What You Need to Know About “Flat” Skis

A previous post took you through the ins and outs of “system skis“. You may want to check out that post as the knowledge will come in handy as you ponder the question “What kind of ski might be best for me?” Read on to find out.

There are two basic ski set ups — “system” and “flat.”  In this post we give you an introduction to flat ski set-ups, highlighting some advantages and drawbacks. Like we noted in the post on system skis, if you are thinking about a new pair of skis—and every skier we know is always thinking about a new pair of skis—this information will be useful.

A FLAT SKI is just that—flat. No milling or molding to predefine where and how bindings will fit.  Unlike a system ski where ski and binding come as a package, when you venture into the realm of flat skis, you need to not only decide what ski you want, but what binding to put on it. While at first glance you might think “I’ll just go with a system ski, this sounds confusing,” it really isn’t.

In fact, selecting a binding is an advantage of a flat ski set up. What if you want to break into ski touring or backcountry skiing? You can have touring bindings mounted on a flat ski, something you can’t easily do with a system ski. If you have problematic knees, you can consider mounting a Knee™ brand binding, which is specially designed to help reduce knee injuries in certain types of falls. Again, you can’t readily do that with a system ski. One of the Avie’s staff can help guide you to the proper binding based on your skiing style, ability, wants and desires.

Another possible advantage to a flat ski set up is that the binding, being mounted as separate toe and heel pieces, is lighter. And because there is no built in molding at the mid-section of the ski to house the binding, often times the skis have more “pop” to them, meaning they are springier underfoot. When playing in the bumps and dashing through the woods, the extra spring in the ski can be a great advantage.

In the negatives column of our balance sheet, flat ski setups tend to cost a little bit more than a comparable system ski setup, though not by all that much. Another thing to keep in mind when going with a flat ski setup is that the bindings are mounted by a certified ski technician, using a specialized jig unique to that binding, and that holes are drilled into the skis. This leaves a bit of room for adjustment, but not much. So if you get new ski boots, and the sole length is very different than the pair used to mount the bindings, you may need to have the bindings removed, the holes plugged, and new holes drilled. There is a monetary cost to remounting the bindings, and it’s not something you can do regularly without jeopardizing the integrity of the ski.

Given the extra cost, and the limitations imposed by having bindings that can only be adjusted to a limited extent for different ski boots without remounting, why even consider a flat ski setup? Variety. System skis tend to be focused on carving. Flat skis are for everything else—bumps, powder, woods, park, touring, and backcountry. Yes, they carve, just not as efficiently.

Beginning skiers need a ski that is forgiving of faults, and they will be able to get used to the mechanics of skiing more easily on a system ski. This isn’t to say it’s not possible to learn on a flat ski setup, just that it will be easier, more fun, and advancement in ability will happen faster on a system ski setup. Once the basics are mastered, then consider a flat ski setup as a possible next ski in your progression as skier.

Intermediate skiers, hitting the steeper “blues” and an occasional “black,” or starting to mess around in earnest in the park, will want to consider skis with a full wood core, and perhaps containing some metal. The addition of metal provides the stability needed to handle the speed that will come with spending more time on steeper slopes. Where and how you ski will determine if you want long or short lengths, moderate or fat waist, or twin tips. Skis in this category at Avie’s Ski / Sport are, for men: Blizzard Brahma and Latino, Fischer Motive 76, Motive 74, and Motive X, Volkl Kendo, and Nordica NRGy90 and NRGy 80; for women: Blizzard Black Pearl, and Volkl Yumi.

Advanced intermediate to expert skiers should start thinking about skis with metal to give added stability on steep slopes. Carbon should be a real consideration because of it’s supreme lightness and flexibility. Wider waisted skies may be more welcome as they provide increased flotation in the woods and on powder days. Skis in this category at Avie’s Ski / Sport are, for men: Blizzard Bonafide, Fischer Motive 86 Ti, and Volkl Mantra; for women: Nordica Wild Belle.

As with system skis, as price goes up so does performance. The internal core of the ski is changing to make it stiffer, more stable, and lighter. Specially milled titanium inlays, paired with carbon fiber in tip and tail, are becoming the norm in high end skis. The change in off-piste performance is noticeable.

So, is a flat ski right for you? If you are a beginner—probably not your best choice. Contain your enthusiasm until you get the basics down pat then think about a flat ski set up. If you spend lots of time in the park, in the woods, or seeking out the bumps and lumps—Yes. There is a good variety of widths to select from, and the lightness and flexibility inherent in a flat ski will be a big asset for these kinds of skiers. Powder hound?—Yes. Think long and fat. Toss in carbon fiber tips for added ease of float and it likely doesn’t get much better.

Now that your head is full of ideas and possibilities, stop into Avie’s Ski / Sport and challenge us to help you find the perfect ski for your needs and desires. We like that challenge very much! As extra incentive, grab this coupon for some extra savings.