Your Guide to the 8 Main Types of Skis

atlhlete ski

If you are new to the world of snow skiing, you might think all skis are the same. You rent a pair from the ski resort and trek over to the gondola to hit the powder, right? Actually, there are many types of skis that are specifically made for the various topographies and snow conditions encountered when hitting the slopes.

In this article we discuss eight of the main types of skis you might encounter during your winter vacation. Using the right skis when you tackle moguls or even stay on the bunny slopes will make all the difference in your performance and enjoyment of the sport.

Ski Basics

Before tackling the various styles of skis, it's important to understand the basics of the sport.

One of the best traits of skiing is its appeal to both beginners and experts alike, but it's important that even the most novice skier know these basic terms to choose the right gear.

Below we discuss the general terms used to gauge all types of skis, and we also discuss the dimensions of skis and why these dimensions are important.

Basic Terms

There are a few basic terms even the most novice skier should know. The first of these is the camber.

This term is used to describe the shape of certain skis. If you look at a ski from the side that has a camber shape, it will look like there is an arch or wave in the middle, right under the foot.

This allows for the portion of the ski directly under the foot to have a bounce, or spring.

The other option is a rocker shape. This ski simply looks like the bottom of a rocking chair and is better for soft powder, as it allows the skier to float over the surface.

Anatomy of a Ski

The tip is front portion of the ski that tilts slightly up and is sometimes called the shovel. The back end is called the tail and depending on the ski it can be tilted up or flat.

As a rule of thumb, the longer the ski, the more control the skier will have at high speeds.

While they have more control, longer skis are typically harder to turn. Heavier skis are harder to lug around, but they stick to the snow better than the lighter variety.

The wider the waste of a ski, the better it will be at skiing over soft and deep snow. The waste of a ski is the very middle and is measured in millimeters.

The side cut radius is a little more difficult to envision, but if you are looking down at a ski, you will notice that the inner curve looks like the edge of a circle.

If you were to draw out the rest of that circle and take the radius, this would give you the side cut radius. This is important when you are talking about control and turning radius for skis.

8 Main Types of Skis

The following list gives you the details on the 8 most popular types of skis. They vary in waste size, length, and shape, and each has a specific purpose on the slopes. It's important to select the best ski for your activity and skill level.

1. All Mountain Skis

Out of all 8 types of skis, all mountain skis are the most versatile when considering terrain and air conditions. They typically have a medium sized waste (width in the middle of the ski) and have a rocker shape.

These skis are best for the groomed runs you find at any ski resort, and they are great for all levels of expertise. All Mountain Skis are sometimes considered carvers because they allow the skier to turn easily.

2. Carving Skis

The carving skis are also best used on groomed slopes and offer the skier refined sharp turns and speed. These skis are so fast and maneuverable that they are known as the recreational racing ski. They typically include a wider tip and tail with a skinnier waste.

While both experts and beginners can both enjoy skiing on a carver, they are best on hard packed snow and do not do well on light powder.

They are shorter and typically have a shorter turning radius for better control. They are also made of a flexible material that allows versatility and quick movement.

3. Powder Skis

If you are looking for a ski that can float along a deep, light snow, a powder ski might be what you need. This ski has a wider waste, which allows it to practically float across the powder.

Typically these skis also come in the rocker profile, which helps promote floatation, and it also keeps the tip and tail from catching the soft snow.

This type of ski is best for trails or cross country skiing, as they allow you to glide across powdery snow,. With wastes as wide as 109 millimeters, these skis are often referred to as super fats. They will not maneuver well on groomed trails.

4. Freestyle Skis

freestyle types of skis

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Freestyle skis are also referred to as a park and pipe or twin tip skis. As the name might infer, these skis are used for various tricks and maneuvers, including aerials, moguls, crosses, and half pipes.

If you see a skier performing unbelievable flips and jumps on skis down a half pipe in the Olympics, they are doing so on freestyle skis.

These skis are very short and have the rocker shape where they curve up in the front and back. This allows the skier to land high jumps and transition easily to backwards skiing.

5. Backcountry Skis

backcountry skiiing

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Backcountry skiing is a fairly new idea and is designed for those who crave more adventure than the traditional slopes allow. These skis are lighter and include notches on the bottom to allow skiers to attach climbing skins.

Climbing skins are used to allow skiers to climb up snowy mountains to find that perfect ride. The width on backcountry skis is usually between 80 mm and 120 mm, which is fairly narrow.

If you attempt backcountry skiing, it is important that you have mountaineer training and are knowledgeable about avalanche dangers.

6. Big Mountain Skis

Big Mountain Skis

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If you've ever watched a video on skiing, more than likely it was of a big mountain skier. This type of skiing is for experts only and can be dangerous if you are not knowledgeable about the sport.

Big Mountain skis are longer skis, and the rule of thumb is that the taller you are, the taller your skis. The waste runs between 110 and 120 mm to allow skiers to float on top of the powdery snow they encounter on these high and steep slopes.

This skiing includes cliff drops, and in some extreme cases, skiers have to be lifted via helicopters to find that perfect run.

These skis are also rated on dampness or their ability to absorb and cancel out vibrations from the high speeds and rough terrain. These skis are stiff and heavy and typically made of solid wood.

7. Racing Skis

racing ski

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If you are on an Alpine ski team, then you are probably using racing skis. These long and narrow skis are a must for gaining speed on the slopes.

They are made differently than most other skis to improve stability and speed, and they include an enhanced edge grip for easier turning. Most of these skis are over two meters long, and they have a large side cut radius.

8. Slalom Race Skis

Slalom skiing is a unique sport. These skiers not only race down the mountain side at record speeds, but they also maneuver in between poles or gates along the way.

These skis are short and stiff and have a side cut radius of at least twelve meters. They pivot and can cut through the powder aggressively as the skier barrels down the slopes.

These skis are usually only around 160 centimeters, as the short size allows for quicker turns.

Conclusion for Types of Skis

Skiing is not only a fun activity for any winter vacation but also a great exercise for both experts and beginners. If you are thinking about taking up skiing, it's important to understand the ins and outs of the equipment and skiing terms.

Choosing the right skis is imperative for a safe and fun ski trip. Before you decide which types of skis to purchase or rent, talk to the experts at a reputable ski shop. They will direct you to the right type of skiing and skis for your experience level.

Featured Image via Pexels


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