Philpug

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One of the first and most common questions I get when someone walks up to the ski wall is, "What's the best ski?" I know when I get that question, an education process is coming up. I also know I am dealing with a person who wants information but has no real clue where to start. Chances are this person either hasn’t bought skis since the Bush Administration or really just wants a decision made for him -- so how does someone whose current skis are legally old enough to drive even figure out what the best ski is? In reality, all of them could be the "best ski." But which one is right for that particular skier?

This is where the salesperson has two choices. He can validate his own buying decisions by regurgitating every spec and review his rep told him, or he can actually ask the skier what he or she needs and expects out of the ski. If a salesperson talks more than listens, say, "Thank you very much" and leave; he has his eyes on himself and you could end up on his ski or perhaps the one with the biggest spiff. But if the salesperson spends the time asking questions rather than stating facts, you have someone with your interests at heart.

Best Ski.jpg

Artwork by @Dave Petersen

So, what should you be asked?

About you:
  • How long have been skiing?
  • Where do you ski? (Not only which resort, but which trails and terrain.)
  • What don’t you like to ski? And, most importantly, why? Is it desire, ability, or maybe your gear is holding you back?
  • How often do you ski, and for how long?
  • Do you ski just the morning or afternoon, or do you go bell to bell?
  • How aggressively do you ski? Do you like to drive the ski or ride it?
About the gear:
  • What were some of your favorite skis, and what did you like most about them?
  • How often did you have them tuned?
  • Are you replacing or adding to your current ski (or skis)?
  • How long have you had your current gear?
  • What are you looking for the new ski to do that your current one is not doing?
And of course:
  • Are you set with boots?
If a salesperson starts talking about skis before asking any of these questions, he might be more interested in getting a free pass or discounts on his own gear. If a salesperson asks any or all of these questions -- and actually listens to your answers -- you should get two to four solid options that all could be very good.

Then, how do you finally choose? I know it is tough. But you need to take some responsibility for your own decision. And you can. Even though the skis look pretty similar, once you look closely, you will see the differences. All this happens after you get past the "numbers" like dimensions and sidecut. In some segments, the differences are more subtle, and that's where there are fewer wrong choices. This usually means skis under 75 mm wide: all of the high-performance skis in this range do eight out of 10 things exceptionally well, and the other two, they do very well. Now, you just need to figure which of those 10 things you want the ski to do exceptionally and which you are willing to compromise on.

Let's look a couple of skis with distinct similarities and dramatic differences in the 88-90mm range. Four popular skis in this class are the Armada Invictus 89Ti, Blizzard Brahma, K2 Pinnacle 88, and Rossignol Experience 88 HD. Look at the tip shape and profile, camber profile, tail shape, and flex. With these four attributes, you too can be a ski detective.


Screen Shot 2016-11-26 at 4.44.48 PM.png

What does the tip of the Rossi tell you? It wants to bite into a turn. What does the tip of the K2 tell you? It wants to just rise out of the snow, kind of like how its tail wants to release easily compared to the tail of the Rossi or even the Armada, both of which are a little more flared. The Blizzard's shape is a bit of a hybrid of all of these skis, a compromise. Is that good? Well, it depends what you want. Both the Brahma and E88HD are on the stiffer end and are more powerful, where the Invictus and Pinnacle have more medium flexes that a lighter or more finesse skier will appreciate.

Screen Shot 2016-11-26 at 4.45.44 PM.png
Are any of the skis I just described the "best ski"? They could be, but they could just as easily be the wrong ski. Three to four of these examples are in most reputable shops; next time you are in a shop, look at some of these or others and compare them and then think about how these shapes and designs will react on snow. Then think about how and where you ski and what you want in a ski. What it comes down to is that, depending on how you look at it, every ski is a best ski. Each has a distinct purpose and is in search of a skier.
 
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Monique

bounceswoosh
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Joined
Nov 12, 2015
Posts
10,451
Location
Colorado
One of the first and most common questions I get when someone walks up to the ski wall is, "What's the best ski?" I know when I get that question, an education process is coming up. I also know I am dealing with a person who wants information but has no real clue where to start. Chances are this person either hasn’t bought skis since the Bush Administration or really just wants a decision made for him -- so how does someone whose current skis are legally old enough to drive even figure out what the best ski is? In reality, all of them could be the "best ski." But which one is right for that particular skier?

This is where the salesperson has two choices. He can validate his own buying decisions by regurgitating every spec and review his rep told him, or he can actually ask the skier what he or she needs and expects out of the ski. If a salesperson talks more than listens, say, "Thank you very much" and leave; he has his eyes on himself and you could end up on his ski or perhaps the one with the biggest spiff. But if the salesperson spends the time asking questions rather than stating facts, you have someone with your interests at heart.​
Artwork by @Dave Petersen

So, what should you be asked?

About you:
  • How long have been skiing?
  • Where do you ski? (Not only which resort, but which trails and terrain.)
  • What don’t you like to ski? And, most importantly, why? Is it desire, ability, or maybe your gear is holding you back?
  • How often do you ski, and for how long?
  • Do you ski just the morning or afternoon, or do you go bell to bell?
  • How aggressively do you ski? Do you like to drive the ski or ride it?
About the gear:
  • What were some of your favorite skis, and what did you like most about them?
  • How often did you have them tuned?
  • Are you replacing or adding to your current ski (or skis)?
  • How long have you had your current gear?
  • What are you looking for the new ski to do that your current one is not doing?
And of course:
  • Are you set with boots?
If a salesperson starts talking about skis before asking any of these questions, he might be more interested in getting a free pass or discounts on his own gear. If a salesperson asks any or all of these questions -- and actually listens to your answers -- you should get two to four solid options that all could be very good.

Then, how do you finally choose? I know it is tough. But you need to take some responsibility for your own decision. And you can. Even though the skis look pretty similar, once you look closely, you will see the differences. All this happens after you get past the "numbers" like dimensions and sidecut. In some segments, the differences are more subtle, and that's where there are fewer wrong choices. This usually means skis under 75 mm wide: all of the high-performance skis in this range do eight out of 10 things exceptionally well, and the other two, they do very well. Now, you just need to figure which of those 10 things you want the ski to do exceptionally and which you are willing to compromise on.

Let's look a couple of skis with distinct similarities and dramatic differences in the 88-90mm range. Four popular skis in this class are the Armada Invictus 89Ti, Blizzard Brahma, K2 Pinnacle 88, and Rossignol Experience 88 HD. Look at the tip shape and profile, camber profile, tail shape, and flex. With these four attributes, you too can be a ski detective.



What does the tip of the Rossi tell you? It wants to bite into a turn. What does the tip of the K2 tell you? It wants to just rise out of the snow, kind of like how its tail wants to release easily compared to the tail of the Rossi or even the Armada, both of which are a little more flared. The Blizzard's shape is a bit of a hybrid of all of these skis, a compromise. Is that good? Well, it depends what you want. Both the Brahma and E88HD are on the stiffer end and are more powerful, where the Invictus and Pinnacle have more medium flexes that a lighter or more finesse skier will appreciate.

Are any of the skis I just described "the best ski"? They could be, but they could just as easily be the wrong ski. Three to four of these examples are in most reputable shops; next time you are in a shop, look at some of these or others and compare them and then think about how these shapes and designs will react on snow. Then think about how and where you ski and what you want in a ski. What it comes down to is that, depending on how you look at it, every ski is a best ski. Each has a distinct purpose and is in search of a skier.
Thanks, Phil - I don't think I've seen the tips (hah!) on tip and tail design elsewhere.
 

James

Out There
Instructor
Joined
Dec 2, 2015
Posts
12,256
Great info with the tip/tail pictures. It's good to try out some of these designs so one can extrapolate to a ski they haven't tried. You don't need to try out every single ski on the planet.

I also think if you find a ski you love in in one area -condition, type of skiing, then you'll figure out how to make it work well enough in other areas. This at least will counter the "if only's". "If only I had the McShovel tip with the varigated sidecut and unicorn horn topsheet dampener I'd be able to ski this..."

I've had skis which technically really aren't that good in some conditions but have qualities i love in others. Learning how to deal with the faults makes you better. If the faults become greater than the rewards or you have to make too many compromises where you ski most often, maybe it's time for a new relationship.
 

Ken_R

Living the Dream
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Denver, CO
To me, the best ski is the one you can comfortably and effectively use all day to go wherever you want to go and it does what you want it to do no matter the conditions. If it is slick it holds if it is powdery it floats, if it is messy it goes through easily, if it is tigh it turns on a dime. One that it seems to follow what you do and responds to your thoughts. If you have to think too much about the ski and/or work too much then it is junk to me. Next.
 

James

Out There
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Joined
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Posts
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To me, the best ski is the one you can comfortably and effectively use all day to go wherever you want to go and it does what you want it to do no matter the conditions. If it is slick it holds if it is powdery it floats, if it is messy it goes through easily, if it is tigh it turns on a dime. One that it seems to follow what you do and responds to your thoughts. If you have to think too much about the ski and/or work too much then it is junk to me. Next.
You actually have a supply of unicorn horns??
 

Monique

bounceswoosh
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Posts
10,451
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You actually have a supply of unicorn horns??
Honestly Ken_R's description is pretty close to how I feel about the Nordica La Ninas. The only exception being rock-hard boilerplate.
 

crgildart

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Answer the question with a question.. "How much do you have to spend?"..Every ski is "good" for something or someone, however only a handful are "good" for any particular individual. The "best" ski for some isn't a Swiss Army Ski. For most, the best ski would be an intermediate front side carver. A 100% dedicated powder ski would NEVER be the "best ski" for anyone except perhaps a heli/cat ski guide.
 

Monique

bounceswoosh
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A 100% dedicated powder ski would NEVER be the "best ski" for anyone except perhaps a heli/cat ski guide.
I mean, it's the best ski when you're doing heli/cat trips ...
 

James

Out There
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Maybe it's best because one likes looking at the top sheet...
 

Monique

bounceswoosh
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Maybe it's best because one likes looking at the top sheet...
If you're doing that on a heli ski trip, you're doing something wrong~
 

crgildart

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If all you ski is exclusively heli or cat ski descents you're not buying skis off the rack from Phil, or asking him what is the best ski.
 
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Philpug

Philpug

Notorious P.U.G.
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Answer the question with a question.. "How much do you have to spend?"..Every ski is "good" for something or someone, however only a handful are "good" for any particular individual. The "best" ski for some isn't a Swiss Army Ski. For most, the best ski would be an intermediate front side carver. A 100% dedicated powder ski would NEVER be the "best ski" for anyone except perhaps a heli/cat ski guide.
You are absolutely correct, every ski is the best ski...but for who and where? How much do you have to spend? Well, I will answer your questioning a question with another question, what are you willing to give up? There is a cost for everything be it performance or price.
 

Monique

bounceswoosh
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If all you ski is exclusively heli or cat ski descents you're not buying skis off the rack from Phil, or asking him what is the best ski.
No doubt. Phil's post is great for people just starting out, or who have skied for a bit but haven't really thought about what they're putting under their feet.

I aspire to be a person who exclusively skis heli and cat descents. Where do I sign up??
 

James

Out There
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If you're doing that on a heli ski trip, you're doing something wrong~
You're right. It's hard to see the top sheet from inside the helicopter. But then you get out...And the lovely top sheet has a beautiful white back ground. Like a museum.

So on a heli trip the topsheet matters even more because everything is white.
 

Monique

bounceswoosh
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You're right. It's hard to see the top sheet from inside the helicopter. But then you get out...And the lovely top sheet has a beautiful white back ground. Like a museum.

So on a heli trip the topsheet matters even more because everything is white.
It does help to have a bright topsheet in case you lose a ski.

Guides really love it if you lose a ski in the middle of an uncontrolled slope and dig around for half an hour. Go ahead, ask me how I know. (Not heli - Silverton.)
 

Kyle

Getting off the lift
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Phil:

I would love it if the person selling skis asked me all or even a few of the questions you highlight above. However, I wonder how many people really want to answer all these questions or think those questions are relevant? What is your (or any others who sell or have sold skis on a regular basis) experience with this? I suspect there are a subset of people who really just want the "best ski" so they have ended up on that Bonafides, Soul 7s, Enforcers, or whatever is currently the hot ski in the industry.
 
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