Complete Guide To All Types Of Skis (And How To Choose…)

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Skiing is a sport that helps people all over the world get through the cold winter months. When you are heading to the mountain for a day of shredding, it’s tough to have a lousy time maneuvering alpine terrain.

Skiing is a fantastic sport for people of all ages, but if you are a beginner looking to start, it can be overwhelming. If this description sounds like you, there is no need to worry anymore!

Here is a complete guide to all types of skis and how to choose a suitable model.

What Are The Different Types of Snow Skis?

If you are new to skiing, you have probably noticed that there are a lot of shredder models on the market. Before you can pick the correct model for yourself, you must know the different types of downhill skis that are available. 

All-Mountain Skis

All-mountain skis are the do-all shredders on the slopes. All-mountain skis are meant for you to conquer any type of terrain that you may encounter on the slopes. These skis give you the best of both worlds by allowing you to dominate groomed trails and thrive in the backcountry. 

The front side is considered the groomed trails that are kept up by the resort staff. These trails are also known as on-piste. The backcountry, which is commonly referred to as off-piste, are trails that are groomed by nature.

These are not maintained, but they can still provide a fantastic ride, especially when snow conditions are virtuous. All-mountain skis let you dominate on and off-piste trails on the resort. 

Many skis are tailored to one part of the mountain, but this is not the case with an all-mountain ski. It’s best for beginner skiers to learn how to conquer the frontside with a pair of downhill skis before making the jump to a pair of all-mountain planks.

However, all-mountain skis are becoming the gold standard model in the skiing world. With all-mountain skis, ice, powder, groomers, or crud does not stand a chance, which will mean you will have a fabulous day all over the resort.

Check out our picks for the Best All-Mountain Skis.

Freeride Skis 

Freeride skis are meant for the backcountry or off-piste terrain. They are similar to powder skis in the sense that they have extensive widths, but they are slightly smaller. Freeride skis will help you dominate off-piste trails, but it could be hard to navigate the front side.

They can perform on-piste for an advanced skier when required, but if you buy a pair of freeriders, you will want to stay where many skiers will not dare to venture.

The underfoot width for freeride skis is slightly wider than all-mountain skis, which shows that they are not meant for groomers.

Freeride skis have rocker tips to help float on snow, but it’s not as high as you would see on a powder ski. The slightly raised tips also help grip the frontside when you want to rip a groomer. 

If you want a pair of freeride skis, you should be overly focused on the backcountry, so these are not the best sticks for a beginner.

Carving Skis 

If you want to shred groomers, carving skis should be at the top of your list. These are a top model for beginners because they are the easiest to control. 

Carving skis are not as stiff as racing skis, but they are effortless to turn on the frontside. If you want to go to the backcountry, carving skis will not be the best answer. Although, you will be shredding the groomers any day of the week.

The underfoot width on carving skis is not very wide, which causes carving skis to resemble an hourglass. The underfoot width on carving skis is the smallest on the alpine market, which makes them responsive.

Carving skis are often tailored to beginner and intermediate skiers, so they are very forgiving. It’s hard to catch an edge with the technology in today’s frontside carvers.  

The stiffer the skis, the faster they can go on the slopes. If you want to get into skiing, you should view the part of the store that deals with frontside carvers. 

These skis will help you adjust to the slopes, and you will advance to new levels quickly by starting with carvers. 

Powder Skis

There is no need for powder skis in the northern portion of the United States. True powder skis are meant for the western part of the country. The type of snow in the west is predicated for big time powder skis.

Powder skis are the most challenging model to control for beginners, so these should be secondary to you when you are just starting on the mountain.

Powder skis are broader and more prolonged than all-mountain or freeride sticks. Powder skis can have an underfoot width of 140 mm, making them very tough to turn sharply on the slopes.

This is not the answer for a beginner, but powder skis can be very fun when you start advancing levels. Most powder skis have a camber underfoot, meaning that it curves upward toward the boot with raised tips and tails.

The floatability is phenomenal, which a top-tier model of powder skis. Technological innovations have caused powder skis to dictate control on ungroomed trails, but they suffer on the frontside.

If you’re looking for some off-train powder check out our picks for the Best Skis For Tree Skiing. 

Mogul Skis

If you have ever been to a mountain, watched skiing, or seen ski pictures, you have witnessed moguls. Moguls are the bumps on the mountain that many advanced skiers love attacking.

Control is essential in moguls, so these skis are shorter, narrower, and lighter than most carving skis. You can use any skis in moguls, but you will have the most success using planks designed for the terrain. 

As a beginner, mogul skis are great, but you should stay out of the moguls for a few trips. Beginners need control on the slopes, and mogul skis provide this for all rippers.

You need to make quick turns in the bumps, so short skis are critical. Mogul skis will perform well in the trees when you need to make sharp maneuvers. 

These skis will also be great on the frontside because you will be able to make any turn that your heart desires. Although, stay away from the backcountry with these skis because you will have a tough time floating through powder.

You also may catch an edge on ungroomed snow because they are not meant to handle challenging trails. 

Check out our picks for the Best Mogul Skis.

Freestyle Skis

If you want to head into the terrain park, a pair of freestyle skis are the model that you should buy. You should buy a pair of freestyle skis after you learn how to turn with a pair of carvers, in my opinion.

You can learn how to ski on freestyle sticks, but the process will be more straightforward with frontside carvers. Before you enter the terrain park, you should be comfortable making every turn on the mountain.

This is necessary for safety before hitting jumps and grinding rails in the park. Once you get into the terrain area, you will never want to leave because it’s thrilling flying through the air for numerous skiers.

Freestyle skis are very soft and forgiving, which is necessary when you are landing off jumps, rails, and in the halfpipe. Freestyle skis have twin tip designs, and they are usually significantly raised off the ground.

The twin tips are necessary for backward skiing, which is common in the terrain park. These skis are usually the same length as all-mountain planks to find the sweet spot between control and turnability. 

Some freestyle skis are short, but this is really a skier’s preference. Twin tips may not perform great on the frontside, so this is why I recommend buying a pair of groomers before you invest in freestyle sticks.

Choosing The Right One For You

Now that you know all the skis types, you need to understand the different parts of the respective models. All ski types have diverse characteristics, which determines their adaptability all over the model. 

Before I discuss the dimensions, it’s critical to remember that the ski does not make the skier. Instead, the skier makes the ski.

A great skier can utilize any model on any part of the mountain. An off-piste ski does not mean that you cannot use it on the frontside. It just means that it will perform well in the backcountry. 

Never forget this principle when you are figuring out what ski to choose on the slopes.


Mountain terrain is the main factor in choosing the right ski. Skis, boots, and bindings are substantial investments that are meant to last for an extensive period.

I recommend that everyone learns on a pair of forgiving frontside carvers, but this does not have to be the case. It’s best to rent before you know what type of terrain you want to rip. 

Once you learn how to make the turns and stop on the frontside, you should pick the type of terrain you want to ski.

If you love the frontside and do not intend to go to the backcountry, it’s best to purchase a pair of carving skis because these are meant for on-piste trails.

If you want to stay in the terrain park, look for a pair of short twin tip skis because these will help you land insane tricks.

If you only like the backcountry, I recommend that you purchase a pair of freeride sticks because you will be able to conquer off-piste runs and still have a decent time on the frontside. 

The best skis to buy for people who graduate from the beginner level are all-mountain skis. All-mountain sticks are the best pair of rippers that your money can buy.

Since skis are meant to last a long time, you do not want to limit your alpine maneuverability. This winter, you may love on-piste skiing, but next winter, you may want to rip the backcountry. 

One run can change your trail desires, so all-mountain skis allow you to go with the flow and thrive throughout the process. 

To be safe, buy all-mountain skis once you graduate from the beginner level unless you are confident that you want just to be an on or off-piste skier.

I do not advise buying powder or mogul skis as your primary pair of rippers. If you are serious about skiing, these sticks could be an ancillary purchase. 

If you are a once-a-week skier, a nice set of all-mountain skis will do just the trick for multiple winters. 

Ski Length

All skis have different recommended sizes. Typically, advanced skiers utilize longer and stiffer skis to generate power down the trails.

No matter what type of skis you choose, you should base your decision on your height, weight, and skiing ability.

There is no correct answer when it comes to ski length, but a formula should be used. The heavier that you are, the stiffer skis that you should buy. The same principle also applies to skiing ability.

An advanced skier should buy a sturdier ski than a beginner. Beginners need forgivability on the slopes to prevent edge catching. Advanced skiers do not need this same level of forgiveness because their ability will prevent them from catching an edge. 

Height and weight should come before skiing ability when looking to buy skis. This statement is compounded when you are looking for your first pair of skis.

Beginner skiers should buy a pair that is positioned at their chin because this will help with control. Advanced skiers should buy a pair that is based at the top of their head when the skis are standing upright.

Intermediate skiers can split the difference and should find a pair that is located at their eyes. The trend in the industry today is for skiers to buy shorter all-mountain sticks, but everyone has different desires.

The recommended ski height for a 6’0” beginner is 170 cm, where an advanced skier at this same height could easily use a ski that is 190 cm. 

There are some notable reasons to either size up your ski or choose a smaller pair. Here are some of the common reasons.

Size up if…

  • You like to ski fast
  • You weigh more than the average for your height
  • You want to ski off-piste
  • You want to make long sweeping turns on the frontside

Size down if…

  • You are a beginner
  • You want more control
  • You like to carve with short turns

The rule of thumb to remember is that shorter skis are easy to turn, but they are not as stable on the mountain. Longer skis are tougher to turn quickly, but you can put a lot more power into the snow.

If you are a beginner, you will have a much easier time making turns with short skis. Do not go too long for your first pair because it’s an easy way not to have a lot of fun on the mountain. 

I have been skiing for twenty years, and I use all-mountain skis that are on the shorter end for an advanced skier. My skis are positioned at my eyes, and I love them because I can carve on the frontside and float on off-piste terrain. 

Length Dimensions

The length dimensions of a ski reflect the natural turning ability of a pair of sticks. When you go to buy a pair of skis, you will see a three-number measurement. This will tell you the tip width, underfoot width, and tail width.

All three of these numbers are not critical to know for a beginner skier. The most important number of the three is the underfoot width, which is also known as the ski last. 

The ski last helps you identify what type of terrain the ski is meant for and the turning radius of the model. 

Ski Width

Ski width, which is also known as underfoot width or last, is critical for turning ability. The underfoot width is measured at the exact middle of the ski. It’s the shortest distance across the plank, and it’s measured in millimeters.

Last has the most considerable influence on a ski’s turning ability. Shorter lasts are meant for the frontside of the mountain. Larger lasts are designed to help skis float in the backcountry and make long sweeping turns.

For beginners, you should be looking for skis with a smaller last because these models will be much easier to turn on the mountain. 

Here are the measurements that you should look for based on your ski desires.

Race: 60-70 mm

Frontside Carvers: 70-85 mm

All-Mountain: 85-110 mm

Freeride/Powder: 110-140mm

If you notice these ranges, they are relatively substantial. The all-mountain category can span over a range of 25mm, but the different lasts give you performance variations on diverse terrains.  

If you buy an all-mountain ski with an 85mm last, the sticks will be better on the frontside, but they will be suitable for the backcountry. If you purchase skis with a 110mm last, they will be best for off-piste trails. Despite this, they can still rip down the groomers.

It’s important to know what type of terrain that you would like to ski before choosing a model. The terrain you desire will help make the underfoot width decision seamless.

Ski Radius

Ski radius is the natural length of a turn for a specific model. The tip and tail length, as well as the underfoot width, determine this number. 

You do not need to know how to calculate the turning radius off of these three numbers. It will be listed on the website where you are looking to buy the ski.

If you are purchasing a ski in-person, the turning radius will be clearly labeled on the packaging.  

The turning radius is expressed in meters on a ski. A ski with a deep sidecut will have a shorter turning radius than one with a narrow sidecut.

The sidecut determines the hourglass shape of the ski. A ski that has a more distinct hourglass framework has a deep sidecut.

Deep sidecuts get the ski on edge quicker, which naturally helps the sticks turn. A long radius helps skis get up to a high speed because they are not turning as frequently. 

It’s important to remember that the skier makes the turns. A natural turning radius does not mean that a skier cannot make any turn they want on the slopes. 

A shorter turning radius just makes skiers strain less to make a sharp turn, but this is virtually unnoticeable for intermediate to advanced rippers. 

Here are the turning radius measures you should look for based on what type of terrain you want to ski.

Under 16m – Carving skis, frontside all-mountain

17-22m – All-mountain skis 

Over 22m – Powder and freeride skis 

Ski Camber and Rocker

Rocker and camber are essential to understand when buying skis. These terms determine the design of a ski. Camber designs have been around longer than rocker profiles, which is also known as reverse camber.

Many skis on today’s market used mixed rocker and camber designs so rippers can achieve peak performance on the mountain.

Camber is the traditional profile for a ski. Camber designs have an upward curve under a skiers’ boots in the middle of the plank. Camber requires skiers to be more conscientious with their turns, or they may catch an easy edge.

Camber designs have better pop on the snow because they help skiers get into a rhythm. However, the rhythm must be maintained to receive the benefit on the trails.

Rocker is the opposite of camber. It’s a slight dip at the ski’s underfoot portion, which provides more pressure on the snow. This helps with security and grip, so there is a slimmer chance of catching an edge. 

Rocker skis are great for floating on the powder as well. Wide skis are often built with a rocker profile for this reason. 

Skis can combine a mix of rocker and camber designs. The two most common designs are rocker/camber and rocker/camber/rocker.

Rocker/camber skis are completely rockered except at the underfoot, where there is a camber profile. Rocker/camber/rocker is the best design, in my mind. 

The rocker tips and tails with the camber underfoot give skiers a lot of playfulness on the mountain. If you are a beginner, try to find this design because it brings excellent edge hold and helps you float on powder. 

If you choose what type of terrain you want to ski, the rest of your decisions will be simple when looking into a pair of shredders.