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Shaped Ski 101


As in many industries, there is an abundance of misinformation in the skiing world. The following tips come from years of experience in the industry, and are designed to cut through some of the tech talk and misleading jargon. If you would like us to find you the perfect Shaped Skis for your needs, please use our contact form to send us the following information: Weight, Preferred style of riding, Ability level, Areas at which you most typically ride. Click the highlighted link to view all of our current shaped ski deals.

There is no longer a "length" of ski that is appropriate...
There is no longer a "length" of ski that is appropriate for a given skier, without considering the model of ski. To clarify, it used to be that a skier could accurately make a blanket statement such as, "I ski on 190 cm. skis". This is no longer the case. In one model a 190 may be appropriate, while in another it may be 15 cm. too long. This is due to the dramatic differences in a skis sidecut (the hourglass shape of the ski), and the effective edge (the amount of edge that contacts the snow). Consider the following: A skier, Sven, has been skiing on a set of 200cm. straight skis for the past 5 years, which he has loved. When he flexes the sidecut of the ski (yes, straight skis have sidecut, albeit shallow) into the snow, it creates an arc on the snow. If we measured that arc, that would be the skis effective edge. When Sven rents a pair of new "all mountain" shaped skis (also commonly referred to as parabolic, cut, or sidecut skis) also in 200cm., and flexes the sidecut into the snow, the effective edge measures 7 cm. longer than on his straight skis. This is due to the increased sidecut of the newer model. In this particular ski, Sven would be well suited to drop 7 cm. of length to achieve the same amount of edge as he liked in his old skis. Thus 193 cm. would be appropriate in that model. The problem arises when Sven wants to try a pair of super sidecut skis, or maybe GS skis with less sidecut. The effective edge on these skis will be very different than the all mountain skis he originally rented. Thus he may need a 184 cm. ski in the super sidecut ski, or a 196 in the GS model.
Avoid rules of thumb where ski length is concerned.
If a friend tells you, "drop 10 cm. of ski length from your old straight skis when going to shaped skis" he is not helping you. These are rules that are designed to help, but end up in many skiers heading to the mountain on unusable gear. You must find out the specifics of the model you are looking at, in relation to the properties of the skis you have been skiing, to determine the correct length. This is difficult, and may require some testing, research, or a knowledgeable sales staff.
No ski does everything perfectly.
"All Mountain" is an industry term designed (and advertised) to lead the consumer to believe that these skis are capable of skiing ice like a GS or slalom ski and powder like a fat powder ski. Great marketing aside, they cannot do so. All skis have a range. The range of All Mountain skis is simply the middle. It would be more accurate to say that they will ski from soft snow to hardpack incredibly well, while sacrificing in powder and on ice. They are, in many cases, the ideal choice for skiers looking to own one set of skis. Consider, however, that even within this genre, there are vast differences. Some have ranges leaning more towards powder, and others more towards hardpack and ice. Manufacturers understand the powerful draw of the overused term "All Mountain", and frequently categorize more skis as such than they rightly should.
Female specific skis should be called...
Female specific skis should be called "lighter skier / less aggressive skier skis". Skis do not know the gender of the skier who is riding them. They respond only to weight, and the technique in which it is applied. In almost every instance, the female specific version of a ski, is a significantly detuned version of the unisex ski. The skis are lighter and softer flexing, but these attributes will work equally well for a smaller less advanced male, as for a female of the same weight and ability. The main point being, do not believe that you are buying the same construction with a female targeted paint job. It is not so. You will be purchasing a different ski model, that is often marketed under the same name as a good selling unisex model. These skis are still the correct choice for many skiers. Also note that there are major differences from one model to the next, and although never as aggressive as the unisex counterpart, some are still designed for advanced skiers. True experts will choose to ski the unisex skis. Lastly, we do not believe the notion promoted by some manufacturers that female skiers require different forward lean properties than men. There are as many different female body types as there are females, and this structural adjustment has no merit. If more lean is needed it can be added in an aftermarket shim or in boot adjustment. Should you like a set of skis that has this feature, we will be happy to sell you them, as many excel as skis, regardless of this functionality.
Skis in a model vary greatly from size to size.
The 190cm. ski in a given model may have an entirely different core structure than the 180 in the same model. Skis are usually "softened up" as they get shorter within a line. Thus, if you find yourself thinking, "I really liked the 190's of the (add model here) which I just tried out, but I think I'll buy the 180's because they will be even easier to turn", think twice. The 180's will usually be significantly less reinforced (with the manufacturer anticipation of a smaller, lighter skier) and will have different performance features.
Smaller does not always mean easier to turn.
Longer does not always mean faster. These are rules of thumb which do not always work. A skier needs an appropriate amount of effective edge to hold his ski on it's directed course without "slipping out" from under him. If his ski size is reduced beyond that needed length, he will find the ski lacks directability, and it will feel anything but maneuverable. Having more edge than is necessary will only make your skis feel heavier, more sluggish, and will likely detract from overall speed. Furthermore, be honest with yourself about your skiing ability and style. Many advanced skiers "laterally project" from one inside edge to another in the course of turning. Other skiers slide their skis on their axis in many turns, keeping both skis in contact with the snow at most times. Which group you fall into will certainly effect what ski length you will choose. It is much harder to slide a long ski through a turn. Skiers who slide their turns will want to find shorter skis. Once a skier is laterally projecting, he will be able to (and need to) ski longer skis, so as to have enough edge on the one ski, which supports his weight and momentum, to resist slippage.

The Wiredsport Team

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