How do you choose the right skis?
These days, ski brands offer a wide selection to suit all needs and budgets.
I have written this article to help you choose the right skis for your standard and what you want to achieve so that you can really get the most out of les 3 Vallées ski area.
The most important thing is to establish what standard you are at.
If you have never been skiing in your life or if your experience is limited to the odd run a few years ago, you belong in this category.
You will need forgiving, user-friendly skis so you can start having fun quickly.
You ski one to two weeks a year and you are happy on all the runs in the ski area. You will need skis that are comfortable but that will help you progress/gain confidence.
You have skied regularly throughout the season for a number of years and are comfortable on all types of runs and snow. You occasionally go powder skiing off-piste. You will need high-performance skis that are still not too technically or physically demanding.
If carving and ski switch are your thing, you'll be looking for performance and you'll almost certainly need several pairs of skis so that you can get the most out of each ski style.
You also need to be in good physical shape in order to make rapid progress; don't forget to prepare your body before arriving in resort.
The second really important factor in choosing your equipment is the kind of skiing you will be doing and the ski range you are interested in.
I have chosen to identify 4 different styles/ranges:
This ranges from skiing on groomed pistes in the ski area to going for big thrills requiring precision and performance.
Skis are mainly quite short with a narrow blade (under 80mm) for increased response between turns.
The rigidity of the skis you choose will be dictated by your standard and expectations.
The higher your standard, the more rigid your skis will need to be to make them more sensitive and "alive".
You still need to be careful to choose skis that are suitable for your physical condition if you want to avoid injuring yourself when fatigue sets in at the end of the day. ("Racing" skis)
If you are a beginner, go for flexible, light skis.
Not sure what your favourite style is yet? Looking for the one pair of skis that will take you through the powder in January and a different kind of snow in May?
These are also known as "all-mountain" skis, and you will be comfortable with them, whatever the snow quality or terrain.
They have an average blade width (around 80mm) and quite big tips, giving you better lift off-piste or on soft snow.
So you're not that keen on groomed pistes but prefer untouched snow or demanding couloirs? You need freeride skis!
To give you better lift in the powder, you will need quite big skis with a blade wider than 90mm. Some models even have over-size blades wider than 180mm (not just for anybody)!
Just like downhill skis, the rigidity of the skis you choose will be dictated by your standard, physical condition and what you want to achieve.
Rigid skis with a normal camber and flat tail will give you more speed and stability, whereas skis that are more flexible and have a reverse camber will be a lot more fun.
If you are a massively creative skier and enjoy the thrills and spills of the snowpark, freestyle skis are the thing for you.
These are twin tipped skis for skiing just as well backwards as forwards, and they have a good bounce that makes them great fun. They are often light and resistant - for surviving the bad treatment that they get at the snowpark (rails, jump landings...).
Some freestyle skis are better in the air (mainly stability in flight), some will be a certain type called "Jib" and others are specially designed for trick skiing in the powder - Freestyle Backcountry (FSBC) skis.
Now that you have assessed your standard and decided on your style, there is just one more thing we need to look at - your body shape.
This will also help us to decide on ski length and flex.
For some years now, ski brands have been allowing for the difference in body shape between men and women. They now offer special women's ranges with tailored products (lighter, special graphics...)
The size of your skis will be dictated by your height, personal standard and what you want to achieve.
A beginner will need skis that are quite short: 10 to 15cm less than their own height for downhill skis.
It is quite normal for a good skier to choose skis that come up to their own height for downhill skiing, and even a little longer for freeriding.
A skier's body weight is also a factor for consideration. A lightweight skier will have problems trying to handle skis that are too rigid, and won't get the best out of them... Similarly, a heavier skier will get bored really quickly with skis that are too soft, providing hardly any enjoyment at all.
I hope that this article will help you to make a more well-informed choice of skis for the coming season. It is always a good idea to go to sports stores and events like Ski Force Winter Tour to try before you buy.
Don't forget - you can post questions in the comments section!