Best Entry Level Skis
Starting out on your skiing journey is exciting. There is not only so much to learn but also so many possibilities on how to explore, places to visit, adventures to be had, and it all starts out on those first few beginner slopes. Those initial steps can be a challenge, but there are things you can do to make those beginner ski experiences as good as possible. One of those is making sure in having the right skis for the job.
Buying skis is an investment. Unlike your gloves or your goggles, which are meant to be updated relatively regularly, buying skis can be a several hundred dollar investment that needs to last for a long time.
There are many types of ski available today, highly specialized skis for on or off piste, even ones for different types of skiing, including for those just starting out. Today there are a range of skis available designed specifically for beginners created to be a stable platform that is easier to learn the basics on. But what exactly should you look for in a pair of beginner skis?
What to Look for in Skis
There are a lot of things to look for in your beginner skis, the first is length. Ski length is a topic that can power hours of discussion for some disciples of the sport, but for beginners it is quite simple. Measure the distance from the ground to your chin. That is a good guide to the length of ski you need. It’s not exact, but will give you a starting point on your quest for the most suitable skis.
Beginner skis are designed to be easy to use, and are typically a soft flex pair of skis that have a narrow waist, usually around 75mm-85mm. This makes them lighter and easier to turn that other styles. The aim is to use skis that provide the stable platform you need to build confidence, while maintaining an ease of turn that you need when beginning to ski. Because you won’t be venturing away from the groomed slopes for a while, these will be suitable throughout your learning.
Next up is whether to go for bare skis or skis with bindings. With integrated bindings now becoming so good, skis with bindings really have no downside. In the past they were not as reliable as separate bindings, and some designs struggled with certain boot shapes. However, these days not only do they work as well as any other kind of binding, they avoid the hassle of having to choose your own bindings as well as skis. Picking the right one of each can be difficult enough!
Best All-Purpose Skis on the Market, that Won’t Kill Your Budget
Variations between price points for beginner skis are all about materials and style, but the most expensive is not always the best. To help with the search, here are our picks from the best beginner skis out there right now.
Rossignol Experience 77 w/Xpress 11 Bindings. The Rossignol includes top rated Look bindings and provides a little bit more than most beginner skis, which is why it is rated so highly across the industry. It retains the characteristics of a beginner ski – low weight, narrow waist and smooth turning – but has fantastic edge hold that will see the skis last into a second or third season, not just your initial lessons.
Available in a women’s version as well, called ‘the Temptation’, it is a little more expensive than many pure beginner skis, but the longevity you get from the design mean that it offers good value for the determined beginner.
K2 Strike Skis with Bindings. A narrow waist and flat tails make this a stable ski to learn on and K2 has created a ski with an unusually long edge allowing for tighter turns that most beginner skis. That extra maneuverability can be useful as you gain confidence. They have a soft flex that makes turning easy for beginners, and the integrated bindings mean that they are ready to go – no need to start looking for bindings to get started.
A competitive price point makes these skis a good value, and with a women’s version available, dubbed the ‘Luv 75’, they are another beginner ski that offers something just a little extra for your money.
Elan Explore 4. A remarkably low priced ski, the Elan Explore 4 manages to offer a lightweight, forgiving and stable platform that is easy to turn thanks to the soft edge, while maintaining good agility through a longer edge than many. They have integrated bindings, again, so are ready to go without any extra purchases and are very much the perfect beginner’s ski.
However, they are not as adaptable as others we have mentioned. Once you pass through the beginner phase and wish to expand your options you will have outgrown them. Having said that, the savings in initial cost, and their popularity on the second-hand market, mean that trading up will not be as costly as you imagine after you first season. For many, the low cost and ease of use more than makes up for any limitations.
Blizzard Bonafide Skis. If you want to spend just a little more, the $500 price point features one of our favorite all-around skis, the Blizzard Bonafides. We found these by chance, while renting skis in the Park City area. The shop put us on the Bonafides, and we were hooked. Perhaps the best pair of rental skis we’ve ever used. We came to find out that the Bonafides have been favorites of skiers for years, especially people who need a versatile ski that will be tough yet light.
The camber on these skis made them excellent on the hardpack groomers that we often found ourselves on, but when skiing the tough stuff at the top they performed flawlessly. These are the skis that won Powder magazine’s “Skiers Choice” award. If you think you will be skiing for a while, skip the entry-level stuff and go for the Bonafides.
Skiing the Bonafides will give you a couple advantages over some of the other skis we feature here. First, they are a step-up from your entry-level, so they are ski that you can gladly use even well after you have mastered the art of skiing. Second, they are so versatile that you won’t be left wishing that you had a different ski when you hit heavy powder or icy conditions. They can really tackle it all. We have personally used them several times and love them.
An accessory you may want to consider is a carrier strap. It is a simple, well-designe strap that can help you carry your skis from your car to the lifts, or from your condo to a base area.
Paul Miller is the Founder of Family Skier. He is an advanced skier and has extensive experience with family travel and ski schools. An accomplished skier, he has skied in 15 states and provinces and 6 countries. In addition to FamilySkier, his writing can be found on many ski-related websites, and as curriculum for many ski clubs in North America.