cheap skis please!
November 24, 2010 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Can someone with minimal knowledge of downhill ski technology purchase appropriate skis at a ski swap/used ski sale?

I want to start skiing for real again this year. I've skied only sporadically since my practically new, very nice skis were destroyed in a tragic accident involving a gallon of mineral spirits about 10 years ago. I was looking at buying skis (not boots!) at one of those ski equipment swaps/tag sales. Problem is, aside from knowing I want shaped skis and the approximate length, I really know nothing about ski tech. Is it still worth trying to purchase something? or should I rent for this season and from the end-of-season sales with the sales guy there to help me?
posted by genmonster to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would demo as many different kinds of skis as you can this season. In fact, my dad just did this for multiple seasons before finding a pair he really liked. Sometimes a ski area will host a demo day, or you can try whatever ski shops are convenient.
posted by mkb at 9:21 AM on November 24, 2010

You'd probably get the best skis for you by going to a real ski shop (not REI or similar, somewhere more local) and talking to someone in their rental department.

The main thing to be aware of for you is stiffness. This will depend on your weight and ability. Softer skis are more forgiving, but will also feel sloppy if you are heavier or a better skier. Pretty much all skis will be 'shaped' now, I wouldn't worry too much about that.
posted by annie o at 9:35 AM on November 24, 2010

I was going to recommend the real ski shop rental place, too. They regularly sell off their older rental stock and it's where I bought my intermediate skis--which are retired rental skis. They're not pretty and they're not the newest thing, but they fit my needs really well and we got a good deal and lots of sound advice picking them.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:41 AM on November 24, 2010

Response by poster: what do people mean by 'demo" does this cost anything?
posted by genmonster at 10:31 AM on November 24, 2010

Try renting something you're happy with. Then take those specifications with you to the ski swap and attempting to buy the same or similar.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:45 AM on November 24, 2010

Considering that you haven't been skiing regularly for a decade, I think that you should just buy some inexpensive used shaped skis at a swap. If you keep skiing regularly, you'll know what you like and don't like about your skis, and you can think about getting the "perfect" skis. The combination of being a little rusty with your skiing, and trying to figure out if you need skis that are stiffer or float better or whatever is going to be overwhelming.

FWIW, I'm a regular skier, and the ski club advisor at my high school. And I'm skiing on a decent pair of skis that I bought at an end of season sale - they're just basic skis. I tend to not worry so much about how my skis are supposed to perform, and pay attention to my own technique. So - don't over-think this! Just have fun!!!
posted by shrabster at 10:50 AM on November 24, 2010

Demo skis are usually current skis that are rented for a premium price. Usually, $10-$20 over whatever standard rental skis that the shop is renting. You can often try these skis and, if you like them, buy them! They won't be cheap to buy but they may be cheaper than the equivalent new. My husband a couple years ago bought his demo skis and boots -- the whole package was about $400 as I recall and maybe $200 less than if he bought the same package new in a store.
posted by amanda at 11:02 AM on November 24, 2010

the other thing about demos is you can try multiple pairs in a day for that premium price. best to do this at the ski area, obviously. the people at the shop usually know their stuff.
posted by annie o at 11:06 AM on November 24, 2010

Shops often have "demo" gear that they will let you borrow for free (they may keep your driving licence or something). Alternatively sometimes there are ski demo events where manufacturers show up with loads and loads of skis for you to try out, yes, for free.

If you can't find a way to demo any skis for free, definitely try renting a pair and trying them out. Don't buy something you haven't skied on unless you're happy to sell them on if they don't suit you.

If your technique is not all that great and you plan on improving a lot, bear in mind that you may well want a different pair of skis once you're a better skier. So if you can rent cheaply enough for a season that may be a good plan. The shop will often let you swap your rental skis for other rental skis whenever you want, so you could use this as an opportunity to try out different kinds of ski and see what they feel like.

Ski terminology you may encounter:

Racing skis (you don't want these)
Twin tips, which curve up at the back and have the bindings mounted more centrally (get these if you fancy some freestyle, probably not otherwise)
"Carving skis", sometimes this means "not the old straight skis from years ago" but it can mean skis designed specifically for piste skiing with the bindings mounted on a little platform. These could be good to try.
Powder skis, which are very long and fat. You don't want these unless you know why you want them.
"All mountain" skis, also good to try.
posted by emilyw at 11:06 AM on November 24, 2010

One bit of advice : Do not undersell yourself on skis if you plan on improving, this goes double for boots.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 11:37 AM on November 24, 2010

Agree completely with shrabster.
Additionally, Demo skis are okay, but they tend to have heavier rental bindings on them. Because of this, I've always found it hard to get a good feel for the skis, especially now that most mid+ level skis come with the integrated bindings. Rental skis are most likely going to be a learning ski, so you'll probably be better off with your own pair. If you ski 10 times this year and rent off-mountain each time, you're talking maybe $250 for the season at a minimum... and you don't even need the boots.
posted by smalls at 11:49 AM on November 24, 2010

Just adding to other peoples advice and focusing on how to find used skis in decent shape. When you are looking at used skies the important thing to look at is the ski bindings and the underside of the skis.

The bindings should not be to beaten up as it is important that they work so that you do not hurt yourself. You do also have to adjust them properly.

The underside should not have any deep cuts as that damages them and how well they glide. Smaller scratches on the other hand is expected. You should also look out for recently waxed skis as that might have been done to cover up the real state of them.
posted by furisto at 1:15 PM on November 24, 2010

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