Most of the skis that are currently available on the market are designed to fit in one or two different ski riding styles. As a basic guide, we will go through some of the ski riding styles categories that are most used by ski manufacturers. However not every ski will fit perfectly in a certain category, there is always some overlap.
This riding style is focussed on handling any type of terrain you may find on the mountain. However, it can be difficult to find a ski in this category that truly does everything well. When you buy a ski that can go anywhere you may sacrifice performance for overall versatility. Most of the skiers that ride all-mountain often buy only one pair of skis that can do it. All-mountain skis are great when you want to spend your days exploring the entire mountain and prefer the groomed slopes instead of riding powder. All-mountain skis are suitable for all ages and ability levels.
Big Mountain and Freeride
Skis that are designed for big mountain adventures are meant for riding with high speed and laying down big lines. They are built for advanced and expert riders and big mountain skis usually don’t find their way to groomed slopes or hard packed snow. Big mountain skis feel at home on mountains with huge vertical drops. Because of the needed strength and durability, these skis are sometimes heavier and stiff. They are available in a variety of widths, from narrow to wide, whereby the wider ones can be seen more often. Big mountain skis are able to float well on powder but most of the time prefer to just plunge through it at high speed.
These types of skis are for those days when your favourite mountain resort is covered in a thick layer of fresh snow. In order to keep you afloat in these conditions, powder skis have an early rise tip and tail plus more rocker. Furthermore, they’re mostly light weighted and have a soft flex. Since they are specially made for riding in powder they don’t ride well on other mountain terrains. They can perform well enough on groomed slopes but you should keep them at home when the snow isn’t deep enough.
When you enjoy carving turns on groomed trails, then you might consider frontside carving skis. These skis are usually slimmer at the waist and offer a shorter turning radius. This allows for a more responsive turn initiation and better edge to edge transitions. This type of ski is usually directional with a flat tail. They also have a significant amount of camber which will give you more contact with the snow. Beginners skis in this category are often easy to turn and handle more forgiving, while the advanced skis will be more responsive and offer powerful transitions. Competition or race skis are also part of this category but are usually more specific in shape, design, and performance.
Freestyle skis are built for skiers who spend most of their time riding in the terrain park or on the half pipe. They are a bit shorter than other skis and fall in the narrow to a mid-fat range. To compensate for the abuse of freestyle riding some of these skis have a thicker base and durable edges. Freestyle skis usually don’t ski well on other parts of the mountain.
When it is time to leave the groomed slopes and terrain parks you will most likely head out into the backcountry for some alpine touring. Since you will be going uphill, backcountry skis are generally lighter, yet still, have solid performance when you go back downhill. Sometimes skiers bring these skis to resorts but they definitely feel more at home in the mountain’s backcountry. To complete your gear you should also look for special backcountry bindings.