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Help a newbie buy skis

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Greetings, and happy new year!


I'm a relatively new skier, but I'm looking to become more active in the sport. I would say that my current skill level is about 5.5/10. I'm in the market for a pair of skis in order to start skiing more often. At this point, my plan is to buy a decent pair of used skis and use them for a few seasons to see if the sport really "sticks." If I stick with it after a couple years, then I will upgrade to a nicer pair of skis.


After doing some research, here are the 2 pairs that I've found which might suit me. I would like to hear your opinion on them:




If it helps, I'm 5'10" 170lbs. I plan to ski mostly in the midwest (wisconsin and michigan) and a little bit out east (vermont) so the conditions will be mostly packed snow and ice. However, I'd like a ski with some decent versatility in case I plan a trip out west to ski in powder.


Thanks for the help!

post #2 of 8

Okey dokey.


Since I have 45 minutes before my kids get home, I thought I'd jump in here.


More info needed! Wisconsin/Michigan = ski hills. Vermont = actual mountains.


5.5 out of 10 isn't useful information, really.


There are generally 8 levels, sort-of-ish.

In another 5 days on the slope and another private lesson I'll be a 7, but a beginner 7.


What can you ski, as opposed to "get down without crying"? For example, I can ski any green and most blues

at Sugarbush. I qualify that I'm more comfortable on groomed blues than really bumped up runs.


Just looking at Organgrinder, Stein's or the Mall gives me a panic attack. I avert my eyes from the Castlerock chair.


So, I'm way beyond an actual beginner, but I'm not capable of skiing a Vermont black on an actual mountain.


How many days would you ski a year? Height? Weight? General level of fitness? Are you still wedging or have

you gotten to parallel?


And now to answer the question. The exact ski you should get is called "boots". They look a little different from most skis.

They look a lot like things you would wear on your feet, like, well...a boot.


As a rank beginner I too thought the ski was the most important thing. Hahahahaha. No way. It's yer boots man!

Spend your money on boots. Buy them where they can actually fit them. Get them in Vermont on your next trip.

(unless there's a good bootfitter round your parts.....)


I bought a comfy comfy wonderful pair of Head Edges. So soft and warm! And yet, as warm as my feet were, I couldn't get my skis on edge. Instructor watched and marched me back in to rentals and put me in a performance boot. Hurt like hell, but all of a sudden I could edge the ski. Took my own boots in to get fixed up et voila. No more foot slop and suddenly I could not only edge, but actually foot-steer my skis. No more twist and muscle fight. Magic. I've just spent the last 5 days at Sugarbush and we ski first to last chair with a stop for lunch and a hot chocolate. I'm not at all the world's strongest girl, but I had no aches and pains because the boots did the work for me.

(okay, I actually got to demo a new K2 mid-fat and that was awesome, but even on my old skis the boots made a HUGE difference.)


What do the guys here say?....You date your skis but marry your boots. Soooo true........


Anyhoo......seriously. Boots.


Cheers from the re-addicted....




As for actual skis, if you're mostly on ski hills or New England "variable conditions" (har), you'll want something stiffer and longer so you don't get bumped out of the soft stuff, but can still ski across the boilerplate (which will happen three times in one turn sometimes).

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hey Alli, thank you for the very thoughtful response.


I actually just bought a pair of boots. I was fitted at my local specialty shop. They put me in a Tecnica Phoenix Firebird. The fit is soooo uncomfortable! My toes feel incredibly cramped. But I am trusting the bootfitter when they told that the fit is right.


Based on that ski level link, I'm probably somewhere between a level 4 and level 5 skier. Since I live in Chicago, I'll be skiing mostly on hills. But perhaps once or twice a year I'll travel somewhere with mountains. I'm a male 5'10" 170lbs. I consider myself very fit (marathon runner) and also athletic with good coordination. I played some hockey as a kid- I think some of the skills in hockey translate to skiing.


Thanks again for the nice response.

post #4 of 8



The Bootfitter Gods will tell you that your toes should be sorta smashed a bit.

Until you put the boot in the binding and flex forward on the skis. Then your toes

should juuuuuuust be touching the front of the boot, maybe even a little smashed.


When the liners pack out a bit, they should be perfect. But if you had a bootfitter, and s/he

was good, I'd trust them.


Marathoner and hockey? I would think your skiing would improve really, really, really fast.


Marathon for aerobic capacity, hockey for explosive movements and balance.


The hockey stop on skis should be a breeze. Ha.


My prediction is that you will get really, really, really bored with hill skiing, really fast.


Then you'll start looking at how close real mountains are to airports. Then you'll figure out that you can UPS your

clothes ahead of you and take your boots as your carry-on. Then rent skis.


If I had your natural level of fitness and endurance, I'd be looking to skip entry to mid-level skis completely.


Pretty much the ski and binding you really want is $1,000. Sorta doesn't matter what the brand is.


My SO loves his Dynastars and he skis almost exclusively on the scary parts of the mountain.

(Castlerock, Tuckerman's)


He has friends that are equally enamored of their K2s, Volkls, etc.


I am very fond of rockered skis, others not so much. But as a "return-to-sport" skier, they really helped me

learn fast and get on edge fast. I also took lessons with awesome instructors who insisted on mastering fundamentals.


As a hockey player, edging should come to you easily. Except that you have this really cool sensation of popping

back when you unweight the downhill ski.


Also, remember that you don't cross one ski over the other to turn. In this way skiing is very much unlike hockey.



Also, also...for powder, you'll want something a little wider underfoot than what you'd use just for frontside.


My everyday skis were narrow, then I got put on a rockered 80 in a longer length and the things were a dream to ski.

Rocker skis "shorter", and these held hard and fast in glue, powdery, ice and packed powder. All in the same day.


Some of the menfolk around here can probably chime in with what they love.


Have fun. Ski on mountains. Take lessons.






(ps....I started running again two years ago, then got a nasty ITB issue from, of all things, an elliptical. My trainer rehabbed

me by making me run barefoot on the treadmill. Okay, MRSA anyone? So now I wear Five Fingers. Wow! The insane foot strength

I got improved my skiing, too. Any marathoners moving to minimalist?)




post #5 of 8
Originally Posted by Rufus919 View Post

If it helps, I'm 5'10" 170lbs. I plan to ski mostly in the midwest (wisconsin and michigan) and a little bit out east (vermont) so the conditions will be mostly packed snow and ice. However, I'd like a ski with some decent versatility in case I plan a trip out west to ski in powder.

Well, the way I read this, you're pretty much asking for a ski that doesn't exist.  There really isn't a ski that will work well on eastern "firm" conditions (read: ice) and also do well in any real quantity of western powder.  Skis that are designed to work well on firm conditions are typically narrow, stiff, lack rocker, and the kind you'd want for skiing smaller hills would also be short.  Skis designed for powder are typically wide, softer, longer, and may include some sort of rocker.  You could kinda go in the middle of all these things, but there are vanishingly few skis that seem to get the good bits of the compromise, instead of just all the bad bits.


What I'd suggest you do is change your strategy a bit.  I'd suggest you buy skis that are useful for the conditions you ski most often.  If you're lucky enough to be out west when a storm comes through, rent powder skis.  While it's certainly possible to ski powder on narrower "all-mountain" skis, as somebody who doesn't ski it very often, you'll appreciate every advantage you can get, and aren't going to be too upset about paying for a rental on those days, because you'll be too busy loving the conditions.


If you follow my strategy, that means you need what's called a "front side carver".  The vast majority of eastern skiers have one of these because, let's face it, we spend a lot of time skiing conditions where grip is much more important than flotation.  I'd suggest something in the 165-170cm range for you, with a waist generally no more than 70mm, and a turn radius between 12 and 15 meters.  A turn radius this short is great for small hills, because you can actually get more than 2 turns in before you're at the bottom.  There should be plenty of skis like this available used.


One more point--the target ability level listed for a given ski doesn't mean what you think it means.  "Beginner" and "intermediate" skis are floppy and unresponsive, and don't have any grip.  The idea behind this is that they're more forgiving for beginners who are making all the wrong movements anyway.  Good skis that will respond to the movements you make are mostly listed as being for "experts".  Don't let the labels scare you off.  Many beginners actually have a much better time on "expert" skis, because the skis actually work.  With your athleticism, I suspect you'd outgrow an "intermediate" ski very quickly, if you haven't already.


In any case, if you decide to stick with the sport, you'll now have your first pair of skis, and a short-radius front-side carver is always useful for an eastern skier.  You can then supplement with additional skis for other conditions as you grow in the sport, and by then you'll have a better idea of what you like, so the choices should get easier.


Happy hunting!

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

Wow, such great stuff here! Thank you for your replies!!


Ally- you're right about the pace at which I'm progressing. Many of the skills needed for skiing are skills that I acquired in playing hockey (and rollerblading). I also think you're right about starting to get bored with hills- I have a feeling I'll be visiting my sister in Vermont much more frequently. ITB issues are very common, especially in new runners. Stretching, hip strengthening exercises, and the foam roller should help address the ITB issues (but it sounds like you've got a good trainer). There has been a big movement towards minimalist shoes in the running community. I think it's interesting that the foot strength you acquired has helped you in your skiing.


Dan- thank you for the reply, it was HUGELY helpful. I agree with you that I should get a ski that is designed for the type of skiing I'll be doing most often (firm conditions), and if I'm lucky enough to ski on powder, I can just rent. Thanks for this great suggestion. The truth about "target ability level" is also a great tidbit. I otherwise would have been scared off by a ski targeted for "advanced" skiers. Thank you for giving me a breakdown of the dimensions I should be looking for. It's pretty much what I had in mind. GalacticSnowSports has a great selection of used skis. I've narrowed it down to a few, but don't really know which to go with. I wish I could see the ski itself to know what condition it's in. Here's what I have it narrowed down to: (problem with these is that they're only 160cm) (only problem is they don't list the dimensions here) (is 73 too wide?)

post #7 of 8

Well, according to my googling, those skis are all "intermediate" skis, though perhaps in varying degree.  I've never skied any of them, so I can't really point you at which one is most responsive and grippy.  Typically I'd suggest you keep an eye out on the (awesome) Gear Swap forum here and pick up a good pair when one shows up, but if you're looking to get on snow soon, you don't really have time to wait.  This time of year isn't really ideal for getting great deals on good skis.


In order to get something relatively decent this time of year, you'd probably have to spend 4-5x as much as any of the skis you listed, so here's a list of options as I see them:


1) Buy something like those Comanche Sports, and be happy that since you only spent $120 on them, they're practically disposable.  When spring/summer comes around and the deals start showing up in the Gear Swap forum here, buy something better, and be happy that you saved a bunch of money on rentals.


2) Look at your local shops for something called a "seasonal rental".  You can probably get something better than any of the skis you listed for the same amount of money, but you wouldn't own it.  At the end of the season, you give the skis back to the shop.  In the spring/summer, hunt for deals.


3) Luck into a good pair for cheap on Craigslist or eBay.


4) Spend a bunch of money on better skis now, be unhappy if you decide not to stick with the sport.


This would've been easier if you'd posted in March. :)

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

I ended up going with option #1 and getting the Comanche Sports. Thanks again for your help!

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