How to choose your on-piste skis
So, you've defined which type of alpine skis are best suited to your skiing habits, and you've decided to focus on finding the perfect skis for your adventures on groomed slopes. In this article, we will have a more detailed look at the various on-piste ski ranges available on the market and how understanding their different features can help you make the right choice.
Definition of on-piste skis
On-piste skis are built to maximize your capabilities on groomed slopes. Whether you ski for leisure, are always looking to improve your performance or want to ski fast in your next race, this is the range where you will find the perfect pair to meet your needs. But, if you are looking for more versatility, check out our all-mountain ski range and find a ski which will perform well both on-piste and when you are chasing powder off-piste.
Anatomy of an on-piste ski
In order to better understand the on-piste ski range, we need to look at the different elements that make a ski and the way each of them impacts performance:
A ski's waist is situated in the middle of the ski, where the binding is mounted. Waist width varies from 68mm for race skis to 80mm for skis used on accessible groomed runs.
The ski tip (sometimes called the shovel), at the front of the ski, is more flexible on skis made for easier groomed runs. Ski tips can sometimes have a slight rocker which makes them more versatile on powder snow.
On performance skis, the tail is rigid as to best hold an edge. On beginner's skis, the tail is more flexible to allow for more sideway skids when turning.
Bindings for skis made for groomed runs are generally packaged together with the skis. They are integrated and mounted on an adjustable rail. You can find out more about bindings by reading this article.
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The ski base, on which you glide, is found underneath the ski. Higher range skis have better quality ski bases that offer better performance and more durability.
How skis perform is influenced by the following features:
SKI DIMENSIONS: These are determined by measuring the width of the tip (shovel), waist (underfoot) and tail, in millimeters. They define the shape of the ski.
SKI LENGTH: For groomed runs, it is recommended to choose a ski length calculated by deducting between 5cm and 15cm from your height. Short skis are generally easier to handle and are often chosen by beginners, whereas longer skis are more stable at high speeds.
RIGIDITY: This can be measured at the tip, waist and tail. A more flexible tip will absorb shocks more than a rigid tip and will also provide less grip on hard-packed snow. Your physical build and technical level should determine how you select the rigidity at the waist of the ski. The higher your ability level, the more rigid your skis should be. The rigidity of the tail influences the behavior of your skis at the end of your turn, the more rigid it is the more grip you will experience. The more flexible the tail, the more forgiving the skis will be.
SIDECUT RADIUS: Also called turning radius, it is the natural arc the ski makes when turning. A short sidecut radius (between 12-15m) encourages tight turns whereas a longer sidecut radius (18-22m) is preferable if you like making longer turns.
CAMBER: This is the natural curve of the ski. When you set your ski down, it is the space between the ski base and the snow in the middle of your ski. Generally, skis with camber are more responsive.
WEIGHT: The weight of on-piste skis is less important than the weight of touring skis, however, a pair of light skis is easier to maneuver when going slower, and the skis are also easier to carry.
Choose an on-piste ski suited to your ability level
Choose a ski range that is suited to your ability level, your physical fitness and your goals.
Skis for easy, groomed runs
The ski range for easy, groomed runs is intended for beginners, occasional skiers or skiers who just want to enjoy the snow and the mountains and don't mind if their turns aren't perfect.
These skis are wide, to encourage stability (around 75-80mm waist width) and flexible. A rounded tail allows you to skid sideways smoothly at the end of your turns. Beginners should choose shorter skis (deducting 15cm from their height) to be able to turn easily.
Skis for performance on groomed runs
If you like speed and holding an edge, you should go for skis in the performance range. These skis will be able to more or less always adapt to your style of skiing, goals, and ability level.
These skis generally have a narrow waist width to encourage high angled edges and grip when turning. They also make shifting from edge to edge easier, so you can make quick turns more efficiently.
These rigid skis allow you to use the edges even on the most difficult, steep and icy runs. Choose a sidecut radius suited to your technique and preference towards tight or wide turns.
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Reserved for elite skiers, competition skis are rarely stocked in shops. They are specific to each discipline within alpine skiing: slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom and downhill.
Very narrow and extremely rigid, their dimensions and length are specifically designed for performance.
These are skis that don't allow any compromises and mastering turns from the top to the bottom of a run on them will be a challenge for many skiers!
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The choice of on-piste skis is principally made by taking into account your skiing level. Do you want to expand your skills and choose more versatile skis to venture beyond the groomed routes? There is an all-mountain range of skis that we describe in more detail in the article also dedicated to freeride skis.