Mo’ Skis Mo’ Problems?
The Problem — getting excited for skiing again this winter, but unsure which skis you should buy? We’re not surprised — there is far too much choice on the current market! As cool as it would be to have a war chest of skis — a set for every condition imaginable, this is really just overkill… What do we want from our skis? — We want awesomeness. When do we want it? All of the time! — Is this possible? We think so, most of the time anyway!
So how do the Pro’s choose? A set for every condition would be bliss, however, this would be highly impractical! A room full of skis but no cash left to actually go skiing or changing skis every run, would be an inconceivable waste of time. Next best option — find some skis that are awesome most of the time. Is there a guide for buying one set of skis? Not really, but as instructors we have some common rules of thumb to help us decide.
Don’t just read the manufacturers description! A sale is a sale; each ski will always stake a claim to be the best.
The most efficient way to choose a ski is to look at the main factors that will affect the way a ski performs — its’ dimensions.
- The width of the ski underfoot — measured in millimetres
- The turn radius of the ski — measured in metres
- The length of the ski — measured in centimetres
We can make a relatively informed decision as to the way a ski will behave under various conditions.
Lets talk about the width underfoot first. This is super simple, a low number, say 66/67mm, equates to a narrow ski, which will give you more grip on a hard packed piste or ice. A high number, say 110/115mm, equates to a wide ski, which will help you float better in powder.
You can apply this knowledge to your skiing, where do you generally ski? Enjoy hammering down hard icy pistes? Always off piste in search of fluffy powder? Or, like many skiers, a mixture of both — snow dependent!
So, you mainly ski on piste…. You should be looking at skis which have a width of between about 65mm and 78mm. This has narrowed down the selection nicely!
Now it’s time to take a look at the other two important numbers, turn radius and length, these are connected, a longer ski generally takes longer to turn, so results in a longer turn radius. Think back to when you were last skiing, do you generally make short turns, long turns, or an even mix of the two?
If you love short turns, you want a ski with a low turn radius, somewhere between 11m and 15m will work. You should have now been able to narrow your selection down to a couple of sets of skis, but will need to decide which length to go for. There are a few factors that can complicate this decision, so lets keep it simple — how good are you!? If you’re a strong skier then go for a slightly longer ski and radius nearer the 15m mark, if you’re not as strong, then go for a length that results in a turn radius nearer 11m.
If you’re more in to making longer cruisy turns or skiing at speed, you want to aim for a turn radius of around 15m to 20m. Again, take your ability in to account when choosing the length, a lower level skier will find a 15m 170cm ski works great in long turns, but an expert may find them a bit unstable, so they will probably prefer a 180cm ski with an 18m radius.
If you’re looking for a ski that’s great for on piste and off piste, you’re lucky — there are a lot of great skis on the market for you!
Width wise, look for skis from around 80mm up to 95mm under foot, any wider generally won’t be great on piste. For high level skiers, a ski around 90mm under foot, with a turn radius around 18m will work really well both on and off piste, if you generally ski a bit more off piste than on, push up to 95mm, for vice versa stick between 85mm and 90mm. For a lower level skier, stick to a width of 80mm to 85mm, with a turn radius around 16m, if you go much wider you will find it difficult to start the turn, both on and off piste.
You’re a powder hunter and spend as little time on piste as possible. This market can be confusing, a lot of information tells you to go for a super wide ski with a big rocker, generally not the best advice, unless — you already have a pair of ‘everyday skis’ or you’re confident you will always be skiing fresh lines, in powder at least half a metre deep! If this is all you want the ski for, then go for a ski around 120mm under foot, with a 20 to 30 percent rocker on the tip and tail. A more practical ski would be slightly narrower under foot, around 100mm to 110mm and also have less of a rocker on the tail, no more than 10 to 15 percent. Having less of a rocker on the tail enables the ski to be much more stable when it’s chopped up and bumpy and they will also be more enjoyable on piste.
Please don’t take our advice as gospel, everyone is different and this is a fairly generalised post! Hopefully this will give you a good starting point in your search, where possible try skis before you buy or go to a knowledgeable retailer.