How to Choose the Right Ski

Written By: Doug Schnitzspahn, Editor-in-Chief, Elevation Outdoors Magazine

Set of Skies - SnowlinkThanks to incredible advances in ski technology over the past two decades, the sport has never been more accessible to beginners or enjoyable to vets. The shaped ski revolution of the 1990s ushered in boards with more sidecut, the difference between the width of a ski at the tip/tail and at the waist underfoot. These new skis were shorter, quicker and far easier to turn than the old long boards. So skis got short. Then they got fat. Ridiculously fat. The revolution of the past ten years has been rocker and reverse camber — snow skis built like water skis so that they float on powder and crush ugly snow. Don't be afraid of fat and rocker skis, however; these new technologies have evolved to the point where they can be a part of skis that can handle the groomers and even make it easier for beginners to learn how to ski without catching an edge.

The key to knowing just how much of these technologies you will want in your ski is to think about three things — your ability as a skier, your style and the type of snow you will ski the most. If you are new to the sport, you will want shorter, softer skis. Are you interested in skiing bumps? Racing? Going new school in the park and pipe? Getting off of groomed runs and seeking untracked powder? If you live on the East Coast and like bombing hardpack, you will want a radically different ski than if you plan on surfing powder in Utah. Take all of these variables into consideration, and find a ski that best suits your individual needs.

Don’t be fooled by one element alone. There is no easy formula. There are super-fat, rockered skis these days that bomb groomers and even navigate bumps as well as they ride powder. And there are aggressive frontside skis with enough tip flotation to hold their own when you get off piste. The best thing to do is to go to your local ski shop, talk to the folks on the sales floor, explain your skiing resume and goals, and ask them what skis they think will be best. Don’t be shy to demo or test skis either. Your boards are a matter of personal preference.