If you’re new to skiing or on the lookout for a new pair, the choice of skis available can be mind-boggling. The great thing is if you know your ability level and the type of skiing you like to do, it should be easy to find the right ski for you. Take a look through our ski buying guide for a breakdown of the different styles of ski available, their strengths, differences and the types of riders they suit – and the technology that makes them tick.
SKI STYLES: WHAT SKIS SHOULD I BUY?
At Freeze we put our heart and soul into choosing our ski range – only stocking quality products that we believe in – and we divide them into five ski categories to help you make sense of the huge variety available…
And with each of these categories, you’ll find differences in their characteristics along four main lines…
- Waist or underfoot width
- Profile – rocker or camber
- Sidecut or turning radius
Let’s start with the most popular all-rounders and then explain some of the more niche options…
ALL MOUNTAIN SKIS GUIDE
All-mountain skis are the all-purpose go-to skis for people who want a do-it-all ski to ride everywhere, whether it’s on the piste, in powder, or in the park. What makes a good all-mountain ski can vary depending on your riding style. Some are more like traditional race-inspired carving skis, suited to tighter turns, while others are closer to slimmed-down powder skis, happier in a straight line.
Because of the variety available, choosing the right one will mean knowing whether you aim for more time on or off-piste, and whether you plan to hit the terrain park or rails. You can be sure that any ski in our all-mountain range will perform well in most conditions.
All-mountain skis range from a piste-oriented 80mm underfoot, to a more floaty ‘freeride’ 99mm waist, ideal for spending more time in the powder. A host of different profiles, sidecuts and flex ratings are available to match your riding style, so check out our tech guides for the lowdown on what to look out for when choosing the one for you.
PARK & PIPE SKIS GUIDE
Snow parks, half pipes, kickers and rails are where freestyle skis come into their own. They’ll give you plenty of pop and lots of manoeuvrability, being comfortable in the air, rotating, landing and riding switch.
Narrower underfoot widths and deeper sidecuts will give greater control in the park, but with many freestylers opting to take their skills to the powder, fatter models are available too. Many will give you the option of mounting your binding in a more traditional position, or closer to the centre of the ski, to aid rotation in the air and give better stability on rails.
Profiles can vary depending on whether a model is biased towards park or powder, but most will feature some poppy camber under foot, and plenty of flex in the nose and tail to make for more forgiving landings. If you’re looking for superior pipe performance then opt for a stiffer ski with more sidecut to give extra gip on those icy walls.
RESORT SKIS GUIDE
Call ‘em what you like – piste skis, carver skis, slope skis, groomer skis – these skis are designed to go fast and stay smooth on any piste-run day. Some might say that piste and all-mountain skis are much the same, but we find it easier if to split them into two schools – those borne of ski-race/piste heritage and more freeride-oriented skis.
Piste skis suit a wide variety of people depending on construction and sizing. They cover frontside speed-demons and cruisy corduroy carvers with something for everyone in between. You’ll normally find that piste skis feature robust constructions with metal infused layup for stability at comfort at high-speeds. Less aggressive models will feature a ‘flexier’ construction for a more forgiving, progression-orientated ride.
A huge benefit of a piste ski is they tend to come with integrated binding setups. Not only do you get a full piste-performance package but adjusting bindings for different boot sizes (or even selling your skis on) is a simple matter.
As with all skis, a slimmer waist width and smaller turn radius results in agility through shorter turns, whilst a wider waist and larger radius will deliver increased straight-line stability. In general, smaller waist widths range from around 70-76mm and larger from 77mm-86mm+.
TOURING SKIS GUIDE
Ski touring lets you get out and explore the wilderness, reaching new terrain outside the ski resort. By attaching touring skins to your skis, you can climb the hill under your own steam, without the need for lifts or a vehicle.
For the uphill element, it pays to be as light as possible, so weight is key. But once you reach the top, you’ll want to make the most of the fresh lines back down, so it’s important to have a ski that performs well on the descent. The exact combination will depend on your own style and the type of touring you’ll choose to do.
Touring-specific skis often have notches at the nose and tail to help make it easy to attach skins. Brands will usually offer factory-made skins for their touring skis, but you can use any climbing skin and cut them to fit your chosen skis. Find out more about ski touring and climbing skins in our Climbing Skins Buying Guide.
You don’t have to use a touring-specific ski, so long as you can mount a touring binding and find a skin that fits, you can use almost any flat-deck ski. But be aware that there are downsides of going for a very heavy or very wide ski for touring. You’ll feel the extra weight on the climb and the wider the ski the harder it will be to break a trail in deep snow.
KIDS’ SKIS GUIDE
Just because you’re young, doesn’t mean that you should compromise on the type of ski you buy or the technology that goes into it. That’s why we’re proud to offer a selection of the best youth-specific skis in the market – often just scaled-down versions of adult models, with softer flex to work for lighter skiers. Sizes start as small as 105cm, up to around 150cm in length. If you’re not sure on the size to get, or if you think you might need an adult ski, check out our Size Guide here.
SKI TECH: CUTTING THROUGH THE JARGON
Understanding the technology that goes into a set of skis, the characteristics they have, and how that translates into the way they feel underfoot can be a tricky business. Luckily we’ve put together this jargon-busting guide to help make sense of it all.
There are a huge variety of technologies and techniques that go into making a set of skis, and they’ll all undoubtedly make a difference (big or small) to the end product. But if you ask us, the key things you need to understand are…
- Ski waist width
If you know what variations in each of those will do to the performance of your ski, then you’ll be in a good position to make the right choice. Stick with us as we take you through the ins and outs.
SKI WAIST WIDTH (OR SKI WIDTH UNDERFOOT)
Your ski’s waist width, or the width of the ski in the middle beneath your foot, is a great indicator of what that ski was designed for. The general rule of thumb is that a ski with a narrow width will be more manoeuvrable, easier to turn, and quicker to move from edge to edge.
On the other hand, it won’t float so easily over soft snow, so a wider underfoot width is better if you are venturing off piste. It’s possible to find a nice balance with an all-mountain ski, or you can choose a width to match your riding style.
Here are a few examples…
- Piste ski waist width – 70mm to 85mm
- All-mountain ski waist width – 80mm to 95mm
- Powder ski waist width – 95mm to 130mm
- Touring ski waist width – 85mm to 105mm
With powder skis, there’s obviously a huge range available, from the modest to the ridiculous, so it’s good to be honest with yourself about just how steep and deep the conditions that you’ll be riding in will be. Don’t overdo it if you don’t need to.
Touring skis can often feature much narrower widths and less severe sidecuts to help with climbing, and while they do get wider, it’s unlikely that they ever get to the width of a more gravity-oriented powder ski, due to the added weight that greater widths bring.
Your ski’s profile, is essentially its shape when viewed from the side. Profiles are usually a combination of camber and rocker.
Camber is a more traditional shape, and basically describes a profile where the ski curves downwards from the centre towards the tip and tail. This allows the rider to force the whole length of the ski’s edge down onto flat snow as possible during a turn, giving maximum grip. It also adds a spring effect, giving an element of suspension to help the rider cope with bumps on the piste.
Rocker is a newer phenomenon in ski design, taking inspiration from watersports. A rocker profile is defined by the tips and/or tail of the ski curving upwards, helping the ski to float better over deep powder snow.
Ski designers have experimented by combining these profiles along the ski’s length, to give it different characteristics. A little rocker at the tip of a traditional camber ski will make it more forgiving for beginners, making it harder to catch an edge. At the other end of the spectrum, a large rocker in the tail of a freestyle-oriented powder ski lets a rider land backwards even in the deepest snow.
Your chosen ski will most likely feature a mixture of both elements, so it’s important to choose based on your riding style and where you’ll be using the ski – more camber underfoot for piste, more rocker in the nose and tail for powder.
As the name would suggest, sidecut describes the shape of the side of the ski when viewed from above. It defines how the ski will handle and turn – giving rise to the other name commonly given to this feature: ski turning radius.
If you think of the curve in the edge of your ski as part of a larger circle, the depth of that sidecut in your ski will significantly change the size of the circle. Now imagine that circle drawn out on the snow – how big or small it is will reflect how tightly the ski will naturally want to turn when put onto an edge.
A sidecut is dictated by the nose, waist and tail widths of the ski – the bigger the difference from nose and tail to the waist, the tighter the turning circle of the ski. A ski with a turning radius of 19m or below will have a more easy-turning slalom feel, whereas a longer radius will be better suited to high-speed charging.
SKI FLEX INDEX
It’s important to understand the flex rating of your ski – how stiff it is, or how easily it will bend. Flexibility can have a big impact on how easy your ski is to use and how it will perform under different conditions.
Generally, softer more flexible skis are easier to control, more forgiving, and often lighter too – this makes them ideal for beginners who will be travelling at slower speeds and won’t catch so many edges. Freestylers often choose a flexible ski too – to make direction changes easier, landings more forgiving, and help with tricks like butters where a bendy ski is exactly what you need.
Stiffer skis are designed to cope with the increased forces involved in travelling faster and on more challenging terrain. Race skis will be incredibly stiff, to keep as much of the edge of the ski on the snow as possible at all times. Similarly, some off piste skis are stiffer to help the rider cope with choppy or cruddy snow, and freestyle skis become stiffer as they’re built to handle bigger and bigger jumps or give better performance in the pipe.
WHAT SIZE SKIS DO I NEED?
Now that you know the type of ski that you’ll need, head over to our Ski Size Chart to make sure you choose the length that’s right for you.