When life was simple and skiers wore stretch pants or jeans to ski in, we only had to choose between three basic types of skis, all based on racing. However, now that we are enjoying the engineering marvels of the shaped ski, the focus of ski design has become more complex.
When it comes to actually looking at skis, reading ski publications or walking through a ski show can be overwhelming. For example, Ski and Skiing magazines test at least 300 models, while Ski Press may test 500 different ski models in a year. You could ski every day for almost a year and a half and never use the same skis twice!
How to Choose the Right Ski
So, is finding the right ski easy? Not as easy as it was when we walked up to a ski sales clerk and said we wanted a Giant Slalom, Slalom, or Downhill ski then raised our arm so he could find the right length. Finding skis is certainly doable though, as long as you stay focused on your search.
Reading ski reviews is helpful. I believe the major ski publications approach testing seriously. Ski Press uses a percent of recreational skiers chosen at random to test skis, while the others use pros only. The pros are almost all certified instructors so they know their business.
Narrow the playing field to the field you're playing on. Don't grab that great deal on super fat powder skis if you only intend to ski the mid and eastern U.S. Focus, instead, on skis engineered to that snow.
Talk to your favorite ski shop owner. Ski shops are in business to stay in business and 99% of them have qualified people who know local conditions. Bring your ski test wish list, but, listen to their advice. They usually have good advice on what you will need.
Most top name brands will have a ski for you. If you look at the models available from the top 10 or 15 ski manufacturers, you are almost guaranteed to find a ski to meet the snow conditions where you typically ski, your type of skiing, and your ability in each brand.
Try before you buy. This is important, because you know when a ski is good for you when you ski on it, not before. When you're trying the skis and you think the skis can read your mind, you'll know that you have found your skis.
Demo, demo, demo - because that is how you will be most happy with the ski you buy. I believe I could ski on similarly designed models of the 3 or 4 top brands and be hard pressed to pick "the best." Focus on your typical skiing conditions, your ability, and your experience.
I look for the best ski for the conditions I usually ski. Those most important to consider in skis designed today are – Pure Powder, Groomed Powder, and the catch-all Packed Powder Conditions. You will find these conditions in varying degrees and times at most resorts. However, in general terms powder reigns in the west and the east hopes for the best.
Your next consideration should be your skiing ability and your experience. Experience only comes with time on the snow, but, it is the end product of our learning how to use our skis in a variety of conditions. This ability improves with proper instruction and review.