Choosing the Correct Ski
Matching the Ski to the Skier
The best way to wax a ski is to start with the right set of skis. So, with snow coming and before we get into the world of wax, let's take a look at choosing the right ski. Perfect race skis are a combination of construction and geometry, premium materials and careful selection. Each company has a broad selection of race-worthy skis, including race-performance models and performance models.
The race-performance skis are top-tier, World-cup-level products, and the performance models are based on the same engineering and geometry. But, by using slightly different materials in parts of the construction, the manufacturers are able to reduce the price point without significantly compromising the on-snow properties of the skis.
The main difference between the two categories is that the race-performance skis contain significantly more carbon. This allows the companies to better control the stiffness of the ski while maintaining or even lowering the weight.
However, the race-performance skis also have a more specific range of use for each pair and offer different tip/tail splays in all models – distinct splay for warm conditions and slight splay for cold conditions. There are more flex ranges and cambers available in the race-performance models, while performance skis have a wider range of skier weight and usage area for each model. The race-performance series skis offer a cold and a warm version of each model, while the performance models are designed to be all-arounders.
It is possible to measure the flex, camber and splay in the performance skis just as accurately as for the race-performance skis, using the same tools and techniques. The most important factors are the skier and the available budget. Get the right ski for your weight, technique, ambition level and the conditions where you will use the skis the most. The right flex for your weight and technique, as well as the correct splay for the conditions are critical factors for performance.
Previously ski length was often matched to racer height. While the charts produced by manufacturers still give a decent starting point, racer weight and proficiency are more important factors in determining the length of the ski.
For instance, according to the sizing charts, a skier who is six feet tall should have a Classic ski that is approximately 205cm to 210cm long (precise length of ski is different for each company). But, depending on weight, the skier might even consider a ski that is 200cm. A light and tall racer using Classic skis that are too stiff, won't be able to get the wax onto the snow and get proper kick, and the skis will feel too slippery. Hence, it's more important that skiers get the right flex for their weight, even if that means a shorter ski. Typically, Classic skis for warm conditions will have a taller camber height and be stiffer in flex.
Also, keep in mind that with the new low tip of skate skis, a ski that is 187cm will act like a more traditional 192cm with a regular tip in terms of how much base is touching the snow, but lowering the tip saves weight.
Additionally, it's important to use skis with the right splay for the conditions that you will encounter the most. Skis with a warm-conditions construction won't give proper glide in cold conditions, and vice versa. So you need to be honest with yourself about weight and technique, and also know in what kinds of conditions you plan to use the skis. The splay determines the pressure points of the skis. A distinct splay found on the warm-conditions models creates shorter pressure points to the snow and helps shorten the water film that creates a suction effect in wet and warm conditions, and thereby improves the glide. Conversely, the slight splay on cold-conditions skis create longer pressure points. The longer pressure points help create a water film and reduce friction in cold snow, and thereby improve glide. In the race-performance models, all models come in a cold version with a slight splay and a warm version with a distinct splay.