How to Choose and Buy the Right Skis

Learning how to choose and buy the right skis is simply a matter of knowing what you need and how much you want to pay. Skiing is one of the most expensive sports/hobbies around, so you want to be an educated buyer.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself before getting started: what kind of skiing will I be doing? Downhill? Cross-country? How often will I be skiing? What is my level of skill?

Downhill skis

Most people are going to be doing some recreational downhill (alpine) skiing at a resort. You'll be skiing on "groomed" terrain and a moderate slope. Beginners and intermediates will want skis that are lighter and easier to maneuver as you learn to stay upright on the slopes. That means getting shorter skis with a narrower waist (the mid part of the ski near where your boot will go) and tail. You'll also want to factor in your size (height and weight) and gender.

Cross-country skis

Cross-country skis are narrower than downhill skis at every measure point. They are also lighter than downhill skis. You'll be providing your own powers to move through the snow, so it makes sense that the skis are smaller than downhill skis.

Most resorts will have groomed paths for you to ski on, so you'll want touring skis. Off-track skis are made for varied terrain. Backcountry skis are wider than other cross-country skis. You're likely to encounter a wide variety of terrain during a backcountry run, so the width will help you cover anything you run across.


If you're into skiing for the long haul, you'll want a ski made from a long-lasting, durable material. If you're a seasonal skier or not yet sure you want to strap on skis every winter, you can start with laminate skis. Laminate skis are made of a wood or foam center that is encased in fiberglass strips. Cap skis are made similarly, except the encasement is made of solid fiberglass. The high-end skis are made of various high-tech materials, like carbon, boron or titanium fibers.

Mitigating costs

Skis are an expensive item, so explore other options besides paying retail, especially if you are a dilettante or if you've got to buy skis for an entire family. Check auction sites, Craigslist, used sporting goods shops and rental shops for deals. As long as the skis aren't totally beat up, you won't be risking your life with used skis.

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