Buying New Ski's

Reporter: Alan Brown

How do you go about finding a new ski that suits your kind of skiing? Decide whether you want to try before you buy in resort (like I did), then start by doing some homework before you travel. I had several sources of information:

  • As a Ski Club of Great Britain member, I was able to email the Information Department and ask what they’d recommend, given my requirements. (The more you can tell them about your ability level and the type of skiing you do, the more useful the reply.)
  • Caroline has been telling me that, price notwithstanding, she’d go for the Salomon XT800.
  • Andrew Ferrari, who talked to the Club about Skis and boots, said the Scott The Ski was the one for him.
  • Ski Bartlett (which is The Best Place to go for racing advice incidentally) showed Caroline the Black Crow Ova.
  • And last but not least Steve and Andrew were swearing by their purchases of Dynastar Cham 87s. You'll see from the picture that they’re available in orange or blue!
  • SCGB also suggested I try some of these plus the Line Prophet, Head Rev 85 and Rossignol Experience 88.

With such an extensive list, how could I go wrong!

I was fortunate that Barry Lewis knows the Val ski shops well, and suggested I start at his favourite, Mountain Pro, which specialises in touring kit, but has a good all-mountain range too.

They had some Cham 87s handy, so I tried those on Day 1. These have a 20cm front rocker. Our instructor was able to explain that rockers do several things:

  1. Help with turn initiation as they are soft and allow the tip to bite easily
  2. Start to work most when the ski is under strong turning forces (e.g. at the end of a fast carving turn) by effectively extending the length of the working ski. They provide a progressive bite and help hold the edge.
  3. Assist with floating in deep powder

I managed to feel the first two, but there was no chance of powder in Val for the Club holiday. Overall I was impressed, but went back to try more.

Day 2 was Movement Jam. A ‘traditional’ ski with no rocker. They felt less responsive, and lacked the ease of turn the Cham 87s had provided. We ventured off piste for some reason, but the conditions were poor—heavy windblown, icy zastrugi (snow surface sculpted by wind into ridges and grooves) and breakable crust. We had no idea what each turn would be, so the run was unpleasant survival. Not ideal conditions to test a ski! So back to the shop...

Day 4 saw me back on the Cham 87s as the nice man in Mountain Pro said he had no other suitable skis to try. I found another shop renting the Scott ski, but was already leaning towards the Cham 87s anyway, despite not having given them a good try in all conditions.

Decision made by Day 5, I chose to support local industry, and buy from the nice man as he’d been very helpful. Surprisingly, given it was beginning of season, he couldn’t oblige! No suitable stock!

To cut the story short(er), I finally bought online from Glisshop, a French-based site with good prices and impressive delivery. I had the skis within four working days! And they threw in a ski bag, a ski maintenance kit and a pair of poles that Brenda Smith now has.

The moral? Do your homework, but accept that you can’t always get the skis you want to try, conditions don’t always allow an all-conditions test, and local availability might let you down.

Steve and Andrew had very smug smiles on the flight home...