Like their counterpart legs on the milking stool triad that is telemark, skis have undergone a tremendous metamorphosis. Further, like their cousins, the alpine ski, they have taken on shapes, and widths that have old school purists asking when we went to split boarding. But in asking this question, it becomes apparent that the purists have not tried the super wide, shape skis yet, if they had they would be skiing on them too. These skis enable the meek to rage, the merely human to acheive superstardom, and the tele gods to exhibit unworldly descents on near vertical, snow fluted Alaskan peaks.
Bravo the new breed! For without these new skis most of us would still be flailing around on deep powder days instead of reveling in the white cloud!
With shovel widths of 113-127 cm`s, waist widths of 75 to 95 cm`s, and tails of 95-115 cm`s, these babies just will not get burried under, no matter how badly you overweight the uphill ski. Most have noodle like softness for the entire length of the ski, but maintain a torsional rigidity sufficient to hold well on firm pack groomers, and some even say they will slice ice! I have my doubts about this but I never liked skiing on ice anyways.
There are three main construction materials used in modern skis, wood, [usually poplar or aspen], foam, [a rigid machined type], and carbon fiber, [usually wrapped around a wood core]. Some manufacturers will incorporate a metal cap to increase torsional rigidity. Each of these materials will give a ski different flex propeties that will affect ski-ability in different snow conditions. Then the material used, in conjunction with the dimensions, and distribution of said material during construction will determine the characteristics of the ski. Specifically, turn radius, rebound, float, and durability are what we are mostly concerned with.
Everybodys taste in skis is different, and there is a ski made to compliment almost everybodys style. What your buddy raves about, you might hate, or at best think is mediocre. A ski that is great for a guy, might seem cumbersome to a gal, and a womans specific ski and binding mounting, will have a guy going over the handlebars on every turn. The best possible advice would be to get out and make turns on as many different skis, in as many different snow conditions as possible. The results of your own testing might very well suprise you, what the ski the magazine said would be the bomb, might turn out to ski like a 2x4 for you, and the noodle like intermediate -mid fat- ski might be the perfect fit.
Remember that the length of ski required is determined by the height, weight, and aggressiveness of the individual skier, and the width of the ski being ridden. But generally speaking the new shaped skis will ski better in shorter lengths, so don`t let your ego insist on 194`s when what you really need are 174`s. The help of ski shop proffesionals is indespensible in this area. Go with their recommendations, and if you insist, try and prove them wrong by demo-ing the next size up, but my bet is that you will like the shorter ski better. Nowadays a bigger ski means a wider ski, not a longer ski.
Modern tele skis have wax thirsty base materials, [usually polyethylene], and hard steel edges, a buddy of mine contends that if you need wax or edges you are skiing in the wrong snow conditions., [ie. not powder]. I tend to concurr, but my desire to make turns sees me on the mountain long after the last storm, and even after the last inversion that turned my local hill to blue ice, thus necessitating both wax and edges.
One last thought on this subject, a well tuned ski turns and glides better than a neglected ski. If you are inclined to believe this, then steal [or commandeer] the wifes iron, and start waxing you own skis regularly. If you are
the wife, or afraid of getting hit by her iron, take your skis to the ski shop for fresh coat of universal wax every 5th or 6th day out.
Major players in ski design and manufacture include;
Black Diamond Equipment
Check out these web sites, read what the makers say, match that with your style, then demo the ski that sounds like a good fit. Be honest here about the skier you are, and the skier you want to be, and you will be on track to find the perfect ski for you.
May all your turns be deep, and all the deep be turned.