Buying new skis is a big commitment, there are a huge range of considerations to take into account. Every pair has its perfect buyer and conditions/terrain that it suits. Those two things aren’t easy to decipher just by looking at the waist width and colour of the top sheet.
The first step is to work out where you want the ski to perform. There are a huge number of factors that affect a way a ski skis in different conditions. Having a clear picture on where you want the ski to perform will help guide the type of ski you are looking for. Most people are ready to accept compromised performance in icy conditions if the skis excel in soft snow conditions and vice versa.
Ski Waist Width
The waist width of the ski relates directly to location. Australians are a travelling bunch so our skis need a wide range of applications. Common skis range anywhere from 65mm to 130mm and we like to them split into 5 different categories:
- <87mm – Carving skis
- 88 – 93mm – Australian All Mountain skis
- 94 – 103mm – Northern Hemisphere All Mountain skis
- 104 – 113mm – Narrow Powder skis
- >114mm – Powder skis
This is not a hard and fast rule, but is often a good starting spot. If you tend towards harder snow and groomed runs, a narrower ski is normally more responsive and holds a better edge. Whereas if you spend the mornings hungover and go ski when the snow gets soft, a wider ski will often be more fun in the slush.
Modern designs widely incorporate Rocker into the Tips and Tails of skis to improve manoeuvrability. Rocker is the upturn of either end or the entirety of the ski. In short, Tip Rocker adds to the skis ability to float, Tail Rocker adds to the skis ability to pivot, and No Rocker improves the length of effective edge and Hardpack performance.
If you are looking for a ski for skiing morning ice, having less rocker will have better edge grip. If you also ski afternoon slush, a bit of width and/or some tip rocker will help your skis stay up and track in the variable snow without taking too much from the hardsnow performance. A fully rockered ski, is generally for use in Powder. Aimed to provide as much float and surfy characteristics as possible.
In our opinion, most good Australian All-Mountain skis have moderate tip rocker but minimal tail rocker. A small amount of tip rocker has nearly no drawbacks unless you are skiing FIS courses.
Stiffness is a quality often overlooked online because there is no objective measurement that is standardised. Yet a ski that is too stiff or too soft is often a major reason why a ski isn’t suitable. If you are a Beginner skier look on the softer end of the spectrum. Advanced/expert skiers can handle and normally enjoy a stiffer ski.
Despite how much reviewers rave about stiff skis, such as the Blizzard Brahma, if you aren’t a very confident skier, it is likely too stiff for you. There are plenty of softer options that feature similar shapes and uses. If you are chasing a similar on and off-piste weapon but ski more cautiously, check out the Line Supernatural 86.
Ski length is a whole post-worthy topic in itself. Many factors affect the end result: height, weight, ability, ski profile all included. Some people just have a personal preference one way or the other.
Height and ability is a good starting point: skis should reach the lower half of your face if you are a beginner/intermediate. Advanced and expert skiers prefer there skis to reach upper half or even above their head.
Above and beyond that, you may want to size up if you are relatively heavy for your height. If the ski has a large amount of rocker or is fairly soft, sizing up will make it more stable.
Adversely, if you are older, lighter and generally more cautious a shorter ski is more manageable. If you are looking at a ski that is marginally too stiff, sizing down can make them more manageable.
In a perfect world, you can demo a wide range of skis and compare them back to back and then pick your favourite. Unfortunately those opportunities are few and far between, especially in Australia, so if you get the chance, take it!
If you ever have any questions, feel free to contact us!