When you have the right gear, few things are more fun than skiing. Whether your favorite trail is the back side of a remote mountain or a ski run at your local resort, you never feel so alive as when you’re gliding down a snowy slope. Good equipment is essential, though, and the most important equipment of all is your skis.
What are downhill skis made of?
Originally, skiing equipment was carved from a single plank of a hardwood like ash, hickory, or birch. In the late 19th century, Norwegian ski manufacturers began using laminated wood, which resulted in equipment that weighed less and was more maneuverable.
In 1950, an American engineer designed the first ski to use aluminum around a core of lightweight wood. The aluminum exterior was coated with a phenol formaldehyde resin, which allowed it to be waxed; waxing improved friction performance coefficients on snow. By the 1960s, fiberglass had replaced aluminum in the manufacture of skiing equipment. Innovations in ski engineering and bindings for ski boots have focused on the development of composite materials that are even more lightweight as well as the development of parabolic ski designs that allow skiers to turn more easily.
How long should your downhill skis be?
Shorter downhill skis have a smaller turn radius, so they’re generally much easier to maneuver. This is why less experienced skiers often prefer them. Longer skis, however, tend to be more stable at higher speeds.
- Ski sizing for adults: The rule of thumb when choosing a ski is to pick one whose tip comes up to your eyes when you hold its tail on the ground. Skiers who weigh a bit more may want to go with a slightly longer ski since their body weight will help leverage that longer ski when they’re making turns.
- Ski sizing for kids: Children younger than 12 should start with a shorter ski because a shorter ski has a smaller turn radius, which makes it much easier to maneuver. For a child under 6, the tip of the ski should reach the child’s chin when it’s balanced on its tail. For children between 6 and 12, the tip of the ski should touch the child’s nose.
What are some of the different types of downhill equipment?
The terrain you plan to ski will determine the type of downhill skiing equipment you choose. Here’s a look at some of the equipment that’s available:
- Alpine skis: Alpine skis are the most basic type of downhill skiing equipment. Three criteria will determine the type of equipment you buy: your level of proficiency, the type of terrain you’ll be skiing on, and your own height and weight.
- Freeride skis: Freeride skis are designed to handle mountain runs. They tend to be wide so that they’ll handle well under a range of snow conditions. Most skiing equipment of this type has a waist width that measures between 100 and 125 millimeters.
- Powder skis: Powder skis are designed to skim effortlessly over deep packs of snow. Many winter sports enthusiasts choose this equipment as their main driver.