14 Different Types of Skis

Person jump skiing during the wintertime

It is safe to say that a favorite wintertime sport is skiing. Whether you are doing it for fun or taking part in a skiing competition, this sport promises endless amounts of fun. In the midst of thick, white blankets of snow spread in the entire landscape, you are able to have the time of your life with your loved ones. Although skiing is one of the most popular snow sports, it can be hard to choose the right skis for yourself. With so many options available for the different kinds of skiing, it can be a difficult task for individuals to choose the perfect skis for themselves.

Since there are a variety of skis available, we have made things easier on your end. With the help of this guide, you will be able to choose the ideal choice for yourself along with what size is right for you.

Types of Skis

Types of skis

When you are purchasing skis, it is important to determine where you will be spending most of your time on the mountain and what type of terrain you will be on.

All-Mountain Skis

Rossignol 2017 Experience 84 HD 162cm Mens Ski Only


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As suggested by the name, these skis are ideal for skiing through an entire mountain. They are designed in a way where they are able to handle different conditions such as heavy snow, ice, groomers, steeps, powder, and more, but they are not the ideal choice for specific terrains or snow types. If you are considering purchasing only one kind of ski for everything, then this is the best choice. All-mountain skis are available in different widths and shapes so they can cater to everyone’s individual needs. Typically, these skis have mid-fat waists that range from 80-110mm.

Powder Skis

Blizzard Rustler Team Pro Ski - Kids' Light Blue/Orange, 164cm

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Powder skis are ideal for “deep days.” If you like finding powder stashes at the local ski resort, prefer going on backcountry missions or enjoy helicopter ski trips, then powder skis are the ideal option for you. The skis in this category are considered to be wide (the waist is 115 mm or more). They mostly have a rocker or early rise form with soft flex. Sometimes, powder skis have side cut shapes that look like reverse side cuts (this is when the tip and tail are not the widest part of the ski). Powder skis are designed to go through harsh weather conditions.

Big Mountain SkisSkiing with big mountain skis

Big mountain skis are made to deal with charging big lines with big airs and high speeds. These skis are available in different widths as compared to the powder skis (which are ideal for skiing through the Alaska spines) to the narrower ones (which are ideal to rip through the headwall at the mountains near you). The skis in this category are heavier and stiffer with a rocker at its tip.

Carving Skis

Carving skis are the best choice for the individuals that enjoy the feeling of arching the perfect turn with their skis. This ski has a narrow waist and short turn radii so the edge to edge quickness can be enhanced. Moreover, there are a beginner and intermediate skis available in this category that allows you to learn skiing with ease.

Park and Pipe Skis

K2 2018 Press Skis with Marker M 11.0 TC Bindings (139)

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Also known as freestyle skis, these skis are for the skiers that spend most of their time in terrain parks. If tails, jibs, and jumps are your kind of skiing styles, then these skis are for you. Traditionally, park and pipe skis are designed with a narrow waist and camber profiles, now, more and more are adding different shapes and rocker patterns. These skis are usually found with twin tips, dense extruded bases, butter zones, and durable edges.

Alpine Touring Skis

Alpina Control 64 Touring Ski Black/Beige/White, 178cm

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Also known as backcountry skis, the alpine touring skis are designed for downhill and uphill skiing. According to their width, these skis are lighter and they possess features perfect fittings. Alpine touring skis are available in different weights and widths. There are wider and heavier versions that are used for deep snow touring while the narrower and lighters ones are used for long distance touring.

Women’s Specific SkisWoman in women’s specific skis

These skis that are specially designed for women are shorter, lighter, and softer. Women have less center of gravity and less body mass compared to men (even if they are the same height), which means they exert lesser force and leverage on their skis. These skis do not require a lot of power to turn even though the skids have softer cores, they are thinner, and they have lesser layers in their construction. Moreover, to enhance the skiing of a woman, the mounting position is a centimeter or more away from the skis.

System SkisBindings on system skis

System skis are available in bindings sold in one package. Their requirement is to have a plate or plates for that specific binding model. These bindings are often not attached to skis and they should always have a certified technician that adjusts the bindings to the skiing boots.

Types of Rockers

Person skiing

Camber has been around for as long as you can remember, even before rocker, but it is classified as types of rocker for simplicity. Rocker is considered as reverse camber so camber can be distinguished as a reverse rocker.

Camber

These are the traditional profile for most skis and snowboards. Camber is when the curve in the middle of the board or ski is slightly upwards and the contact points are closer to the ends. The main requirement for camber would be precise turning and a fantastic precision of power and grooming through hard snow and tricky terrains. The weight of the ride will put a concentrated and even pressure on the edge from the tail to the tip which results in having a better landing and increased hold of the edge. High-level park riders and races prefer camber as well.

Rocker

Rocker also referred to as reverse camber, is just as it sounds. It is camber, but upside down. All snowboards and skis, whether they are rocker or camber, when they are put on the edge and weighed, they will be considered as reverse-camber. Skis that are cambered are likely to produce more pressure on the snow at their tail and tip. Whereas, rockered skis have the ability to float on soft snow with the increased ability to turn and lessening the chances of getting “caught” on the edge. As the ski gets wider, the rocker will make sure the new shapes are maneuverable for different skiers.

Rocker/Camber

This ski pair possesses a cambered profile with an early rise tip inspired by rocketed skis. This type of ski has its first contact point located at the back of the tip while the other contact point is close to the tail. The rocketed tip enables better floating on deep snow and diminishes the catch feel on hard snow. The cambered rear makes sure the energy is being exerted just like it would in a fully cambered ski. The edge hold stays the same when all your weight is on the tail.

All-mountain, big-mountain and carving skis are being built like this now. Because it has an asymmetric shape, this profile will not allow you to ski switch as easily as the other ones. But if you are looking for a ski that will be able to help you float on fluffy snow as well as hard, rocker/camber will be your ideal choice.

Rocker/Camber/Rocker

A rocker/camber/rocker ski has the ability to float just like a rocketed ski would as well as the precise edge hold of a cambered one. The contact points on this ski are closer to the middle of the ski as compared to a fully cambered one, but it is not an underfoot. The cambered midsection will provide an effective and long term edge on the hard pack. This ensures extra edge hold and stability whereas the rockered tail and tip will ensure flotation in the different kinds of snow while having the perfect turn radius.

With this profile ski, there will be a level of playfulness for the park skiers, forgiveness for the newbies, flotation for powder junkies, and all the versatility needed in a pair of skis.

Rocker/Flat/Rocker

The rocker/flat/rocker ski is a variation of a rocker profile that has a little more edge hold on hard snow and a better pop than a full rocker one. All of this, while making sure there is an ease in floating and turning. This ski profile performs like a rocker/camber/rocker ski or a fully rocketed one.

Other Combinations

Another type of combination would be flat/camber/flat. What you need to keep in mind is that sometimes manufacturers combine more than one type of profile to make a ski that is durable and strong. So what it all comes down to is your personal preference. Camber has better stability and edge-hold at high speed while rocker has a better floating on powder. Therefore, according to what is comfortable for you, choose the profile.

Length of the Ski

This is when you need to answer the question, “what is the right sized ski for me?” There is no surprise in saying that your ski should be the right weight and height while having the required skiing style and the ability for you. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that can aid in determining the right size, but generally, the right ski length should come somewhere between the top of your head and your chin. For example, if a skier is 6 feet tall, his or her ski should range from 170 to 190 cm.

Although factors like weight and height are the best starting point, there are a few other things that need to be taken into consideration as well. Things like personal preference, terrain, ski category, and snow type are all important factors that should be looked into. Beginner skiers will opt for the shorter skis whereas the professional ones will choose longer ones.

A shorter ski is easier to do a turn with but a longer one has more stability. A carving ski with a narrow waist and a small turn radius can be used for skiing short lengths, but when it comes to skiing large mountains, a ski with a wider waist is required. Rockered skis are easier to do turns with, and they can be used for longer ski periods as camber skis.

Why you should choose skis that are closer to your chin:

  • You may be a beginner or an intermediate skier
  • You may weigh less than the average weight for your height
  • You prefer making quick short turns and rarely ever ski fast
  • You want to purchase a camber carving ski instead of a rocker

Why you should choose longer skis that are closed to the top of your head:

  • You prefer skiing faster and aggressively
  • You weight more than the average weight for your height
  • You like to ski off the trail instead of on
  • You want to ski a twin-tip ski
  • You want a ski that is mostly rocker

Level of AbilityAdvanced ability skiing

When it comes to choosing the right skiing equipment, an important factor has become your ability level. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, there are a few things to consider when you are purchasing skis.

Beginner and Intermediate

If you are someone who is newly learning how to ski or you are someone who is trying to work on making smoother turns, then you fall in this category. The typical ski qualities of a beginner would be narrower widths, softer flexes, capped constructions, softwood cores, and composites. What you need to do is get your hands on a ski that is easy to turn and forgiving (in case you make a mistake). Having a rocker added to the tail and it will make the ski easier to work and will make the turning simpler as well.

Intermediate and Advanced

If you like to get inside the powder or carve through the snow, you will fall into this category (most skiers fall in this category). The skis of this category are wider than the skis of the beginner and intermediate category. Depending on what the size of the ski is, the skis of this category are usually camber, rocker, or a combination of both.

Advanced and Expert

Despite what the terrain choice may be, advanced and expert skiers are the ones that are the most skilled while skiing aggressively. Their skis have layers of flax, Titanal, carbon, and other things for better performance at high speeds. These advanced and expert skis are stiffer than intermediate skis and can be quite difficult to control at slow speeds.

Style and Feel of the Ski

A pair of skis

There are a couple of factors that contribute to the feel and performance of a ski. The three main elements that play the biggest role in determining what ski is suitable for different skiers would be the width, turning radius, and rocker type.

Waist Width

This is the measurement of the ski’s width at its waist (the middle), and it is usually the slimmest part of the ski. The narrower the ski is at its waist, the quicker it will be at the edge to edge turn whereas a ski with a wider waist will have more floatation in choppy or powder snow.

Ski dimensions are typically specified by 3 number measurements for the tip/waist/tail, like 115/90/107 mm. This example shows that the 115 mm is the tip width, 90 mm is the waist width and 107 mm would be the tail width.

Turning Radius

The turn radius is the shape of a ski which is determined by a ski’s tip, waist, and tail width. If a ski has a narrow waist compared to its tail and tip, the turn radius will be shorter and the sidecut will be deeper. If a ski has a deep sidecut, it will make turns quicker as compared to ski with subtle side cuts that will make slow turns and maintain its speed when it is going fast. Nowadays, skis are incorporating different radii to one edge.

Taking Care of Your Ski during Ski Season

  1. Make sure your skis are dry at the end of the day: With the help of a dry towel, make sure your skis are dry. Wipe away the water caused by the melted snow so you are preventing the chances of getting rust on your ski edges or any corrosion on the bindings. Make sure you are not skipping this task because it does not require any professional materials or much effort. It can easily be completed in 30 seconds.
  2. Smooth the burrs at the end of the day: Turn your thumb down the steel ski edge; do you feel any minor scrapes or tiny bumps? If you do, it is probably rock damage and can be fixed with the help of a pocket stone. Make sure you are smoothing out these bumps at the end of the day.
  3. Put hot wax on your skis from time to time: Sad, but true, most skiers do not put enough wax on their skis. The cold, harsh snow has the ability to make the base of the ski quite abrasive so applying hot wax on it after a couple of days is always a good idea. You can tell if your skis need hot wax is when their colored base starts looking hazy. A black colored base will start to turn grey or white. If you are in doubt of whether or not you should use hot wax, it is important to know that hot wax will not harm your ski. All you have to do is make sure you are not leaving the hot iron in one place for too long.
  4. Make the edges sharp after a couple of days: Just like how your skis need regular hot waxing, you need to make sure you are sharpening the edges as well after a couple of days. Carving and skiing on hard snow can make your ski edges dull quicker as compared to powder skiing. If you are skiing on a resort, your edges will need sharpening after 8 to 10 days. Just like waxing, if you are sharpening the edges of your ski frequently, it will not do any damages to it; instead, it will prolong its life. However, if you do it every single day, it will file off the metal from the edges, so make sure you are not doing it daily.

Many skiers tend to tune their edges by themselves, but the process is not as foolproof as waxing it. The reason for this is simple; sharpening the edges too much will take off metal. With this in mind, make sure you are getting your edges sharpened by a professional, especially if you are a newbie.

Taking Care of Your Ski after Ski Season

  1. Before storing your skis, wax them. Clean your skis and coat the iron in wax before you keep them away during the summer. The good part about this task is that you do not need to do the scraping part of waxing which is the time-consuming part. All you have to do is leave a coat of the thick wax at the base and drip it over the edges for added protection. You can scrape the wax off when the winter approaches.
  2. Store the skis in a dry, cool place: If you reside in a humid, warm climate, your garage or attic will not be the ideal place to store your skis. Make sure they are stored in an air-conditioned room that is away from direct sunlight.
  3. Adjust the bindings, if need be: There are some ski specialists that recommended taking the bindings off the skis before keeping them away for the summer. However, most skiers do not do this so if you choose not to, nothing major will happen to your skis.

This is everything you need to know about the different types of skis. After choosing one that is the ideal fit for you, you can freely and successfully have fun on mountain terrains during the wintertime.

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