Posted on Thursday, 28th of May 2015
Every snow season people flock to snow resorts keen to try the much loved sport of skiing for the very first time. First time lesson packages are popular and ski hire shops throng with crowds who cannot wait to slide around excitedly on snow, hopefully from the top to the bottom by holiday’s end.
The natural progression when things go well is to book the next snow holiday and think about purchasing skis for your very own. That’s where things come undone. What kind of skis should I buy? Is a question that sends keen new skiers to ski forums and ski sales but that comes with a caveat.
Brett Vale, Australia’s former best X Games skier knows his way around a pair of skis…or two and clears up the big new ski purchasing issue to save you time, money and a whole lot of trouble.
“The way skis are manufactured now makes skiing a lot easier for people, and the plethora of equipment out there means you have to get the right ski for your ability,” Brett says. “Getting the right ski for your ability can improve your skiing out of sight, but if you don’t get the correct skis for your ability it can cause the progress you have enjoyed to go backwards,” he warns, adding this can have an effect on your confidence and even cause an injuries.
If you spend 80% of your time or more on groomed runs (areas maintained by snow patrols and snow grooming machines and graded to each ability level of beginner, intermediate and advanced) Brett advises purchasing carved skis.
“Carved skis can improve your fundamentals because they improve the turns you do down the mountain. Carved skis have a narrow wait that assists in initiating turns”.
From a chairlift do a people watching exercise and look at the way skiers turn left and right down the mountain. Less experienced skiers have greater trouble initiating turns and having the confidence that skis beneath their feet will turn when they want them to.
All Mountain Skis
These type of skis are wider in the waist and give the versatility to go off-piste (on areas of the snow resort that are not easily accessible to grooming machines and therefore are rough, uneven and unpredictable in snow appearance and texture).
More advanced skiers purchase this type of ski because they love the unpredictability and challenge of different ski surfaces.
Brett says “An all-mountain ski is not a good choice as your very first set of purchased skis if you’re moving from beginner to intermediate. If you lack confidence as a skier the all mountain ski will also be no good for you”. He recommends “If you spend more than 50% of your ski time on off-piste areas and you complement Australian ski holidays with trips to resorts like Japan, where off-piste conditions can be plentiful, the all-mountain ski will be more your style”.
Patience is the order of the day as skiers progress from beginner to intermediate to advanced with each ski trip. “When you first start out, just hire skis” Brett says. “You will progress quite quickly from beginner to intermediate if you put the hours in”.
When buying skis his advice is to purchase intermediate skis, rather than advanced ones, as skis can be sold online and funds received can be put towards new skis as ability increases.
Flex in Skis
Stand your ski upright and pull the top of the ski back on itself, just a little. This refers to ‘the flex’ in your skis and it’s something you can’t do with a tennis racquet or hockey stick. Flex can often be soft or hard and can impact on your ability to ‘push off ‘ on the snow.
Ski manufacturers put their own ability recommendation on each ski rated beginner, intermediate, advanced, intermediate-advanced. For more info on ski flex, check out this short video:
Brett’s advice on the matter is “go with what the manufacturer recommends. They’ve been tested on a bunch of people to get the rating. Use it to guide you in the right direction.”
What about the age old habit of seeing what the hot shot skiers are using and going with that? Won’t that help in getting you down the hill faster and in good shape? Brett is pretty clear on the subject “Don’t buy advanced skis, go with your actual ability”.
These are necessary once skiers move beyond absolute beginner status, they’re used to assist in initiating turns and giving stability and balance when going down a mountain.
They have to be held in the correct manner, as taught by an instructor. In regard to buying your own poles, the colour and brand name are all yours to do as you please but Brett’s word on the matter is to not use your mate’s poles.
“Make sure you use the right size poles. When you’re trying them out in a shop, turn the poles upside down and put your hand around the pole just underneath the basket. if your hand is a 90 degree angle to the ground (with pole touching the floor) it’s a good fit”.
Get the person from the ski shop to assist you, they will have an extra eye for what constitutes 90 degrees to the floor, sometimes it’s hard to judge for yourself.
The same rules for skis apply for kids, except in regard to poles. Children by their very nature are getting on top of balance and stability as fundamental concepts in sport. They haven’t had years doing sports that adults have. Poles aren’t necessary until children become intermediate level, sometimes later intermediate, as grasping poles, watching their feet, learning to make turns, following adults so they don’t lose their skiing party, listening to instructions and making sure they don’t get lost or run over is akin to adult circus juggling.
Poles are just one more thing to get their head around, thus poles remain optional until advised by a professional instructor that their individual level of maturity and ability has reached the optimal point. Then the poles come into play.
Hiring vs Buying
There is a lot to be said for buying your own gear as you can become more familiar with it and, if you look after it well, you can cover some serious on snow miles before you need to replace it. However hiring equipment is a good way to test the water and it does provide flexibility in being able to change gear at a whim. It is also a great way to “test drive” skis before you buy to make sure you are happy with your choice. Just make sure you hire gear that has been regularly tuned and serviced so the skis perform as they are designed to.
Buying and Selling Skis
Depending on your cash flow, opportunities to buy and sell skis online and in stores is plentiful. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as they say and the author of this article has been in luck at op shops with buying children’s skis for $10 apiece, taking innocent advantage of whatever price the sweet volunteers propose.
If you have the time, it’s worth scouring the garage sales for this season. If you’re time poor but don’t mind an online browse try gumtree and ebay. There are always amazing deals to froth about and they’re usually negotiable.
There’s the newcomer to the second hand sale scene sellbuyswap. Keep your eye on this one, it’s a smaller market but it’s the word on lots of lips at the moment. If you’re down in Jindabyne over the long Queen’s birthday weekend don’t forget the massive 2nd hand sale at the Memorial Hall in the Jindabyne main street. Otherwise Larry Adler Jindabyne , Sydney City, Chatswood and Collaroy in Sydney are always knowledgeable about their skis. Jindabyne Sports are another professional operator with an excellent range and great service.
On the way to the snow and feel like a stopover for a coffee and a shop for skis? Check out Cooma’s Rhythm Sports. It’s open 24 hours. What else have you got to do at 3 o’clock in the morning? Might as well shop for new skis. They frequently have ex-rentals for sale, get in quick, they’re popular to purchase.
If you take Brett’s tips onboard and don’t get ahead of yourself, your ski ability will exceed ego and you’ll have those Sean White pro skis in no time. Just have patience.
Got your skis sorted and thinking of heading down to Thredbo with a bunch of mates or family? Be sure to check out what self-contained apartments are available at Lantern Thredbo Apartments. Give them a call and they’ll set you up with the perfect place to suit everyone in your ski party.
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