On this and almost every other website, skis are categorized. Labels like ‘all-mountain’, ‘frontside ski’, ‘powder ski’ are very common. On Gigiski, we also use these kinds of labels. In this piece, I want to explain which criteria we use to put a ski in one of these categories. For us, it is clear that this is an arbitrary decision. We base it on our experience of a ski, not on what a manufacturer thinks it should be. Below, we explain the categories that we use.
High performance skis that reward solid technique and deliver a lot of performance in terms of stability, edge hold, rebound, etc. Most skis in this category are consumer versions of race skis. Cheater GS (Giant Slalom, larger sidecut radius), SL (Slalom, shorter radius) and XT/MT/CT (Cross Turn, Mid Turn, middle radius). If such a ‘toned down’ race model is so much tamed that it does not deliver ‘high performance’ anymore, it is – in our view – a groomer ski.
A groomer ski is a ski that excels on groomers. In most cases, these are the non-race models for easy cruising and carving. These are narrow skis. This means that in softer conditions (slush, fresh snow on top of a groomed piste), these do not necessarily give any float. For that, you need an ‘all-condition’ ski.
These are all-round groomer skis that really excel when conditions get less favorable. In most cases, these are the wider groomer skis (roughly 78-86 mm underfoot) that are still great on hard snow, but can handle soft on-piste conditions great too. These are not skis that really float if you ski them in bottomless powder or backcountry snow. For that, you need something else.
These are the Jacks of all trades. This means that you can carve a clean turn on hardpack, but you can ski them in bottomless powder as well, without digging tunnels. And maybe these skis (roughly 87-98 mm underfoot) can sort of do it all, but rarely are the best in all snow conditions. In really deep powder or on the hardest groomed runs, specialist skis would definitely be better there.
Freeride skis are made for ungroomed snow and terrain. Sure, you will get down the mountain on groomers, but they are not made for it. These are made for soft snow. These mostly are wider than 98 mm underfoot with more rocker and often taper in the tip for float and easy in uneven terrain.
Touring skis are made for the uphill rather than only downhill. Light-weight, in many cases a bit less rocker than Freeride or One-ski-quiver skis. They can be any width though.
Like I said: where we place a ski is arbitrary. It is our opinion of where a ski fits best, based on our experience on that ski. This does not mean that a good skier is not able to ski a groomer ski off-piste or that you would not get down a groomer on a freeride ski. It’s nothing more – or less – than our indication of what a ski is best used for, if you ask us.