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So, you’ve mastered the blues, ventured into the woods, and skied in every type of snow condition. You can link parallel turns and can mostly hold it together on blacks, but you still get a little puckered from time to time on steeps or ice. On groomers, you’ve started to get the feeling of carving a turn rather than skidding, and you’re eager to get better at bumps and powder. (See our tips on skiing all terrain here.)
Congratulations—you are a solid intermediate, and it’s now time to upgrade your skis. We’ll go through the basics of what you should look for in an intermediate ski, and we’ll also explain why there’s perhaps no better demographic that would benefit from Wagner Custom skis than you.
First of all, by now you should own your own boots—they are the most important part of your ski gear—and they should fit you properly. (Check out our article on how to buy boots here.)
As for skis, let’s start with waist-width, as that determines the ski’s preferred habitat. For intermediates, a general rule of thumb is 85-95 mm, which will be wide enough to float through a few inches of powder and narrow enough to easily get on edge on the groomed. However, ideal ski width depends also on where live, what terrain you prefer, and whether you intend for the model to be your one-ski quiver. Those who live out West and ski softer snow, for example, may want to be on the wider end, and Easterners who ski ice may want to go narrower. (Here’s our guide to finding the perfect waist width for you.)
The profile of the ski is how much camber or rocker a ski has. Most intermediate skis are made with reverse camber at the tips and tails for ease of turn initiation and float in powder, with camber underfoot for edge-grip. In terms of sidecut, this is described by the turn radius—the higher the number, the longer the turn the ski will prefer to make. So if you have a hard time making quick turns in trees, you’ll want a shorter radius. If you need a confidence boost to go fast and stay stable, you’ll want a longer radius. (Learn what your perfect shape would be here.)
In terms of flex, you’re going to want something that’s forgiving enough to be comfortable, yet has enough backbone that it will grow with you as you continue to improve. This means a ski that isn’t too stiff or too soft. A too-stiff ski won’t flex around the arc of the turn, leaving you with the feeling that the planks on your feet aren’t listening to you (they aren’t). A too-soft ski will flex too much, and will feel unstable and squirrely, especially at speed.
Most importantly, you want a ski with an even flex so your turns are round and predictable. A ski with a stiff tail, for example, will feel unwieldy in bumps and will keep you locked into a turn on the groomed. An even-flexing ski will gently guide you out of one turn into the next with a smooth and easy transition. The flex is mostly determined by the ski’s materials.
The problem you may encounter with buying intermediate skis off the rack is that they have a generic flex pattern aimed at the masses. This means they may perform fine on groomers, but they may be too soft in variable snow or in trees. Custom skis, by contrast, can match the flex pattern accurately to your weight and strength.
Another issue with buying mass-produced skis is that companies often incorporate cheaper materials (like foam cores) in their intermediate gear to shave cost and ensure they are priced for skiers who may not be avid. The downside of this is these skis aren’t as durable as the higher end models, and they probably won’t have the lasting power to grow with you as you improve. Wagner’s custom skis, however, use only the highest quality materials—all our skis are made with wood cores, for example—for both the best performance and durability.
If you’re ready to pull the trigger, get started on your pair today.
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.