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A wide range of skis for cross country and backcountry skiing are available. Information on skis can be obtained from specialist outdoors shops, ski friends and online sources. Some ski shops have on-snow demo days and ski hire.
It is best to hire skis, boots and bindings to try them out prior to buying.
Some characteristics of skis that affect their performance and suitability for different snow conditions include:
Stiffness. Soft flexing skis are easy to turn and good for skiing powder and heavy snow while stiffer skis can be harder to turn but perform better in icy conditions.
Camber. The camber is the degree of arch the skis have. Stiff skis usually have high camber and are more difficult to turn. Softer skis generally have less camber.
Length. Longer skis go faster but can be harder to turn. Shorter skis are easier to turn but are slower. Shorter skis are easier to handle in narrow chutes, on ice fields on glaciers and when skiing through dense trees. Heavier and taller skiers are suited to longer skis.
Side cut. The sidecut is determined by the width of the ski at its centre (under the boot) and width of the ski at its tip. More sidecut provides better turning.
Width. Wide skis provide better flotation and turning in soft and heavy snow but are more difficult to edge on ice and firm snow.
Metal edges. Full metal edges are now the norm for ski touring and backcountry skis.
Pattern bases. Skis with a pattern base to provide grip for going uphill are generally the best for most ski touring locations and conditions in Australia. They are convenient to use in undulating terrain.
Longer and stiffer skis can make it easier to ski with a heavy pack.