traditional camber, including twin tips, no pronounced tip or tail rise (other than normal twin tips)
early rise tip only, including long rocker - no tail rocker, usually cambered underfoot
rocker tip and tail, may or may not have some center camber
Performance Characteristics and Other Symbols and Review Details
High edge carving ability, edge moves cleanly forward through the snow.
Smooth Drift , Soft Edge
Lower edge angle; edge moves laterally across snow, as well as forward through it. There is a continuum from hard carve, with no lateral movement of the edge, to side-slip, in which there is no edge engagement and the entire edge moves laterally; soft edge is that area between. Most turns, even by top skiers, have some degree of edge softness built in. Think of a well executed feathered-edge turn as the "instructor turn." This characteristic is of key importance in determining a ski's ability to accept traditional technique and its ability to respond to various degrees of edge feather —we pay strong attention to this characteristic.
Does the ski run precisely with relatively little tip wander and deflection? Can the edge be aimed at specific points on the snow?
Stability at speed and under shock and vibration. Is the ski a solid platform?
Rebound energy. Does the ski store energy to power into and through the transition? This does not necessarily mean that the ski becomes air born between turns, something top skiers try to minimize (never mind WC slalom racers; even though they are often off the ground bet wen turns, they are in fact trying to maintain contact while skiing on the edge of what is possible on skis)
How fast does the ski react to direction change? (not exactly the same as rebound, but good rebound usually means good quickness). Especially, how fast does the ski roll up on edge?
Does the ski ski light or heavy? Not necessarily a function of actual physical weight.
the opposite of demanding. Does the ski insist that you stay right on top of it, with no relaxation, or will it cover up and smooth over minor wobbles, glitches and bobbles? Is it possible to relax or does the ski demand constant high energy input?
Inspires confidence, encourages experimentation, promotes a sense of skill, allows skier to ski more aggressively, to ski in "the zone." The opposite is a ski that creates tension, that causes the skier to be tentative, to hold back, to ski defensively. Please be aware this is the most subjective rating, is reasonably valid only for skill levels and technical styles indicated in the review.
The size indicated in red is not necessarily the principal test size, although that often works out to be the case.
The red size usually is what each company designates as "reference size" and it is the length for which the side cut and turn radius are given in our reviews. In many cases, the reference size is the principal length—the length appropriate for a "target" skier and, often, it is the "build" size. In other words, it is the the size the company developed and tested before creating a production run of multiple sizes.
125/75/105 tip in mm/waist in mm/tail in mm
(17m) turn radius in meters
hard snow, western "ice"
*New England/Midwest/Northwest/Quebec ice and marble—the kind that reflects light and repels ball peen hammers
50% + on groomed
50% + off groomed
"normal" bumps or bumps that build on a snowy day; crud, uneven chop deep powder
big mountain-Snowbird, Jackson, etc.; serious natural terrain and conditions, Alaska, for example
Skill levels and technical styles
These are our definitions, not to be confused with PSI "classic" definitions
Name is somewhat limiting, although professional skiers make up much of this group. Includes: top level club, NCAA, development team and World Cup athletes, many coaches, some instructors, some patrollers, many professional freeriders, most ski film stars, most professional ski testers, many industry members. The best skiers on the hill. They advance the sport and change how we ski. a.k.a. World Class Skiers. Almost all ski full time.
Former pro-level skiers who currently ski many fewer days per season than working pros. Includes ex-NCAA athletes, former coaches and instructors, other racers and athletes, many coaches, many instructors, some patrollers, some professional freeriders, most junior and development athletes, many ski testers, many industry members, a few committed high level recreational skiers for whom coaching, instruction and camps are major skiing activities, who focus on technical skills and who ski 50 or more days.
Many long-time skiers who do not pursue coaching. Some instructors, some patrollers, many long time recreational skiers, some shop employees; these skiers use traditional technique. ***
Recreational skiers for whom skiing is a passion pursued for the thrill of accomplishment. Take lessons, attend camps, explore new terrain and 3-dimensional conditions. Often first on the lift and last off.
Many, if not most, recreational skiers for whom skiing is less all-consuming passion than just another form of active recreation. May choose skiing vacation as one alternative among several: golf, cruise, beach resort, etc.
People for whom skiing is primarily a social opportunity, who accompany skiers of other levels, people for whom the heart of the experience is enjoying mountains and amenities but who do not focus on technical improvement. May feel tentative in mildly challenging conditions. May ski 5 or fewer days.
Confidence symbols—valid for terrain and skill levels shown in any given review
Not used in current reviews (2014 and beyond)
neutral or, in a few cases, impossible to determine based on test results
detracts from confidence
Suitable speed range
extremely unstable at speed
versatile, unstable above 25mph±
stable at speed, may be sluggish below 15 or so
best kept in gates or on closed courses
responsive at low speed, stable at high speeds, versatile
How fast do skiers ski?
We've been asked how one would determine one's own speed. While these symbols refer more to the ski's ability to handle speed than to the skier's typical skiing speeds, there is a simple way to determine how fast one skis.
If under normal circumstances you pass all or most of the skiers you encounter, you ski fast.
If some skiers pass you and you pass others, you likely are skiing in the recreational speed range.
If most skiers pass you, then you are probably skiing at slow speed.
Difficult terrain and conditions demand well-developed skills. These symbols indicate that a given model is effective in a given condition, but we assume adequate skills. Alas, no ski can make a skier better than he or she is, although an inappropriate choice can render a skier less skilled.
Ice is in its own class of difficulty. No ski can replace technical skill for holding (and handling) ice, but quite a few can assist the strong skier. Note, too, that ice comes in several varieties. The most challenging is what many call "eastern" ice, which may be rock hard ice, or the even more challenging "marble."
Note: just because a ski does not have an ice symbol does not necessarily mean that it isn't ice-effective. The ice symbol simply denotes skis that are known to be effective ice tools.
Terms we use (or have used) in reviews and articles
designed for modern technique on the frontside, carving, racing and skill development.
the most versatile skis—designed for all mountain skiing in which conditions range from flat ice to broken deep snow, including bumps and crud — some models also fit into the Technical group — many well balanced "1-ski-quivers."
for deep snow and backside conditions — rockers, especially, render off-piste skiing easier for less-than-expert level skiers — includes some crossover models designed for park and pipe but acceptable in off-piste skiing.
While those are the 3 major classifications, some other descriptive terms that we use include:
An especially versatile ski that can handle all terrain and conditions well, in may cases as well even as dedicated, more tightly focused skis handle conditions for which they were designed. These are the skis that most skiers who own but a single pair should consider seriously and first.
All Mountain Carver:
Skis with seventies waists and turn radii approximately between 16 and 18m. Versatile and suitable to skiers who spend 50%+ of their time on the groomed, but who also venture off-piste and into bumps.
Big Mountain Carver:
Similar to All Mountain Carvers in turn radius, with waists of 82 to 88mm +/-. 1-ski-quivers for skiers who spend significant time off-piste but who also regularly cruise the frontside.
This is the line a canon ball would follow were one rolled down the slope. It can be straight down the hill, like this . . .
or it can be what we call a "double fall line" that appears when the slope is on a side hill, like this . . .
Inside (ski, boot, hand, arm, etc):
The ski, boot or appendage that is closest to the center of the turn, like this:
This can be confusing. We try to avoid terms like "left" and "right." For example, in the diagram above, the right ski is inside at the top of the turn, but becomes the outside ski at the bottom, or "finish", of the turn.
Further, when the skis are pointed straight down the fall line, there is no inside (or outside) ski.
Outside (ski, etc.):
The other, non-inside ski, the one that is farther from the center of the turn.
Uphill and Downhill (ski, boot, appendage):
Notice in the diagrams above that the outside ski is the uphill ski at the top of the turn, neither uphill nor downhill at the apex of the turn and then becomes the downhill ski at the bottom of the turn.
There is always an uphill ski and a downhill ski in any traverse that is not straight down a single (not double) fall line.
Skis are parallel and not turning and crossing the slope at any degree other than straight down.
From flat on the snow to a fairly low edge angle. Also called a "soft" or "non aggressive" edge.
Allows the ski to skid or smear (see below-they're not the same thing) across the snow.
High edge angle (also Hard, Aggressive or Railed edge):
causes the ski to slice into, rather than smear across, the surface, creating various degrees of carving.
Binding delta angle:
Angle created by the difference in height between the heel pad and afd of the binding.
Too much creates fore/aft imbalance in the skier's stance.
Boot Ramp Angle:
Similar to binding delta angle; angled created by difference in height between heel and ball of foot. Likewise can present balance problems if sub-optimal, especially if used with a binding that has too much delta angle.
Footbed, aka Orthotic:
Custom molded or "off-the-shelf" moldable after-market boot insert that conforms the bottom of the inside of the shell, called the zepa or boot board, to conform to the shape of the individual skiers foot. Provides superior support, snow feel and foot-to-ski contact. Absolutely essential to high performance skiing and skill development.