How To Choose Skis | Types & more

Whether buying your first pair of skis or adding a pair to your collection, there are a few things to consider before making the big decision.
Skis are built to perform best in specific types of snow and terrain. All aspects of ski design will change depending on what they are intended to do.
When purchasing a new pair of skis, the first thing to consider is your current ability level, followed by the type of skiing you will be doing (i.e., which terrain and snow you will be on).
There are skis for every ability and occasion, from cruising the resort with kids to blasting through deep powder in the backcountry or landing big air in the park.

How to choose skis

Ski Terms And Technology

Here are some common ski terms and technologies explained in simple

  • Camber: The shape of a ski when it is not being compressed. A ski with a camber will have a curved shape that helps it to grip the snow and turn easily.
  • Rocker: The opposite of camber, the rocker, is when a ski's tip and tail is curved upward. This makes it easier to turn in deep snow and provides better float.
  • Sidecut: The hourglass shape of a ski when viewed from above. A ski with a deeper sidecut will be easier to turn.
  • Flex: The amount of bend in a ski. A stiffer ski will be more responsive at high speeds, while a softer ski will be more forgiving and easier to turn.
  • Bindings: The mechanism that connects your boot to the ski. Bindings should be adjusted to match your skill level and be able to release in the event of a fall to prevent injury.
  • Edges: The metal strips on the sides of a ski grip the snow to help turn and stop.
  • Poles: Ski poles are used to help with balance, timing, and turning. They should be the correct height length and have comfortable grips.
  • Skins: An adhesive material attached to the bottom of cross-country skis or touring skis to provide traction when skiing uphill.
  • Wax: A type of substance applied to the base of skis to improve glide and protect the base from damage. Different types of wax are used for other snow conditions.
  • Ski Boots: The boots you wear when skiing are specially designed to provide support and control. They should fit snugly but not be too tight and should be compatible with your ski bindings.
  • As ski technology advances, new terms and technologies may emerge. 

Which Types of Ski Should You Consider?

If you plan to go skiing this winter, choosing the right type of ski is crucial for your performance and enjoyment on the slopes. Deciding can be overwhelming with so many different types of skis on the market. We'll review the different types of skis you should consider before hitting the slopes.

Alpine Skis

Alpine skis are the most common type of skis that are used by skiers. They are designed for downhill skiing and are usually made from wood, fiberglass, and metal. Alpine skis are great for skiers who want to ski on groomed trails and want to make sharp turns at high speeds. These skis are typically wider and shorter than others, making them more stable and easier to turn.

Cross-Country Skis

Cross-country skis are designed for skiers who want to explore the backcountry and enjoy the natural beauty of the winter landscape. They are longer and narrower than alpine skis, which allows them to glide through snow without sinking in too much. Cross-country skis are also much lighter and more flexible than alpine skis, making them ideal for long-distance skiing.

Freestyle Skis

Freestyle skis are designed for skiers who want to do tricks and jumps in the terrain park. These skis are usually shorter and more flexible than alpine skis, which makes them easier to maneuver in the air. Freestyle skis also have twin tips, which means curved tips and tails allow skiers to land jumps and tricks backward.

All-Mountain Skis

All-mountain skis are designed for skiers who want to ski on various terrain, from groomed runs to powder. They are wider than alpine skis, which makes them more stable and easier to turn in deep snow. All-mountain skis are also more versatile than other skis, which means they can handle different conditions and terrains.

To help you choose the right ski, let's first look at some key differences.


skis are designed to be gender specific to fit male and female body types. It's not just about the ski's color and graphics. Many ski models will be produced in both male and female versions.

Women's skis, for example, are typically (but not always) shorter and more flexible. This allows for the biomechanical differences between men and women.


There are also skis designed for specific age groups. There are skis designed specifically for children of various ages, and then there are adult skis.

Skier type or level

The type of skier you are will determine which type of ski you will enjoy the most. As a beginner, you won't know what kind of skier you are because you're still figuring everything out. You can start to shape your skier type when you reach the intermediate level.

Your skier type will influence the type of snow and terrain you ski on.

What Type Of Skier Are You

Here are some typical skier profiles, as well as some suggestions for buying skis.

Complete Newbie

A beginner skier is a newcomer to the sport. They are working on technique and fitness and will most likely attend ski school.

Total beginners, I believe, will most likely rent skis, and local rental shops will have the type of ski best suited to learning. These frequently correspond to the ethos of the local ski school.

Beginner skis are typically short, flexible, and have a sidecut/profile allowing easy turns and control. A little rocker at the tip and tail may help with turns, but camber underfoot is essential for learning to ski properly and in control. Most beginners will begin their lessons on a forgiving piste ski.

Skier Intermediate

I recommend attending ski school and renting a pair of piste skis or a piste-oriented all-mountain ski to a beginner skier. Private lessons alone or with a small group of friends is another excellent option. You can always ask the rental shop or a local ski school which skis will work best for the teaching methods on that hill.

A full-camber ski will necessitate proper technique learning. In contrast, a ski with some rocker at the tip may allow the skis to enter a turn more easily, be more forgiving, and allow for some off-piste practice if necessary.

Once a good technique has been mastered, personal preference will guide the selection of the next ski. Hopefully, your ski school will introduce you to some off-piste experience and solid piste technique so that when you progress to the next level, you can better decide what type of skiing you want to do and, thus, which ski to choose.

If there's a lot of powder around, you might decide it's time to learn off-piste technique, in which case an all-mountain ski will be ideal. I would stick to a ski with camber underfoot but a little tip rocker at first.

Casual Piste Skier

This person may simply enjoy cruising around the resort in the sun, taking in the scenery, and exploring. An intermediate to an experienced skier or an older skier is most likely. Skiers spend one or two weeks skiing with their families or on yearly weekend trips.

Traditional camber piste skis are ideal for casual piste skiers unless you intend to venture off the groomers, in which case an all-mountain ski is recommended.

Casual skiers may have reliable skis, but many still prefer to rent. Nowadays, a good rental shop has a good selection of options. If there's a new snowfall, you could always switch out your piste skis for an all-mountain pair for a day or two (there might be an additional cost, but its probably worth it).

An all-mountain ski will benefit casual skiers who enjoy getting off the groomers. I would recommend choosing skis with solid on-piste performance and enough camber underfoot to provide a secure hold on firm pistes.

Choose a standard carving ski with a medium to high sidecut radius and plenty of camber underfoot for those who will mostly stay on the piste. For quick transitions between turns, choose a width underfoot of 70-85cm.

Choose a ski that is a standard length for your height (for more information, see our ski length guide) and is not too stiff (unless you are super fit and athletic). Remember that a high-performance, stiff racing ski will be exhausting if you spend all day on the mountain, so avoid them unless you are extremely fit and strong. However, the ski will chatter at high speeds if it is too soft.

Advanced skier

Experienced skiers must purchase skis that best suit their needs, whether it's an all-purpose ski for everyday use or something tailored to specific snow conditions.

Those looking to venture off the groomers in search of powder or to explore the resort further should consider an all-mountain ski. All mountain skis do come with a trade-off: they won't hold an edge as well on groomers as a piste ski or float as well in powder as a full-on powder ski. However, they should be excellent for powering through mixed snow conditions common in and around the resort, and they are an excellent choice if you only want one pair of skis to enjoy your day.

There are numerous all-mountain skis available these days. Some are primarily piste skis that perform admirably in mixed conditions, while others are off-piste skis that perform admirably on the piste as well. Consider where you spend most of your time and choose an all-mountain ski at the other end of the spectrum.

Advanced skiers who stick to groomers to perfect their carving turns or even enjoy some ski racing require a full-on-piste ski. Piste skis have a traditional, full-camber profile and are narrow to allow for fast turns. These are available in various performance levels, so choosing one that matches your goals is critical. Strong and powerful skiers will need a stiff skis.

However, this is where things can get interesting because it may be time to consider a variety of skis. One is more powder-oriented, while the other is more of a piste and/or all-mountain ski.

 Because I may have raised more questions than answers, this is where personal preference comes into play! I believe that because the options are endless, improving skiers will benefit greatly from trying a few before settling on a specific ski.

More experienced skiers will likely want to have a variety of skis available to them to make the most of the current conditions.

Hard Charger

These skiers may or may not stick to the piste, but they tend to ski more athletically, i.e., hard and fast. They may be looking for powder stashes and jumps or racing down the runs with powerful turns.

The ski chosen here should reflect the skier's style and the conditions. A high-quality all-mountain ski would be ideal for those who ski on and off-piste throughout the resort. A traditional camber piste or race ski is better suited to those who prefer carving big turns on the piste or practicing for the next competition.

Park/freestyle Skier

Park skiers enjoy doing tricks and jumping and spend much time practicing in ski parks. Twin tips with a specific hybrid camber profile are the best skis for freestyle. These enable skiers to travel forwards and backward in equal comfort.

Freestyle skis have a lot of pop for taking on kickers and performing tricks. Park skis typically have thicker edges that are better suited for taking on rails and boxes.

Ski racers prefer racing skis that are extremely long, narrow, and stiff. These skis are designed for specific racing disciplines and unsuitable for anything else.

Best Tips For Choosing The Right Skis

1. Choose a ski that is appropriate for your skier type

When purchasing new skis, choose a ski that is appropriate for the terrain you prefer to ski on. For example, choose a freestyle ski if you enjoy skiing in a park. Choose a medium-stiffness piste ski if you prefer to cruise the groomers.

If you like doing a little bit of everything, pick a ski designed for the environment where you’ll spend most of your time. Or simply opt for an all-mountain ski.

2. Choose a ski that is appropriate for your skill level.

Choose a ski with features appropriate for your skill level and will maximize your enjoyment. So, for example, avoid selecting a ski that is too stiff or too long, as selecting a ski that is beyond your ability level will ultimately make skiing less enjoyable. That is not to say you should choose something too easy, as having a ski that will help you develop as a skier is important.

3. Choose a ski that is appropriate for your location.

If you are skiing in Japan or other places where the powder is legendary, I would recommend keeping a wide powder-oriented ski in your locker. A wide all-mountain ski or a full powder ski.

A piste ski with camber would be more appropriate for the east coast's notoriously hard groomers.

4. Take advantage of test days.

Test days are occasionally offered by ski manufacturers at resorts. These allow you to try out the latest products, and the technicians on hand will be happy to assist you in selecting the best ski for your needs.

Another option for experimenting with different setups is to rent a specific pair of skis for a day or two in specific conditions and see how they work for you.

Consider all aspects of how the ski feels, right down to how you feel at the end of a day skiing on them when testing out a new ski. Going for a stiff "mountain slayer" is pointless just because it looks or sounds cool. Choosing something less aggressive or easier to live with may open up a whole new world of enjoyment.

5. Don't get caught up in the hype.

Big wide powder skis look cool and are great for making fresh tracks on those special days, but on nearly every other occasion, a more versatile all-mountain ski would make more sense. It is a good idea to rent powder skis on those special days, as they may not occur as frequently as you would like.

6. Examine and read ski reviews

Google and YouTube have some great reviews for almost every ski ever made. It is well worth investigating what ordinary people say rather than relying solely on the manufacturer's marketing.

Ski Buying Summary

Many factors go into ski design, including length, width, camber profile, stiffness, and sidecut radius. These characteristics vary depending on the terrain and snow the ski intends to ski. A powder ski, for example, will be wide and flexible with a rocker profile. Racing skis are usually long, stiff, and narrow.

To decide which ski to buy, you must first determine your skill level and the type of skiing you enjoy. This information lets you choose the ski profile that best suits your needs.

You can have fun skiing with any ski in any condition, so don't be too hard on yourself if your friends' skis are better suited to the snow on that particular day. Enjoy the fact that you are currently clipped into the best skis available. Every dog has his or her day.

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