FatandSkinnySkisEveryone’s heard of the “shaped ski” revolution. In the past decade or so ski design has advanced so radically that it sometimes feels like modern skis almost turn themselves. These advancements in technology continue with no end in sight, and in an effort to get a handle on what makes a given ski tick, we’ve broken it down into four critical characteristics that will determine a ski’s performance. You may still use a rotary phone or cassette player, but going “retro” on the snow will only get you left behind! Be an educated consumer and pick the stick that’s right for you!

Ski Design

Ski-waist-widthSki waist width – This factor generally determines the best use of the ski.  For the most part, the narrower the ski, the better the edge hold on hard- pack, and the wider the ski, the more flotation it provides in deeper snow.  Due to improved technology, skis have been getting wider every year and still maintain an edging ability that allows modern skis to cover an ever greater spectrum of conditions.  Recognizing a sizeable overlap, skis generally perform best in their specific design envelope.  A waist width of 65-85mm performs best on hardpack, 85-105mm in crud and chopped powder, and 105+mm in deep powder.

Ski rocker camberCamber and negative camber or “rocker” – When you set a ski on the floor and you can see daylight under the center where it’s slightly raised, that’s traditional camber. When weighted, this helps the ski maintain contact with the snow throughout its entire length being most effective on packed snow conditions. Negative camber or a “rockered” shape is the opposite and is a fairly recent design feature of powder specific skis that causes them to float and surf like never before. Partial rocker has now made its way into all-mountain mainstream skis in the form of “early rise” tips and/or tails. This popular hybrid design results in a more forgiving turn initiation and increased versatility.

side cutSidecut – this is the hourglass shape of a ski expressed as both absolute width measurements in millimeters, and also as a” turning radius” in meters.  The measurements are normally expressed as three numbers taken at the widest point of the tip, the narrowest point of the waist, and the widest point of the tail.  These numbers determine the skis turning radius which is a calculation of how tight the ski will turn if set on edge.  The greater the difference between the tip/tail and the waist results in a more exaggerated hourglass and therefore a tighter turning radius.  Although sometimes rather obscure, these numbers are usually printed somewhere on the top coat or sidewall of the ski.The tradeoff is most always quickness versus stability. A short radius will provide quick response and tight turns on hard snow, but tend to be squirrelly in deeper snow, while a long radius will produce a slower, longer arcing turn on hard snow and be very directional in the deep stuff.

Ski flexFlex (or stiffness) – Generally a stability and power vs. forgiveness issue. There are many nuances regarding this characteristic and how it ties in with the other design features of the ski. But in general a stiff ski will be aggressive and a softer ski forgiving. That being said, remember that “aggressive” is not always good. A stiff ski in the bumps can be miserable, and unresponsive and “diving” in soft snow. On the other hand, “forgiving” is not always good either. A soft ski at high speeds can quickly become unstable and have poor edge hold on hard pack. Most high end all-around skis try to strike a good compromise.

So now’s the time to fatten up that quiver!  You don’t have to be a total gear slut like us, but you should take advantage of the early season sales before its too late.  Remember, “friends don’t let friends ride junk”. 

Minimal Quiver


In the Phoenix area, to see these cutting edge products or get more expert info, visit any one of our fine ride shops at Ski Pro, Action Ride Shop, or Alpine Board Sports.

Fritzski out