Characterizing skis

On a big American ski forum, there has been a discussion about ‘playful’ versus ‘charger’ skis. These terms are not uncommon to describe specific characteristics of skis. We use them too, sometimes. 

In an earlier article, I described two factors determining whether a ski is suitable for a specific use case. These factors are the snow conditions and the skier (or rather, his/her ability and style). I think the same two factors play a role in this ‘playful vs charger’ debate. In fact, I think these two factors determine the main characterizations of any ski.

Two dimensions

As I explained in the aforementioned article, the snow conditions a ski is good at handling gets that ski on the long list for a specific use case. The way in which the ski actually copes with that snow and terrain can then be matched to the skier’s style and preference for a final decision.

If we don’t take a use case as a starting point, but ways to describe and characterize a ski – like most ski reviews tend to do, including ours – we use the same two dimensions, but we apply them differently. Let’s take the ‘playful vs charger’ discussion as an example. I think every skier has some intuitive sense of what is meant by that. 

In the discussion on this topic on the American forum, someone said that a charger ski under the feet of a certain type of skier can indeed be quite playful. I think there is truth in that. And therefore, can you even apply these characteristics to a ski if that characterization turns out to be relative rather than objective?

When we are talking about a playful ski (one that is more lightfooted and dances around and over loose heaps of snow and relief in terrain) versus charger skis (skis that tend to stay planted more and ski through those same heaps of snow and terrain features), the differences between the two can definitely be tied to the construction of those skis. The shape, rocker/camber profile, width, longitudinal and torsional stiffness, materials used – the combination of all these things do make a ski more playful or more serious, chargery. 

People are difficult

The factor of the skier that is on those skis determines the amount of playfulness or seriousness that (s)he experiences. For example, a very technically and physically strong skier that reaches extreme edge angles on a strong chargery ski, will get it to dance in difficult 3D snow and love it. That same skier on a much softer, jumpier, or less planted ski may very well feel a lack of platform, energy, or stability in those same conditions. Why? because that strong skier creates higher edge angles, better timing, balance, and probably higher speeds (and thus forces) on the skis. A stronger, chargery ski comes to life more, whereas a more playful, bendier ski might get overpowered. The same applies to a lazy, lightweight, not-so-technically strong skier that will probably love the ease of a more playful ski and will possibly feel out of control or overpowered by the chargery ski.

The fact that one ski can be perceived very differently by two different skiers does not negate the fact that some skis – based on their construction – can be predicted to be popular with stronger skiers, and too much for lighter or less strong or speedy skiers and vice versa. Obviously, we try to match a ski to a skier here on Gigiski. For that, we need some insight in what kind of snow and terrain you want to ski, and also what kind of skier you are. 

If we write a review, however, we do not have a specific skier to match the ski to. We only have the ski to characterize. And for that, characteristics such as ‘playful’ or ‘charger’ do get that characterization across. Whether or not that chargery ski would be something for you – that’s is not for us to decide, of course. But that dependency on the specific skier does not negate the character, strengths, and weaknesses of the skis.

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