Go Play Gear: Finding the right ski, get out and demo

Sebastian Foltz
Testing skis and snowboards at a demo day can be the best way to find out what you're looking for in a ski.
Sebastian Foltz / |

There was a time when getting a new pair of skis was mostly about picking the right length and the brand you wanted.

But now it’s almost as if there’s a ski for every snow condition.

Two feet of fresh snow? Full rocker 140 underfoot.

Shredding the park? Maybe 95 underfoot twin tip, and throw in a little early rise.

Just carving groomers? Standard camber with a nice turning radius.

Reverse camber, sidecut, early rise, tip and tail width, standard camber, rockered — it’s enough to make even a knowledgeable skier’s head spin. Finding the right ski can be daunting. It’s to the point where any serious skier is probably working toward a quiver. And the same goes for snowboards.

That said, there are plenty of versatile all-mountain skis out there.

So how does one sift through the madness when the time comes to upgrade?

“Try everything that’s out there,” Chris Dean, a Meier Skis builder, suggested recently at Copper Mountain’s Colorado Demo Days. “There are so many options out there. It just makes sense to see what you like and what you don’t like.”

You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive; it should be the same approach with skis and snowboards.

And don’t be afraid to ask the dumb question. You won’t be the first or last person to do so.

“We simplify it by showing them the different skis,” Copper Mountain Rebel Sports ski tech Seth Dumph said.

At the end of the day, it’s “what ski works for them,” he added.

He, like many in the ski rental and retail world, said it’s all about matching the skier or snowboarder with the right kind of equipment for what they want to do.

“The first thing we would do is check what kind of skiing they are doing,” he said.

An intermediate groomed-run skier, for example, won’t need a ski that’s 5½ inches underfoot.

One of the best things to do is check out one of the many demo days held throughout the winter. And again don’t be afraid to ask about the gear; all the new technologies are hard to keep track of.

Some area retailers may also offer a demo package with credit toward the purchase of new skis.

Like Dean, Dumph also suggested trying as many pairs as you can. Sometimes, it’s even be a good idea to step away from your comfort zone.

Now if finances are more of a concern, it’s worth noting that the radical design changes of the last five years have slowed down somewhat. A lot of manufacturers haven’t changed much between their 2013-14 and 2014-15 model year skis. For many the only real change is an aesthetic one, simply changing the design on the topsheet.

Now is the time to check out the shops for deals on leftover demo skis from last season or last year’s models on clearance. Not going for the ski that’s fresh out of the press can definitely save some beer money.

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