Buying skis is a massive brain ache. There are thousands new to the market each year, many of which are not discernibly different to their predecessor, even carrying the same code names – not very helpful for the consumer!
As a buyer, what you’re left with is taking a punt; trusting the opinion of a complete stranger in a shop; or buying your rentals once you’ve had a go on them. If you’re lucky enough to live near an artificial snow slope, you may even find the local ski shops have a try-before-you-buy policy.
Having been through the same experience, we feel your pain. It’s not an insignificant investment and if you get the wrong skis, you can ruin the precious moments you get to spend playing on the snow each winter.
James and I were fortunate enough to spend a week testing the 2018/19 offerings at a ski industry test in Austria earlier this year and as amateurs (certainly by comparison to our esteemed test-mates from Fall-Line Magazine), we were on the piste ploughing through a huge category for the manufacturers – intermediate skis.
With this category being the highest grossing in terms of volume in both commercial (rental market) and consumer sales, our input at the ski test proved very welcome – intermediate skis, tested by intermediate skiers. Who would believe that is a novelty?
Hundreds down to 8
What we’ve put together here is 8 skis in total. 3 mens and 3 womens and our own as a comparison – total 8. Some brand new this season, and some a complete bargain as you’ll pick them up as last year’s stock. As such, the list is just our opinion based on what we’ve tried and is by no means exhaustive! If you’re keen to see the full Fall-Line list (known as Skis of the Year or SOTYs), check this out here for men and here for the women’s choice.
It’s important to note that not all manufacturers are represented at the test – the Decathlon owned brand Wed’ze for example is included in our list, primarily because they represent extraordinary value for the majority of recreational skiers who perhaps only hit the slopes once a year.
You’ll find the complete list, with pictures below but first we just wanted to touch on the ‘where to buy’ debate.
Buying Skis Online or in store?
Many advocate the ‘try before you buy’ option which is great if you have the luxury of time and a friendly ski shop in the resort of your choice or you’re near a slope that will let you test here at home.
If you’re near a good ski shop in the UK, or you can make the trip (if you’re going to buy – remember to check your skis can fit in your car or take the van!), go and visit them, especially if you don’t know where you’re starting from. They will be able to talk you through some of your options and you’ll have a better understanding of how ski sizes affect you.
Don’t be frightened to buy skis online
The chances are they will be significantly cheaper than in store and really good ski shops in the UK are few and far between. You also don’t need to worry about transporting them home but… you will need to get them set up – don’t let that put you off.
Tips for buying skis online:
- Check the length carefully – skis are like bras – a mind boggling combination of dimensions and easy to miss-click online.
- Check your skis when they arrive – make sure they are ding free!
- For those of you without the time, experience or inclination to wax, edge and set up your own skis, you have two options that we would recommend:
- Take them to your nearest indoor snow slope or shop – if you’re a member, you will probably find a regular wax and edge is included in your membership and a local shop will certainly service your skis for a small fee. Both options will set the skis up for you too but don’t forget to take a boot with you!
- Bundle them up and stick them in your van – when you arrive in resort, find a hire shop and ask them to set them up for you – these guys know the mountain you’re about to ride and it’s a good way to gossip about where the best snow is at the moment.
- Look after them! If you want your skis to last – make sure you have them waxed and edged when you return and whatever you do, don’t just fling them in the garage – it’ll do them no good. There are a few articles on what to do with your kit over summer – see at the bottom of this page.
What length should my skis be?
It’s a personal thing but this link shows you a straight forward way to work it out – Finding out your ski length at Evo.
Don’t worry about your DIN settings and all the stuff you usually see them playing with when they fit your boots – your fitters can do that.
Women’s intermediate skis
Something for everyone but if you are after something more specialist, let me know and I’ll pick the brains of my colleagues!
#1 My Everyday ski – WED’ZE WOMEN’S AGIL 900 WHITE
Aside from being one the coolest looking skis I saw all season, they’re just dependable. They’re like that mate you’ve got who’s always on time, always looks en flique and never runs out of bog roll. One of those.
This is my everyday ski – an absolute bargain from Decathlon – do not be put off by the ‘Argos of the sports world’ reputation. Decathlon kit is far from inferior and their manufacturing processes are extremely clever (story for another day).
Currently on sale at Decathlon – you can see the availability / price here
#2 Gaining your confidence – Roxy Shima All Mountain (90)
I loved these skis – and I wasn’t expecting to – more a snowboarding/ youth brand, I was sceptical, and I was a bit meh about testing yet another pinky-purple ski – obviously that shouldn’t matter but it does and I’m unapologetic about it.
They were lots of fun but I felt safe – not like they were pushing me beyond my limits and on a reasonably nasty day, I believed they were going to get me to the bar without leaving a leg behind! These are a good bet if you want a bit of fun because they have the twin tips and will give you an opportunity to improve without ending up sat in a pile of snot sobbing that you hate snow and the mountains and everyone.
You can pick them up at Ellis Brigham for £270 at the moment which is a bargain: click here.
#3 Pushing your boundaries – HEAD Total Joy
Head call this an advanced ski but it was chosen for me to test by our instructor and all mountain wizard Amy – and that’s exactly what I got – All Mountain. I like having a go at everything and having something that isn’t so specialist that I have to miss out on an impromptu excursion off-piste or through the park is important. Definitely a great value ski because it’ll grow with you as you get better. Great if you’ve decided that coasting around at 50% isn’t for you anymore and you’re looking to grow in style and confidence. Who isn’t?
This is one of the skis that appears in ‘top lists’ year on year so Amazon is one of the best places to pick up a pair – click here for latest prices.
#4 Proper piste ski under – Dynastar Intense 10
This ski has won loads of awards and rightly so. If you’re not fussed with venturing off piste and you like something reliable and stable, this ski is right up your street. It’s a real confidence booster and yet to come across someone who’s not a fan.
Good prices online at Ellis Brigham – Click here.
Any one of those pairs will do you proud and are pretty versatile meaning that they’re not marmite skis.
And for the boys… James’s pick of intermediate skis for men
Let’s just caveat this by saying James has expensive taste. We’ve tried to encourage him to come up with a spread across the market but he has a philosophy that buy right, but once – and even the most kitted out professionals in our business will tell you that their ten year old skis are just as much fun as their more up to date versions.
#1 Flash Harry Around – Faction 2.0 Candide (James’ everyday ski)
Even James will admit that in the first instance, there was a little man-crush involved in the purchasing of the Faction 2.0 planks he rides as his everyday ski.
The legendary Candide Thovex is the co-designer which means they’re super-fly. However, you don’t need to be a Freeride World Champion to have some fun on these – you don’t even need to be very good – but they will push you and you will get better fast because they don’t let you fluff your way down the mountain, they make you earn your vin chaud.
They’re pricey and you won’t care. You’ll love them and insist they stay in your motorhome with you because they don’t like to be alone.
You can pick them up for under £500 on Amazon – click here.
#2 Amazing value – Roissignol Experience 88
James’ primary reason for having these on his list is that they saved him from certain death and he felt that needed celebrating.
“I got down that gully without dying or breaking anything which is a bloody miracle so they much be good”
Good enough reason by most people’s standards.
You can pick these babies up for between £350 – £450 on Amazon – latest best prices can be found here.
#3 For the pistey guy who likes to swerve off to the side occasionally – Atomic Vantage X80
This probably wouldn’t be a complete list without featuring something from the legendary Atomic family. This is your one size fit’s all ski – reliable but not for the novice, this ski will let rip when you want it to but equally, it’s not going to stick you in the hedge at every opportunity.
On the nose at £500 at Ellis Brigham – currently with a good range of lengths in stock – you can see here.
#4 Got his eye on these baby’s: Wed’ze 900 Xlander
Having seen mine and finding a little bit about how Wed’ze develop their designs, James was a convert to the Decathlon owned brand and has his eye on a pair of these. Super popular, cool looking and not going to break the bank. They can also sleep on their own.
If it’s your first time buying your own skis and you want to go in at a low risk level – these skis are a really good option – check them out in detail with other user reviews here on the Decathlon website.
So there you have it – 8 skis – hopefully something to suit everyone and food for thought!
Articles about looking after your ski kit: