HOW TO BUY NEW SKIS. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BUYING SKIS
This is the definitive formula for how to choose the right skis, created after years of research and mathematical calculations. Yes, put in the values, above, and the answer will be your perfect skis.Right! Wrong. Unfortunately, there is no definitive equation to calculate the best skis for you. But trying to add up all the above factors is a pretty good way to start when selecting a new pair. What is hard to understand is the fact that people actually buy skis using no science (or maths) at all.
These are some of the more common criteria for choosing skis:
1) The sales person in the ski shop said they were the best/newest/bargain/coolest.
2) I researched on Google and these skis were highly recommended (mostly by above ski shop).
3) I researched on Google and watched vids on YouTube of ski tests (mostly by testers of completely different height, weight and ability).
4) My mate rides them (completely different height, weight and ability).
5) I got them really cheaply at the end of the season from the hire shop/in the Sales/on ebay.
6) Check out the graphics!
What else would you buy before trying?
Amazingly people will shell out £350 and upwards on something they haven't even tried. And can't give back within 30 days if not satisfied. And, many make a decision to purchase purely going by the views of ski testers. That's like letting someone try on a suit or dress for you and say, yes, it's a great fit and very flattering. And they're not even your size - and have completely different tastes in clothes..
Testers have an educated opinion about how a ski performs but:
1) They are usually 'expert' ie extremely good skiers. If you're an intermediate or even advanced, you're not going to ski anyway like they do so their opinion about float in powder may go, er literally, over your head (when you stack it).
3) They are often sponsored by the ski brand they are testing.
4) They are often sponsored by the ski retailer selling above brand.
5) They are often a magazine sponsored by the ski retailer and/or the above brand ie via advertising.
6) They might extol the virtues of the skis in snow where they tested them. They won't necessarily try them in all conditions including ice, hardpack, crud or windblown (although, often on ski tests, they say that they rode on all the above, which seems unlikely).
Go and search for a ski test on YouTube
There are thousands including endless ones by 'experts' such as Ski Gear TV specialising in reviewing skis. Now find us one that gives a negative opinion about any ski. Or even an objective analysis. Or even vaguely discusses its drawbacks.
Ski and snowboard magazines will recommend skis and even pick their Ski Of The Year, Gold Stars or Editor's Choice. Their testers are, also, generally pretty good skiers so they're expert and aggressive in style compared to the majority of the magazine's readers. And, call us cynics, but they may be a tad influenced by the ski brand who flew them heliskiing in Alaska for a week to test the skis or took a few glossy double page spreads to promote them.
Yes, we are also invited to test skis
As an online ski and snowboard magazine we try out kit - both during the season and at the annual SIGB Ski Test held in the Alps, a successful ski trade initiative that has been created due to the demand from suppliers, retailers and specialist media in the UK for a single, well organised, effective and comprehensive opportunity to put next season’s skis through their paces.
With nearly 1000 pairs of skis from the 20 plus brands showing, the aim is to try as many as you can in three days - and in whatever the conditions offer. Our objective at STYLE ALTITUDE is to discern really new AND game-changing skis for next season, the general trends for ski design and talk to the brand representatives to give as wide and UNBIASED a picture as possible for you to view what's on offer. We'll tell you what we liked testing and what we will be riding next winter. But we're not going to give any awards or dictates as to which skis you should buy.
After all, the best tester Is you.
We, also, publish the unbiased ski test of ProSkiLab who do not let brands influence their choices and their only 'sell' is their integrity. Check out their test results here.
The thing is the choice is huge.
How many new skis are there on the market each winter? We fell asleep counting. There are hundreds. And the permutations of length, width, rocker, camber, reverse camber, sidecut, taper, tip, sidecut and flex are endless.
Increasingly, it's all about construction and who can come up with the perfect and, sometimes, convoluted combination of different woods, carbon, fibreglass, titanium and graphene (Head) as core, layers, top sheets, bases, stringers and insets to give different flex, stiffness, strength,stability, weight, torsion and tension. Currently buzz words are 'light' and 'touring'. If you want something light to go uphill, you'll be spoilt for choice. The key, though, will be to choose the skis that are light for easy ascent but aggressive enough for coming down in anything less than perfect snow.
So every season the main brands are bringing out game-changing new skis with new names and new graphics purporting to be the best thing since God invented snow. In fact, sometimes, it's just the name and the graphics that are new.
And, then, there are the indy brands with smaller lines but seeming to claim that they have reinvented the ski because they are riders who 'know what other riders want'. Like the bigger brands don't have a clue? But every so often a microbrew ski brand will tap into the bigger market, growing a cult following among those who want something more stand-out from the masses.
So how DO you choose the best skis for you?
First, make use of the specialist retailers. If the ski shop is up to (Alpine) speed, they will only employ ski-savvy sales staff trained to know all the brands they sell and the nuances of the lines they offer. Most give their top staff the opportunity to test new season's skis on the slopes - indoor and/or outdoor - before the season. Yes, they'll try and persuade you to buy skis, but they're less likely to be biased towards one brand.
Ideally, if you are in a resort YOU try them out. Ask to test the ones you are interested in. Of course, you'll have to leave a credit/debit card in case you vanish into a white out - or trash them while rock-hopping. But ONLY after trying them will you have any idea if they will suit you and your ability. The smaller ski shops in resort are more likely to let you try before you buy. And, If the shop won't let you take them for a spin, then go to a ski hire shop and test different skis. You'll have to pay the hire charge but it'll be worth it to find the right ones.
And look out for pre-season demos, in the UK, at indoor snow domes or in resorts often in December. Meanwhile, some brands regularly offer their new season skis for trial on the mountains - Black Diamond, for instance, have a test centre in La Grave while Movement's latest demo skis are often available to test or rent at Tignes Spirit.
Then there are the boots and bindings to consider
Of course, having found the right skis you have to factor in boots and bindings which can add/subtract weight, flex and performance.
And, don't forget, there's the matter of snow conditions. Ride any ski in perfect snow and you'd probably just hand over your credit card, regardless of not knowing how if performs when the going gets more challenging.
Also, remember, there is no perfect multi-tasking ski
No one ski will do everything - piste, powder, park and touring. It is slightly marketing hype to label a ski 'all mountain'. It may ride on piste and off, but it won't be as good as an out-and-out carver or wide powder ski, respectively. It's, also, appealing to all our hopes and insecurities to say that a ski is a 'game changer' and will improve your riding taking you to the 'next level'.
In the case of 'fat' skis with wider waists, it's true that they have revolutionised the skills needed for riding powder but it's no automatic transition from piste to powder. You still have to learn your powder turns.
And, then, you'll also have to learn a whole new skill: riding fat skis on a hardpacked piste, moguled terrain or narrow icy chemin.
So, you may have to consider a quiver of skis if you want the best for more than one snow condition. Well, who plays with just one golf club? Or expects a road bike to come down mountains, off road?
But, then, do you really need more than one pair of skis?
Are you just falling for all the hype? There's the argument that a really good skier can ride on anything. Narrow, rockered, cambered, wide, whatever. Wherever.
Which brings us back to the point that, if you watch a video or read a review of a really good skier doing a ski test how can you possibly know if it'll work for you? Better to use some sort of personal equation and YOU do the maths.
Finally, here's the last word on choosing skis, from Fritz Barthel, Dynafit founder and guru: 'For reasons I don´t know people assume that I could tell them something about skis, which one to take etc. No idea. My answer usually is, they will be fine as long as they are longer than wide'.