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READ FIRST: Ski Gear Advice Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
This is a great place to start to get some idea of a good approach for getting advice about gear here on EpicSki...

If you have comments, recommendations, or complaints about this FAQ, do not post into this thread! Please use this thread.
Originally Posted by Rio
This is too complex. My advice is if all else fails ski what Bode skis on.

Boots are the single most important piece of ski equipment you can own, the first equipment you should purchase, and the ones that are most personal for you. The single most important characteristic of a ski boot is how well it fits your physiology; specifically, how well the boot's last and angles (forward lean and boot board ramp--called the zeppa angle) match you. You need to be in balance and in neutral when you are in cuff neutral with your skis parallel, so the boots need to get you into this position. Find the right specialist to get you into the right boot! This is critical to your skiing success.

These fitters tend to go beyond just stuffing your foot into a boot, but are able to adjust the boot to fit your foot exceedingly well. In addition, many are able to balance the boots to make sure that you are in perfect balance when standing on your skis--both fore/aft and lateral/medial.

This really is the best way to find boots.

Best by a wide margin.

If, however, you insist on doing it on your own or, heaven forbid, you are unable to access one of the accomplished bootfitters mentioned here. Then we have a little more advice...

Know the general performance level of ski boot that you seek. Many Bears will recommend that you purchase the highest-quality ski boot that you can. I recommend that high-level skiers seriously consider consumer or true race "plug boots" (see Jeff Bergeron's current answers thread for a lot on this)

The closest fit is best accomplished by getting a boot with a shell that most closely resembles the shape of your foot and leg. To discover this, shell fit the boot.

To shell fit a boot, first remove the liner. With the liner out of the shell, place your foot into the shell with your toes ever-so-slightly touching the front of the boot, look at the distance from your heel to the back of the boot.

This distance should be 1-2 finger-widths (approximately 1-2cm). Use the shorter end of the scale for more demanding performance, the longer end for a bit more comfort at the price of a bit lower performance.
Next, look at the shape of the shell. Is it wide where your foot is wide, narrow where your foot is narrow? Does the cuff approximate the shape of your lower leg and calf muscle?

It is often useful to remove the plastic spoiler from the back of the cuff so that the boot is a bit more upright and can accommodate a normal or low calf muscle. Skiers with thin calves may find the spoiler useful in reducing the size of the boot cuff.

After you find a shell that fits your foot pretty well, return the liner to the shell and put your foot in it. Make sure your heel is well-seated in the heel pocket (usually by pressing the heel down and back, flexing the ankle forward, and pulling up on the top of the liner). Then, stand in the boots in positions that approximate your skiing stance.

The liner should wrap your feet much like a pair of hands holding your feet snugly

Take advantage of any balance tests that you can, including standing on a cylinder to see where your balance point is in the boots

The bottom line in ski boots is this: unless you are pursuing FIS points (in which case, you're probably not reading this!), the fit of a ski boot is by far the most important aspect of it. You want it to be snug enough to hold your foot relatively immobile while you careen down a mountainside while also cushioning your feet enough that you can ski for the entire day (not to mention multiple days of a skiing) without pain.


The first recommendation for ski selection is this: demo those that seem to fit your needs. Skis are very subjective, with it not being at all uncommon for two people to be polar opposites in terms of the skis they love and hate. Therefore, to know for sure, demo when you can. Note, however, that demo skis have a few distinct disadvantages: they often have heavier demo bindings on them, they are skied by a number of people and may therefore be damaged, and their tune may or may not be the one that you would use. However, there is no substitute for trying out a ski yourself.

The second way to select skis is to find someone who is approximately your ability and who likes skis that you have enjoyed skiing. So, for example, if you really loved skiing a Rossignol Bandit X, find out the skis enjoyed by other skiers who like those skis.

Third, check out the old threads on EpicSki. There have been many threads covering many skis, abilities, and purposes, and it is very likely that you'll be able to find much information about any ski that you are considering simply by searching for them (you may want to limit your search to the Gear Forums).

A fourth way to get information about skis is to post here in the Gear Discussion forum. When you do this, there are a number of things that you can communicate that will help other Barking Bears to give you some guidance:

  • Tell them enough about yourself:
    • Gender, height, weight, age
    • Skiing ability, including the type of terrain that you enjoy skiing, how you tend to ski it, the turn shapes that you tend to use, the speed you ski, and any particular areas of focus in your skiing (if you'd like to use skier levels as they are often used on EpicSki, look at this thread that defines them, especially posts 8 and 9)
    • Where you ski. Name the general geographic regions, the resorts you frequent, the slopes, pistes, and regions of the resorts you enjoy, talk about the conditions you most enjoy and those that you tend to avoid.
  • Talk about other skis
    • Mention skis you've enjoyed
    • Skis that you own that you will keep in your quiver
    • Skis that you own that you will be replacing with the new ones
    • Skis that you have enjoyed in the past
    • Mention skis you have not enjoyed
  • Anything you believe will make a difference in the ski selection
Then, sit back and watch the Bears go to work. Keep in mind that Bears are going to be sharing with you their personal insights. Many are instructors, some are manufacturer's reps, some are very experienced skiers who have much to offer, and some are religiously devoted to a particular ski or brand. Note: that devotion may be well-earned! Be sure to take into account the sources here, though. It is very likely that you will get excellent suggestions. It is also likely that the first suggestion will be that you demo!

Because you really should.


I find it funny that bindings seem to generate the greatest amount of religious fervency of any element of ski equipment. Fundamentally, ski bindings are governed by standards that allow any ski boot to fit into any ski binding. They are engineered to hold the skier in unless forces have conspired to potentially hurt him or her. At that point, they are engineered to get the ski off the foot so that it doesn't become the means by which the skier is injured.

All bindings do this. Every binding on the market has its proponents. Most are very similar. For the typical skier, any binding will work for you, and you should feel free to use the one that is designed to mount on your new skis (for the increasing number of skiers purchasing "systems" that include both skis and bindings).

If you have your own biases about bindings, more power to you. Just remember that others feel exactly the opposite of you. And neither one of you is wrong. Or right, for that matter!


To complete the hardgoods picture, I threw in poles. These days, poles are made of old-fashioned aluminum and modern-day composites like graphite. They have useful features such as length adjustability and releasable straps to protect your wrists and thumbs.

There are a few threads here about poles. I'd strongly recommend that you look at them first. Something about poles; they don't garner the kind of interest that the other components do. And some would argue that they are unnecessary.

Here are the basics:

  • The tip consists of several small sharp points so that they can dig into the ice.
  • The basket is big enough to be of some use in deep snow.
  • Approximate Size - elbow at 90 degrees when hand grips under basket with pole upside down and resting on ground for booted skier on skis.
Helmets and Goggles

Helmets and goggles are paired here because they really must be considered together. Note: if you have children that you will be putting into ski school, it is almost certain that they will be required to wear helmets. Better a well-fitting one that you've gotten for them than the "hand-out" helmets that the ski school has. Anyway, first, helmets:

Helmets are, like ski boots, all about the fit. Try on a number of different helmets across multiple manufacturers to see which one "disappears" on your head. Try the different styles to determine whether or not you like to have the helmet cover your ears--either with the soft liner or the hard helmet.

Once you've found a helmet that works for you, find a pair of goggles that mate well with the helmet. Make sure that the helmet does not interfere with the airflow into and through the goggles (if it does, the goggles will likely fog up!).

Personally, I have found the goggles and helmets designed to work together perform exceptionally well. And they look pretty good, too!
post #2 of 2

Ski Type Classification

Length, waist, and radius classification:

Race Stock Skis:

Down Hill: 210cm - 215cm; 45m radius; DH racing

Super G: 205cm - 210cm; 33m radius; SG racing

Giant Slalom: 180cm - 190cm; 21m radius; GS racing and highest level hard snow carving

Slalom: 155cm - 165cm; 10m - 14m radius; SL racing and highest level hard snow carving

Retail skis:

Race skis:

Giant Slalom: 170cm - 185cm; 16m - 21m radius; A notch below full on race stock skis that allows the pilot to ski on snow other than hard pack and ice. Newer retail GS skis tend to have a similar construction to their stock counterparts with slightly smaller, more user friendly and crowd friendly turn radii. Still at home in a race course.

Slalom: 150cm - 170cm; 10m - 14m radius; Same caliber ski as a retail GS ski. Often are softer torsionally and stiffer longitudinally to allow for mistakes that the user may make. Overall, will ski better all over the mountain and last much longer than a race stock ski. Due to the short length and terrain that they prefer (ice), slalom skis tend to require tuning more frequently than normal skis.

Race Carvers: 150cm - 185cm; 11m - 21m radius; These skis can come in either a slalom or giant slalom variant - often depending on what length is preferred by the rider. These skis will fall in the company's race ski section just below their retail race skis. They usually share similar construction with the race skis, but offer softer flex and smaller radii. They will often have narrow waists and are built to excel on groomed snow, with the ability to be run in a race course and a bump run back to back.

Ski Cross: 160cm - 190cm; 16m - 21m radius; 65mm - 70mm wasit; Like the name says, the purpose of these skis is derived from professional SkierX competition. Although professional competition ski cross skis are actually remasked race stock GS skis, these skis serve the purpose to provide a wider platform race ski for the public to enjoy. Most skis in this category share a similar sidecut to a GS race ski, the only difference being that the ski cross ski is about 3mm to 5mm wider throughout the entire ski. The extra width allows the ski to be more predictable and handle varied terrain much better than a GS ski would - allowing the user to carve race type turns, hit jumps, and ski rough snow - just as they would in ski cross competition.

All-Mountain Skis:
***Note: each category will contain skis that range from beginner to expert level skis***

Carving: 160cm - 190cm; 14m - 23m radius; 62mm - 66mm waist; A category that each season becomes more and more obsolete, the carving ski category provides skis that are mostly at home on groomed snow. They originated as a category that shared sidecuts with race skis, but as wider skis get closer to the performance of race skis, the category is evolving into wider skis with more sidecut. Despite the trend companies like Dynastar, and Volkl still produce a line of carving skis and the are still among the best performing skis on the mountain despite being over shadowed in the marketing media by their wider, shorter counterparts.

All-Mountain Short Turners: 150cm - 175cm; 10m - 17m radius; 66mm - 78mm waist; This is a new category that was started by the introduction of the Volkl 5-Star a few seasons ago. They usually have wide(ish) waists and deep sidecuts. The skis will ski like a slalom ski, but are usually much softer to allow to be skied all over the mountain. These skis are quickly becoming the rule for groomed trail skiing - especially in the east. Skis like the Atomic Metron series are bridging the gap between free ride skis and a typical slalom carver ski, as they fall into both categories. Other skis in this category are the Elan S Series, Volkl Six Star, Fischer RX8, Volkl All-Star, Elan Speedwave Series, and Dynastar Contact Series.

All-Mountain: 160cm - 200cm; 10m - 25m radius; 70mm - 85mm waist; A few seasons ago this category would have included skis 170cm - 180cm with a waist no wider than 75mm. Of course that was a few seasons ago, and now the trend is to go as wide as possible - especially if your ski area is prone to daily dumps, and your preferred terrain does not know what a snow cat looks like. Some of the skis in this category the rider will ski at a more traditional length (traditional as in 2000 - 2001 tradition, not 1980's traditional where a 140lb male was on 210's). These skis will ski anywhere. They will ski off piste, groomed, and bumps (think M1 tank). They do not however, excel on ice, due to their width, but if the rider does not mind sacraficing some groomed performance in return for a lot of ungroomed snow performance, this is your category. Western US skiers should shop here.

Freeride/Powder: 160cm - 210cm; 12m - 30m radius; 85mm - 120mm+ waist; Two categories exist in the powder ski section. One category is the traditional powder ski - stiff flex, minimal sidecut, ultimately bomb proof. The other category, which recently has received more attention is the twin tipped powder ski category. These skis are becoming the new rule to powder skiing. They are typically slightly softer than traditional powder skis (some being noodles), and offer a deeper sidecut. "Carving" in powder can now be realized with these newer fat boards, and they are rapidly opening up powder skiing to skiers who never would have been able or willing to ski on a pair of fat boards. The downside is that while these skis excel in cut up snow and fresh powder, they are a handful on groomed snow, and require a seasoned pilot to get them to carve. Hardpack is usually out of the question.

Women's: 140cm - 180cm; 10m - 20m radius; 65mm - 100mm waist; Women's skis could actually be broken down into all of the above categories, but one explanation is enough. These skis span the performance and purpose spectrum, just like any other line of skis. Usually they are characterized by softer flex, mounting position farther foreward, and lighter weight. They will range from all-mountain short turners to powder skis, covering every range in between in order to offer beginner to expert female skiers skis that were built for their body types. Recently female skis are being built seperately from men's/unisex skis, and offfer the same performance levels as their mainstream counterparts.

Twin Tip: 140cm - 190cm; 12m - 20m radius; 70mm - 85mm waist; Also, a newer category (started by the Salomon 1080) these skis are designed with a twin tip, softer flex, mid-mounting point, and jumps and spinning in mind. Due to their soft flex, light weight, wide profile, and deep sidecut, they often can double as very good freeride skis. Skiers who are less interested in halfpipe and terrain park skiing will often mount these skis 2cm - 4cm behind their recommended mounting point and use them all over the mountain. They are truly at home in the terrain park and halfpipe but are fully capcable of venturing out of both.

Junior: 90cm - 170cm; <9m - 21m radius; 60mm - 75mm waist; Junior skis cover a huge range of skiers; from young kids to early teenage racers. Often these skis will have a weight limit, as they are designed for lighter riders, who are not as strong as an adult skier. They do not however, lack in ability on the snow. There is usually a line of race skis that is tailored to a few age groups, and a line of freeride skis tailored to the same groups. The end of the spectrum dedicated to older children offers very high performance equipement. The race skis are often built along-side their race stock adult counterparts in the race room, and offer pure performance tools with softer flex (less metal, foam core, etc.) for younger skiers. By the time a skier is 14 they are ready to branch into adult skis, or at least be skiing on the top end of the junior spectrum. High end junior race skis are reserved for very proficient first and second year J3 racers, meaning advanced carving, and finely tuned race skills are a must.


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