There are so many options on the market these days that choosing the best pair of skis might feel like a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be! More options mean there is a perfect pair out there for every size and style skier, so we put together this guide to help you narrow it down.
To determine the length of your skis, look up your height on a ski size chart and you’ll get a good starting point. The skis should come between your chin and the top of your head, and we recommend beginners go with shorter skis that are easier to control. Shorter skis are also better if you weigh less than average for your height or you like to make quick turns without going very fast—they give you more control and are better at tight turns if you like narrow, twisty trails.
Longer skis are a better option for more experienced skiers, if you weigh more than average for your height, or you plan to do most of your skiing in the backcountry of off-piste. They have a larger surface area that allows you to float on top of the snow.
There are several different types of skis, depending on what kind of terrain you spend most of your time on:
All-Mountain: Good all-around skis that aren’t necessarily perfect for any particular terrain, but can handle anything you’ll do on the mountain, from powder to groomed trails. The nose is slightly higher than the tail.
Powder: These skis are typically wider with a rocker and softer flex that give you more float.
Big Mountain: Skis that vary in width, but are usually stiffer and heavier than other skis.
Freestyle or Park and Pipe: For those who spend most of their time in the terrain park, these skis are shorter with twin tips and have thicker, more durable edges.
Freeride: These skis are for those who spend their time off-piste, offering a stiffer flex and longer length than freestyle for stability.
Alpine Touring: Downhill skis that vary in width and are made for both uphill and downhill skiing.
Beginner skiers are working on getting down the mountain and linking turns. You are getting comfortable on runs designated by green circles and should look for narrower skis with a softer flex. They usually have a rocker on the tip and tail (read more about rocker below).
An intermediate skier is comfortable on runs with blue squares in groomed areas and might be starting to experiment with powder. Look for skis that are a little wider and have full camber, rocker, or a combination.
Advanced or expert skiers cruise the black diamond/double black diamond runs and live for bluebird days. These skis are stiffer and come in a variety of rockers.
The waist is the middle section and is usually the narrowest part of the ski. A narrower waist width is better for turns while a wider waist width is better for powder.
Turn radius involves a ski’s tip, waist, and tail width—the narrower the ski’s waist, the shorter the turn radius. A short radius (deep sidecut) is better for carving turns and a long turn radius (subtle sidecut) is better for powder.
Skis are primarily made with one of four profiles: flat, camber, rocker, or a combination. Flat skis, or zero camber, are exactly how they sound—the length of the ski is completely flat. These are good for powder or freestyle skiing.
Camber is when the middle of the ski is lifted and the tail and nose make contact with the snow. The skis offer more pop on jumps and better grip on icy slopes.
Rocker, or reverse camber, is the opposite of camber—the tip and the tail are lifted and the middle touches the snow, forming a banana shape. Rocker is good for just about every kind of terrain, because this profile makes it easier to initiate turns and maneuver in powder.
Some skis are considered hybrid, offering the stability of camber and ease of rocker. Different brands have different profiles that handle certain terrain better than others.
If you still have questions or want expert advice on choosing the best pair of skis, stop by your local Christy Sports retail store—we’re happy to help!