How to Ski Shop: Finding the Perfect Pair

Many of the people I know that are avid skiers or in the ski business are married to a brand of skis like they are a car company.

“I’ve tried it, I own it and it’s the only ski I will ever own.” Sound familiar?

What you ought to know and think about is there are a lot of great ski companies out there and making a decision from a Buyers Guide is like listening to the news and believing everything they are telling you. So how do you ski shop?

Ski companies beg, scratch and fight for the coveted “Ski of the Year” title and they pay a lot of money to ensure they get that title.

I know because I have been there and done that as a tester and it is an environment that is compromised because the skis are waxed differently, tuned differently and many testers are sponsored by the ski manufacturers or they are buyers for conglomerates (which carries a ton of weight).

Ski Shopping Do's and Don'ts

So how do we cut through all of the ink when we ski shop? Lets start with what is most important to the skiier- performance or graphics?

If it is graphics its up to you, but if it is performance you want here are some facts to consider. Great skis come from Austria, Germany and France. Good skis come from other European manufacturers and the rest are made in China

The difference is in the materials used and this means a base that holds wax, edges that are thick enough to be durable but thin enough that your ski can perform and hold a tune.

Great skis have wood cores, metal and or carbon fiber and kevlar in them. Bad skis are foam injected wet noodles with cheap bases that dry out and cant glide on the snow.

Ski Factories and Brands

Now that you know where the good skis are made you should also know that there are only a handful of factories where good skis are made: Atomic (Austria), Head (Austria), Rossignol and Dynastar (France), Blizzard (Slovenija), Armada (Atomic Factory).

There are also those boutique brands that are coming on strong made right here in the USA and are built by skiers, made for skiers and are really good skis. DPS and Icelantic to name a couple.

Asking the Right Questions When You Ski Shop

So how is this applicable to you as a skier? Here are the questions you have to answer before you even begin to think about starting to ski shop:

What is your ability, what is your height and weight, how often do you ski (how many days a season) and what conditions are you primarily skiing in?

Below is the list of what is right for you based on this:
Bumps, Crud, Powder and Groomers (I ski it all): All Mountain Ski
Bumps, park, pipe and crud: Twin Tip
Groomers only: Carving Ski
Powder and Crud: Powder Ski

Buying or Renting?

Seems pretty simple but now what size do you want to buy or demo/rent? Are you buying or renting from a ski shop or resort? Because now there is a big difference in what you need to think about.

If you are buying a ski for Steamboat you can and should go shorter. We have narrower runs than a lot of Western Ski Areas and we have more bump runs on average and we have a lot of trees so the turn radius (shape of your turn) is shorter than say Vail’s Back Bowls.

In Vail you can step up 10 full cm in length and it will suit the mountain because of the open and vast terrain. I ski a 181 carving ski and I am 6’ 2” and 220 lbs and am an expert skier.

Anyone who is skiing in Steamboat on a ski over 181 cm in Steamboat on an all mtn ski or carving ski is on the wrong ski.


Written by:

Chad Fleischer

While Chad Fleischer’s career as a ski racer has made him a household name, his work as a television broadcaster, spokesperson, and businessman has allowed him to share his love for skiing with the world. As a 12-year member of the U.S. Ski Team, Fleischer won the National Downhill Championships in both 1995 and 1999, skied in the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics, and competed in five World Championships. In 1999, Fleischer won the silver medal in the World Cup Finals and was named Ski Racing Magazine’s Alpine Skier of the Year. Additionally, he skied and starred in several films including Skiing’s Last Stand, Deep Winter, and The Thin Line. Fleischer has continued to serve the ski and snowboard world as a motivational speaker and through his charity work with organizations like the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, Ski Club Vail, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Vail Valley Foundation.