Alpine Skis FAQ
By Steve Kopitz
The following is a list of many of the frequently asked questions about alpine skis. To obtain the answer to any question listed below, please click on the respective question in the list to jump to its answer.
A: There are six different levels of skiing, they are as follows:
• Beginner: This is level for skiers who are just beginning their skiing career. The skier has either never skied before or has skied only a few times.
• Advanced-Beginner: When a skier is comfortable on the green runs (beginner runs) and is moving up to blue runs.
• Intermediate: The comfort level is on groomed blue runs that can be skied with relative ease.
• Advanced-Intermediate: The skier is moving up to black diamonds and other terrain.
• Advanced: Black diamonds and other terrain are comfortable.
• Expert: All terrain including powder, out of bounds, moguls, etc. are skied with ease.
The key is to pick a range that you are comfortable with, but one you can also improve with. If you are most comfortable skiing groomed, blue runs, then classify yourself as an Intermediate. That doesn’t mean, however, that a ski rated Beginner to Intermediate is a good fit. Instead, look for a pair with your level at the lowest part of the range – an Intermediate to Advanced, in this case – this way you can improve with your ski. There is no advantage to buying a ski that is significantly better than you. More advanced alpine skis must be “loaded up,” meaning you really need to get some speed and weight into them to get them to carve. But if you can’t get the right speed and pressure, the skis will be difficult to control. For more information about ski sizing please refer to our Ski Buying Guide.
Q: I am interested in purchasing new alpine skis, but I do not know what size to order?
A: The size of your alpine skis should generally fall between your chin to the top of your head while being stood in front of you. The taller the ski the faster and stable the ski will be, while a shorter ski is easier to learn on. If you are a beginner skier, your alpine skis should measure between your chin and mouth. While an intermediate skier will desire a ski that measures between their nose and eyes. The more advanced skiers will have a ski that measures between their eyes and the top of their head and only expert/pro skiers will have alpine skis that measure over the top of their head.
Skis are measured in centimeters, to choose the size simply measure from the floor up to your desired height. (Make sure you are measuring in centimeters.) For more information about ski level please refer to our Ski Buying Guide.
Q: I noticed that some skis come with an integrated binding, what is this?
A: Skis that are sold with the binding attached are known as integrated bindings, as they are built into and are a part of the skis themselves. (You might also see these set-ups called system skis.) Unless you’re an experienced racer or freestyle skier with specific binding needs, integrated bindings are highly recommended. With flex being key to the functionality of shaped skis, they have quickly become an industry standard. Think about it this way: When you drill a regular binding into a ski and drop in the boot, you end up with shaped ski that flexes above and below the binding zone, but not within in. This is a dead zone, like skiing with a metal rod in the middle of your alpine skis. Once manufactures realized that shaped skis weren’t performing to their potential due to this boot/binding combination, they created integrated bindings that “float” on top the ski. The bindings do this by moving back and forth as the ski flexes, keeping constant pressure on your boots to hold you in. The end result is that integrated bindings give skiers the full benefit of a shaped ski’s potential. For more information about integrated bindings please refer to our Ski Buying Guide.
Q: How do I mount and adjust bindings to my new skis?
A: Bindings need to be mounted and adjusted by a certified technician; you should not mount them yourself. Binding adjustment or “Ski Teching” is a process in which a technician will tailor your skis to your specific body type and level of performance. The adjustments are based on many factors including: age, height, skier types, sole length, etc. After your purchase you will need to take your alpine skis, bindings, and boots to a local ski shop to have them mounted and adjusted. Or if you order skis, bindings and boots, one of our expert technicians can mount and adjust the skis for you for a small fee.
A: Since the development of shaped skis, more women have been enjoying skiing as a whole. While shaped skis offer benefits to both men and women, women’s alpine skis offer a few benefits particular to a woman’s body. The skis are shorter, which makes them easier for women to maneuver. Since women tend to have wider hips than men, the skis have a wider platform for added stability. Also, shaped skis respond to finesse as opposed to muscle. Women’s alpine skis generally come with female inspired graphics, so when you are all bundled up, have a helmet and goggles on, people can tell that the person tearing in up on the hill is a woman (not a short man.) For more information about skis for women please refer to our Ski Buying Guide.
Q: How do I maintain my skis so I can get the most enjoyment out of them?
A: You should get your skis “tuned” at least once a season or about 12-15 skiing days if you are a more avid skier. You can get your skis “tuned” at a local ski shop or you can do it yourself with the right ski tuning tools and wax. A ski tuning will help flatten the bottom of your skis to get rid of gouges and nicks, get rid of the burrs or scrapes and nicks on the edges of your skis and wax your skis for a smooth slick ride also sharpen the edges of your skis, among other things. By maintaining your alpine skis you will be able to enjoy smoother and better rides. For more information about ski maintenance please refer to our Ski Tuning and Maintenance Article.
Q: Where should I store my skis in the offseason?
A: Before you pack your skis away for the season there are a couple of things that need to be done. You will need to clean and evaluate your alpine skis. You do not want to put skis away that are wet or have rust. Also, you will want to remove any excess dirt and wax, wax can trap moisture and cause rust on the edges over time. You also may want to apply hot wax to your alpine skis after they have been cleaned and are totally dry for ultimate protection. Skis need to be stored in a cool dry place, away from extreme temperature changes and moisture. You SHOULD NOT store your skis in an attic, basement or garage. An ideal please will be in a closet in your home, the alpine skis should be stored separate from each other and not flat. For more information about ski storage please refer to our End of Season Ski Storage Tips blog.
Q: I want to order ski poles, how do I determine my size?
A: There is a simple and easy way to help determine the size ski pole you should use. To find the correct size, hold your elbow at a 90-degree angle, with your elbow near your waist making a fist with your hand, like you were going to grip a pole. Have someone measure the distance from your thumb to the floor, and make sure to measure in centimeters. This will give you a specific pole length to look for.