How long? How wide? How come? When it comes to equipment, SKI readers ask all the right questions. The answers bear repeating. I've been thinking about switching to a ski with a little more waist width. How wide should I go?
If you're optimistic, go wide. Skis with extra width float and surf through powder, which is what most of us hope to be doing every time we ski. But narrow skis also have their place because, in reality, you're likely to encounter plenty of hardpack (OK, ice) and will want a ski that holds an edge. Think toboggan versus ice skate. Ideally, you'll have a quiver: a narrow GS or slalom ski for town-series racing and high-speed arcing on groomers, a mid-fat for everyday all-mountain fun in soft snow and crud, and a great big fatty to break out on powder days. Absent that, go with a versatile mid-fat that does everything pretty well. How wide? That depends on what kind of snow you generally expect to encounter. Easterners should err on the narrow side, say, 68-72 mm. Westerners can be a few millimeters more optimistic.
I've always believed that only wood cores are suitable for high-performance skis. Is this true?
In their first iterations, foam cores were indeed inferior, though comparatively cheap to manufacture. Today's injected-foam constructions, where the material is basically squirted through the tail to fill a hollow ski, remain unreliable. But milled foam cores are another matter: Cured foam blanks are precisely cut to shape and then laid up in the ski the way wood cores are. They can be just as good as, and in some ways better (damper, more predictable) than, wood.
I've gotten used to shorter skis, but the newer models seem to be getting even shorter. Should I downsize?
Ask yourself what kind of skiing you like. For long arcs at high speed on groomed snow, stick with something longer-about 5 cm shorter than you are. But if you like to make lots of quick turns, go with one of the new short slaloms and ski it in a length that's up to 20 cm shorter than you. It's a better workout, and makes a small hill seem bigger.
I've learned to ski with pain, but will custom footbeds improve the fit of my boots?
Anyone can benefit from a custom footbed, but people with unusual feet stand to gain more. A good footbed holds the foot in a position that effectively makes it smaller, since arch-support pulls your toes back and the sides of your feet in. That solves many fit issues, and even allows the use of a tighter-fitting shell, which banishes the slop that can cause pain.