Are you confused by the bewildering array of skis on offer at your local ski shop? Finding the perfect downhill ski involves understanding the different characteristics found on skis and knowing what they were designed to do. You then need a clear understanding of your level of experience, where you plan to ski and what your aims are for improving your performance on the snow. Here is your guide to choosing the perfect downhill ski.
1. Select the perfect length
Simply use your own height to pick out the right length of ski. Beginners will typically pick a ski that comes up to chin height while intermediate and advanced skiers will want to go higher. Your weight also comes into play with lighter skiers choosing a shorter ski and heavier skiers choosing a longer ski to help spread the weight and avoid excessive flex.
2. Look for integrated binding
Skis are designed to bend to some extent and this helps you to turn more easily. As you can imagine, placing your ski boot on the center of the ski creates an inflexible dead spot where the ski cannot bend or flex. Integrated bindings allow the ski boot to move as the ski does which can help you turn and ski more accurately.
3. Where will you ski?
The four main types of skis are labeled all-mountain, twin-tip, backcountry and racing. Knowing where you want to ski will help you choose a ski from the most appropriate category.
The most popular type of skis are called all-mountain. These are your jack-of-all-trades skis that will give you a good chance of handling a variety of locations and conditions. Narrow-waisted all-mountain skis are good for turning while wider-waisted skis give you more stability. You will see the width written on the ski tip and these skis are generally between 68-75mm at the waist – ideal for ice, hard-pack and a little snow.
Twin-tip skis curve up on each end and are sold as either all-mountain or perfect-pipe. The perfect pipe skis are designed to handle jumping in half-pipes while the all-mountain are a better option if your plan to ski on powder. You will need to choose between them depending on where you plan to ski most of the time.
With a 100mm+ width, these will be more sluggish and harder to turn than all-mountain or twin-tip skis. Backcountry skis are also known as power skis as they give better performance in powdery conditions.
These are narrow and typically 68mm or less and very stiff. You will choose these if you want to ski fast downhill.
4. What is your experience level?
Once you have selected a type of ski according to where you plan to ski, you need to narrow down your choices. You must consider the stiffness, the width and the turning ratio of skis within your chosen category. All this information can be found on the rear end of every ski and will be displayed prominently if you are shopping online.
5. Choose the right stiffness for your experience level
When we are talking about stiffness in a ski, there are actually two kinds at play. Longitudinal stiffness means how much the ski flexes from end to end while torsional rigidity refers to how much twist the ski has. If you are a beginner skier, you will need a flexible ski that bends easily as these let you learn and progress quicker. This allows you to enter into the turn easily and come out easily. If you are in a shop, simply pick up a ski and see how much it flexes to help you decide. Stiffer skis are for advanced skiers such as racers. These skiers would find flexible skis unsuitable for skiing at speed.
6. Choose the width depending on where you will ski
Narrow (67-75mm) skis are designed for hard-pack, powder or icy conditions, mid-width (76-88mm) skis are designed for sloppy snow, wide backcountry (90-110mm) skis are sluggish to turn but give more stability on light powder while powder (111-140mm) skis are wide enough to curve up and help get you on top of powdery snow.
7. Which turn radius is right for you?
The turn radius determines how sharply a ski will turn and is printed clearly on the ski. While a short, 11 to 15 foot turning radius would be perfect if you want to turn sharply and medium 15-18 foot radius is a good compromise for beginner to intermediate skiers.