An introduction to different types of skis
While it may seem that a pair of skis are simply just a pair of skis, they are part of a diverse family and the product of years of development & history. They’re certainly more than just two pieces of fibreglass strapped to a pair of boots. If you’re hiring, depending on the type of skiing you are looking to enjoy on your catered chalet holiday in Courchevel next season, choosing the right ski is crucial to ensuring the best experience. If you’re buying then the choice matters all the more. With this in mind, here’s a basic introduction to the different types of skis and what makes them different.
The different types of skis
Snowblades Snowblades also known as ‘ski blades’, ‘short skis’ and ’ski boards’. They are quite easy to learn & offer endless opportunities for fun and games. Although they all might look pretty similar to the untrained eye (a bit like the skis might do) there’s a lot of variety. They range from as short as 70cm to as long as 143cm. You can get thinner ones that slice through groomed snow and feel a little like ice skates but sink in powder. Then there are fatter snowblades that get you leaning your body to carve a bit like a snowboarder and handle the powder just fine. With snow blades the carving happens on the edges under your feet so you tend to stand a little straighter than a skier who puts more weight forward to carve from nearer the front of the ski. This makes it a little more natural for non skiers to get going and so easier to pick up. For skiers & snowboarders it’s a lot of fun and a different discipline even from skiing.
Racing skisThe longest of all skis on the market, race skis are built with high speed in mind. Although they used to stretch over 200cm long, top racers in the world nowadays use skis no longer than 160cm. Both highly flexible and responsive, they allow for incredibly nimble footwork so they’re perfect to take on the slalom at high speed on firm snow. However, they aren’t very versatile; should you be used to skis with a shorter turning circle, you may struggle with them at first!
Freestyle skisWhile carving skis do offer twin tips, freestyle skis are purpose built for the half-pipe, jumps, rails and other common snow park features. As the tips are raised far higher and with the bindings sitting much further forward, the majority are bi-directional so users can ride either forwards or backwards with greater stability than other ski types. Although they are built for the snow park, some do offer good skiing on other areas of the mountain.
Freeride skisIt’s fair to say that freeride skis are a more versatile version of powder skis, partly because they aren’t as wide and are usually no bigger than 105mm underfoot. While they are designed for off-piste skiing, they can perform equally as well on the groomed slopes. Most of these skis feature a rockered tip, although it’s less severe than with powder skis to ensure the skis can grip on the piste as well as performing on the untouched snow.
Carving skisThe type that most recreational skiers will be used to, carving skis have a distinct hourglass shape to make them very easy for turning. In most cases they will be between 70 and 80mm wide, widening to as much as 110mm at the tips and tails. Because the ski is curved, when the metal edges are dug into the snow they offer a natural turning circle. Epitomised by their name, they offer the best carving opportunity of all ski types and allow users to gracefully glide down the groomed runs – providing they have perfected the art of the parallel turn of course! If you’re hiring your skis, these are most likely the style you will be provided with. We wrote an article all about our own favourite carving skis, the X.O skis from Switzerland (featured in the image above).
Big mountain skisAlthough they may sound very similar, big mountain skis are products built to keep you afloat in the deepest powder in some extreme skiing. Longer, wider and stiffer than the other styles already mentioned, they provide the extra level of stability you need to take on untouched snow at high speeds. If you’re an expert skier with an aggressive style, it’s the perfect choice to take on your chalet holiday in La Plagne.
All mountain skisAs the label would suggest, all mountain skis are created for all areas on the piste. The majority are 80-90mm in the middle, and the fact that they are slightly wider means they offer greater buoyancy should you venture off-piste. Some also sport a ‘rockered’ tip (meaning the tip and tail are lower set to offer a reverse-camber) for even more support in the powder. While they can perform anywhere on the mountain, the one-size-fits-all approach means you might not always get the perfect experience.
Powder skisPowder skis can be even wider than big mountain skis and in some cases stretch to 140mm underfoot. The reason for this is so that they can cope with the deepest snow. Most powder skis also feature the ‘rockered’ tip, providing even more stability away from the piste. The biggest difference compared to general skis is the fact that the ski itself offers a reverse camber – with the tip and rail of the ski thinner than the mid-section.
Image Credit: Zach Dischner
Trying to work out if you should buy skis or hire skis? Try our article about ski hire vs ski buy.