These days, there’s something to suit all tastes and preferences, something for all abilities and all types of skiing! To make the most of the Val Thorens and 3 Vallées ski areas here’s how to choose the right pair of skis for in three easy steps:
Step 1: Define your ability level:
We’re going to describe 4 different ability levels, you just have to choose the one that fits you best:
- Beginner: Your snowsports experience is either limited to a few downhill runs some time ago, or you’ve never stepped foot on a ski run in your life.
- Type of ski: Easy, forgiving skis so you can start having fun from the second you hit the slopes.
- Intermediate: You’re an occasional skier, going skiing perhaps once or twice a year. You’re able to ski down all of the ski area’s runs under your own steam.
- Type of ski: Comfortable skis that let you travel around the ski area and gain confidence.
- Experienced: Black runs don’t scare you, and you’re more or less comfortable on all snow types: hard, transformed, fresh but granular…
- Type of ski: High-performance skis that aren’t too technically or physically demanding so you can enjoy all kinds of conditions to your heart’s content.
- Expert: Do you spend all winter on skis, and are equally happy with carving and switch?
- Type of ski: you’re clearly going to need several pairs of skis to ensure that you can fully express yourself in each skiing style.
Step 2: Define your discipline:
Technology has brought skis forward in leaps and bounds: these days, manufacturers offer dedicated products aimed at the many different styles of skiing. From off-piste to ski cross, touching upon leisure skiing, competition slalom and freestyle, every discipline has its own kind of skis! Here are the major types among the many options:
Run: Groomed ski runs accessible for all abilities.
From fun days out to thrill-seeking on groomed runs, the type of ski you’re looking for will be shorter, with a narrow mid-section (= the width of the ski under your boot will be under 80mm), which will make the skis more reactive and precise during turns.
These skis adapt to suit all ability levels, the major difference between them being their rigidity: the higher the ability, the more rigid the ski needs to be to handle demanding bends. If you think ski holidays are about tranquillity and skiing for fun, choose more flexible, lightweight skis on which you’ll be able to enjoy yourself without any complications.
All Mountain: “a bit of everything” skiing for explorers.
Are you an “all-rounder” and don’t want to limit yourself to well-groomed ski runs and fresh January snow? Want to sample out the joys of powder snow, enjoy some springtime sunshine, or cold February days, all on the same pair of skis? With a width of around 80mm and fairly wide ski tips, all-mountain skis will make you comfortable on all kinds of snow and terrain, giving you the right load bearing for going off-piste or skiing on springtime snow.
This type of ski is a great all-rounder, perfect for intermediate and experienced skiers who want to try out the many varied pleasures of a ski area, whatever the conditions.
Freeride: The joys of freedom
This ski type is aimed at experienced skiers, who know how to adapt to all situations in powder snow. To help with load bearing in fresh, ungroomed snow, skis have to be quite wide, with a mid-section width of at least 90mm or more to work well in this type of snow. Just like with downhill skis, you need to choose the rigidity according to your ability level, fitness level and preferences. Manufacturers provide every option you can dream up, practically offering bespoke products for all types of skiers. Rigid freeride skis, with normal camber and flat tails are aimed at expert skiers, helping them to pick up speed and lean into the slope. More flexible skis, or those with inverse camber, are more suitable for leisure skiing and perfect for anyone who wants to have fun making amazing turns in untouched snow.
Ski touring: to go everywhere
If your thing is to be able to go everywhere and get away from the crowds whenever you want, then touring skis are a good option. Here again, there are many models: from race skis with a set of skis + bindings with very light inserts to go up quickly without looking for big sensations on the way down, to wide skis with almost alpine bindings and heavier bindings (like Salomon's Shift) to be able to go down like with alpine skis, there is something for everyone and it's up to you to adapt the equipment to your practice!
Step 3: Adapt your equipment to body shape.
Now that you’ve identified your ability level, and you’ve zoomed in on your own type of ski practice, it’s time to choose a specific pair of skis to suit your body type.
Choose the length of your skis according to your height, but also your ability level.
A beginner should choose a shorter ski, around 10 – 15cm shorter than their height, for a ski run. To give you a rough idea, hold your skis straight up in front of you: the top of the tip should reach your nose.
On the other hand, more experienced skiers should choose skis the same height as they are, or even slightly longer skis if they’re leaning towards a more freestyle practice.
This characteristic is directly linked to the skier’s weight: the less they weigh, the harder it will be to turn skis that are too rigid, and they won’t be able to make good use of the skis’ fast-turn properties.
In the same way, heavier skiers will quickly become frustrated and worn out by skis that are too soft.
Rigidity is also related to skiing ability: very strong skiers, who are in great physical shape, might decide to go for more rigid skis than would usually be recommended for their weight so that they can enjoy tackling more demanding skiing.
To really appreciate everything a particular type of ski can give you, the best thing is to try them out for yourself! In Val Thorens, we offer two opportunities for trying out skis from the best the ski market has to offer:
- During the Grande Premiere weekend, around sixty brands are in attendance so that you can try out all the latest new developments! And if your curiosity is piqued and you want to try out some new snowsports, almost every discipline will be available: Alpine, Telemark, snowboarding, ski touring, snowscooting…
- During the High Test Décathlon at the beginning of December, you’ll also find brand new products to discover, as well as classics to try out between the 350 pairs of skis and snowboards available!
Now that you know (almost) everything there is to know about the right choice of ski to suit your skiing profile, you’re finally ready to come and hurtle down Val Thorens’ slopes! But… wait a minute! Your ski bindings! Have you checked that they’re on the right settings?