GEAR CONFESSIONS: Advice from Kim on Finding the Right Skis for you

GEAR CONFESSIONS: A series of blogs written by Kim to bring you solid advice on ski equipment, making the most of your budget and getting your kit dialed so you are ready to hit the slopes when the snow starts to fly.

Part 2 : SKIS

Confession number one: I can immediately tell after watching someone ski if they are on the right pair of skis or not. After 28 years of hosting ski adventures with 200 days a year on snow and paying close attention to each client, I have the experience of watching thousands of people ski, closely and analytically. Inherently, this gives me an insight that is unique and valuable.

Confession number two: I know a lot about how skis are made. In 1992 I started working as a ski tester. The procedure takes hard work and concentration but the experience made me aware of how different one brand is to the next, even different skis within one brand. For the past 12 years I’ve been working with K2 engineers as the lead female athlete designing our women’s collection. Every April through August we meet one week a month, taking hundreds of runs on prototypes to narrow down the variables until we have the perfect ski to bring to market. The process has gifted me with the ability to feel and understand how each contributing factor, from shape change to material used, effects the performance of the ski.

Here is what I know:

Technology is always changing. Ski engineers are constantly working hard to make ski equipment better and better to make skiing more fun and easier.

No two people are the same. The right ski for your friend may not be the right ski for you. By taking the time to demo, you will be sure to get a compatible set up and spend your money with confidence.

Your skis need to complement your style. Softer skis for less aggressive and lighter people will be more forgiving. Stiffer skis hold well on ice and support bigger people. A ski that is too soft or too stiff for you will make skiing more difficult.

Women’s specific skis make a difference. At K2, our women’s designs are only slightly different than the unisex skis but the small difference makes a big difference in the way they perform. When I ski women’s models I ski just as well, with less effort. When I ski the guy’s skis my legs burn more and I get tired more quickly.

Lighter is not better. Do you want to drive a smart car or a Mercedes? Sure it might be a little more work carrying them to the lift, but once on the snow a heavier ski will be more stable.

Shorter is not better. Unless you are just learning, your skis should be almost as tall as you. If you like to ski slowly and make a lot of turns, go shorter. If you like to ski fast, longer is better. Most skis have rocker and a tapered tip profile. This makes the ski easer to turn and gives it more versatility. A longer ski is just as easy to turn and way more stable. When you demo, always try the same ski in a different length to be sure you are not selling yourself short. Ha-ha.

As your skis get wider they get longer. On hard snow we need to be quick edge-to-edge in order to maintain control. Narrower skis allow us to get on an edge sooner and therefore control our speed more quickly. Skis between 75mm and 90mm underfoot are best for carving, bumps and early season skiing. As the snow gets softer I shift to wider and longer skis. Soft snow slows us down; we don’t need to grip our edges as hard to control our speed. I also introduce skidding into my skiing adding playfulness and variety in my turns. All mountain skis, 90 – 115mm underfoot, are more fun and easier to ski when the snow pack is soft, fresh powder, warm or spring corn snow and best if slightly longer than your hard snow ski. A true powder ski gets wider and longer depending on how deep, how big and how fast you plan on going. There is so much rocker in fat skis these days they are super easy to turn. If a powder ski is too short you will just sink, plow and struggle. Powder skis need to be over your head.

Different mountains need different skis. If you ski in a place like Crested Butte or Alta where the skiing is steep, tight and technical you might want a shorter ski. A shorter ski is easer to turn quickly keeping you in control, avoiding obstacles while still maintaining your fluidity. If your resort has a lot of bumps, narrow trails or crowds you will also like something slightly shorter. If you ski wide open resorts like Snowmass, Big Sky or the bowls at Vail where you can really let it go, longer skis are more stable, make bigger turns and get you across flat traverses more quickly.

If you ski in the Pacific Northwest where the snow can be heavier, a beefier ski will plow through the snow and add stability. Dry Rocky Mountain snow can take a softer lighter ski. The idea is to find the perfect board for you and your mountain.

A well-tuned ski will be faster and smother edge to edge. Invest in your experience and have your skis professionally tuned on a regular basis. You and your skis are worth it.

If you ski with me this winter you can ski my entire quiver. I have something for everyone, from women’s specific to a big mountain charger. You don’t have to buy to try, but it’s nice to know what you like when you are ready to buy.

For questions about gear, feel free to hit up Kim directly at Check out the 2017 Schedule, HERE! 

MJ Carroll