Some handy tips for buying new skis

By: Jeffrey Weidel/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Attention all you budget-conscious types. Let’s face facts – change is required. It’s time to ditch those archaic skis and get hooked up with a new pair of shaped skis.

Yes, it’s hard pulling the trigger, especially when your bank account isn’t overflowing with excess cash and the old skis still provide adequate transportation. So did my aging Honda Civic for many years, but eventually, I was happier purchasing a new car.

So now that you’re at least considering new skis, here are some helpful guidelines to follow in the search for your new-and-improved mode of travel down the slopes.

Assess your ability
I had a friend who once bought a pair of performance skis that were much longer than he could handle. He would grow into them, he swore. He never did.

Be honest with yourself before the purchase. What type of terrain do you ski – bumps, steep chutes, trees, powder, terrain parks? Or is cruising down a modest groomer more your style?

For most people, an alpine, all-mountain ski is the way to go. Designed for recreational skiers who need solid carving capability, these skis will work fine for the average skier on all types of terrain.

Yet there are skis designed for specific conditions or terrain. Fat skis work great in powder, twin tips are designed for powder and terrain parks, and race skis will get one down the hill in a hurry.

Don’t be afraid to demo
No one would consider buying a car without at least driving it around the block. So why should skis be any different? Give them a test drive.

Read about different models, checking for various features and price range. After narrowing the choices, try them out for real.

Demo Days aren’t hard to locate; practically every resort has them. Go find one, or maybe plan on taking in a couple. It can actually be fun, comparing each model and trying to decipher the differences.

“It’s wise to talk to a salesperson that you respect and trust about what skis you might want to demo,” said Eric Fuellenbach, a manager at Ken’s Bike & Ski in Davis. “Then go demo those particular skis and see which ones fit your needs the best.”

Too short? No such thing
The longer the ski, the better the skier, right? That’s definitely old-style thinking. Since the industry-wide switch to shaped skis, that line of thinking no longer applies.

“I still get people all the time who want to ski on 210, 215 (centimeter skis),” said Kody Reeves, a salesperson at Clark’s Snow Sports in Roseville. “Some people want their skis long and big. But with shaped skis, the same people skiing on those long skis can now be able to maneuver and get the same performance in 160-170 shaped skis.”

Finding the bindings
Don’t get hung up on locating just the right bindings. Many alpine skis now come with integrated binding systems, providing your basic one-stop shop.

Bindings are insignificant to most recreational skiers. Getting them properly adjusted to one’s ability and weight is the important thing.

“Unless you’re a super, high-level skier, you’re not going to notice any difference in bindings,” Reeves said.

Where to buy
For the best service, try the local ski shop, not the big sports mart that sells everything from sleeping bags to golf clubs. A knowledgeable salesperson that understands the product is much more helpful.

Offseason is the best time to buy “leftovers” from the local ski shop. But keep on the lookout for late-season bargains at mountain shops, which often begin dropping prices in clearing sales around February.

Buying online is another option. However, proceed with caution. Know what you’re looking for and beware of deals that sound too good. Make sure of warranties.

If you’re new to skiing/snowboarding, stay away from garage sales and be careful at ski/snowboard swaps because you may wind up with gear that is outdated and inappropriate.

“This is a great time of year to buy in terms of deals, because everything we’re selling should be at sale price,” Fuellenbach said. “But don’t wait too long. We don’t have as much inventory as we used to carry, so it’s getting low this time of year.”

Jeffrey Weidel is a Sacramento-area freelance writer with more than 25 years of skiing experience.