Understanding Different Ski Types and Styles

When picking up Vail ski rentals or buying new skis, it’s helpful to understand different ski types and styles. With many advances in modern ski technology, several ski options exist. Some skis are best suited for ripping down groomed terrain. Others lend themselves to maneuverability in Vail’s famed back bowls. Still others ski best in light powder. And some skis fit that catchall category: all-mountain. But what’s what? And what type of ski is best for you?

Vail’s Back Bowls are awe inspiring.

We’re ready to work with you to find the best ski fit for you and your family. At Vista Bahn Ski Rentals (VBSR), we’ve got a quality demo ski rental fleet and a friendly, expert staff. Our demo ski rental packages also let you try out a variety of different ski styles. But you can also use this overview of ski types to help you hone in your wants and needs.

Skis that are best suited for skiing at a resort such as Vail are called downhill, or alpine, skis. Our overview of different ski types remains in the category of downhill skis. These skis differ from backcountry or Nordic ski designs. Generally, downhill skis are used for skiing on lift-accessed or side-country terrain. Downhill skis are further divided into the following categories:

Ski Types for Mountain Cruisers and Groomer Crushers

All-mountain skis: The term “all-mountain skis” describes a variety of ski types best suited for skiing at a ski resort. All-mountain skis can range from groomer-worthy skis to trimmed-down powder skis. They can certainly be skied off-piste, but their design is not optimal for light, powder snow. Some all-mountain skis have a mix of camber and rocker design. Think of an all-mountain ski as the ski you’ll use for skiing most of a resort’s groomed or just-off-piste terrain.

Racing skis: This downhill ski type is race-specific and generally reserved for ski racing athletes. Its narrow design makes it optimal for ski racing on hard-packed conditions. Several different racing ski types exist as well, making them suited to specific ski racing disciplines from slalom to Super G.

Vail ski racer, Bridger Gile at Howelsen Hill, Steamboat, CO.

Carving skis: Think of carving skis as the recreational version of a racing ski. This ski category generally has a narrower waist for more stability on groomers and packed surfaces. The cambered design of carving skis gives them greater responsiveness these types of terrain. Carving skis can be somewhat versatile, too, but they’re better for skiing groomers than off-piste terrain.

Ski Types for Powder Hounds and Park Lovers

Powder skis: Skis made for light, powder snow have a wider waist for more stability off of groomed or packed terrain. The increased width of powder skis gives them more float. Powder skis also usually have more of a rocker versus camber design. This feature gives them more float in softer snow and helps initiate quick turning in powder. Powder skis are often less stable at speed and on hard-packed or groomed terrain.

Big-mountain freeride skis: A big-mountain ski is designed for those who like to ski steep powder conditions in varied, technical terrain. This ski type is also sometimes called a big-mountain freeride ski. These skis are often stiffer than powder skis to withstand the high pressure of athletic skiing characteristic of big-mountain style. Big-mountain skis tend to be wider underfoot and can have a mixer of camber and rocker technology. This design works well on steep, variable terrain.

Freestyle skis: Freestyle skis are generally designed for park-style or for playful skiing, including performing tricks. They also often have twin-tip technology to facilitate multi-directional (forward and backward) skiing. Freestyle skis can be enjoyable on many different terrain types. However, they’re not specifically suited for stability on groomers or in powder. As Skis.com says of this type of ski:

Freestyle skis are for high flying skiers that enjoy spending as much time in the air or on park features as they do on the snow.”

Credit: REI

Ski Types at VBSR

Need extra advice on ski types best suited for you and your family? Stop by VBSR, just steps away from Gondola One in Vail. With our ski demo packages and Vail ski rentals, you can try out a variety of ski types. Plus, you’ll have access to our ski tuning services while getting advice about how to demo skis. And our overnight snowboard and Vail ski storage at VBSR lets you unload your gear at the end of the day before going on to nighttime adventures.