When looking into buying a pair of downhill skis there are several factors that should influence your decision, but the two most important of these factors are the type of skiing you want and your experience level.
Downhill skis have come a long way from just two flat slabs of wood. They are now made with metal for the edges, fiberglass, P-Tex and other materials. The reason for this is that with different materials you can create different strengths, weights and flexibilities for each pair of skis. A skier that spends his/her day in the terrain park will most likely have a lighter and more flexible downhill ski than a slalom racer. So when you’re looking to buy a new pair you must ask yourself, “What type of skiing will I be doing.”
Downhill skis are great for skiing moguls, racing, slalom, woods, and terrain parks. Each genre has its own specialized skis, but if you think you might be doing a little of each the downhill ski has a good all around build that is versatile enough to handle all of these conditions. For racing and slalom you will want a pair of skis that are heavier and longer and have some sort of metal edge for carving.
For moguls and woods the best downhill ski will depend largely on your experience level. A more experienced skier will want a longer and heavier ski that will give them more of a challenge skiing moguls. Don’t laugh, but those skiers with the vintage 215cm Rossignols on the mogul trails are probably some of the best and most experienced skiers you’ll come across. However, if you’re new to skiing moguls it would be best to start out with a pair of shorter and lighter skis, being able to turn on a dime might just save you from a face full of powder.
If you live in the terrain park you’ll want shorter and lighter skis. Jumps, rails and spinning will be much easier. Terrain park skis will also have “twin tips” this means the front tips and rear tips are curved up the same. If you’re just beginning to learn tricks on skis definitely look for a light pair of skis that are easy to maneuver.
For those of you who don’t know what type of skiing you’ll be doing or don’t have a preference there are plenty of options available to you. A factor to consider when buying a general purpose ski is the degree of that sidecut you want. Almost all general purpose skis will have a large sidecut to make turning easier. For beginners it is probably best to get something in the middle, too much sidecut and you’ll be “catching an edge” every turn you make, too little and you won’t be able to turn very well. For the more experienced skier it’s really more of a personal preference and should reflect your style of skiing.
How much experience you have skiing will determine the length of downhill skis you should buy. The shorter the ski is the easier it will be to turn and maneuver. Beginners should get a short ski that is about shoulder height. Intermideiate skiers should have skis around chin height. Experts will usually want a longer ski that adds to the challenge of difficult terrain.
I hope this helps you in making a decision. Have fun out on the snow!