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BLOG | TIPS | 15 December 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Alpine Skis

Find out how to choose your alpine skis.

Skier in Cerler, Benasque valley, Pyrenees. Photo: Aramon Cerler

Click here to check all winter 2018 alpine ski-boards in Barrabes


Last year we wrote an article in our blog explaining the evolution and applications of camber and rocker technologies in ski construction and their effect on ski performance. Once again this year we have asked “Menchaka” to present to us the new technologies and novelties. Above all we got him to write a guide helping those of us who, whether being beginners or advanced skiers, get lost between so many types and models of skis, and have doubts about how to choose.

Do you need to change your skis this year? Perhaps buy your first skis? Then this is the article for you!

THE ETERNAL DOUBT WHEN CHOOSING SKIS
For some skiers, buying a new pair of skis is a straightforward procedure. They are well informed on the latest developments, already have a defined criteria and know what they are looking for. They are usually more than willing to try out the latest advances the that the industry offers each season.

Furthermore they are very aware of their skiing abilities, fitness level and their own expectations of personal improvement. All this makes choosing skis much easier, whether your shopping at a store or on-line.

If this isn’t the case for you, inform yourself and don’t be overwhelmed by the avalanche of new technologies and materials or bad experiences from past purchases. And most importantly of all, no matter how much you know, always get assessed by experts.

The clearer it is in your mind which type of skiing you want to do and what your expectations are, the easier it will be to make the correct choice.

It also helps to ask yourself questions such as, has your level of fitness seen better days or are you at the peak of your level? Are you looking for just one pair of skis or are you looking for “That ski” for “that snow”? Do you dream of groomed slopes or is POW your thing? What’s your level (be honest) and your expectations on improving on it? Do you ski slowly or quickly? Is your attitude on the skis relaxed or are you on the edges on each turn as if it were the last?

Skiers in Cerler, Benasque valley, Pyrenees. Photo: Aramon Cerler
Try to consider what interests you or what you would like to improve as a skier. Even if you plan to put yourself into the hands of an expert at our on-line store , having the answer to these questions can make all the difference to ensure you get a ski that feels like it was made just for you.

If you’ve done your homework we can move onto more personal questions:: How much do you weigh?. How tall are you?. What is your skiing level? How much do you ski every year and where?. What ski boots do you have or have you had?

We’re not trying to be nosy. There are so many details and nuances in the skis that have been released onto the market in the past years that we can say, without the shadow of a doubt, that there is a ski that is almost perfect for you.

It’s also important that your ski and your boot work in harmony, above all if you are going to get a technical ski. A high level ski requires a high level boot.

We’re going to try to prevent the huge selection of brands, categories and models from clouding your horizon. And remember, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any doubts.

And here’s a tip, before we begin, if you’re not sure what to get, buy an All Mountain ski!

Length

We see lots of people preoccupied by the length when choosing new skis. Choosing the right length depends on so many factors that it’s better not to worry about it until you have decided which ski you want.

In this article we are going to give you lots of tips on how to get the optimal skis for you. Bear in mind that your skiing style, level of expertise, and personal preferences on such things as terrain, snow type, and speed will affect what “optimal” means for you.

Once you’ve done all that, it will be easy to find the right length. We can follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the ski chosen and that’s it.

People often say “I want short skis” when what they are really trying to say is “I want easy skis”. Thanks to rockers and wider waists, easy skis no longer have to be short.

Skiing in Cerler, Benasque valley, Pyrenees. Photo: Aramon Cerler
Categories

The categories alpine skis are generally divided into are: Piste, All Mountain, Freeride and Freestyle. The boundaries between the categories are not clear, and sometimes an alpine ski can almost appear to be an All Mountain or an All Mountain seem like a Freeride.

It’s also true that the jargon varies as time goes by, which can make everything even more confusing.

The Versatility Fever - The Spirit of All Mountain

Race skis and pure Freeride skis are the polar opposite of the philosophy of versatility that has impregnated the collections of all of the manufacturers.

The versatility fever has caught on in almost everything. On-piste skis that promise to behave reasonably off-piste. Freestyle skis that promise to carve great turns outside of the snow park. Freeride skis that promise to be light enough to be used for ski touring. Specialized skis are becoming harder to find.

In the last few seasons, manufacturers have developed specific skis for women. These skis are lighter with a more permissive flex and a lower turn radius. Skis specifically designed for women are mainly found in the high end of the all mountain range, although they also exist in other categories.

SKI BOARDS
Lets start with Piste Skis.

Within this category we can find two subcategories: one for the “general public” and another one for “competition”. These skis are usually known as Race skis. Be careful because here the border between categories is unclear and within the “general public” category we can still find some very high performance skis.

Race Skis

Click here to check all Race and On-piste ski-boards Barrabes' Selection 2018

A better description would be “race inspired” as it is very difficult to find a pair of real race skis in a ski shop except for SL (slalom). Normally we find Race Carvers and SL in shops. Race Carvers are skis with a medium or wide turning radius. They are a domesticated version of Giant Slalom skis. They put the thrills of a GS turn into the reach of normal ski enthusiasts, thanks to the contained turn radius. The SL (slalom) ski, due to its grip on steep slopes and hard snow and its reduced turn radius (around 12 metres) is still the preferred choice of short turn fanatics.

Looking at the latest SL or a Race Carver we realize that this category has maybe changed the least in the last few years. Having said that, the rocker has also arrived in this category - in this case with the promise to ease the transition between turns. Arguments like maintaining the tip afloat or greater gliding, used to justify the rocker in other categories, don’t make sense here. However, as you can see, the rocker is good for almost everything.

Looking at the geometry and performance, sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between a race ski and a top-of-the-range on-piste ski. What is unmistakable about the race skis is the way in which they clearly display the company logos. Their design is inspired by the skis seen in the World Cup.

All Race skis are top of the range high performance products.

These are your skis if:

  • you like to go fast on the edges on groomed red and black slopes.
  • You are looking for a ski that allows you to become a master of hard snow and POW.
  • You have perfected your short turn or are looking to perfect it. (SL).
  • Dominate the secrets of a medium/wide turn carving on all slopes. (Race Carver)

Perhaps they aren’t your skis if:

  • You’re not as fit as you could be.
  • You’re a laid-back skier.
  • You only want one pair of skis, and every time there is a load of fresh snow you love to go off-piste.
  • You have a limited budget.

On-piste Skis

Their more relaxed geometry and construction make them more versatile than Race skis. It’s easier to take them off-piste due to their turning radius, which allows them to be enjoyed in short and long turns.

Although inside this category we find a high range aimed at people who carve, they are always going to be more versatile than the Race, allowing to lower the pace when our legs ask for a breather or when it’s time to ski with the family.

In this category we find a stepped range according to our ski level,.from beginners to authentic speed lovers.

These are your skis if:

  • You have good technique but you’re not that fit.
  • Groomed slopes are your terrain.
  • You are looking for a ski that allows you to progress technically.
  • You are looking for a ski that gives you security on hard snow.

Perhaps these aren’t your skis if:

  • You always ski inside the piste but spring snow frightens you.
  • You only want one pair of skis and you are thinking about going off-piste.
  • You love going off-piste every time there is a heavy snowfall.

All Mountain

Click here to check all All Mountain Ski-boards Barrabes Selection 2018

At present the All Mountain concept completely encompasses the all-rounder category.

The characteristics of an All Mountain ski are:

  • A rocker making it easier to begin a turn, easier to pivot and easier to slide at lower speeds or in heavy snow.
  • Waist widths range from seventy to over ninety millimetres to increase float in deep or spring snow.
  • Sidecuts that maintain the balance between performance on the slopes, and functionality off-piste. They sacrifice some carving on the edges so as not to let us down when the snow becomes more difficult to handle.

Many brands quantify how much their All Mountain skis are designed for on-piste use in one way or another. The most common logic is “the wider the ski and bigger the rocker, the less suitable it is for groomed slopes.”

This seems logical at first glance as the skis with the narrowest midcut on the market are 100% on-piste and the skis with the most pronounced rocker are Freeride.

However this is only true up to a point. Let us explain:

We can see that the brands are marketing 85±mm waist skis the most. It’s here where we can find the best materials in reinforcements, cores, bindings and mounting plates in the majority of collections. The narrowest midcuts are associated with the bottom end of the market.

In conclusion, although an 88mm midcut may be classified by the manufacturers as more off-piste than its baby brothers doesn’t mean to say that it will perform worse on a slope than one of these. In the majority of cases it’s just the opposite.

The logic of “the wider the midcut, less designed for pistes” starts to come true with hardly any exceptions from a 90 mm midcut. All Mountain skis with these measurements almost remind us more of a Freeride ski than anything else. Many of them come with “open” bindings (a binding that is screwed directly onto the ski just like in the past), just like the majority of Freeride skis.

Broadly speaking, although we can find many exceptions, we can say that within the category of All Mountain we find:

  • Waist cuts between seventy and ninety mm for skiers with a medium level that prefer pistes and that don’t mind sacrificing some performance in exchange for comfort in deep or springlike snow, bumps, or snowy days when the difference between on-piste and off-piste become blurred.
  • Skiers who prefer groomed slopes but when the weather and snow conditions allow, are happy to ski off-piste, albeit occasionally.
  • Midcuts between 85 and 90mm for skiers with only one pair of skis that look for the thrills of carving on-piste, but can’t resist a nice day with POW to go off-piste. Here we tend to find the star products of the brands.

They are your skis if:

  • You are looking for one versatile pair of skis, in order to ski any terrain and incline and enjoy every type of turning radius and every type of snow.
  • Whether spring-like snow frightens you or you love it, these skis are just the job!
  • You are looking for a smooth, calm ski.

Perhaps they aren’t your skis if…

  • We don’t really know. We find it difficult to find a reason not to jump onto the band wagon of the All Mountain this season. They certainly are THE SKIS of the moment.

Freeride

Click here to check all Freeride Barrabes' Selection 2018

There are very few experiences on skis that can beat a sunny day with a blanket of powder snow under your feet, far from the bustle of the slopes. If your experience of Freeride doesn’t go further than the occasional excursion off-piste when the weather permits, your best option these days is definitely All Mountain skis. However if your idea of the perfect conditions for going off-piste are more lenient, and you’re one of those that at 5pm the day after a big snowfall you are still looking for virgin lines in the resort, without a doubt you need a pair of Freeride skis…

Here things have been clearer for a bit longer. Midcuts of 95mm or wider, generous rockers, double rocker or full rocker and turning radius’ that are heading towards wide in the majority of cases.

Once again, though, the borders between categories are unclear: Skis with more than 100mm in the midcut are sold as half Freeride, half All Mountain. We can also find incredibly wide and ultralight skis which are denominated as Freetouring. This is a category between Freeride and Ski Touring, which can be confusing.

As far as sidecuts things are just as varied: Convex sidecuts in the racker zone, practically straight skis, and parabolic sidecuts from tip to tail—a bit of everything.

These are your skis if:

  • You are a Freeride fanatic.
  • You are looking to extend your repertoire off-piste.
  • You don’t want to risk scratching your on-piste skis on a stone. Remember that off-piste nobody removes the stones or conditions the terrain in the summer.

Perhaps these aren’t your skis if:

  • Your ski level is a bit tight.
  • You don’t like to go fast. Although they are easy to handle and allow short turns, they work better with a little bit of speed.
  • Your excursions off-piste are not very frequent, and are limited to days with good powder snow.
  • You usually ski off-piste but you only want one pair of skis.
  • You always ski on indoor slopes. (There are people that do everything…)
  • You are a Freeride fanatic.
  • You are looking to extend your repertoire off-piste.
  • You don’t want to risk scratching your on-piste skis on a stone. Remember that off-piste nobody removes the stones or conditions the terrain in the summer.
Tags: ski

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