Find Chalets
Menu
London Office

The VIP SKI team are here to answer any question you may have about our holidays

The Different Types of Ski Explained

Tue September 10, 2019

skis in snow with mountains in the background

Buying your own skis can make sense if you get out to the slopes regularly. You can avoid the queues at rental shops and be sure of the quality of your skis, bindings and any other equipment you purchase. But if you are booking a ski holiday this year with prices for a decent set starting around £450, you naturally want to make the right choice.

If you’re a novice skier, and tend to stick to well-groomed runs, then the type of ski you’re using probably won’t have a significant impact on your performance or the amount of fun you can have. As your experience and ability progresses however, your choice of ski takes on greater importance as it can improve your performance, speed, agility and safety on different terrain.

Ski technology really took off from around the early 1990s, and there is now a vast amount of choice on the market. For the uninitiated, that can make finding the right ski for your needs bewildering. In most cases it makes sense to browse the range in a shop and discuss your requirements with the staff there so they can help you find the right ski for your requirements and budget.

Whether you’re looking to buy, or simply to make an informed decision when it comes to renting a pair, take a read of this short guide for a lowdown on the different types of ski available, and to what kind of conditions they are most appropriate.

Key elements of a ski

skis on side of a cable car with mountains in background

Width and Length

All skis have three width dimensions, measured at the tip, at the ‘waist’ (beneath the foot) and at the tail. The tip is the widest point of the ski. Width measurements determine the radius, so skis that require a shorter radius for tighter turns, such as slalom skis, will have a slimmer width. Skis designed for powder skiing however want a wider base, to prevent them from sinking down into the snow.

Longer skis of course cover a larger surface area, which means less friction as an individual’s weight is more spread out. This helps with flotation on deep snow, and faster speeds. The flipside of that is that longer skis give a larger turning circle, hindering tight carving and maneuverability.

Camber vs rocker

These terms relate to the profile of the ski when it is unweighted, ie when no-one is standing on it. Camber is the upward curve in the middle of the ski. When weighted, the contact points with the snow tend to be at both ends. Camber is very precise, making it perfect for groomed and hard snow. Rocker is an inverse camber, so the ski will make a long u-shape with the tip and tail turning upwards when viewed from the side. Rocker gives better float, and so it is more suited to powder snow than camber.

Flexibility

Skis come in varying degrees of flexibility. Stiffer models enable you to accelerate faster out of turns, so they are appropriate for slalom or smooth pistes. Flexible skis absorb bumps better, giving a smoother and more comfortable ride. They also require less pressure to carve, and so are useful for uneven terrain.

What to choose?

As a general rule of thumb, shorter and narrower skis tend to be more nimble than longer wider skis, but lose out when it comes to stability at higher speeds and powder. If you’re a novice or intermediate skier, then you’re probably going to be best off starting with the former.

This is a rundown of the most common types of ski available, but it is by no means a comprehensive list. Assembling one would be tricky, since there is a great deal of crossover in the market. For instance you can find powder skis that will serve you well on the piste, and also carving skis that can cope reasonably well on powder.

Carving skis

The type of ski that most people will learn with, narrow in width, and so ideal for tackling smooth, groomed runs and cruising swiftly along. Although carving skis are generally fairly flexible, at the higher end, you find more rigid options.

man skiing with carving skis

All-mountain skis

Typically these skis are wider, but resembling a carving ski with an hourglass shape, they are designed to perform as well off-piste as they are on, hence the name. The waist tends to be narrow, up to around 90mm. You can also get all-mountain skis that are wider still at the waist which are useful if you’re skiing in poor conditions such as sloppy or crusty snow.

Powder skis

Typically these skis are wider, but resembling a carving ski with an hourglass shape, they are designed to perform as well off-piste as they are on, hence the name. The waist tends to be narrow, up to around 90mm. You can also get all-mountain skis that are wider still at the waist which are useful if you’re skiing in poor conditions such as sloppy or crusty snow.

person skiing through powder snow

Race skis

Race skis will usually be a lot shorter than most other types of ski, and more rigid, so that they can reach high speeds and cope with a lot of pressure. They’re best-suited to more advanced skiers who really want to get some pace, and for less-experienced skiers they can pose a hazard when it comes to exercising control over speed.

Cross country skis

Narrow and lightweight to help with climbing uphill, cross-country skis will often have a waxed surface so that they glide through the snow. In many instances only the toe of the boot will be attached to the ski bindings. Such ‘Alpine touring’ bindings allow you to travel much faster and more efficiently.

There are many other variations including Telemark skis and cross-country racing skis, as well as twin-tip or freestyle skis, that are very flexible with curved tips and tails, making them suitable for pulling tricks in snow parks.

man doing telemark skiing with mountains in background

The type of ski that you choose can be influenced by a wide range of factors...

...including your experience level, your weight, height and the type of terrain you prefer to ski. Gender and age also play a role. Women’s skis will usually be lighter, shorter and more flexible, with bindings mounted further forward. Children are best with a shorter ski to help them learn to maneuver.

No matter whether you’re renting or buying, skiing equipment is expensive and it’s worthwhile doing your research before you commit to ensure that you get the most out of your chosen kit. All our ski hire partners will be happy to talk you through the reason why they’ve chosen certain makes and models for you.

two people holding skis up with mountains in background

Happy Skiing!

ENQUIRE NOW

Please contact Louise, Jonnie, Andy, Katie, Libby or Lottie if you have any questions. Email ski@vip-chalets.com or click below.

Enquire and Book Now