Types of Alpine skis

As with any attempt to categorize anything, we had to draw the line somewhere. Remember that there are exceptions that may fit easily into two categories and others that stubbornly refuse to fit into any. The following list is the most accurate characterization of skis we could come up with:

Racing:    volkl_racetiger_SL

  • narrow at the waist with the stiffest flex in a company’s line; outstanding edging ability at high speed
  • come as either tight-radius Slalom skis or with long-radius Giant Slalom (GS) sidecuts
  • requires the most technique and strength to control; experts only

Gate-bashing at high speeds. If you race, these skis can keep up with you. They are constructed to handle high-speed vibrations, hold turns on the iciest slopes and go really fast. If you’re looking at racing skis then you probably know you need them. Being so skinny and so stiff means that racing skis are best kept on the groomed slopes.

Carving/Groomed trails:  

  • possess the narrowest waists for quickness and superior edgeholding ability – 74mm to 85mm
  • generally the best-suited to ski groomed runs
  • skis are suited to all ability levels
  • these will have a minimal amount of rocker to maintain a snappy feel with good pop out of turns

Skis in this category are designed with performance on groomers in mind. Their narrow waists lend excellent quickness from edge-to-edge, which means that biting onto harder snow takes less effort. More time carving turns means less time skidding out of them. Models are available for all ability levels: A beginner will enjoy a softer-flexing ski that is easy-turning and forgiving to mistakes in technique. The more advanced folks can find skis to match their own style, be it long-radius turns at high speed or short slalom-esque arcs down the fall line. Their narrow figure and stiffer flexes make carving skis bog down and sink in softer snow and powder (which tires you out quickly), but their power on the harder stuff is unmatched.

Mid-Fat / All-Mountain:  bonafide

  • intermediate waist dimensions; more floatation in powder and stability in crud – 90mm to 100+ mm
  • are designed to be skied both on groomers and off, where snow conditions are natural
  • skis are suited to all ability levels
  • these skis will have moderate rocker in the tip and usually tail for easy turning both on the trail and in the powder

These skis have the width to handle the variable snow and powder that is found out of bounds, but can still happily spend the day shredding up groomers. Intermediates looking for new challenges in the glades will appreciate their versatility. Anyone who anticipates seeking thrills beyond the corduroy and the rattling liftline may indeed find their ambrosia here. Of course, these skis don’t have the appetite for powder as fatter skis, nor can they beat hard snow into submission like carving skis, but these are often fine sacrifices to make if you are looking for a one-ski quiver.

Super-Fat / Powder :  

  • the fattest waists around provide buoyancy like you’ve been sucking helium – 110mm to 130+mm
  • supreme float and turning ease in natural snow – it’s almost like cheating
  • These will come with the most rocker of all for steering in the deep
  • We love them, but really it’s mostly the powder we use them in

Everybody is saying it: “Fat is the new thin.” These big-waisted beauties are targeted at those skiers who enjoy spending the majority of their time in ungroomed terrain. Skiing on that strange backcountry hash that mother nature whips up when she’s of a mind can be a difficult, unstable, thigh-burning experience on narrower skis. Fat skis are certainly up to the task, and simply put, your turns will be more easily made and you will fall less. Skis that weigh in at the heavier end of this category (100mm+) are designed to dominate powder (and soft groomers if necessary), so make sure you have a couple other pairs of skis suited to New England’s icier (and uglier) mood swings.

Twin-Tips:volkl kink

  • possess two tips to make it easier to ski backwards and perform certain tricks
  • often are wider in the waist for stability on rails or when landing jumps
  • come as specific park-only models as well as in versatile all-mountain versions
  • More freeride style versions will usually come with some rocker and most park and pipe skis will come with minimal to no rocker

Open up new skiing possibilities. Though they excel in the park and pipe, most twin tips are not limited to that arena only. They will ski well in the trees and through powder because of their softer flex and wider body, but can also cut smooth arcs on groomers.