Ski Buying Guide: How To Choose The Right Skis
When choosing a pair of skis, it's important to consider what type of skiing you will be using them for and how you want them to perform. Skis are designed for different snow conditions and terrain. The width and camber of a ski are two of the major features that affect the performance of a ski. Once you have determined what type of skiing you will be doing, you can decide on a suitable width and camber type. This will lead you to your perfect ski design.
The most commonly used ski width measurement is taken at the waist of the ski, directly underfoot. This is usually the thinnest contact point of the ski. Ski width is measured in millimeters (mm).
<95 mm - Skis with a waist width under 95 mm are meant to be skied on piste. These skis are quicker from edge to edge and great for carving, park skiing, and groomed runs.
95-110 mm - Waist widths in this range are generally used for all mountain skis. Their medium sized waist width makes them versatile, capable of taking the skier on and off piste effectively. They don't significantly compromise the skiers ability to turn on piste or venture into powder.
>110 mm - These wide skis are designed for skiing powder and big mountain terrain. Wide skis provide flotation and stability in big mountain terrain but compromise the skiers ability to turn on piste.
Width measurements are also taken at the fattest point at the front of the ski, as well as the fattest point at the tail of the ski. Width measurements are typically displayed by these three numbers. For example, the Salomon QST 106 in 188 length has width measurements of 142-106-127. The first number being the width at the fattest point of the tip, the middle number being the waist width, and the third number being the fattest part of the tail. Notice that the name of the ski (Salomon QST 106) includes the waist width. It is particularly common for ski companies to include the waist width in the name of their ski these days.
Camber refers to the profile of the ski in terms of it's curvature and contact with the snow. The two general camber categories are: Traditional Camber and Rocker
Traditional Camber - Skis with camber, when resting flat on the snow, curve up in the middle of the ski away from the snow. When pressure is applied downwards by the skier, the ski flexes resulting in a shorter turn radius, increased edge hold and better carving performance. Camber skis are designed to be skied on piste and excel on groomed runs.
Rocker/Reverse Camber - Moving along the ski towards the nose and/or tail, rockered skis curve up away from the snow. This design helps the ski float over soft snow, powder, and variable snow conditions. Rocker also helps to prevent the tip and tail of the ski from hooking and dragging on soft snow. This increased swivel effect makes rockered skis easier to turn on off-piste conditions.
Combinations - Nowadays, ski manufacturers are using designs that combine camber profiles, giving way to shapes like Flat, Rocker-Camber-Rocker, and Rocker-Camber. It's common, especially for all mountain skis, to have rocker or early rise (another name for slight rocker) at just the tip, or tip and tail of the ski, with camber under the skiers foot. This design allows the ski to carve on piste while preserving it's off-piste abilities.
One of the most important things to consider when buying a pair of skis is the length. Ski length is measured in centimeters (cm). The typical rule of thumb is to choose a pair of skis that when standing up straight, are somewhere in between your chin and top of your head. In reality, there is nothing that will determine the perfect ski length for you, but there are a few things to consider. Your height, ability, and style of skiing all influence what length of skis are appropriate for you.
Your choice of length depends greatly on your height. The chart below should be referred to as a base guideline when determining what length of ski to buy.
|SKIER HEIGHT (FT'IN")||SKIER HEIGHT IN CENTIMETERS (CM)||SUGGESTED SKI LENGTHS (CM)|
Beginners are new to the sport of skiing. They are still learning how to stay in control and maintain balance on their skis. Generally sticking to bunny hills and green runs.
Intermediate skiers are comfortable linking turns together and maintaining balance on their skis. Generally sticking to green and blue runs.
Advanced skiers have learned proper skiing technique and have good command over their skis. They are able to ski both on and off piste and are comfortable at higher speeds. Able to ski most conditions and black runs.
Experts ski fast and aggressively with strong technique. They are able to ski safely and in control on any type of terrain, pitch and snow condition.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Beginner and intermediate skiers will require a ski that is easier to turn. Shorter skis are more maneuverable, so beginners will prefer a ski on the shorter side. Shorter skis are easier to control but are less stable at high speeds. Something from chin to nose length is suggested for beginners/intermediates.
Advanced and expert skiers, especially those who enjoy skiing fast and in variable conditions, may prefer a longer ski. Something between the eyes and top of the head. Some experts may even prefer a ski that is taller than they are, especially if the skis have rocker. Rockered skis have a smaller contact surface (where the base of the ski touches the snow) so skiing them at longer lengths is often recommended.
STYLE OF SKIING
You may want a longer ski if...
- You ski fast, aggressively, and strongly.
- You like to ski off-piste, big mountain, and backcountry terrain.
- You're buying rockered and/or twin tip skis.
- You are an expert skier and know what you want.
You may want a shorter ski if..
- You like to carve it up with short, technical turns.
- You're learning to ski (beginner/intermediate).
- You're buying a ski with traditional camber