Skier Need to Know—Skis

Everyone has questions. Too many don’t ask them. And if you don’t ask how will know what you need to know? This is really critical when it comes to buying skis.

Avie’s Ski / Sports staff are knowledgeable. But you need to help them help you.

Your best help will be to have an honest assessment of your abilities as a skier. And as importantly, how you want to progress as a skier. Here is some information to help you get together your thoughts. Bring them with you when you visit Avie’s Ski / Sports, ready for a new pair of skis. While this targets skiers, snowboarders need to answer the same basic questions, so read on.

First you need to figure out yourself. What’s your comfort level on the slopes? What kind of skiing do you enjoy? How do you want to progress as a skier? The Self Assessment below will help you ponder these all important skier-life questions.

Keep in mind that your connection to the skis are through your ski boots. Boots control the skis, working together, as a unit. As you think about skis, also consider your boots. You would be disappointed if you found the perfect ski, but had boots that couldn’t take advantage of their characteristics. For example, pairing super still race skis with a 70-flex ski boot. See “Skier Need To Know—Boots” to learn more about ski boots. But let’s get our focus back, for the moment, on skis. 

Self Assessment

What is my comfort level on the mountain?

Everyone wants to think of themselves as a great skier. And in all actuality, you probably are a good skier at your level of skill and ability. Maybe great! But be honest in expressing how you ski, right now. Ask yourself:

  • Am I comfortable on the “greens?”
  • How about the “blues?” Some but not all?
  • Are only some of the “blacks” scary, or all of them?
  • Do I like the steep stuff, or am I intimidated?
  • Where am I not comfortable on mountain?
  • Where am I most comfortable on the mountain?

Being able to honestly relate your abilities and comfort levels helps us at Avie’s Ski / Sports zero in on a starting point for the ski right for you. Now keep reading.

What kind of skiing do I enjoy on the mountain?

Here in New England much of your time on the mountain is likely to be spent on the groomers. But there are wooded glades, moguls, and terrain parks as well.

Ask yourself—Where do I enjoy skiing the most, right now?  How come? Let us at Avie’s know where on the mountain you spend most of your time, and why. We add this bit of information to our understanding of your ability. Then we have a pretty good idea of the types and styles of skis that would best suit you as a skier, right now.

What kind of skier do I want to be in two seasons?

This is a hugely important question to answer. Why? Because, the answer helps to figure out not just what ski is good for you today, but what ski will be right for you tomorrow. Maybe you don’t envision changing up your skiing style. Great! But if you do…

Do I want to ski faster? Maybe race? Or is carving the groomers in big long S-curves my hearts desire? Is the park the place I want to be? Learning how to ride, slide, flip and spin? Or do I want the quiet of the woods? Or maybe what I really want  and need is light in weight and easy to control while I help the kids learn to ski and have fun on the slopes.

Knowing where you are as a skier right now, and where you want to get tomorrow, is the map to the right skis.

Now comes the fun part! Selecting that ideal pair of skis! But first, a few more of those pesky questions. This time, we provide answers.

Ski Options

What’s the right ski? 

First, you need to understand a bit about what’s available. There are 4 basic ski types, set up as either a system ski—meaning ski and binding come as a package, or flat ski—meaning ski and binding are purchased separately. The 4 types are generalized below.

Carving

These skis are made for the groomers. If you are a New England skier, this may be your first and best choice for a ski. Carving skis are typically set up as a system ski; binding and ski perform together as a unit. They are generally a bit stiffer to provide better stability through the turns. You spend most of your time on the groomers. You really love the corduroy. And you love or want to love carving your way down the slopes. Look no farther for your style ski.

All Mountain

As per the name, these skis are meant to do a bit of everything, everywhere, anywhere. These skis are typically set up as a flat ski. They are the Jack of all Trades, Master of None skis. In general they will be a bit softer than a carving ski so that you get more pop and playfulness when not on the groomers. If you play equally all around the mountain—groomers, woods, bumps—this is likely your style of ski.

Powder

Almost always set up as a flat ski, these are very wide skis—100mm and wider. They are designed for those days when the white stuff is fresh and deep. If you only ski powder, or want a pair of skis for powder days, go all mountain, and go wide.

Twin Tips

Designed to play in the park, twins are generally set up as flat skis. Twins tips go anywhere on the mountain, and often are a bit softer to allow for the extra flex needed in the park. Having tip and tail upturned makes all the difference landing flips, spins, and backwards skiing. If you are a bonafide park rat, a twin is for you. If you are a parent, teaching little ones to ski, going backwards with grace and ease can be a bonus!

Beyond the generalizations, there is LOTS of variability. You will find soft carving skis and stiff all mountain skis. Some all mountain skis have lots of rocker that make them float powder better. Some will have an upturned but not quite a twin tip tail to make them more park-worthy. You get the idea. But it’s all good. It means you get lots more choices so you can really get a ski tweaked in ways that’s a perfect fit for you.

OMG! More questions!!

How long and how wide a ski?

Length of the ski that’s right for you depends first upon your height, then upon skiing preference. How wide will depend on how and where you ski. And your skiing preferences.

Longer skis will be more stable, because there is more ski in contact with the snow. But they are more difficult to turn, for the same reason. Shorter skis are, as you have guessed, easier to turn. But they tend to be a bit less stable than a longer version of the same ski.

Wide skis will bash through late day crud easier and float better in powder and loose snow. But they take more effort to get on edge. If you are big and/or strong, that may not be a big deal. But for lightweights, it can be! Narrow skis are easy and fast into the turns. But they tend to get tossed around in the late day slop and chop. And literally, they sink in powder.

Rocker and camber.

You hear a lot about rocker, but just what is it? Take a look at the image below. Camber is the traditional form for a ski, providing great bite into and through turns. The addition of rocker pulls the inflection point of the ski back. This makes them float better in powder, loose snow, and late day crud. It also makes them tip into turns more easily, because the “effective edge” as shown below, is less.

It’s hard to beat how a traditional camber ski feels underfoot. Fun and lively is a good descriptor. Add tip rocker and they turn a bit easier and float a bit better. Put rocker at tip and tail, and initiating turns gets easier still. Skis with full rocker or even reverse camber are even more so. They can be great in powder and loose snow where carving is a detriment.

Generally speaking, if you are getting skis with rocker, get a longer length. Why? Because they ski like a shorter ski. Rocker makes them float better in powder and loose snow, and plow through crud easier. But the longer length will keep them more stable in the turns, without actually behaving like a longer ski the rest of the time.

Beginners are often best on a ski with a bit of tip rocker. They turn easier, promoting quicker learning. For really proficient skiers, traditional camber will provide an overall great ski. Add some rocker if you want a ski that floats a bit better. But go long if you do. 

One more. And only one more.

Solid wood or Metal? 

A solid wood core keeps the ski light and lively. Skis with a solid wood core tend to have lots of “pop.” That means they have a lot of spring, and are very fun and responsive. So why bother with metal? Because addition of metal, which is stiff and has little give, adds great strength to the ski torsionally. That gives them great stability. Wood core skis will tend to chatter and skip about on hard pack, icy, and crusty surfaces. Skis with metal inlays will chatter and skip less, or maybe not at all. But taking those metal-ridden “slabs” into the woods is much less fun than a wood core ski.

There are trade offs—with every choice.

Honest answers back in Self Assessment will point the direction and help you consider the trade offs. A beginner should stick to the basics. Find a carving ski with little or no metal, with a length about to your chin or nose. Maybe a bit of tip rocker. And keep it narrow, definitely below 80mm. Then go have fun learning. Come back in a year or so and reassess your abilities, and your preferences. Both will have changed.

As you advance in skill level, things get more complicated. They become more dependent upon your preferences. Woods vs. groomers. Speed vs. leisure. Park vs. powder.

It also matters where you want to progress to as a skier, or not. Many are happy with a leisurely day slowly carving up the groomers and taking in the scenery. Others want the thrill of high speed tight turns on the steeps. And they want to do that faster and better next season. And still others are happiest on the groomers early, hiding in the woods as the corduroy gets crowded. They want a ski that feeds those desires.

At this point, you have honestly expressed your skill level and your preferences. And you’ve given some thought to envisioning your future skiing. Of course, you’ve read all the above and have a pretty good idea of the choices and options. And now for the bad news…

There isn’t The One Perfect Ski

A pair of race skis will thrill you to death on the groomers. Make you wish for death in the woods. Perhaps actually meet death in powder. In an ideal world we would have a pair of skis for the groomers, a pair for the woods, and a pair for those powder days. And while we’re fantasizing, let’s toss in a valet to follow around so we can swap over the course of the day.

But you can indeed do everything and go anywhere on any one pair of skis. Just not perfectly. It will be easier and more fun in some conditions, and a bit less than ideal in others. If you know what to expect of your skis in any set of conditions, you can manage your expectations to have tons of fun. And in the end, that’s all that really matters.

Now is the time to come into Avie’s Ski / Sports

Let us help you have some fun finding some new skis. To get started, check out the available skis at Avie’s. Get a sense of what’s out there and what catches your eye. Then let’s have you meet your desires by finding that perfectly fun ski.