After our recent trip to Utah, my kids came home insisting they would like to ski more. Since we have only skied a couple of times I thought it would be best to start looking for the best beginner skis. Starting a new activity like skiing is exciting but can also be intimidating and expensive, so I decided to find the right skis for my beginners was well worth the research and the time. So you can spend less time online like I did and more time on the slopes, here are 5 things to know when choosing the best skis for a beginner as well as some beginner ski suggestions that won’t break the bank.
Things to know before purchasing skis for a beginner
As you shop for beginner skis, keep in mind that skis come in women’s and men’s models. Gender-specific skis are designed to not only accommodate a person’s size but to also account for how a person moves and carries his or her weight. Although these design difference are subtle, for most beginner skiers, they make a big difference.
Keep Your Options Open: Rent or Demo Beginner Skis Before You Buy Them
Because everybody is built and learns differently, the same pair of skis won’t always work as well for one person as they do for another. If you’re a beginner skier, and you try a pair of skis that meets all of these guidelines, but something doesn’t feel right, don’t give up on skiing. Swap the skis out for a different brand or model. This is obviously not ideal if you’ve purchased skis, so that’s why we started by renting different skis on our first trip to the slopes.
Many ski rental shops offer rental or demo packages, so always be sure to ask. Some even offer demo packages that allow beginner skiers to try different types of skis and then apply what they paid for the demo package to whichever pair of skis they decide to buy. Plus, if you rent skis it is one less thing toput on your ski packing list.
Size Matters: How to Choose the Best Ski Size for a Beginner
These ski size recommendations are assuming that the beginner skier is starting on a groomed mountain and a beginner run, which is a great place for a new skier to start. Our instructor Helen at Solitude Mountain let us know that if the beginner is starting in the backcountry or in deep powder, which is not recommended but perhaps the only option, then longer and wider skis are the way to go. Skiing in deep snow, however, takes more skill and endurance than skiing on a groomed mountain, so although crushing waist-deep powder looks amazing and is the ultimate goal, it’s not an ideal starting point for a beginner skier.
The Best Ski Length for Beginners
In general, beginner skiers should start on skis that are a bit shorter than the skis an expert would use. Shorter skis are easier to control because they are more responsive when turning and stopping, which are the two main skills beginner skiers learn. Choose skis that, when placed vertically on the ground at the tip of your toes, come to somewhere between your chin and your forehead. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but as close to the tip of your nose as possible is a common rule. Ella had her beginner skis at first below her chin and she really enjoyed it as it gave her more control.
The Best Ski Width for Beginners
A pair of skis’ width is usually determined with three measurements: tip width, waist width, and tail width. The tip width is usually the widest part of the front, or shovel, of the ski. The waist is the width of the middle of the ski, which is usually the most narrow part. And, the tail width is the widest part of the back of the ski. These measurements are typically given in millimeters.
Beginners really only need to pay attention to the waist width. Narrower waisted skis are easier to turn and handle on groomed runs, so they are generally recommended for beginners. A common recommendation is 70-90mm for groomed runs and all-mountain skis, which are skis that are designed to do well in a variety of conditions.
Be Flexible: Choose Beginner Skis That Are More Flexible
More flexible skis are easier to turn, and they respond better to adjustments on the mountain. They also allow the skier to feel more of the terrain, and they are more forgiving when a skier suddenly stops or falls.
Rockers, Cambers, and Hybrids, Oh My!
With so many advancements and innovations hitting the market each season, skis come with a variety of features that are meant to make navigating certain types of terrain at certain speeds under certain conditions as easy and enjoyable as possible. Many advanced skiers have more than one pair of skis.
As a beginner, you’re going to want to invest in one pair, and you’re likely most concerned with controlling your turns and stops on groomed runs. For these reasons, choosing a pair of skis with basic camber and rocker features will enable you to manage your turns while feeling more stable and able to advance in one pair of skis.
In general, a beginner skier will benefit from hybrid skis and will also do well with skis that are only cambered. A beginner should not use fully rockered skis that are not also cambered. Don’t worry, if you’re wondering what the heck all of that means, we’re here to help you out.
If you lay a cambered ski on a flat surface, you will notice that it rests on points near the tip and the tail, and there is a slight gap or arch at the middle, or waist, of the ski. That arch or bend is known as the camber. Most skis have it, and as a beginner, you want it. Camber enhances flexibility, turning responsiveness, and overall stability. It’s especially helpful on groomed runs.
You want to make sure you get skis that have positive camber, which is also sometimes called standard alpine camber.
Rocker is when the skis contact the snow like the rails of a rocking chair, so they bend or arch upward like the letter “U”. A Rocker is basically the opposite of camber, and it is also sometimes called reverse or negative camber. Rocker enhances performance on powder and when freestyling in parks or halfpipes. Powder, parks, and pipes are not things a beginner skier should tackle, so fully rockered skis are not a good choice for someone learning how to ski.
Some great hybrid skis come with rockered tips and a cambered center. This is a great option for a beginner because it will allow the skier to easily graduate into more difficult terrain while also gaining the stability and maneuverability benefits of both features.
Shop Smart: Where to Buy and What to Spend on Beginner Skis
Keeping everything in this beginner skis buying guide in mind, it’s always a good idea to go to a ski shop to consult an expert in person. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy your skis from that shop. A good shop will have experts on staff who can measure you and provide some options. In an age when online shopping usually saves you the most cash, there’s nothing wrong with consulting a ski shop, noting good options, and then looking for deals online. To stay competitive, many brick-and-mortar shops offer price matching options, so always ask.
Buying something shiny and new is always fun, but you’ll likely find the best deals on beginner skis if you buy used. Many ski shops offer used options and host ski swaps and sales at the beginning and end of the ski season. Buying used from a shop in person is the best idea because you can consult an expert, see and try the skis, and they may even come with a limited return policy.
If you buy used from a private party, like from someone off of Craigslist, then bring someone with you who knows skis, or ask if you can bring the skis to a shop for an inspection before you buy them.
You can get a great pair of beginner skis with bindings for under $500. Be leery of anything less than $200. If you want something shiny and new and another great way to save is try stuff on in a ski store and then order online at stores like Amazon.
The Best Skis for Beginners
With a lightweight poplar wood core and Rossignol’s stability features, the Experience 74 is a great beginner ski that is easy to handle and forgiving on the mountain. They also feature an all-terrain rocker, allowing a beginner to transition into intermediate terrain. Check Current Prices Here!
Designed with beginner skiers in mind, Atomic’s Vantage X 75 C skis are meant to boost confidence on groomers while new skiers learn how to turn, stop, and gain speed. With a thinner waist, they offer plenty of edge control, especially on packed snow. These are truly some of the best beginner skiis around. Check Current Prices Here!
Also a great choice for beginners learning how to navigate and strengthen skills on groomed runs, K2’s Konic 78 skis offer lightweight construction with solid edges and a narrow waist. They’re also designed with features to enable new skiers to transition into more challenging terrain. Check them out here!
Crafted with beginners in mind, Elan’s Element skis deliver stability and control. They have a Parabolic Rocker Profile and Groove Technology for added balance. Check them out here!
By taking the time now to find the right pair of beginner skis, you can enjoy more of your time while you’re on the slopes. With the right size, flexibility, and features, a great pair of beginner skis can get yourself properly prepared to ski down the mountain. That being said, I highly recommend ski lessons for anyone learning to ski. You will have so much more fun if you taked the time to have a couple lessons. We tried without lessons once and it was a terrible mistake.
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