I have always enjoyed taking different skis out for a test. To me it’s like the first date: how will “she” react? Will she respond favourably if I do this, or will she be overwhelmed and back off? Is she going to dance with me, and if so, will she let me lead? A few years ago, however, I married and don’t “cheat” very often…
I’ve chosen the same ski for the last four years – four different pairs, but the same model. I’m not sponsored, so I’m not going to name the model (if you have any leads on how I could become sponsored, please let me know!). But it’s my ski. I love it. I’ll stay on that ski for as long as they make it (or until somebody pays me to ski on something else – ideas anyone?). It’s great for piste turns, sub-par for bumps and terrible in variables, but I make do because of its sweet, sweet edge hold and stability.
Tom Waddington is on the same model. We are quite different: Tom is tall and heavy, I’m short and light. In fact, Tom will typically be just as tall, but heavier than any of our trainees, whereas I’ll be shorter and lighter than any of them (yes, including many girls). You might think, then, that our ski would be suitable for any level 4 trainee. This is incorrect. Our trainees don’t do well on them.
So, what’s the problem?
Part of the problem is related to fitness. It’s a stiff ski, so you need to have some power to control it. Considering the big difference in size between Tom and myself (15 cm height, 30 kg weight), I don’t think this is the key thing.
I think it’s more related to the size of the sweet spot.
A ski for a beginner will have a huge sweet spot, which is not particularly sweet, whereas a FIS construction ski has a tiny, but incredibly sweet, sweet spot. You simply need a better technique to hit and manage the sweet spot on a stiffer ski. If you have the technique and power, a stiffer ski is for you. If you don’t, a softer ski will help you ski better.
So, typically, our trainees will do well on a de-tuned GS ski, aka a shop race ski (about 175 cm with an 18 m radius). Examples are Rossignol Hero Long Turn and Head iSpeed WC rebels.
If they show up on something much softer than that, the sweet spot won’t be sweet enough to get the performance required. If the ski is too stiff, however, the sweet spot will be too small, and it becomes hard to tell who’s in charge: the skier or the ski…
Written by Jon Ahlsen