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 skis available today, highly specialized skis for on or off piste, skis dedicated to skiing in powder, even heavy race skis that you would never want to wear for a casual day of skiing. 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 Entry-Level 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.
When in doubt, beginners should err on the shorter side. They will be easier to control, and that is probably more important than speed if you are a novice.
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.
Intermediate, all-mountain skis tend to be stiffer and have a wider underfoot, more like 85-100mm.
Really stiff skis are more used for racing, and they can be super heavy. Don’t do that to yourself. Go for flexible, lightweight skis.
With Bindings, or Build Your Own?
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 Beginner or Entry-Level Skis (Downhill and Alpine)
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.
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.
These skis are good enough to be trustworthy on the mountain, but not so expensive that you’ll be nervous about leaving them on your car ski rack while you stop and eat.
As you move up in the model numbers – from 76 to 82 – both the price and performance increases. Most beginners can do the 76 or 77 model and be perfectly happy.
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.
When we skied on the Mindbenders, we found them to be a great all-mountain ski. They were fast when they needed to be, and we felt sure-footed on the hardpack fast snow. Carving on the ski was really good for an entry-level ski, and we felt nimble and agile.
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.
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
(slight upgrade from entry-level)
The Bonafides are our favorite all-mountain ski, and if you think you might be skiing a lot in the future, consider going for them.
We found these by chance, while renting skis in the Park City area after decided to leave our skis at home for ease of air travel. The mountain shop put us on the Bonafides, and we were immediately hooked after a day at Park City / Canyons. 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.
Beginner Skis FAQs
What qualifies as beginner’s skis?
Beginner’s skis are typically designed for those who are new to skiing or who have limited experience on the slopes, and intended to be all-purpose, not built for any one type of skiing. They are generally easier to turn and control, and have a softer flex than more advanced skis.
What should I look for in an entry-level ski?
When choosing a beginner’s ski, it’s important to consider factors such as length, width, and flex. A shorter ski with a wider waist will be easier to turn, while a softer flex will provide more forgiveness and control. Make sure the skis aren’t too heavy, so you don’t wear out your legs. Many race-specific skis are quite heavy.
Which brands make good beginner’s skis?
There are several brands that make great beginner’s skis, including Rossignol, K2, Blizzard, and Salomon. These brands offer a range of options at different price points, so you can find a ski that fits your budget and skill level.
Should I rent or buy my entry-level skis?
If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure how much you’ll enjoy skiing, it’s probably best to rent beginner’s skis. This will allow you to try out different skis and find the right fit for you. Once you’ve gained more experience and know what you’re looking for in a ski, you can consider buying your own. I like to rent really good quality skis until I fall in love with a pair, and then look to buy them.
Should I get intermediate skis instead of entry-level?
That depends on how quickly you intend to adopt the sport. If you are just a couple-times-a-year skier and don’t want to always rely on rental skis, then by all means, go with the entry-level skis. The fact of the matter is that all the skis we listed here are going to be good for any skier on the mountain.
If you feel that you are close to becoming a more avid skier, consider going with the Bonafide, a good intermediate ski that you honestly might never outgrow.
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.