If there is one reason to be excited for winter, it is the start of the ski season! To enjoy the slopes, however, you need the right equipment. After selecting your ski boots and bindings, you’ll need to choose the right pair of skis to go along with them. Let’s explore the different criteria to consider in order to make the purchase of your new companions easier – and choose the right skis for your needs.

Whether it’s your first pair of skis or not, buying skis is a big deal! There are a multitude of models and types of skis on the market to suit different levels and types of skiers. Finding the right skis for your needs shouldn’t be a headache when you know what features to look for. Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying your skis.

1. Identify where you are skiing

Groomed slopes

Do you like to get your ski edges to bite into the corduroy and practice your turns at high speeds on groomed runs? Then piste skis are a good choice for you. They are equally suited to beginner and intermediate skiers because of their narrow, easy-to-maneuver geometry. They also offer good grip on firm snow. 

Mixed terrain

Are you a beginner and not sure what type of ski to choose? All-terrain skis are the safe option for you. They allow you to ski on firm, groomed and icy trails as well as in glades, moguls and shallow powder. There are a variety of all-terrain ski geometries that appeal to skiers of different skill levels. Their versatility is due to their reverse camber (rocker) which allows them to perform well on many types of terrain. 

Powder and backcountry

If you’re always on the lookout for untracked snow and powder, steer clear of groomed trails, or want to get into backcountry touring, look no further: freeride skis are for you! Much wider than other types of skis, they’re designed to offer good float in deep snow. This doesn’t mean that powder skis are difficult to handle – au contraire! Their sidecut and rocker profile guarantee good control on hard-packed snow.

Choosing the shape and stiffness of the skis

The width of the skis

The width of a ski is expressed in millimeters by three numbers that correspond to the width of the front part, the width under the foot and the width of the rear part respectively. The most important measurement, the one you should keep in mind, is the width under the foot, which is more commonly called “width at the skate”. When in doubt, remember that it is usually the smallest of the three.

  • 84 mm or less

Skis with a skate width of 70 to 84 mm fall into the category of piste skis. They are precise and stable on groomed snow.

  • 85 to 99 mm

Wider, and therefore suitable for more conditions, the 85 to 99 mm skis are suitable for all types of terrain. They are as versatile on the slopes as in the underbrush.

  • 100 to 120

Slightly less stable on hard-packed snow, but highly maneuverable in powder, wide skis were designed to float in deep snow. However, their large size makes them heavier than narrow skis.

The radius

What is the radius of a ski? It is the subtle curve that you can see between the tail and the tip, it refers to the lateral arc of the ski. The more pronounced the lateral arc, the shorter the radius. In practical terms, the radius determines how easily you can turn your skis. A short radius allows you to turn your skis quickly, while a longer radius will turn you more slowly, but will allow you to be more stable at higher speeds. This measurement is usually expressed in metres.

For tight, dynamic turns, choose a ski with a radius of 16 metres or less. Piste skis often have a 16 metre radius.

All-terrain and powder skis usually have a radius of 17 to 18 metres. They offer more stability at high speeds, but sacrifice agility in turns.

If you like to make big turns at very high speeds, the large radius skis (19 to 22 m) are for you. 

The camber and reverse camber

The camber determines the arch of the ski under the foot when it is placed on the ground, without applying weight. A camber-type ski will have the ends (tail and tip) that will remain in contact with the ground when no load is placed on the ski. This type of ski offers the advantage of maintaining its stability at high speed. It is also more flexible. On the other hand, skis with a high camber should be avoided by beginners, as they are more difficult to handle in turns. They are a good choice for intermediate to advanced skiers looking for speed.

When we refer to reverse camber, more often called rocker, we are referring to a ski model whose center touches the ground while the ends are either curved or strongly raised, giving it a banana-like shape. The advantage of this geometry is that it floats in powder, but is not effective on firm snow because of the reduced surface area in contact with the ground.

The most versatile ski of all will have a rocker-camber geometry which has a mustache-like shape. This type of ski is a good choice for everyone because of its stability and buoyancy on all types of terrain.

3. How to choose the length of your skis

There is no strict rule when it comes to choosing the length of your skis. The preferred length is mainly determined by the skier’s height and weight. Skill level can also influence the length of the skis. Keep in mind that this is mostly a matter of personal preference.

Your Height

Ski length is measured in centimeters. If you are a beginner skier, the height of your skis should be between your chin and forehead when you are standing. An experienced skier should be able to handle skis that are longer than their height. 

Your Weight

Regardless of the skier’s size, weight and skill level will determine the length of the skis you choose. A very light skier should choose shorter skis and a heavier skier will get better control by choosing longer skis.

Your Skill Level

The shorter the skis, the more maneuverable they will be. Longer skis will have the advantage of being more stable. It is therefore recommended that beginners choose shorter skis. The height of your skis should be between your chin and your lips if you are a beginner. Intermediate skiers who are not new to skiing will do fine with nose-level tips. Advanced skiers can choose a pair of skis that come up to their forehead. Only the expert skiers will find their needs met with skis that are above their heads, considering that they love speed and powder.

Pro Tip!

What is the difference between men's and women's skis?

When shopping for your new pair of skis, you will notice that there are models for men and women. While there are different variations, you don't have to choose your skis based on your gender. Although women's skis are sometimes a tad lighter and shorter than men's models, experienced women skiers are just as capable of skiing with men's skis. As long as they are comfortable! In fact, the only difference is often the colour...


Q: Which skis to choose for beginners?

A: Beginning skiers can choose either piste or all-terrain skis. It is also recommended to choose shorter skis, reaching between the chin and the lips when standing in front of your skis.

Q: Are light skis better than heavy skis?

A: Lightweight skis perform better in backcountry touring than heavy skis. However, light skis sacrifice stability at high speeds. It is the weight of the skier that should be taken into consideration when choosing a ski model.

Q: How to choose ski bindings?

A: When buying ski bindings, it is important to consider their compatibility with your ski boots, and to know your DIN setting. Find out how to choose ski bindings in our article on this subject.

Q: How to choose ski boots?

Comfort is the main criteria when buying ski boots. Knowing your foot measurements can help you find the right boot for you. Find out how to choose ski boots in our article on the subject.

The choice of your new pair of skis depends on your level and your favourite playground. Are you a beginner? Intermediate? Advanced? Expert? Do you prefer groomed trails, the back-country, or both? These answers will guide your choice of skis.

At Altitude Sports, you’ll find skis that suit both those who’ll be making their grand entrance on the slopes this winter, and those who have already accomplished many runs.

Have a great season on the slopes!