Skis and Gear Discussion > Skis 4 Me -- Suggestions or Advice??

Right specs for a big, burly intermediate skier

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First, I am NOT going to ask you folks "which ski should I buy?" Frankly, I don't see how anyone can ask a complete stranger this question in a serious context. As an avid tennis player I learned the importance of demo'ing tennis rackets from that sport.

I am 48, male, 6'4" and currently weigh 275 lbs. Big, Athletic -- play a lot of tennis and hike/bike a fair amount.

I live in southern CA, and have only skiied at Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood or Snow Summit at Big Bear. I intend to ski Mammoth and the Tahoe resorts when I can, but I ski when I can, not when the weather calls for it. Neither Wrightwood or Snow Summit offer backcounty or AT skiing -- the runs there are nearly all groomed with a predominance of blue-level and a few black courses.

Prior to this past Spring, 2011, I hadn't skied for 35 years. The last time I'd skied was as a kid. I LOVED everything about it, and I took to it almost TOO quickly. I received a lesson on how to snowplow, did a couple runs on the bunny hill, then headed up to mid-mountain. I saw how people pushed their tails around to slide to a stop, so my first and subsequent runs were about going as fast as I could and slide-stopping. Even after I "progressed" (which meant I skied faster, on steeper slopes, fell less and could slam the brakes better), I never took more lessons to become an overall more technically-adept skier, and so THAT was the extent of my "technique" when I got back on skis again in this bumper-snow-cropped 2011 season.

I didn't take any lessons to kick-start myself back into skiing. I just went up the hill on poor-fitting rental equipment and had a BLAST ski braking and slamming down the mountain -- doing it the way I did when I was young but needing to hit the skids sooner to stop my mass from flying off the hill. I skied by side-scrubbing instead of carving, and mastered the dreaded "wedge turn" that John Clendenin describes as the "flu" that effects so many skiers like me. I'm likely the guy in many YouTube videos for how NOT to carve and still survive and have a ball on steep and fast runs. I can't last all day like that -- legs start to hurt like hell, but it was a good time.

Nevertheless, getting some carving lessons is top priority for this season if it ever snows. I mention all this so you can "really" get where I'm coming from, rather than me trying to say I'm at some level or other. A beginner isn't going to bash down a black run, and an intermediate knows how to carve a decent turn. I can do the former but not the latter, and courage, conviction, and sheer physical strength are not what I lack. But I recognize that I'm not going to get where I want to be without having the basic techniques.

What I DON'T want to do again this season is rent crappy, ill-fitting rental gear. I've found a local boot-fitter in Sherman Oaks, CA -- Claude at Skinetsports (, and I'll be purchasing a custom boot as my #1 priority. I know about the importance of the boot over everything else.

So when I hit the slopes next, it will be with a pair of custom-fitted boots and probably a pair of rental skis for a few proper carving lessons. After that, I'd like to demo a few pairs of skis and I'll probably purchase in the off-season to save some money.

My goal for this first-round ski is NOT this "1-ski quiver" thing that seems to be so important to better skiers now. MY goal is to be able to comfortably ski blue/black groomers, a little soft snow (if it exists and can be accessed by a chairlift) and maybe some low-level bumps that happen to reside on single-black runs (but no mogul bashing).

Prior to finding this site -- which I'm glad I did -- I've read all of the retail and manufacturer sites, youtube,, you name it -- looking for a refined, informed answer to my questions about skis for my situation. I've posted to other forums, and I end up with as many opinions and responses as there are models of skis. I've gotten more specific here than anywhere else with the hopes that someone can really give me some useful info.

Ultimately, what I want is the right ski that will let me develop the skills to master varying mid-wider radius turns, want to ski fast but not race speeds, and with stability and control.

I'm thinking these qualities in a ski apply for my weight, height and ability, with an eye towards
quick improvement:

a) a more "lively" or stiffer ski would be better for my weight than a softer flexing ski -- maybe something with metal, or absent metal, a lively all-wood core;

b) a fully-cambered ski (or at most, one with "early rise") would be far more suitable than a fully rockered ski;

c) an "all-mountain, carving ski" versus a "technical frontsider" in the 80mm - 100mm waist range, for more stability given my size compared to a narrower-waisted ski in the 70mm - 79mm range. This seems to be a real point of contention for those people who've tried to answer this question for me. Many seem to believe that a good carving ski has to be less than 80mm and of a shorter length, while others insist that my physique warrants the stability of a wider waist -- even up to 100mm -- and that there are plenty of models on the market that can still carve groomers just fine with the right technique and practice. Again, width for me isn't at all about skiing deep powder or crud-bashing -- it's about the suitable width of the platorm on which I will ride. One gentleman on who is a physics professor or scientist or something states that body weight is directly commensurate with ideal width in a ski for recreational skiers -- that the heavier one is the wider his/her skis should be, while still maintaining a proper application for the tool. Others insist that width is directly tied to the application only (narrow=turny, wide=powder) regardless of the skier's weight and ski style.

d) a length of 180 - 190 cm. I should mention here that when I rented skis this past season, I started on a 185 ski my first time back in 35 years and it was very challenging to maneuver due to my lack of carving /turning abilities. When I switched to a shorter ski (something like a 170 I believe), it was easier to turn, but I found myself less balanced fore and aft than I was on the longer skis. From posting on forums, it seems that there's almost no plausible reason for someone of my height and width to ski anything shorter than 180 cm, and so I've obviously got to get my technique down to be able to comfortably ski a longer model.

Sidenote: with regards to waist width and length, it's interesting that different ski instructors have different opinions about it as well. I've read on that John Clendenin wants his students on narrow, shorter carving skis. An instructor on another site insists that each person's physical and skill levels need to be addressed for a proper fit to get the maximum benefit of instruction without being hampered by ill-fitting equipment.

e) vertical sidewall construction -- for whatever reason, other skiers recommend vertical sidewalls over "step-down" or other cuts of sidewall construction.

f) flatter tail over a tipped / rockered tail -- for easier, cleaner turning in conjunction with a firm / lively ski.

g) Finally, a ski that is more "advanced" than my current capabilities, since my physique and leg strength warrant skis whose specs frequently fall into the advanced categories. While I see the reasoning in that position, I don't want to find myself "battling" my skis, skiing on something that needs to be "driven hard" at mach-1 to perform correctly, or has very little "forgiveness" for lack of proper balance. At the same time, I understand that if I want something that I can grow with that I may have to accept some of those as a trade-off in the short-term.

Based on the MEDIAN conclusions I personally have come up with, I'm considering demos of the models below but again -- I'm NOT asking or expecting any of you to tell me which of these skis is going to "be the best" for my situation. If you DO think one of those (or another model or waist width or overall length, etc) would be better, by all means, feel free to share and know that I appreciate that! But at the same time, it's obvious from the reviews of these models that they are all very, very good and there's little difference between makes of similiar specs in terms of testers really liking them.

I've considered "all mountain carvers" limited to those designated as best on groomers or "on piste", in lengths close to or greater than 180+ cm, that claim many of the above characteristics:

Atomic: Blackeye Ti (82 x 181, tip-rocker), OR Crimson Ti (88x185, tip-rocker)

Blizzard: Magnum 7.6 (76 x 177, cambered), OR 8.1 (81 x 179, tip-rocker),
OR Bushwhacker (88 x 180, tip-rocker)

Kastle: RX 12 (70 x 184, cambered) -- awesome review scores, but a very narrow ski
by comparison to others here)

Rossignol: Experience 88 (88 x 186, tip-rocker)

Salomon: Enduro XT 850 (84 x 184, tip-rocker)

Volkl Kendo (88 x 191, cambered)

Your opinion about the characteristics for my "right"
ski, and or an opinion as to whether any of these or
perhaps some other model would be most welcome.

Thanks in advance.

If you really want to learn how to carve and improve your overall skiing technique, get a thin waisted carving ski with a tight turn radius. This type of ski promotes the skier recognizing the forces and the feel of carving much better than wider and larger radius skis. Can you learn to carve on a wider ski, probably but it will take longer and you may never really feel true G force (which is what carving is about!).

If you insist on getting a mid fat, get one with a tight turning radius. The best made IMO is the Head IM78 and there are still a few floating around. I would recommend the 177 cm length to start even at your height and weight. They also make a 184 length. Check around on Ebay and you may find a pair. The new Peak 78 Pro is a similar ski (although few like it as well) and the turn radius is the same. I ski my 177 IM 78's in almost every condition and they just rock. They carve amazing arcs and but they will also ski pow, chop and crud like very few skis. It is a great ski.

Head also makes the Peak 84 which has a reasonably tight turning radius for a ski of that width. Also considered by most to be a best in category ski.

The Dynastar Sultan 85 now called the Legend 85 is also a wider ski with a tight turning radius. I've skied it and I like the heads way better.

If you decide to get a carving try carving ski, go with something in the 12-14-5 m turn radius range. Head SS magnum, Head TT800, New Fischer Progressor 900 and 1000, and the Stockli Laser CX and the Laser SX are all skis to look into.

Again I disagree with your thinking on going mid fat/all mountain versus pure carving if you really do want to work on your carving and improving your overall skiing technique.


--- Quote from: calking on January 02, 2012, 06:02:00 pm ---First, I am NOT going to ask you folks "which ski should I buy?" Frankly, I don't see how anyone can ask a complete stranger this question in a serious context. As an avid tennis player I learned the importance of demo'ing tennis rackets from that sport.

--- End quote ---
Well said.  And an excellent write-up and a pretty interesting challenge.
I'm sure that you are going to get a bunch of opinions all over the place, just as you have on other forums.
Some thoughts.
1. You're athletic, but currently unskilled.  That says the likelihood is great that the skill development skis that are best for you now will be different than the skis that bring you the most enjoyment two years from now (or less). Some ski shops do full season leases on skis (and they are often better quality skis than day rentals).  Another option is to buy prior year skis. There are often excellent deals on skis that are as good as current year. is a good collection of past year reviews. 
2. Your first priority is getting consistent speed control without relying upon the wedge and without running out of control and then throwing on the brakes with a hockey stop.  Harald Harb has posted a lot of YouTube video of some fundamental skiing principles and has some excellent books and videos.  John Clendenin is another resource (and obviously you are familiar with his material), but  I believe he specializes more with people that have been skiing for a while but that don't have clean technique (Gary, correct me here). The other mainline type of instruction is PSIA (professional ski instructors of america) that make up the snow school instructors at most hills. You need to select an approach for instruction.
3. Your second priority is skis that support your first priority.  Narrower skis make it easier to tip the skis on edge which is what makes them turn, so they make it easier to learn the correct movements.  Physicsman's calculations about surface area for float in snow are correct, but they mean nothing on groomed slopes. Groomed slopes and learning technique are about the edges and using the edges to control speed; wider skis have more surface area but get more difficult to tip on edge as they get wider.
4. Ski width.  I would normally suggest 68-72 for learning skills. (By the way, I'm just a hack skier and not an instructor or accomplished skier like many here).  Due to your size (taller, larger boot size), I would say anything less than 80 is "narrow" but that you are likely to be skiing mostly 95-105 mm waisted skis in the future once you begin to move off of groomed slopes.
5. Ski Length.  Each model of ski comes in a variety of lengths consistent with the design of the ski.  You will want to always pick the longest ski in the given model, but that may be a 190 in a powder ski, a 180 in an all-mountain ski, or a 170 in a carving ski.

I can't wait to hear what else others have to say.

Thank you both for your insightful replies.

I joined just recently -- it's actually how I found this forum, and became familiar with both Harb and Clendenin. I'm am looking at the reviews for skis that are earlier years -- 2009-2010, and 2010-2011. I'll be honest, though -- I'm not real keen on buying someone's used skis off eBay or online unless they're local and I could see that they were in great shape, but the issue about saving money on 1-2 year old models isn't lost on me if I could find the right model in new or near-new condition.

Just to clarify -- I'm not set on skis of any particular width or category/class. It's early in the game for me and I'm just doing the research to determine what other "average Joe" skiers think about the specs I've listed, and to see what the consensus is on the issue as a whole.

It's been suggested by some retailers I've spoken with that slightly wider and longer skis are proportionally no different for large people than narrower, shorter skis are for average or smaller folks. One gentleman mentioned that the difference between a 72mm waist and an 88mm waste is only 5/8-inch. That made me wonder if these so-called "mid-fats" are really all that "wide" compared to their carving specialist cousins. The other angle here is that many of these early rise designs are "supposed" to facilitate easier turn initiation and/or turns themselves. Rossignol calls their tech spec "autoturn rocker" and other manufacturers have their own names for turnability as well. Yet, if that extra 5/8ths width makes a significant difference on the hill if I'm learning to roll onto edges, then I should consider something more like the Nordica Fire Arrow 74, with it's slimmer waist. I'm not at all opposed to rethinking my selections.

Turning radius is obviously another matter, as Jbotti points out. And it's there that it goes gray for me. G-force issues notwithstanding -- the turn radii in the 180+ lengths between the 9 models of skis I listed in my post range from 16.5 degrees for the Atomic Blackeye to 24.1 degrees for the Volkl Kendo.

Having said that, though, I find it really difficult to imagine someone of my proportions actually engaging 12-14 degree carves at speed, not to mention even being cognisant of it while doing it. Turn radius seems to be another one of those phantom issues that there's no definitive answer to -- there are "race" skis with 60mm-ish waists that spec at 15+ degree turns in 170cm lengths, and yet there are some wider or longer skis that spec at the same 15 degree radius -- such as the Nordica Fire Arrow 74 in the 180cm length, according to the Nordica's website. Again, though -- how do you know you're cutting a 13 degree turn versus a 16-degree turn, and is a coach notice the difference? Don't get me wrong -- I can see that a radically tight-turning radius and a shorter ski is vital for someone skiing big moguls. But for someone like myself, am I really hampering my ability to learn to carve if I went with the Fire Arrow 74 @ 180cm versus another ski with a 68mm waist and a purported 12 degree radius at 168cm?

Jim: Speaking of ski radii and Harold Harb in the same sentence -- one of his videos starts by claiming that until one learns these very slow, methodical, parallel turns on the bottom of the hill, there's no way to execute them to any degree on the larger, steeper slopes. Clendenin, at least from what I've seen early on, seems to be more focused on bump skiing for intermediates, but according to shares the same mantra for learning the basics on carvers in the lower 70mm waist range. So I'm on board with all of that. Maybe I should look into a demo of those Nordica 74s and other skis in that class.

Update: I read LivingProof's thread, "Snow Drought and Fat Skis" with interest as it relates to my posting. It seems more and more like the more appropriate choice in ski for me is something in these slimmer waists, but again, I'm open to hear what anyone cares to share. The ski length issue is still TBD though....

Note: The ski radius (or sidecut) is in meters, not degrees. It indicates the amount of shape or sidecut of the ski as the diameter of the circle that would match the arc of the sidecut of the ski (with the ski flat).
As you bend the ski then it will turn in a smaller arc, but sidecut shows relatively how turney a ski is.

I am probably in the minority, but I agree with your feelings about used skis. However, I have gotten a couple of pair of 1 and 3 year old skis still in the shrink-wrap at excellent prices.

Skiing is like tennis in at least one respect -- if you don't have the correct footwork you aren't going to be in position to hit the shot very effectively.  And the movements need to be ingrained to enough of a degree that they don't evaporate when the terrain is a little bit more challenging.


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