About skiing: things to consider when choosing new skis

Last week was devoted to preparing for the season. But I did not speak of an essential activity, to read about our sport. What was once reading ski magazines has spread to websites and email newsletters.

One of my favorites is realskiers.com, which is published by Jackson Hogen, who has compiled ski reviews for Snow Country for most of this magazine’s existence. Knowing Jackson’s background with real ski companies and having skied with him, I can trust his judgment on the skis. It helps that his recommendations are in line with my own choices, so I look forward to his emails.

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

For the past few years ski magazines have recommended wider skis, which I can understand for those who ski out west. And I would qualify that. My first experience on a very wide ski was the Atomic Powder plus, at least 6 inches underfoot.

We were heliskiing from Valemount, BC and the skis were perfect. The flotation made it easy to ski two or more feet of powder. At the time, I was in good shape having skied in powder on my own Atomics, a 209cm GS, but the wide boards made it a lot easier for me and I saw intermediates handling the depths with wide skis.

If by chance I had to go back in a helicopter aboard the Canadian Bugaboos, I would certainly be on wide skis. But even in the West, if you stick to groomed trails, why go wide? And we sure don’t need them to ski groomed trails here in the East.

THE CASE OF RACING SKIS

Regular readers of my columns should know by now that I have always recommended racing skis, and today’s recreational racing models are easier to ski than ever before. While I wouldn’t recommend these 209 Atomics, it was the easiest turn ski of this length I have ever skied. They still take up space in my office, but with the old ESS bindings they will never see the slopes under my shoes again. The GS models I just finished tuning are 175cm Volkls with a Rocker tip. Obviously, a ski of this length is easy in the turn. But with today’s construction, the skis are surprisingly stable.

This is an area that is generally not mentioned when comparing skis. Today’s skis are different in many other ways than width, sidecut and length.

The materials of the ski and the way they are put together give us flex patterns that could never have been achieved with the old materials and construction methods. This is why we have skis that are easy to ski but still stable with good edge holding.

Hogen made a particular point earlier this fall when advocating for racing skis. He spoke about the direction of ski designers in Europe, noting that they are obsessed with racing. These are their favorite skis, the ones that get the most attention. They are repeatedly tested by the best skiers in the world, the World Cup racers.

Hogen tells us that is why these are the best skis in the world. No expense is spared in building today’s racing skis, and while it is true that we cannot buy the exact same skis that World Cup skiers use, recreational racing skis. today (Hogen calls them non-FIS models) are the best you can buy.

There are a few distinctions. For example, Volkl lists the Race Tiger series and separates the more serious racing skis in stock from Race. A significant difference is the arch. My Race Tigers have a tip rocker, but my Race Stock GS models have full camber. The Race Tigers are more tolerant and the Race Stock more demanding. I take out the Race Stocks when I want to go a little faster on perfectly prepared tracks in the middle of the week. They are 180, while the Recreational Race Tigers are 175. My first few days will surely be on the 175.

Although I ski race skis and recommend them for advanced skiers, I suggest trying them out the next time you’re thinking about new skis. The only problem is finding them on demo days. Many stores no longer carry racing skis and often they are not available for demonstrations.

If you can find a store that caters to runners, they probably have one. Two of those stores are Ski Depot in Jay and Myrick’s Skiers Edge in Auburn – places that both equip a number of runners, especially high school kids. Sport Thoma in Bethel does a lot of business with the children of the Gould-Sunday River program. These are stores where you might find racing demos to try out.

LOST VALLEY EXPERIENCES

On another subject, I don’t know how many readers know that I have written a few books. My stories of Shawnee Peak and Mount Abram are available on Amazon, but to support more local skiing, get signed copies at the Maine Ski Museum and the New England Ski Museum. Signed copies are also available in both mountains and at the Bethel Historical Society.

Now that I’ve pulled this shameless hold off, I’m going to ask for your help with my next book. With the goal of getting it out by the start of the 2022-2023 ski season, I’m collecting material for a book on Lost Valley, which means I’ll be skiing a lot locally this season. If you have any stories about skiing or learning to ski in Lost Valley, contact me at [email protected] I’m interested in meeting the Lost Valley skiers on the ski area, whether it’s doing a few runs or chatting in the base lodge.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer and columnist from Westbrook. He has contributed to the Sun Journal for many years and is one of the North East’s most respected ski editors. He is also a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Write to him at [email protected]


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