There are few things more exhilarating in life than racing down the slopes in the sunshine surrounded by some of nature’s finest landscapes. Even if you are a first-time skier, the pull of the mountains can be powerful and intoxicating. Having the proper instruction and equipment can make the difference between having a blast for the day on the powder and a serious accident.

Novice skiers may think that skis are all the same and it doesn’t make any difference what kind of you end up with, as long as you know what you are doing. They couldn’t be more wrong. Having the right ski, properly fitted and matched to the type of terrain and conditions on your mountain, is important for your safety as well as for ease of use.

The shape and design of your skis can make a huge difference in their maneuverability in the snow, making it less work for you to enjoy the trails. If you match the wrong ski to the wrong user or conditions you can end up doing a lot more work during your turns. Talk to the pros at a shop or a resort about getting the best pair of skis for your needs and experience levels.

Gender Options

Men’s Skis

  • Typically longer than women’s skis based on height
  • The most rigid design with less flex to accomodate more weight

Women’s Skis

  • Generally shorter than men’s based on skier height
  • Softer flex requires less leg energy
  • Mountings are further forward than men’s skis to accommodate lower center of gravity

Kids Skis

  • Kids under 6 years should have skis that when stood on their heel, the tip should reach the chin
  • Kids over 12 years should have skis that when stood on their heel, the tip should be center of the face

Adult Sizing

Always have a pro size you for your skis before you make a purchase. The right match can make a huge difference in the quality of your experience. For adults, when your ski is stood on end at the heel, the tip should reach between the nose and eyebrows for the right length. For larger adults, a slightly longer and wider ski may work better to distribute body weight for smoother turns. Shorter than average skis are often the expert’s choice as they are lighter and much more maneuverable on tight turns or moguls.

Ski Options

Not all downhill skis are made the same. The designs are intended to complement certain mountain conditions, so you should know the kind of terrain you will be skiing on before you choose a style. The ski itself is made up of three important sections; the heel or back of the ski, the waist or center of the ski, and the tip which is the forward end of the ski. Some skis work better for speed, and others are more suited for ungroomed backcountry trails.

All Mountain Skis

These are the best choice for the beginner. They can adapt easily to many resort conditions from powders to groomed. They are often called “carvers”, meaning they have the best turning radius and are easy to control. The ski itself has a narrow waist for deeper side cuts and easier turns.

All Mountain Wide Skis

Called “mid-fats”, the All Mountain Wide skis are good in groomed or powdered conditions. They have a wider waist, giving them more float on powdered snow and making it a smoother, less strenuous ride. These are great skis for when the conditions get a bit sloppy or icy.

Powder Skis

These skis have the widest waist measurement of the downhill variety of skis. Referred to as “super fats” they have excellent flotation on powder or backcountry terrain. These skis are not built for precision but for getting through deeper snow and harsher conditions.

Backcountry Skis

If you are hitting the back trails, it’s always a good idea to go with someone who knows the area, or has a lot of off-trail experience. These skis are very light and make easy work out of varied conditions out on the trail. They come with removable climbing skins for when you need them.