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How do I choose skis for my 14 y.o. son?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I'd like some advice/discussion on what kind of skis and issues to think about. Specific model recommendations are interesting too, but I'm more concerned about the overall strategy and length.

He grew a lot this summer. He is now 5'6" (though last night it seemed to me he may have grown another inch), about 130 pounds.

We ski one week a year out West, plus a few day trips back East. Last year he did one afternoon a week at the local molehill (a couple hundred feet vertical). (The afternoons were ostensibly lessons but they were really set up for beginners, so he and the “instructor” were usually the only ones in the top group and they just skied.)

He had been skiing mostly blues & easy blacks at a fairly high speed (but with good control). Last year in Utah he expressed an interest in getting better and pushing himself (I’ve purposely taken a low-key, no pressure approach over the years). I started teaching him to ski moguls and he seemed to pick it up pretty quickly. (He had skied small moguls here and there, but this was the first time he tried to be systematic about it). We skied one short double-black steep pitch at PCMR, and he handled it reasonably.

He is going to be trying out for the high school ski team, even though he’s never been on a race course. (It’s a chance to ski, and a chance to be on a high school sports team.) I’m not too concerned about racing -- they race on the above-mentioned molehill, so it is not all that technical. (Although my son does say the course develops some pretty mean ruts – I’ve never been there when they were practicing.) If he turns out to like racing and be any good, I’m sure the team coach will have recommendations. So I mostly want freeskiing skis, but he does need to be able to do at least some racing in them.

He has never skied in powder deep enough to matter. Maybe next year.

Because his feet did not grow at all for two years, we kept the same equipment for two years. (He made up for it this summer – two shoe sizes at once). The result was his skis were quite short compared to what other kids his age/height were using. To tell the truth though, I did not see it causing any problems. The old skis were Fischers length 138, width 97-64-85. There are various things written on them – it is not clear which (if any) is a model name. (“Cruiser”, “A38”, etc – working from memory here) I bought them new with bindings for $200 at the school ski team’s swap event, so I’m sure they weren’t anything special.

Back to the present:

First off, what length should I get him? Is the “between chin and nose” rule still valid? Since 5’6” = 168 cm, that would be about 144-152. But the 138’s looked really short, so I’m wondering if this is right. 138 to 144 seems to be barely enough change to bother with. If he was an adult (and weighed more) I’m guessing people would recommend 165’s.

How much sidecut? One approach that I’ve thought of is to offset the longer length with more sidecut to get the same turning radius. (The PM spreadsheet says his old skis have a 13.7 meter turning radius.). Plugging numbers into the PM spreadsheet by trial and error says 165 (115-70-102), or 155 (105-65-92), or 145 (103-68-92) would approximately match turn radius.

Also, how “good” a ski does he need? I’m used to kids skis being cheap, and he is going to keep growing. Do they make skis especially for teenagers? (I know “team” in the name is a codeword for junior, but is that only for top-end serious racing or for the general market?) Can I get away with a low-end adult ski because he weighs less, or does he need adult performance skis now?

I know it is always a good idea to demo, but I’d like to be prepared to jump if something suitable shows up at the school ski swap meet (which is in a couple of weeks, well before the season starts).

Sorry to ramble on so, but it’s hard to compress this to a short, pithy question.
post #2 of 3
By little molehill are you talking about Ski Bradford? The course there definitely gets really rutted up. I never raced but skied the course a few times. Which school does he go there with? I grew up in Georgetown and went to Bradford in an after school program from 3rd grade through 8th grade. Lots of fun. 250 foot vert, 13 trails, 6 "lifts" (3 are ropetows).
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Birdman829 View Post
By little molehill are you talking about Ski Bradford?
Yep. One of those ropetows was where he learned to ski when he was young. Kindergarten maybe? I forget.

I decided not to worry too much about him on that very hill. He was straightlineing it, and I was about to lecture him about control till I realized he was pulling a hard left at the bottom and stopping exactly behind the last person in line.

Bradford is also where I learned to snowboard. (The theory was I'd learn that as my son learned to ski, but he learned faster than me.) My instructor was 16 years old.
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