Buying new skis can be a very exciting process, but it can also be quite a bit overwhelming. As much as we like cool top sheet designs, purchasing new skis is about much more than just finding a pair that looks the best. You need to consider how and where you intend to use them, what style and skill level of a skier you are, and sometimes even what gear you plan to pair it with. With that comes questions of underfoot width, rocker/camber profile, side cut profile, and flex.
Much like every other aspect of a ski’s build, there are several things you want to consider while trying to decide how stiff of a ski you want. Skier type and skill level are huge, but where and how you intend to use the gear matters just as much.
What Is Ski Flex?
Ski flex, or stiffness, has a pretty heavy impact on how a ski actually performs on the snow. A stiff ski, or less flexible ski, will hold an edge through imperfections in the ski surface, while a softer ski, or more flexible ski, will have an easier time releasing the edges.
A ski’s torsional stiffness refers to how much a ski will twist edge to edge. A ski’s longitudinal stiffness is how much a ski will flex tip to tail. Longitudinal stiffness is both what’s most commonly rated with skis and what you see tested by flexing the ski in the shop. A ski’s flex pattern usually considers both torsional stiffness and longitudinal stiffness. It’s impacted by by skier ability, skier weight, and the points on a ski where it’s stiffest and where it’s softest.
Stiff Skis versus Soft Skis
In most cases, a stiff ski is going to be much more comfortable at higher speeds. The edges refuse to bounce up over uneven snow (even the most perfectly groomed runs will feature a lot of imperfections), pushing the edges deeper and harder into the ground. Turns will be precise, requiring lots of power to enter and exit. Skis like the 4FRNT MSP 91 are where you find stiffness to the max. Its stiffness combined with little rocker and underfoot camber bring huge amounts of power into every turn, all while staying extremely stable and damp at high speeds.
Downside wise, a stiff ski can require a lot of energy to turn. Trees, bumps, powder, and varying snow conditions can make stiff skis incredibly difficult to use.
Freeride skiers and racers typically stick towards stiffer skis. In freeride, high speeds and steep runs are the name of the game, and aggressive skiers are rewarded with stiffer skis. Ski racing requires skis that hold an edge through anything and provide a lot of power. In terms of skier build, heavier/taller riders are often more comfortable on stiffer skis, as softer skis might just not provide enough support. Advanced and exerienced skiers are usually found on stiffer skis as well.
Riders with a soft ski, on the other hand, are going to have a much easier time entering and exiting turns. They’ll bend over bumps and take varying snow gradients like champions, but they’re usually much more difficult to control at higher speeds.
Freestyle skiers are often found on softer skis. They’re flexibility means they’re more controllable through jumps, rails, and other tricks, and a uniform flex pattern means they’re quite comfortable going both forwards and backwards. Lighter/shorter skiers will find a softer ski much easier to control, and a forgiving (soft) ski is much less likely to punish beginners when they make mistakes.
Skis like the Line Blend fall into that soft freestyle ski category. Its flexibility makes it ideal in the park, but a 100mm underfoot width keeps it floating through deeper snow. The ski’s twin tips add to its ability to ski both forwards and backwards, and its rocker profile means it skis pretty short.
Which Should I Get?
There is no one correct answer when considering ski flex. It’s important to remember that flex is a spectrum, so you don’t necessarily want the softest ski or the stiffest ski. All-mountain skiers, for example, often find something in the middle to be the best option, and intermediate skiers can begin to get comfortable with the idea of stiffness while avoiding the leg burn that comes with a super stiff ski on something with a more progressive flex like the Black Crows Camox.
At the end of the day, finding the perfect ski usually requires speaking to an expert, even if you think you’re an expert yourself. You can head over to Curated to speak and shop with a ski expert online, making the process that much easier.
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