Which ski is right for me?

Not infrequently the question is put to me which ski I would recommend, and each time I have to dodge the question a bit, unfortunately. For the answer you just have to go further, know your needs, and know which skier you are, not which one you would like to be. My good colleague Björn Heregger, an ex-freeride pro and ski tester with a lot of feeling, was kind enough to write down how the different construction characteristics affect the performance of a ski. Why hardness, width and length is not everything, you can read here in the article ‘SkierTrash’, in the connection I write briefly what I 2023 for ski, and why.

SkierTrash by Björn Heregger

“Agile, playful but unsteady at high speed.” A line often read in ski magazines in the sections ski tests. Yes nonaned …Let’s talk about one or another influencing factor that significantly affects the choice of our favorite sports article. Or is it ultimately more than just a piece of equipment and are the technical parameters possibly not the decisive factor?
Now, the ideal length itself is not so easy to determine or is simply not offered. Since ski manufacturers have to commit to certain lengths for the various models, it can happen that you can not decide, similar to the shoes. One tweaks but offers good performance , the other on the other hand is really comfortable.
Long before we started talking about different radii, then rocker shapes, pin tails and negative camber, the choice of ski length was relatively simple. Chin length, nose length, everything else above – so similar to the classification for the expected difficulty of the chosen slope – blue, red, black. Then Shane McConkey entered the stage of the ski world and with him the spatula and the way we thought about ski design was overturned.
180cm felt pretty much like 180cm in the grey past, that is until the late 90s. (It should be noted that 180cm was not really long back then). Contact points were more or less identical and so was the effective edge length. There was no need to talk about different degrees of hardness, as only fairly stiff slats were trusted and everything else was out of the question. For ski traditionalists and moguls fans, those were glorious times. Skiing has never been more elite (in purely technical terms), only the best could really master the material. Everyone else was struggling to survive. In Austrian ski instructor training, this is still mourned today.
Let’s get back to the ideal ski length – if there is such a thing at all – as already mentioned above. The stability or handling of a ski is no longer determined ‘only’ by the pure length specification, which is indicated on the side in the middle, at the end or wherever on the ski, but rather by the shape and of course the materials used. Various buzzwords have already fallen –

Contact Point – Rocker Length and Shape – Effective Edge Length – Flex – Radius – Material – BMP

Of course, these are not so easy to separate from each other, since one cannot exist without the other, etc. … let’s briefly discuss them in more detail.

Contact point

Both in the area of the shovel and at the end of the ski we find a certain point on the ski where the width of the ski tapers again. If you place a ski on a smooth surface on one of the two edges, the points at which the ski rests on the front and back are our contact points or the widest points in each case.
Currently, the way the tip and tail are designed have a significant impact on the contact points, the effective edge length and thus the handling. In short, for the same absolute length, a ski whose contact points are further apart feels longer and more stable than the other way around. Skis with more closely spaced contact points, on the other hand, feel more forgiving and maneuverable.

Rocker length and shape

Rocker or early Rise, Swallow or Pin Tail – what the heck does that actually mean, or is Rocker Shape the same as Rocker Shape?
No, of course not. The way the shovel and especially the tail are designed has a significant impact on how a ski rides. The absolute length of the rocker front and rear is specified as the length at which a ski, when resting flat on the ground or pressed with force on the ground, lifts off the ground front and rear – so far so clear. And of course it is in the nature of things that the more rocker in the area of the shovel and ski end the ski was allowed, it feels more agile with the same length than the other way around. In this context, more agile also means more unsteady when it comes to shooting. So the less coating on the snow, the more wiggle waggle it should quickly go to apres ski at the end of the day.
The shape of the shovel and the tail become crucial to how a ski feels. If the radius – ultimately nothing more than the contact point – is pulled far into the shovel, you can also use the entire length of the edge, but the ski also tends to ‘steer in’ especially with softly held construction. The same is true for flat blades vs. more blade bend. Flat blades feel rather supple but somewhat sluggish in terms of lift, more blade bend seems sportier but could behave like a snowplow.
Too little attention is sometimes paid to the shape of the tail. But we know that too much reserve is something a large part of the ski community knows from their own experience. The ski could support you more, with stiffer construction, less rocker. In turn, however, this type of shape, if not mastered, could accelerate the whole drama like a rocket engine. With a different construction, more rocker or built more in the twin tip direction and softer, the ski will forgive you more, but will not feel quite as sporty.
You could also help the whole thing on the jumps and round off the edges in the shovel as well as in the end area – first a little bit and then more and more towards the center of the ski until you have the feeling that fits so. Jeremy Heitz, for example, does this the entire length of the rocker, because this edge is superfluous anyway, as he says.

Effective edge length

Heitz’s method of edge breaking inevitably leads us to the effective edge length. The length of the edge that would effectively be available to me in the swing. Whether you actually use them is another matter.
If you guide the ski along the edge, the experts speak of carving, the contact points decide the length of the edge used and thus the stability or agility. The effective edge length feels different in different snow conditions. The softer the sooner you will be able to use the entire edge, the harder the more driving skill you will have to apply. The flex or bending line of your ski also has a decisive influence on the effective edge length.

Flex and bending line

How hard can it be? When it comes to talking about the flex of a ski, opinions differ. Whereby the majority holds the idea that only a fairly hard ski also provides stability and tranquility. Well, the budding pro has to be a little bit capable of suffering – doesn’t he?
Basically, you should try to evaluate the bending line of a ski rather than the pure degree of hardness. A ski should have as balanced a bending line as possible over its entire length. Then the whole thing is well balanced and you feel more centered on the ski than if it pinches the front or back a bit. Of course, this is difficult to determine in advance and only works via test drives.
Softer held skis tend to feel a bit smoother and, more importantly, more forgiving than the harder gear. Hard cucumbers are, of course, somewhat more stable, but also require more effort, or it could be that only because of this you get into situations that require some creativity in the solution.


Ever since someone watched snowboarders carve and this idea was transferred to skis, it’s been clear that the smaller the radius, the more playfully we can carve the tightest turns in the snow. – than carving. Whether 17m or 24m represents the optimum in the freeride area is a moot point, since it is ultimately a matter of personal preference. High speed athletes, and much more those who believe they are, will naturally set their sights on 25m+. The pleasure freerider tends to stay at 17m. Here again, of course, the Rockershape plays a role and generally what length, so contact point to contact point, the radius describes. For example, a 20m+ radius ski with a relatively short effective edge length may feel more maneuverable than a 17m radius ski with a relatively long effective edge length.


Hand on heart, who of you still understands all the technology gobbledygook that can sometimes be found on skis, or does it even matter?
In recent years, it has felt like pretty much no ski can do without the use of carbon in some form. Even if it is only because of the cosmetics or even because of the price, a rogue who thinks evil.
As a rule of thumb, one could determine – heavier skis with a more classic construction, i.e. beech wood and possibly also titanal upper and lower chords, lie snugly and dampen powerfully. Lighter comrades of the same kind with poplar or paulownia wood core with carbon strings and fiberglass binding are of course more energy-saving, more agile, but definitely more unsteady and fluttery when the going gets faster.
One should not forget definitely also the adapted choice of the binding and the shoes. A relatively heavy freeride ski is of little use if the boot can’t handle the force or the binding can’t cope with the forces that occur – of course, it’s the same the other way around.

BMP – Binding Assembly Point

Last but not least, the binding mounting point. Over the last few years, this has moved more and more towards the center of the ski. A good 20-plus years ago, it felt like you were almost at the end of the ski.
The further towards the center of the ski the binding is mounted, the more maneuverable the ski behaves, but there is a risk that the pressure on the shovel becomes too great and it does not float as well in powder. With the classic mounting point you achieve more stability, especially in front of the binding, but bears the risk that the tail sinks in powder because the pressure behind is too large.
With BMP, the main thing is to experiment. You shouldn’t do too many holes to your ski – but a modern ski should definitely have 2 positions.


Do you now find it easier to choose your upcoming favorite ski? Probably not! More confused? In any case!
But maybe now you can explain a little bit why “agile, playful but unsteady at high speed.” has to be exactly like that and it is always a compromise. There are no egg-laying lactating sows on the ski market. If you absolutely want a fun powder cucumber with double rocker and reverse camber, because it’s so cool and that comes better on Insta, you have to cut back on icy slopes, as you can find them in the Alpine region now.
Nevertheless, the new super light freeride tourer with tripple carbon stringer technology will lead me to my dream descents, to the Insta Secret Spots, but should I let it crash, it will probably be rough …

What now?

You should be clear about what type of skier you actually are and not let yourself be guided by an image that you would like to be. Then you look around in your area where there is the next ski test or even have a competent sports store at hand and test different models through. This is the only way to get an impression of the different driving characteristics and which model hits the nail on the head.
Then it will quickly become clear – whoops – one is not enough for all my needs. And you should also like the part. It is simply better to stand on a beautiful ski.

Damn SkierTrash

Back to the initial question

As Björn has already explained, there is probably nothing like testing. That’s why I can’t easily answer the question of which ski you should buy. But as promised I explain to you here briefly my skis for the winter of 2023, maybe it helps one or the other further. To start with, I am in the fortunate position of working with an extremely motivated ski brand. Armada has not only the most diverse freeride lines from freestyle-inspired construction to full-throttle skis to lightweight free touring models, but also still the signature line with the pro models of their athletes, as well as the ZERO line in which always new ski concepts are tried and built. Freely according to the motto: WE PROMISE TO ENSURE CREATIVITY ALWAYS HAS A PLACE IN SKIING. By the way, you can also borrow all models for a day in Innsbruck to test them. So read less, and try more.

But now to my favorites:

I spend most days in the winter on Whitewalker 116. For me a ski that performs very well in almost all conditions, and if I could have only one ski, it would be this one. Despite the width, it is also fun on the slopes (thanks to the small radius) and in the terrain it does everything anyway. I’m not normally a twintip rider because I don’t reverse well, but this ski makes a lot of sense even for non-freestylers. It is smooth enough, easy to drift off-road, and conveys a lot of security in almost any situation. It’s also light enough for several climbs a day.

As the end of winter approaches, the time comes when the touring mindset changes somewhat. The focus is no longer on the descent, but on the tour or the traverse or the summit. Here I then choose a ski under 100mm center width to simply make the climbs as easy as possible for me. However, I still don’t want to do without ski performance. The Locator 96 is the optimal choice here, it offers a lot of safety even in steep terrain in poor snow and is light enough for approaches without skis or climbing on the ridge.

My second main ski is the Locator 112, and if I were primarily touring and less lift skiing, it would probably knock the Whitewalker out of first place. Why? It is again lighter and just goes better. The climbs are more pleasant due to the shorter tail and the significantly longer radius, so it is simply much more relaxed when times is hard or slippery to track. The downhill performance for the weight is enormous. I’ve never been a fan of lightweight skis, but this one won me over. Before testing last year I was still more of the opinion that I take the Locator 104, but I ended up with the 112 after I have made some tours in the spring in really bad conditions with the ski. One length shorter, but one width wider was my thinking.

And then I have a Declivity 108 in use. Significantly fewer days than on the other two, but especially when it times longer not snow and the snow quality decreases rapidly this ski plays its strengths. It is heavier and significantly stiffer than the other two, and thus also smoother running. So if you just want to shoot through the shot up terrain in the ski resort for half a day, then absolutely perfect. But if the conditions are better, I save the extra weight and stiffness and reach for one of the previously mentioned skis.

And yes, for the slopes and slope-like conditions I still have a Declivity 92, which I take especially in the early season.