Anyone who's ever ventured into the world of ski shopping will recognise the barrage of unfamiliar terms: flex! camber! rocker! You feel pressure to buy the best skis possible for the best price, but you have no idea what the salesperson is going on about. If you, too, have been assailed by unfamiliar ski jargon and would like to know just exactly what it means, look no further! We've put together a handy dictionary of the most useful words to know when buying skis.
Flex refers to how stiff the skis are. The stiffer they are, the more control they'll give you at high speeds, but the more power they require to manoeuvre.
The width of your skis under your feet will tell you what the ski was designed for. Powder skis are very wide, while slalom skis and racing skis will be narrower.
Sidecut is just what it sounds like - the chunk that's cut out of the side of your skis. Sidecut is given as the difference in width between the tip of your skis, the waist, and the end. The bigger the difference, the deeper the cut, and the smaller your turning radius will be. Skis with a deeper sidecut favour quicker, smaller turns.
The radius refers to the radius of an imaginary circle, the one that your skis would naturally trace if you followed the sidecut all the way around. Slalom skis designed for short, quick turns usually have a radius of approximately 13 metres, while skis for downhill racing can have a radius of up to 25 or even 35 metres.
The effective edge refers to the length of ski that touches the slope while you're skiing. The longer your effective edge, the better you'll grip the snow and the more stability you'll have.
Traditionally, skis were built with almost all camber. This means that while the tips and ends of the skis touch the ground, there is a gap under the middle of the skis, preventing the ski from touching the ground. Putting pressure on your skis will give you an effective edge that stretches from the tip to the ends.
Rocker is the opposite of camber, referring to skis that touch the ground in the middle but have the tips and ends sticking up. Rocker is popular in powder skis as it mimics the shape of a boat, allowing your skis to drift over the powder without sinking in. However, skis with more rocker have a comparatively smaller effective edge, giving you less control on icy slopes.
A ski's core is often made up of layers, generally wood and plastic. By stacking several materials together like a sandwich, you get a stiff ski that offers a lot of grip. Cheaper sandwich constructions are made entirely of plastic, while more expensive skis feature wood, carbon and/or titanium.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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