Skis - Types, Flex, and Rocker Profiles

Shopping for new skis does not have to be an intimidating or daunting task. If you’re equipped with the right information you can find the pair of skis to select for yourself or someone you may be purchasing for. Let us guide you to the right information to make the process simple and easy. Once you start looking around you will quickly see that there are a lot of options for you to choose from. To start narrowing it down you will need to answer two key questions, which gender skis are you looking to buy and what terrain are you riding? And then from there take into consideration a couple of other items regarding skill level, waist width, and ski profile.

Table of Contents

Gender

The simplest question you will need to answer is what gender skis you’re looking for. You may be curious why this matters, but the construction and materials used in skis is important so that the ski performs properly and makes your skiing experience enjoyable.

Mens Skis: You will find that men’s skis will come in all shapes and sizes and designed for skiers with varying ability levels or for a variety of terrain options. And while they will most commonly be referred to as “men’s skis” you may also come across some models that will be designated as “unisex”. While these skis can be used by both men and women alike, it is very much advised that women ski on women’s specific skis.

Womens Skis: Skis that are designed specifically for women have many differences from men’s or unisex skis. Women’s skis, you will find, are typically lighter in weight, softer in flex, and shorter in length. The design adjustments are important because women often have a lower center of gravity, weigh less, have a lower average height, and as a result there is less exertion of leverage and force on their skis. In most cases thinner and/or softer materials will be used in the construction. This doesn’t mean that female skiers looking to rip and hard-charge can’t find skis specifically designed for women don’t have options, far from it actually. Nor does it mean that any woman interested in a men’s or unisex ski can’t ski well on a men’s ski, but with the shift over the years to designing skis specifically for women there’s no reason not to consider all the options.

Kids Skis: Whether your son or daughter is new to the sport or you’re just moving up in size it is important to make sure that your ski selection is beyond just a cool looking graphic or is their favorite color. The reason is that a bad ski choice will make or break whether the love of the sport grows or not.

Most skis you will come across for kids are “system skis”. This means that the bindings come with the ski and are perfectly paired. Most models are designed to be forgiving, with the exceptions for kids who have skied for a few seasons and advanced to more daring parts of the mountain. Lastly, it is important to note that the construction of boys and girls skis is not different. This means that while some skis may say “girls” or “boys” they can be used by either.

Ski Waist Width

As has been discussed briefly above, different ski types have different waist widths. The waist width is associated with snow condition you will be skiing in. Skinnier waisted skis are great for beginner level skiers, ideal for carving turns on trail, they are quick to transition from edge-to-edge, and quite easy to maneuver around on. Wider skis, as we will discuss in further detail below allow for better floatation when in powder and more stability when off-trail.

Under 85mm: Skis with a waist width at or below 85mm are geared toward skiers who will be spending almost all of their time on groomed trails. And while the skinny waist of these skis is great for beginners, that does not mean that they are only for beginners. Slim waisted skis can range from beginner all the way to expert level. Beginners will typically find skis in this waist range are light, agile, and easy to control. Skier levels above beginner will often find that the higher-caliber carving skis are also agile while providing just enough width to power through any loose, cruddy snow that randomly pops up on groomed runs.

85-95mm: While not exclusively used for on-trail skiing, skis in this waist range are geared towards those conditions, but if in the 90-95mm range can offer some extra stability and maneuverability in those occasional off-trail excursions.

96-110mm: As we outlined above in our terrain type section, this is the sweet spot in waist width for All-Mountain skis who desire one ski that has true versatility. The waist width is optimal for making any style turn you desire, whether medium or long radius on groomed and on-trail snow, but also can transition quickly to floating in powder conditions when you’re feeling adventurous and hitting the powder pockets.

111mm & Up: If you’re a powder hound and just enjoy the serenity of the backcountry and ungroomed skiing, this will be where you will want to look. The skis in this waist width provide most optimal flotation for deep snow and are super stable in crud or bumps. The compromise you have to make here is with agility, but they are manageable enough to get back to any lift for another run in the deep stuff.

Skill Level

Beginner: For skiers who have either never skied before or have very limited experience (is new) to the sport learning the basic skills of skiing and control.

Intermediate: For skiers who have spent a season or more learning the fundamentals of skiing and have control over their skis while skiing. They are cautious, but comfortable at moderate speed and may seek more challenging terrain from time to time. Beginner level skiers who are more athletic or slightly heavier may consider skis in this group so they are not overpowering their skis.

Advanced-Intermediate: Skiers who have mastered the basics and show solid technique in their progression. Skiers here make more aggressive turns on groomed runs and will begin to explore off-trail skiing as their comfort and confidence levels continue to increase. Moderate speed skiing is done with minimal cation unless conditions require it.

Advanced: For skiers with very solid technique on advanced level terrain. They can handle most every snow condition and can do so with relative ease. They often will ski at higher speeds but may do so with some caution depending on conditions.
Expert: For skiers who are capable of skiing in control at high speeds safely regardless of snow conditions. They have strong technique, will ski aggressively, and require a boot that will provide the necessary flex and support for the aggressive style.

What Type of Skis Should I Get?

Another, maybe slightly more complicated question you will need to answer is what terrain you will be skiing on as this will help you to further narrow down the type of skis you’re looking for.

All-Mountain

Appropriately named, All-Mountain skis are perfect for, you guessed it, the entire mountain. Almost like a Swiss Army knife, these skis are designed to tackle anything and everything. Whether you’re on powder, on ice, skiing groomers or steep runs, or Read more

All-Mountain

Freestyle

For those that are daring and enjoy spending their ski time in the terrain park or the pipe, Freestyle skis are where you want to look. If your idea of a good time is hitting boxes, rails, jumps and jibbing Read more

Freestyle

Freeride/Powder

Ready to get into some deep snow? This style of ski is where you will be looking if deep powder days are on your itinerary. Skis in this category are WIDE. How wide? We’re talking at least 111mm, maybe even Read more

Freeride/Powder

Alpine Touring

A unique style of ski, also commonly referred to as AT or even Backcountry skis, this style of ski is extremely lightweight and is designed for going uphill as well as downhill. They often accommodate “climbing skis” and can vary Read more

Alpine Touring

Race

Designed for those with the need for speed. Race skis have one objective…go fast. So if you’re a racer and you’re looking to go fast any time, all the time, this is where you want to look. The materials and Read more

Race

Ski Flex

Very Soft

For beginner skiers and children, this is going to be where you want to look. Skis that are very soft in flexibility are extremely forgiving, easy to control, and are easy to learn on as well.

Soft

Beginners can look here as well or skiers who are advancing from beginner level up to intermediate. You get the control you want but can increase your speed a little bit as your ability progresses. They also don’t require quite as much energy that you would need at medium flex if you’re not quite there yet.

Medium

The spot that most skiers will find comfort in is the medium flex. Intermediate, advanced-intermediate, and beyond will find plenty to select from in this flex category. Skis here will perform at varying speed levels, will remain stable and easy to control as well.

Stiff

Speed enthusiasts and advanced to expert level skiers will look here. The stiff flex flourishes in high speed runs and is super responsive, However you will need to have the appropriate skill set and technique to handle skis here.

Very Stiff

For the most hard-charging, heaviest, and/or aggressive skiers, the ski flex you will want is in the very stiff category.

Rocker Profile

Unlike the days of old, skis today have a variety of rocker & camber profiles in the tip, tail, or both. Below we will explore the variations you will likely encounter when dialing in which skis you will choose for your skiing ability.

Camber

The most traditional of all of the profiles you will come across, Camber profile skis will have a raised look in the center when the ski is on the ground without anyone or anything on it. Due to their design you will find that they provide the strongest edge-hold, stability, and responsiveness when skiing groomers and on-trail runs.

Tip Rocker/Camber

A ski that has a Rocker/Camber profile combines the traditional elements of a camber ski with a Rocker profile in the tip of the ski. The rocker tip design allows the ski to initiate into turns quickly and float better when encountering softer snow, while the traditional camber elements provide the stability. When sifting through the skis you may want to purchase you will find most All-Mountain skis will feature this type of profile.

Rocker/Camber/Rocker

Skis in this class will feature the same characteristics as you will find in Rocker/Camber profile skis, but the added rocker in the tail of the ski helps to release you out of your turn more quickly. This means that the ski will maneuver more quickly, particularly in off-trail scenarios. This design is also optimal for skiers who are advancing their skiing ability. If you’re looking for versatility in ski profile the Rocker/Camber/Rocker profile is the ideal selection.

Full Rocker Profile

Notable for their “U-Shape” when you place the ski flat on the ground, your Full Rocker profile skis have a noticeable rise in the tip and tail of the ski. This profile is targeted for skis that run in the deep stuff because their unique design creates premium flotation. And while most All-Mountain skis typically feature a Rocker/Camber profile, Full Rocker profiles are being used in more and more All-Mountain skis each year.

With Bindings

The purpose of this filter is to help you find either System Skis (with a binding) or Flat Skis (without a binding). If you’re looking for some convenience and simply want to go with the bindings recommended for the skis then select “Yes” to look at System skis. System skis have a plate that allows the binding that comes with the skis to be mounted, while also creating a smoother and more performance oriented approach. The bindings are not typically attached and it is still important to have a certified technician properly mount and adjust your bindings to your boots. If you want a bit more flexibility in terms of what bindings you match with your skis then select “No” to look at Flat skis without bindings.

Turning Radius

Lastly, although we do not have a filter for this on our site, you may have heard about turning radius of skis. Referring to the size of an arc that a ski will make when on edge, Turning Radius is measured in meters. Depending on your ski style or skiing intentions you want to make sure you know what your ski’s turning radius is so that you know what to expect from it based on your style. In a nutshell, the smaller the number, the shorter the turn radius. Short numbers = shorter & snappy turns, large numbers = longer & more arcing turns. So you know what to expect when reviewing ski turning radiuses you can follow these general guidelines: Very short turning skis have a radius of 12m or less; Medium turning skis have a radius between 13m and 21m; Long turning skis have a radius of 22m or more. If you’re looking for the best option to mix short or long turns you will want to look in the 13-21m range. You may not get the shortest of the short or the longest of the long, but you will have more versatility in this area.