Buying Skis 101

Buying skis can be overwhelming. There are a lot of choices on the wall but here are some tips to help you make the right selection.

There are a lot of terms that are used to describe skis - their construction, shape, radius etc. These elements affect how a ski will perform so knowing these key terms before you go will help in the selection. For a full set of terminology go here

Questions to think about and have an answer to before you go to the shop:

1. Where is the bulk of your skiing done? (east, west, international)

2. Where on the mountain do you ski – moguls, groomed, off piste, backcountry

3. Do you seek out bumps? Powder? Groomers?

4. What are the typical conditions where you ski? Ice, crud, powder, chopped up, groomers etc.

5. Are you looking for one all around ski or a quiver?

6. What is your skiing style? Cautious, conservative, moderate, aggressive, ultra-aggressive?

7. How long have you been skiing

8. How committed are you to getting on the mountain regularly?

9. What are your aspirations for this ski season?

10. Who do you typically ski with?

NOTE: You should bring your ski boots so that if you do purchase a new pair of skis, they can get your bindings correctly set-up.

Some of the terms and characteristics you will be asked to consider are:

Waist width:  this refers to the width of the ski (in mm) under the foot. And there are trade offs to going narrower or wider.

Typically a narrower ski (60mm – 79mm) is quicker, more maneuverable, will hold better on hard snow or ice, and will make shorter radius turns easier.

The next range of waist widths (80 – 99) are going to be more versatile whether groomed or variable conditions. They offer more of a platform, therefore are more stable underfoot.

The widest range is 100mm+ and generally these perform better in softer, deeper snow and powder. They offer a more surfy, floaty feeling. Many can still carve on groomed but not as easily – that is not their focus.


Length: There are trade offs here as well with longer vs. shorter skis. As a general rule, the size will be based on your height and weight with the below qualifications based on how you like to ski: (ie. do you like to go fast and make big turns or slower with shorter turns)

They may size to your chin, nose, forehead or 5cm above your forehead – again based on some qualifications.

Generally the shorter the ski, the easier, quicker, more maneuverable the ski will be. Conversely it will be less stable at speed and can be more challenged on variable conditions.

The longer the ski gets, the faster it wants and likes to go, but will also be more stable. Longer skis generally like to make a longer radius turn.