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Find the Right Skis

Consider where you ski most, factor in your ability, and pick the category that suits you best. Use the category descriptions below to examine the ski-width ranges and averages within each category of skis we review.
posted: 09/05/2009
Gear Guide 2010

Resort On-Piste: Perfect East Coast skis, these have waists around 80 millimeters and are built to carve, but they’re still wide enough to handle crud. Look here if you’re mainly a groomer skier—expert or advanced—who occasionally ventures off-piste.

Resort Mixed-Piste: At around 85 millimeters underfoot, these skis don’t just rip on hardpack—they can handle bumps, crud, and powder. They’re for experts and aspiring experts from Maine to Tahoe who spend almost as much time off the trail as they do on.

Resort Off-Piste: Expert Western resort skiers and occasional out-of-the-gate bootpackers, these are your skis. They boast strong edge hold on firm snow, but their width (average of 96 millimeters) provides a greater surface area for surfing powder and crud.

All-Mountain Twin Tip: You ski the whole resort, on the trail and off, and occasionally hit booters and ski switch. Waist widths in this group average 92 milli-meters. These skis are skewed more toward experts, but some are forgiving enough for intermediates.

Big-Mountain: These are fat (average 109 millimeters), floaty skis designed almost exclusively for soft snow, big turns, and high speeds. Experts who spend 80 percent of their time looking for deep snow and steep lines should shop in this category.

Powder Specialty: Think heli-skiing in Alaska. These are powder tools designed for maximum float in deep snow. They average 118 millimeters in the waist and feature rocker, modified tip designs, and other powder-specific tweaks.


So ... if you aren't an expert and you can't ski powder every day, what skis are you supposed to get? I don't fit into any of these categories. I'm an advanced intermediate, and I ski everything from crud to powder all over the mountain. I can't afford a quiver of skis for different conditions. I want a good, all-mountain ski that isn't beyond my ability level. Help!


Piste is a french term for trail.  So On-piste means that you are skiing groomed trails while off-piste means that you have moved off of groomed trails.  If you are looking for a true all mountain ski then your best bet is with the mixed-piste skis.  These are often called "all mountain skis" by the different manufacturers.  These will get you through groomed trails, the bumps, glades, and some powder.  If you ski more powder than groomed trails then you would be swayed more towards the resort off-piste skis.  If you ski primarily groomed trails in mixed conditions then the resort on-piste will be most helpful. 

Hope this helps,


I have a pair of rossignol z11's they are interchangeable for the conditions, soft arms for the powder and stiff arms for the groomers. Search and you can find a good deal on them. Best skis I have ever owned.

I'm rockin' a pair of z11s for most of my runs. They're definitely super good for most conditions. My only thing is that they aren't the best for speed whenever I'm trying to race someone a lighter than me. Anyway, great little reference sheet.

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