Best way to Choose Skis: Tips for Finding the Right Pair

Best way to Choose Skis: Tips for Finding the Right Pair

Best way to Choose Skis: Tips for Finding the Right Pair

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I only recently started skiing. When I relocated to Utah at the age of 31, with the popular Alta Ski Resort nearby, I determined that the only way I'd survive the winter was to take up skiing as a new passion. It's been a difficult but incredibly gratifying experience, and instead of dreading winter, I can now enjoy four seasons of enjoyment. I had no idea what I was looking for in a ski when I first started skiing, let alone how to choose skis. Camber, length, width, form All of these ski specifications were like a foreign language to me!

Now in my fifth full season of skiing and my third set of skis, I have a lot better grasp of how different skis perform and how different conditions influence the type of ski you want to be on. The goal of this blog article is not to turn you into an expert in ski selection, but to provide you with enough background information to go into a ski store prepared to ask questions.

Don't miss my introductory suggestions for learning to ski as an adult if you're a newbie.

In this blog post, we'll go over how to choose skis based on your skill level and the terrain you'll be skiing the most. In addition, I share my current favorite set of skis!

Quick and Dirty Ski Terminology

Before you enter the ski shop, familiarize yourself with the following terms:

  • Rocker - The amount of lift in the tip and tail of your ski, which is ideal for powder and rapid turns while remaining balanced in the middle.
  • Waist - The part of your ski that lies directly underfoot. Narrow waists allow the skier to dig in deeper when the conditions are hard (East Coast), but a broader waist provides more float to evenly distribute the weight, which is ideal for deep powdery conditions (West Coast).
  • Turning Radius is computed by dividing the width at the tip and tail by the width at the waist. A narrower turning radius facilitates tighter turns.

The Various Types of Skis

Downhill skis, also known as Alpine skis, can be divided into three varieties for recreational skiers: on-piste, all mountain, and powder skis. This excludes race skis, freestyle, and touring, which are more particular to each sport.

In general, whether you're renting a pair of demo skis from a ski shop or seeking to buy your own set, you'll be picking between these three options.


On Piste refers to skiing groomed mountain tracks, hence they are also known as On-Trail skis. This ski will be narrower and have a good edge to assist you slice through hard-packed snow.

If you are a beginner or intermediate who prefers to stay on groomed trails or ski mostly in the Northeast, where it can be icy, choose an On Piste style of ski.


The name of the All-Mountain ski is also literal. It's the most adaptable of the lot, comfortably handling all types of snow and terrain. It's what I ski on and recommend as a learning tool.

An All-Mountain Ski will have more rocker to help you maneuver in different types of snow, in addition to being a little broader in the waist and tips. The All-Mountain ski is an excellent alternative for beginners, intermediate, and even advanced skiers who don't want to limit themselves to one type of terrain or region of the country.


The Freeski is ideal for gliding over snow (on or off-piste), challenging afternoons at the terrain park, and, of course, a day on the groomers with your buddies. Simply said, the Freeski is quite flexible but will struggle on hardpack or icy slopes.

It has a wide waist, rocker, and tips with a rocker in the tail and front tip (twin tips) that make it ideal for snow skiers of all levels. Skiers in the Rockies or the Pacific Northwest are advised to use freeskis rather than those in the Northeast.


On-piste skis are often narrower, whereas powder skis are typically wider. However, because category definitions fluctuate between manufacturers, the widths indicated may vary among categories depending on the brand. Remember what we said before about a ski's waist? The same is true here. A broader ski will be more difficult to get up on edge in hard-packed or icy situations.

Considerations When Purchasing a New Pair of Skis

The following are some of the most significant considerations to make while buying for new skis.


The most important consideration in selecting how to buy skis that are perfect for you is where you ski. If you prefer to ski groomed paths in the Northeast or the entire mountain in the West, you should choose a pair of skis that perform best in those conditions and terrain, regardless of your abilities or aptitude. Consider what and where you enjoy skiing the most and let that guide you in the proper way.

Still unsure which ski is ideal for your terrain? Let us elaborate...

  • Northeast - Trails in the Northeast are often hard-packed and manicured. Because the snow isn't very deep and can get icy, an on-trail/on-piste ski will have a good enough edge to help you dig in and make clear turns. They are also more narrow, which allows you better control of your skis.
  • West and Pacific Northwest - If you ski in the Rockies, which have numerous powder days and rough terrain, or any West Coast mountain, choose a ski with more width and rocker. Choose a ski that will allow you to float rather than sink in this region's soft and fluffy snow.
  • Both – Are you a skier who doesn't limit yourself to a single type of terrain? Choose an all-mountain ski that is adaptable enough to tackle any situation.


Your ability comes in second to terrain. If you are a novice, don't be afraid to get beginner skis. It's more crucial today to ski on something that fits your demands so you can enhance your stability, control, and confidence on the mountain.

In addition to the terrain, your ability will decide the flex and width of the waist of your skis. A novice ski features a softer flex that is more forgiving for beginners, as well as a somewhat narrower waist for improved control and easier turns.

Intermediate and advanced skiers should select a ski with a stiffer flex that can resist the force and pressure of more advanced or variable circumstances, as well as their technical competence and control level.


Because men and women are built differently, it is best to ski on something that is anatomically correct for you. Men's skis are designed to endure the weight and force of an aggressive male skier. Men's skis can also be used as unisex skis, however the reverse is not true.

Women's skis are designed to meet the anatomical requirements of a woman's physique and stance. When selecting a pair of skis for beginners, a good rule of thumb is to stick to your gender.


After you've decided on the type of skis you want, the final item you'll need to decide on is the appropriate ski length. The appropriate ski length is determined by your ability, weight and height, personal choice, and the ski's construction.

In general, the length of your ski can be divided into two categories: chin level and head high. A shorter ski that measures around chin level is easier to turn for most beginner and intermediate skiers, skis well on groomed tracks, and is better for persons who do not want to ski quickly and violently.

As you gain experience, you can upgrade to a longer ski that strikes closer to the top of your head. Longer skis are more stable at high speeds, making them ideal for aggressive, expert skiers who spend a lot of time off-piste.

I am 5'5" and 140 pounds, and I recommend myself as an intermediate skier. My skis are 170cm in length.


Demoing skis is a terrific method to see if you like how they perform. If you rent from the mountain's ski shop, you may usually exchange them throughout the day, letting you to test on multiple pairs. If you find something you like, rental businesses frequently sell their demo skis at a discount, making it an excellent option to get your first pair of skis at a low cost.

Every pair of skis I possess were purchased as demo skis, and you should also keep an eye out for end-of-season bargains, as rental companies often aim to sell off their skis in order to make place for new equipment the following year.

My favorite pair of female skis

Last year, I went from the Nordica Santa Ana, which is an extremely stiff ski, to the Elan Ripstick, and my skiing has greatly improved.

The Elan Ripstick is a free ski with a unique design in that it has a right and left ski. Each ski's edges are engineered to make turning easy. The Ripstick is very maneuverable, allowing you to pick your line with ease whether you're in tight woods or wide-open bowls.

The Ripstick is also quite stable. My old skis were more heavier and stiffer, making them tougher to control but also incredibly stable. I was apprehensive about switching to a lighter, softer ski since I wasn't sure how it would handle bumps, crud, and chopped up powder. In the 2019-2020 season, I utilized the Ripsticks exclusively in a variety of situations (both on groomers and powder), and I felt in control, stable, and confident. I consider myself an intermediate skier, but I believe the Ripstick is suitable for skiers of all abilities.

If you ski powder frequently, I'd recommend the 102 width (what I have), which floats in deep snow but can also keep an edge on groomers as long as it's not too stiff.

If you stick to groomers or live in the east where ice conditions are typical, the 94mm or 88mm width will be more nimble and simpler to get on edge.

Elan Ripstick women ski

Check price: Backcountry / evo / Elan


We hope that this information on how to choose skis assists you in selecting the ideal pair of skis for your winter skiing season.

Do you already have a favorite ski pair? What exactly are they, and why do you adore them? Please leave your comment or review and question in the comments section!

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