You’re heading off on a ski holiday and need to hire your equipment but if you have never rented ski equipment before how do you know what equipment to book? The terminology isn’t familiar. You probably have questions like “what type of ski should I order?” “what length of skis do I need”, “what size ski boots do I need?” and “do I need ski poles and what about a helmet?”. Not to worry, our Val d’Isere ski shop manager and all-round source of knowledge on this subject, Adrien, is here to help.
Choosing the right skis
Like many products these days, there are an abundance of models of skis which are designed for different type of skier and skiing. Skis come in different lengths, different shapes and have different flex. We could talk about this all day but here’s a (very) brief low-down:
How long should my skis be?
Skis are different lengths for different reasons (type of ski, brand, level of skier etc). The general rule is chin, nose, forehead. If you’re a beginner you want skis that come up to your chin (intermediate = nose, advanced = forehead). As a beginner, having skis that are longer than this will make it more difficult to learn as they will be harder to manoeuvre. Having skis shorter than this will compromise your technique. Disclaimer: this explanation is fairly general and you could very well end up with different length skis to your friend who is the same height.
What shape ski do I need?
All skis have tips and a waist. The waist is the middle of the ski over which the binding (the mechanism that attaches a boots to a ski) sits. The waist is always narrower than the tips. This is simply the best design to help the skier turn the skis. The width of the waist depends on the type of ski. A standard ski for skiing on-piste has a slightly wider waist than a racing ski but a narrower waist than an all-mountain, freestyle or off-piste ski giving it stability. A racing ski has a narrow waist, wider tips and razor sharp edges. A freestyle ski has a wider waist, relatively blunt edges and rockered tips at each end. Rockered means both the front and back tips are flicked up. This is to allow freestylers to ski backwards without their skis digging into the snow. Off-piste skis are all round much wider, giving a larger surface area to float on the top of powdery snow.
What is the camber of a ski and what type of camber do I need?
The camber of a ski relates to the shape of the ski when viewed from the side. There are 3 types of camber:
- Regular camber – the ski is shaped to be in contact with the ground at towards the tips of the skis but is not in contact with the snow in the centre under the binding, it is lifted slightly. Once you apply your weight to the ski, the ski is completely in contact with the snow which gives great grip when turning.
- Flat (no camber) – this makes the ski less grippy on the snow but easier to turn which is why this camber is mainly used for freestyle skis.
- Reverse camber – here, the camber is banana shaped so the main contact point is under the bindings with the tips lifted off the snow. This is the perfect shape for skiing powder.
Generally a ski suitable for beginners will have a regular camber.
Should I book skis with a rocker profile?
Rocker refers to the area of the ski (towards the tips) that is lifted off the snow by a few millimetres. This is key feature of powder and freestyle skis as it stops the skis catching in the snow when performing tricks or skiing deep powder. A rocker can also help people learning to ski. All Oxygene beginner skis have a rocker profile.
What radius should my skis have?
The radius refers to the radius of the circle that would be drawn by the ski (if you put a ski on it’s edge and drew a circle in the snow). The radius is important because it determines how the ski grips to the snow when turning and how easy therefore the ski is to manoeuver. Generally, the smaller the radius, the easier the ski is to turn. The larger the radius, the harder the skier has to apply pressure to make the ski turn. Radius varies from around 12 metres (for a slalom ski) to around 30 metres (for a long freeride ski). A beginner ski or all mountain ski generally has a radius of around 12-14 metres.
What flex should my skis have?
With flex, we are talking about how stiff or bendy a ski is. Piste skis have a medium flex for comfort and performance whilst racing skis are super stiff to keep them stable at high speeds. Some freestyle skis have soft flex to allow the skier to perform and land jumps and tricks, whilst some (half-pipe and big air skis) have firmer flex for stability. Powder skis are also soft, designed this way to be easy to initiate turns in powder and absorb the terrain more easily.
Get ski boots that fit
Ski boots are measured in Mondopoint (Mondo) sizing which in basic terms is the length of your foot in centimetres. Don’t know your foot measurement? Don’t worry, your ski man/woman knows the conversion. All you need to know is your shoe size in either UK, EU or US. The best advice we can give anyone renting ski boots is don’t go for a larger size for comfort. Ski boots are designed to be worn at your actual size and may feel tight at first. This is normal and what’s more, it’s good! Your foot should be snug in the boot without you feeling any particular pressure points. Your toes should be at the end of your boots when you are standing up completely straight. When you bend your knees in a skiing position, your toes should come away from the end of the boots. A boot that is a size too large will hamper your progress when skiing and will more often than not result in either or both blisters and shin bruising as your foot slides back and forth in your boot as you ski.
Do I need poles?
Most skiers use poles although many skiing manoeuvres can be made without them. Poles are good for pushing along flat sections, climbing, turning and balance. Rental poles are usually adjustable. To get the right length for you, a ski technician will ask you to hold the poles upside down on the floor with your hands under the baskets. With your lower arms straight out forward your elbows should make a right angle. Once adjusted to this length simply flip them the right way up and they are ready to go.
Should I wear a helmet?
Most skiers and snowboarders wear a helmet these days for obvious safety reasons but also following a number of high profile accidents. Helmets come in a variety of sizes and it is usually a case of trying a few to get the right fit. They often have a wheel at the back on the inside which you can adjust to get a perfect fit. The helmet should be placed centrally on your head, not too far back or too far forward and shouldn’t move if you tip your head forward or back.
How does it all work at Oxygene?
At Oxygene, we invite you to make your ski equipment booking online at the same time as your lessons. Choose from beginner, intermediate, expert, advanced or kids equipment, input your height and shoe size and whether you would like a helmet and we will do the rest. When you come to the shop or we come to your accommodation (if you have chosen the chalet fit option) we will check that the equipment fits you as it should, changing it if necessary. Skiers, we will ask you your weight (or will ask you to step onto the scales if you’re not sure). This is entirely for your safety so we can adjust the DIN setting on your skis to ensure they release properly in the event of a fall. The correct DIN setting can save you from further injury – a fall with skis that stay on can have infinitely worse consequences than if they pop off during your fall. And that’s that. Once you have been fitted, you’re ready to go. And if you find that things aren’t as perfect as you would like them to be, just let us know. We are only too happy to make changes to help keep you comfortable, safe and help you enjoy your ski holidays to the max.