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Matchmaking: How to Find the Perfect Skis

I love my skis. I ski on a pair of all-mountain skis from about eight years or so ago, right as technology and ambition in the industry created the drive to create a truly "all mountain" all-mountain ski.


Buying them, however, remained one of the most difficult decisions I think I have ever made. Aside from the cost in shilling out for a new pair of planks, there was a pressing thought that if I don't get this right, I'm potentially going to ruin my skiing experience for the next 5-10 years.


I could not have been more wrong. By following my gut and doing a little bit of basic research answering the right questions, I was able to find what was effectively a perfect ski for me. With a little bit of confidence and with this acquired knowledge, this could have - and more likely should have - been the easiest decision I had ever made.


In this blog, I'm going to share my experience of sleepless nights and endless worry that went with buying my first pair of skis, hopefully to help you buy your next - or first - skis with confidence.



 
What are you skiing now?

This question should consider both what equipment you are hiring from the rental shop and the type of skiing you are doing.


Hire skis have come a long way in the last few years, so it is worth paying attention to the brands and models that you are skiing on. Brand produce de-tuned, mass produced versinos of some of the favourite, most accessible skis and sell them to the rental market - if you've skied on a pair that you really love, there's a good chance that a more "proper" version of the same ski will be available for retail customers.


Secondly, what type of skiing are you doing now? Are you cruising the piste or leaving the piste markers behind in search of steep and deep powder lines?


My skis have been all over the world with me, including to Japan.

 
What skiing do you want to do moving forward?

This goes hand in hand with the last part of the bit above. It is important to think hard about the skiing that you want to do moving forward, as you might be growing your skiing more and more down a particular avenue; getting the right skis for now but the wrong skis for where you are going could hold you back or make it more difficult to really ace your skiing.


Based on your answers to these questions, you can begin to shift your focus into one of three broad categories; On Piste, All Mountain and Off Piste.


 
Speak to the Experts

I was torn as to whether to put this or "Read the Reviews" first, but I figured the human touch can be a massive boost to your confidence, especially as write ups can be aimed a bit too high with loads of technical language.


Talk to the experts about the above (what you are skiing and what you want to ski). They can help point you in the right direction and help you narrow down your choice to a handful of skis. Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports have shops up and down the country that you can visit or call, and have an online chat function if you can't make it into store. Similarly, the Ski Club of Great Britain test hundreds of skis each year, and are the perfect place to ask for advice.


At this point its also good to consider some more personal factors. The right ski depends on ability and ambition as much as it does on things like your weight. I have a favourite ski from testing over the last couple of years, a big, bustling, tech-filled freeride ski that happens to be a weapon on piste too. My friends who I regularly ski with - who are both better skiers than me - hate it; they simply don't have the weight behind them, coming in at about 75kg compared to my 100kg, to effectively drive the ski. Lots of carbon and lots of titanal in a ski will make it harder to drive without more weight behind you. A good tech will be able to take this into account and advise base on this.


 
Read the Reviews

There is a huge industry out there dedicated just to reviewing skis. You can punch any ski into google and you'll immediately have endless YouTube videos and written reviews from all over the place.


The trick is focus on a couple of key phrases and quotes, rather than getting bogged down into technical details. Whether a ski is rockered or cambered, or has a full sidewall versus capped sidewall - and what those terms mean - is completely irrelevant for not only you, setting out to buy a pair of skis for the first time, but to most skiers in general - although the why is a discussion for another time.


Instead look for references to weight, "floatiness", grip, and long and short turn abilities. On Piste skis can be divided up into those that go hard in long turns and those you can rip round in shorter turns; reviews will pick up on where on the spectrum they sits. The same thing for fatter, more powder orientated skis; are they light, floaty skis designed to finesse perfect S-turns down a powder field, or big monsters designed for pointing straight down a hill and saying "go"?


... to Canada

 
Test

There are now more opportunities than ever to test skis before you buy.


In the mountains, hire shops are stocking more and more skis direct from the retail market, and many brand shops in resort will have demo stock or demo days in which you can hop on something you've got an eye on to try.


Back home, every snowdome in the UK - Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes, Tamworth, Manchester and Castleford (Leeds) - has either an Ellis Brigham or a Snow+Rock attached, all of which hold stock you can demo on the slopes. of the snowdomes. You can learn a surprising amount about a ski in the 200-300m these slopes have to offer, especially if you ski with good technique and really think hard about the feedback the ski is giving you.


 
Go With Your Gut

I have been working in skiing now for nearly a decade. I have spend about half this time selling or writing about ski hardware, which has involved testing countless skis. If there is one thing I have learned is that you can't really go wrong, as long as you are staying with your lane in terms of what you broadly want to get out of your ski.


What do I mean by this? Ski development is at such a point that all brands are trying to do the same thing with their tech or designs. As a result, there is very very little to tell apart the top five-to-ten skis in each category each year. You have to really really be paying attention to spot the differences.


So be confident in your choices. Competent and confident skiers will have the ability to overcome any drawbacks they experience skiing their choice of skis - if there are any at all.


It also means you can pick based on things like style. If I'm being really honest, I was drawn to my skis - Atomic Vantage 90 CTI from around 2016 - because they looked good. I chatted to the experts at Ellis Brigham (this was before I got stuck into the ski side of things) as I was worried about weight and width hampering my skiing, to which they said the carbon mesh would save weight and the titanal plate would add power to my on piste skiing. I then gave them a test at Hemel Hempstead and was really really impressed with their skiing.


And hey presto. After umming and aahh-ing for so long I bit the bullet and never looked back - they have been my best friends on snow all over the world.

My skis in question, 2015/16 Atomic Vantage 90 CTIs - 90mm underfoot, capable of shredding groomers and powder alike - plus with a beautiful topsheet to boot.

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