Buying Guide for Women's Skis
By Steve Kopitz
Before beginning to select womens skis, you need to ask yourself a few questions. The first question to ask yourself is, “What ability am I; beginner, intermediate, or expert?” If you are not sure, be sure to read our article below on determining skier ability. Based on the answer to this question, ask yourself “What speed do I like to ski at; slow, medium, or fast?” as well as “What type of turns do I like to make; large open turns or quicker snappier turns?” The last question you will want to ask yourself is “Where do I like to ski; beginner, intermediate; or expert runs?” as well as “Do I like to ski on groomed runs, moguls, powder, or out of bounds?” Once you have answered these questions to yourself, keep them in mind as you go through the ski buying process. They will help guide you to the perfect ski.
Before you begin your womens ski selection process, you need to think about and decide what ability or skill level you are. Unfortunately, there is no womens ski built for all skiing levels, so determining you skiing level will help in narrowing the number of skis that are right for you. Choosing a set of womens skis that is either above or below your skier level can seriously hinder your ability to both enjoy and improve at the sport. Beginner to intermediate womens skis are softer and easier to turn at slower speed and with less effort. They are also more forgiving if you make small mistakes. However, these womens skis will begin to chatter at higher speeds, making them more difficult to control. Conversely, advanced to expert womens skis are stiffer and require more technique to turn. They also need to be skied at higher speeds in order to make them perform correctly.
There are six different skier ability levels. Read the descriptions below, ranked from lowest to highest, and determine which ability level best describes you. Keep this in mind as you continue to narrow down to the perfect pair of skis.
Beginner: This is level for skiers who are just beginning their skiing career. The skier has typically either never skied before or has skied only a few times. Beginner skiers are characterized as making wedge turns (pizza) on groomed, mellow terrain.
Advanced Beginner: When a skier is comfortable on the green runs (beginner runs) and is beginning to ski on some blue runs (intermediate runs). Advanced Beginners are starting to incorporate parallel positioning into the completion phase of their turns. The Advanced Beginner may make wedge turns and traverse the fall line with their skis parallel.
Intermediate: The comfort level is on groomed blue runs that can be skied with relative ease. The intermediate skier is working toward making completely parallel turns. The Intermediate skier may use a small wedge before the turn to control their speed, while the completion of the turn and traverse to the next turn is made in a parallel position. The Intermediate skier often retreats to the wedge position when they are uncomfortable on steeper or variable terrain.
Advanced Intermediate: The skier is comfortable on all blues and is capable of skiing some black diamonds and varied terrain. The Advanced Intermediate skier is capable of making skidded parallel turns on most terrain at moderate to higher speeds. Advanced Intermediate skiers are also using pole plants to help maintain proper timing and body positioning.
Advanced: Advanced skiers are comfortable skiing black diamonds and varied terrain. Advanced skiers are capable of making large and small radius carved turns at higher speeds on advanced terrain. Advanced skiers also use pole plants to help maintain proper timing and body positioning.
Expert: Expert skiers are comfortable skiing at high speeds on all terrain including groomers, tracked powder, powder, moguls, etc. Expert skiers are capable of making large and small radius carved turns at high speeds on advanced terrain in any snow conditions. Expert skiers also use pole plants to help maintain proper timing and body positioning.
Be sure to pick the range of levels you are comfortable with. Be honest and realistic with yourself, and don’t over or under estimate your abilities. If you ski mostly blues, classify yourself as an intermediate. If you spend most of you time skiing black, you are an advanced skier. Remember, buying a ski that is way above or way below your ability will significantly hinder your ability to improve, and therefore like the sport of skiing.
Before we dive into different types of womens skis, it is important to understand the difference between men’s and womens skis, other than just the difference in colors and graphics. Womens skis are specifically designed for womens body design. They take into account women’s differences from men in weight position, foot size, and strength. As a result, women’s skis are basically designed to make skiing easier and more enjoyable for women.
The first thing you will want to decide is what type of ski you want. There are many different types of womens skis, but most womens skis fall into one of 4 different categories.
All-Mountain: Most womens skis fall into this category. All-mountain womens skis are designed to perform well in nearly all conditions. This means they are designed to ski well in most snow conditions as well as at most speeds. Therefore, if are only looking to own one set of skis, All-mountain womens skis are most likely what you will want. All-mountain skis can come in a variety of widths. If you plan on spending most of your time on groomed runs, select an all-mountain womens ski with a narrower waist. If you plan on skiing in deeper snow or on lots of crud, you will probably want a womens ski with a little bit of a wider waist.
Twin Tips: Womens twin tip skis have turned up tips as well as tails. Twin-tip skis were originally designed for free-style and trick skiers who wanted the ability to land facing backwards as well as forwards. However, now many womens twin-tip skis have actually been designed similar to All-mountain skis, and can perform well all over the slope, not just in the terrain park.
Powder: Womens powder skis are much wider under-foot are designed to for use in deep snow conditions. This extra width allows for womens power skis to float atop the snow, instead of sinking below it. This makes skiing deep snow much easier. However, because they are so much wider than an all mountain ski, powder skis do not turn very well on groomed runs. Typically, most people own these as a second set of skis or if they live or frequently travel to places like Colorado or Utah, where deep snow is prevalent. Powder skis can be found with a twin-tip back as well as a traditional flat back. Powder skis are also know as Backcountry or Big Mountain skis.
Racing: Racing skis are much stiffer and narrower then other types of skis, and are designed only to be used on flat groomed runs at high speeds. If you need more information on race skis, please read the Buying Guide for Race Skis.
When someone refers to a skis turning radius, they are referring to how short or long of a turn a ski is designed to make. Turning radius is measured in meters. A skis turning radius is a result of it shape, length as well as its width. The less shape or sidecut a ski has, the longer the turning radius will be as well. The concept is very similar to the turning radius of a car. Small sports cars can turn very tight circles, but long, large Semi-trucks turn much wider circles.
Most womens skis have a turning radius between 11 and 20 meters. If you like shorter, snappier turns, look for a ski with a turning radius in the 11-15m range. If you like longer, wider turns, look for a ski with a turning radius in the 16-20m range.
As you begin to look for that perfect womens ski, you will probably begin to notice that some come with binding already attached and some do not. Those skis that already have binding attached are said to have “integrated bindings”. This is because the binding is actually built into the ski, rather than being drilled onto it like traditional flat skis.
So what are the advantages of integrated bindings? In order to turn, a ski needs to flex into the shape of an arch when on its edges. Therefore, the easier it is for a ski to get into that arch shape and the more complete that arch shape is, the easier it will be to turn. On traditional flat skis, you need to drill the bindings into the middle of ski using metal screws. Since the bindings are screwed directly to the womens skis it creates a dead zone where the ski will not flex. Integrated bindings use a track system which is built into the skis, the bindings are then mounted to the track or rails in a maner which allows them to float on top of the skis. As a result womens skis with integrated bindings can flex underneath the boots, allowing it to make a more complete arch with less effort. This means womens skis with integrated bindings will turn smoother and easier.
However, womens skis with integrated bindings do have some disadvantages. For powder and twin tip skis the mounting position of the bindings on the skis will greatly effect performance. For the most part Powder and Twin Tip Skis will not have integrated bindings so the skier is allowed to decide if they want to use the recommended mountin point on a set of womens skis or select thier own. For most female skiers, womens skis with integrated bindings are highly recommended.