeride skis have a stiffer flex and are a little longer than freestyle skis for stability at speed.
Alpine touring skis are also referred to as backcountry skis, designed for going uphill as well as down. They are lightweight and will easily fit climbing skins.
If you prefer gliding down freshly groomed pistes, carving or practising your tight turns, piste skis are for you. They are usually narrow at the waist for a quick, responsive turn. Beginner to intermediate hire skis are usually piste skis for an easier ride.
Our in-store experts are fully trained to help you choose the right equipment, so visit your nearest Snow and Rock store for a personalised service and expert advice.