Ski Buying Guide | Racers Edge Wanaka | Winter 2021
There are plenty of things to consider when you’re buying skis. Whether it’s your first pair of skis or another addition to the quiver, it’s important to get it right at every stage in order to make sure your skis feel like they were made for you. The best way of ensuring you’re getting the right set of planks is by doing your research into the model and also think about what you’re using your skis for. In this weeks blog, we pulled together a comprehensive list of the top things to consider when buying a new set of shred sticks.
Establishing your ability before choosing skis will help you pick a set that works well for your capabilities. If you’re not sure what level you’re at, check our scale of skiing ability below:
Beginner: Beginner skiers are first timers or someone very new to the sport that is still learning basic control.
Intermediate: An intermediate skier is someone that has control over their skis, still skis cautious on more challenging terrain but is comfortable at moderate speeds. Athletic or heavier beginners will benefit from skis designed for intermediate skiers.
Advanced Intermediates: Advanced Intermediates are more experienced skiers that have good basic technique, will start to explore off trail skiing, make more aggressive carves on groomers and are comfortable skiing at moderate speeds on advanced trails in optimal snow conditions.
Advanced: Advanced skiers are capable of maintaining solid technique on advanced terrain in most snow conditions and ski in control at higher speeds. However, they may not always ski aggressively.
Expert: Expert skiers are capable of skiing safely and in control at high speeds on any terrain regardless of snow conditions. They ski with strong technique, aggressively attacking the mountain.
When buying a pair of skis, choosing one that is the closest to your skill level will greatly improve your control and stability on the mountain. Your skill level directly corresponds to the flex, waist width and type of terrain that you will be skiing. A softer flexing ski is easier to learn on and more forgiving to technical errors that beginner skiers may make. Advanced or expert skiers should be looking at a stiffer or stronger ski due to the fact that they are putting more pressure or force on their gear by going bigger, faster or stronger. Intermediate skiers, depending on whether you are comfortable in your current situation or are looking for something to take you to the next level, the options are fairly open.
Ski Type/Best Use
Have a think about which areas of the mountain you spend more time riding. Maybe you’re always in the backcountry, or maybe you prefer to stay on the piste – there’s an ideal ski for every discipline. Here’s a run-down of the most common ski types you’ll come across based on what area of the mountain they work best on:
On-Piste/Piste-Carving: For those that like the classic feeling of laying a ski over on edge and arcing a perfect turn, on-piste or piste-carving skis are what you want. On-piste skis have narrower waists that are designed to make skidded or carved turns on the trails and groomers only. These skis have a deep sidecut for ease of turning, are stiff torsionally for greater edge hold and have a short tail giving you power out of the turn. They come in a wide range of skill sets from beginner to expert.
All Mountain: As the name suggests, all mountain skis are for skiing the entire mountain. These are by far the most popular type of skis as they are designed to handle anything you throw at them including powder, ice, groomers, steeps, heavy snow, and everything in between. If you’re only going to own one ski to do it all, this is what you want. That said, all-mountain skis come in a range of shapes and widths to match the specific needs of different skiers, so there is still room to specify within this category. Waist widths that range from 85-95mm are for those who will spend the majority of their time skiing on-piste but are looking to make the transition into the off-piste. For those who would prefer a ski that will perform more off -piste but will still rip an edge when you take it back onto the piste should look to an all mountain ski with a waist width ranging from 95mm-105mm. The key here is to figure out where you will be spending the majority of your time on the mountain and what type of terrain you like to ski most.
Freeride: Freeride skis are designed for charging big lines with high speeds and big airs. These skis come in different widths from wide, powder-oriented skis to narrower, mixed condition skis so given your situation, these skis can tackle whatever your backyard has to offer. Skis in this category tend to be on the stiffer side, often with more rocker in the tip and less in the tail.
Freestyle: Freestyle skis are for skiers who spend the majority of their time in the terrain park. If jumps, rails, and jibs are your thing then this is the category that you want to be in. Freestyle skis are commonly known as twin tips, and are designed with turned up tails that allow the skier to land backwards or switch. The tips and tails are often softer to help with absorbing or buttering landings, but also give rebound and pop.
Powder: These skis are for the deep days. If you’re lucky enough to get TC on a 30cm day, go on backcountry missions or heli ski trips into the mountains, powder skis are what you need to stay afloat. Skis in the powder category are wide and most often have some form of rocker or early rise plus a relatively soft flex. Many powder skis today are versatile enough to handle mixed conditions and harder snow so you won’t go begging day to day.
Backcountry: Backcountry skis are as much about the journey up as the journey back down again. Backcountry skis incorporate lightweight constructions with cutting edge technology to ensure that they perform as much on the way up as they do on the way down. Again, there is room to specify within this category depending whether you’re doing it for the journey up or the ski down.
This is the measurement of a ski’s width at the middle (waist) of the ski, which is usually the narrowest point. Narrower waist widths are quicker edge to edge during turns, while wider waist widths provide better flotation in powder and hard pack. We recommend sticking to a waist width that is best for the type of skiing you plan to be doing. Current trends are showing us that skiers are coming back to a waist width closer to 100mm for freeride skis which is replicated within our range. This is due to technology improving, allowing skiers to feel and ski a slightly narrower ski whilst still having the float of a wide ski.
The turn radius of a ski is measured in meters and refers to the size of an arc that a ski will make when it is put on edge. Skis with a shorter turn radius will make quicker turns, while skis with a longer turn radius will turn slower but are typically more stable at higher speeds.
Short Radius = under 15m
Medium Radius = 15m – 20m
Long Radius = over 20m
Choosing the flex of your ski is best determined by your weight, how aggressive you ski and what conditions you ski in. If you’re more aggressive, or heavier, you should be on a stiffer ski because you’ll be putting more pressure on them. For those who are less experienced and/or less aggressive then you want a ski that is very easy to control at slow to medium speeds. A softer flexing ski will require less energy or technique to make the ski react when and how it should, giving you an easier, smoother ride.
Camber & Rocker
Camber is the traditional profile for skis offering skiers lots of edge hold, especially on harder snow. A cambered ski has a smooth arch underfoot and contact points near the tip and tail when unweighted. As you initiate the turn and put pressure through the ski, the ski flexes; providing a long, evenly pressured running surface and edge.
Rocker (also called reverse-camber) is just as it sounds – camber turned upside down. Having skis with a rockered tip and tail provide floatation in deeper snow and allow the ski to initiate and release from turns easier. This profile provides playfulness for park skiers, flotation for powder hounds, forgiveness for beginners and versatility for those who are looking at a one ski quiver.
There are many different factors to acknowledge when selecting the correct length of ski. Your height and weight are the first to consider but you will also need to consider the category of ski you are buying, the rocker profile of the ski, the snow conditions, and your ability level.
A shorter ski will be easier to turn but won’t be as stable at higher speeds as a longer ski. On-piste skis which have a skinnier waist width, and a shorter turn radius, can be skied at a shorter length than an all-mountain or freeride ski with a longer turn radius and wider waist width. Freeride and backcountry skis with more rocker are easier to pivot between turns and can be skied slightly longer.
At Racers Edge we believe that, no matter what stage you’re at in your skiing career, it’s important to consider all of the above steps and get them right in order to make sure that your skis feel like they were made for you. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call or message us on our chat function to talk to our friendly, experienced team who will give you what you need to excel out there on the slopes.