Ski Buying Guide
We're often asked what the ultimate ski is, the truth is that no single ski can be the best overall and appeal to every skier. The best ski is the one most suited to your ability and the kind of terrain you intend to ride. Choosing the right skis is a simple matter of balancing the shape, flex and characteristics to your requirements.
To make this straightforward we sort the skis based on ability and shape, and because we've only selected models that we know are the best in their categories, you can be sure of making a great choice.
To maximise your time on snow it's important to match ability with the characteristics of the ski. This way your equipment will help you ski better, improve faster and enjoy yourself more.
Ability Indicator Chart
To help you select skis we have graded each of them in a constant progression from Novice to Expert.
Skiers tackling green and blue runs confidently, wanting to move onto more demanding terrain. While their technique is good on easier terrain and at slower speeds, bumps and icy or steeper runs are attempted with caution.
Skis in this category have soft tips and tails, so they initiate turns smoothly and easily. Sidecuts* are designed to be helpful. Camber profiles* use standard camber for grip and control, with only small amounts of tip rocker for ease of turning. They are forgiving skis that will boost confidence and aid progression.
Stronger skiers with the confidence to tackle reds and attempt easy blacks and some ungroomed snow, while still working on their technique. Bumps and steep runs can affect their fluidity; off-piste is a mystery to be cracked.
These skis are torsionally stiffer to provide grip at faster speeds; sidecuts* are more targeted to end-users, often deeper with a shorter radius* on the piste-orientated skis. Camber profiles* use standard camber underfoot for good grip, all-mountain category skis use tip rocker to aid control in softer snow.
Good skiers with all round skills to tackle most of the mountain, with solid technique in nearly every condition and slope.
Shapes and designs are more specific to end-users and have associated increases in performance. Profiles* vary radically as do sidecuts* and radii*. Skis in this category are stiffer, with excellent stability and grip at speed; they're also less forgiving.
Top-level skiers, professionals, committed seasonnaires, instructors, ex-racers.
These are specific-usage skis for those at the top of the ability level. Shapes, dimensions and profiles vary according to the terrain they are used in, leading to huge differences between skis. All models offer the very best performance.
Ski Terrain Choice
To get the best performance from your new ski, choose a model designed to work in the conditions and environments you want to take it in.
Terrain Suitability Chart
Skis are graded for their suitability to different types of skiing. From a more piste-orientated environment up to big mountain and pure powder conditions.
Twin tipped skis use a scale that goes from park-based terrain up to big mountain and pure powder conditions.
Built with narrower waists for quick edge changes and often with a shorter turn radius for tighter, faster carves; traditional cambers provide energy and grip. They're perfect for blasting around the pistes and carving up the groomedsnow.
All Mountain Carve
Incorporate a lot of the features of a piste ski, with slightly wider dimensions for a bit more float and stability. They still rule on pisted snow, plus they love to take a few runs down the side of the pistes to experience ungroomed conditions.
Can be a combination of dimensions and designs, resulting in very different models. Waists, radii, and camber profiles vary considerably. These are go-anywhere do-anything skis created to find challenges on and off piste. Whilst some models may be more piste or soft snow focused, they all work in every condition. More tip and tail rocker indicates increased soft snow bias.
Typically with a longer radius and always with wider dimensions. Big waists ensure maximum floatation; reverse cambers plus interesting profiles and shapes dramatically improve handling in soft snow. They're built for powder, steeps, bowls and trees.
Super-wide waists, lots of rocker at the tip and tail, sometimes no camber at all, and plenty of innovative shapes. These skis are made for exceptional float and smooth handling in deep, soft snow.
All Terrain Freestyle
Twin tipped skis that are usually softer flexing than similarly priced all-mountain models. Dimensions, camber and sidecuts are built to go-anywhere and as such there is quite a variety of different shapes and profiles. Make great alternatives to more traditional all mountain options.
Twin tipped skis with waists of 80-90mm and softer flexing than similarly priced piste models. Tips and tails are more forgiving; camber profiles can include lots of rocker. Freestyle skis are about freedom of expression and skiing in any environment.
Good ‘pop' and more flex at the tip and tail for buttering/pressing. Switch riding is improved with more symmetrical cores and sidecuts.
Twin tips with super-wide waists. Rocker technology, cutting edge shapes and soft flexes improve powder riding. Work equally well as dedicated powder skis or soft-snow freestyle options.
Selecting The Correct Ski Size
The size of the ski you need is dependent on a combination of factors such as weight, ability, flex, shape and the intended use.
As a rough guide use the following:
Chin height to eye level, for easy carving and responsiveness. Longer for extra stability and wider, bigger turns.
Nose level to forehead, can also depend on the width of ski chosen.
Forehead to over head height. Go ‘as big as you can handle' for maximum floatation.
Ski it eye level for the maximum ease of spinning and rail tricks, go bigger for all mountain versatility or extra stability and speed.
Ski it eye level formaximum ease of spinning and rail tricks, go bigger if you want the very best stability for landing and jumping.
Top of head and way beyond. The bigger the ski, the better the floatation.
It is also worth considering the size of your previous skis as this can have a bearing on what would be suitable in your new model.
The phrase ‘radius' refers to a ski's sidecut radius and can be thought of as the ‘natural' turn-size of that ski. Assuming the edge of a ski is one part of a circle, the sidecut radius would be the radius of that circle. These figures are given in metres. Typically skis designed for piste skiing have a short radius of 10 to 15m, so they initiate a turn and carve easily. Skis designed for maximum off piste have a 20m+ radius, which makes them feel very stable through conditions found away from the piste. Freeride and all mountain skis are ‘somewhere in between' as they need to function both on and off piste.
The phrase ‘sidecut' used in the catalogue refers to the ski's dimensions at the widest points of the tip and tail, and at the waist. Measured in millimetres, sidecut is shown in the order: tip/waist/tail. A deep sidecut creates a ski with a small radius. This generally applies to piste-orientated skis so that they carve turns easily. Skis with shallow sidecuts have a larger radius for improved stability, better suiting ungroomed terrain.
As well as the actual depth of sidecut or ‘amount of shape', the combination of the tip, tail and waist widths also affects how the ski reacts. A wide tip and narrow waist give excellent turn initiation as the ski rolls smoothly into carves. A wide waist found on freeride and freestyle backcountry skis offers lots of floatation to cruise through deep snow. Narrow waists feel quick from edge-to-edge when on pisted trails but don't float so well off piste. Tail widths affect the feel of carving at the end of a turn. Skis with big tails relative to the waist ‘hold' at the end of a turn locking you into a carve and minimise loss of momentum. Skis that have a narrower tail are more controllable and easier to skid.
Most sidecut information will be given as 3 dimensions, though more recently some manufacturers have begun radically altering tip and/or tail shapes and started to list the sidecuts as 4 or 5 dimensions. Skis that use these 4- or 5-point sidecuts will have tips that look longer and also possibly tails that are longer too (in the case of a 5-point sidecut). This effectively moves the wider points of the ski nearer the ski's centre and helps with turn initiation and general manoeuvrability in ungroomed snow.
Ski categories used to be defined by dimensions and flex, but recently the camber profile has become just as important. Traditionally the camber refers to the arch of a ski when it is placed ‘base down', the tip and tails touching the surface and the centre elevated. As the ski has weight applied, it flattens and the pressure is spread evenly along its length, creating continuous edge contact. When the pressure is released the ski returns to its camber shape, adding rebound/energy to the end of a turn. This type of camber is often referred to as traditional or standard camber.
Design changes have lead to the use of reverse camber or rocker skis, where the ski arches upwards so the middle of the ski is lower than the tips and tail. This creates a ski with smooth handling in soft snow and excellent floatation. By combining elements of rocker and traditional camber, designers can create many different profiles. Standard camber underfoot for grip, rocker at the tip for improved floatation and handling, the amounts of each are adjusted according to the type of ski.
For further help on sizing speak to our staff ski experts who can give you detailed advice.
Take a look at our other buying guides
Just a few years ago helmets on the slopes were the reserve of the racers and extreme skiers, now it’s the norm thanks to advances in materials meaning more comfortable and better fitting helmets.