The Skis You Need: What to Ride in Different Types of Terrain
Ready to take your skiing game up a level? Terrain-specific skis can significantly boost your experience on the mountain. Whether you’re hitting groomers, moguls, powder, the terrain park, or earning your turns by hiking uphill rather than using a chairlift, you’ll want to choose your skis accordingly. Join the ranks of avid skiers and add to your “quiver” (collection of skis) so you have just what you need whenever the snow flies.
Here are five different terrains and which skis you should be using for each.
Take your groomer turns up a notch with a set of carving skis. © Vail Resorts
If you’re spending the majority of your day on groomed slopes, you want carving skis. They have sharp, curved edges, a full camber (i.e. stiff) profile, and significant sidecut, meaning the tips and tails of the skis are wider than their center. You’ll be able to slice deeply into the snow for smooth, aggressive turns rather than simply turning by skidding on the surface of the snow. If you’re using carving skis for the first time, they can almost feel as if they’re turning themselves.
The design also comes in handy for hard-packed snow conditions, where those sharp edges allow you to hold turns consistently on steep pitches. Once you’ve got your carving technique mastered, you just might want to take these skis onto a giant slalom course.
Skiing moguls takes a lot of practice no matter what ski you are on! © Vail Resorts
Bouncing expertly through a mogul field takes a good amount of patience and skill, but practice makes perfect. A shorter, more narrow, flexible ski will make your learning curve a whole lot easier. You want to be able to make quick, short turns guided by the movements of your knees. Skis should bend and give as they glide through the uneven contour of bumpy slopes.
There’s no feeling quite like dancing through thigh-deep fields of white like a boss. Powder skis will help you do just that. They’re wide and help you float on the snow rather than sink. This helps to keep your weight centered so you glide through those magical clouds rather than expend all your energy fighting from the backs of your skis.
Typically, powder skis are a bit longer than your standard, all-mountain skis. This allows you to initiate wide, billowy turns with your hips rather than your knees. Powder skis usually feature a rocker design, where the tips and tails curve upward, which helps with flotation. Depending on personal preference, the flexibility of powder skis ranges from that of a noodle for skiers who really like to play in the powder to stiffer wide planks for high-speed cloud surfing.
4. Terrain Park
If jumps, rails, and half-pipes bring a smile to your face, then park skis may be exactly what you need. © Vail Resorts
If jumps, flips, and tricks are your calling, then you need a pair of twin tips. These park skis have tails that are identical to their tips to allow for balanced maneuvering no matter which way you’re facing—forward or backward. They are typically shorter than the skis you’d use on the rest of the mountain and are lightweight and relatively narrow. In some ways, they resemble carving skis, but rather than possessing sharp edges, they are deliberately dull, which allows for smooth, uninhibited sliding on and off kickers and rails or through the pipe.
5. Uphill access
If you are willing to work your legs—and your lungs—by hiking or skinning to the top of a slope under your own power rather than by chairlift, you’ll want a set of alpine touring (AT) skis as well as AT bindings and skins. As opposed to regular bindings, AT bindings unlock from the ski, and allow you to lift your heel and glide forward similar to cross-country skiing. The skins are used during the uphill trek and adhere to the bottoms of your skis to prevent you from sliding backward as you ascend.
AT skis come in a vast variety of shapes, sizes, and profiles, but if you’re looking for a ski that will perform well downhill and provide versatility and ease skiing throughout the resort in all snow conditions, aim for a lightweight, slightly wider version of the ski you use most often.
If you’re getting serious about skiing, you’d best start building your quiver. You’ll be amazed at the advantage you’ll have when you have a set of sticks specifically designed to master the type of terrain you’re riding.
Written by Shauna Farnell for Matcha in partnership with Rent Skis.