The right ski can be the difference between a great day on the snow and a very uncomfortable experience. Many people believe the more expensive a ski; the more fun it will be. In some cases, this can be true. However, in most cases this is pure fiction. Most skiers do not need the most expensive ski; but rather a ski that has been designed to ski like the skier. A skier new to skiing would most likely have a terrible experience if they are put on a ski that is too aggressive for them, and an expert skier would likely not have as much fun if they are on a ski not aggressive enough for them. Also, there is no such thing as a ski that will perfectly handle every type of skiing. A carving ski will be more difficult to use in powder, and a powder ski will have less control on the groomed runs. Every ski has its trade offs based on its shape, width, and internal construction.
How do you know what ski is the right ski for you? You first need to know what type of skier you are. This is determined on a scale of 1-3 on how aggressive you are as a skier. It is helpful to think about what types of ski runs you prefer to ski in the mountains compared to a groomed run. The second thing you need to know is the type of terrain you like to ski. If you mainly ski on groomed runs, you would be best to ski on a carving ski. If you enjoy skiing through powder, you would be best to ski on a wider ski. Not every skier will exclusively ski one or the other type of terrain, and that is where all mountain skis come into play. All mountain skis are the mid zone between groomed runs and powder, but they do have their trade offs like all skis.
Carving skis are designed for the skier who loves to stay on groomed runs, charge down the mountain carving each turn into the side of the mountain. They provide exceptional control at higher speeds and over icy conditions. Different level of skis allow the skier to charge at different speeds. Beginner skis are softer and allow the skier to learn how to carve the ski without having to force the ski onto edge. As the skier gets more advanced and comfortable with the sport, the skis begin to get stiffer and begin to handle higher speeds without chattering and sliding out during turns. The more aggressive the skier, the faster they want to go, and the ski the ski needs to keep up. Carving skis have greater amounts of camber. Camber is the arc created in the middle of the ski allowing for the ski to have more control as the skier makes each turn. Carving skis would be less desirable in the deep snow, that is where you would want a powder ski.
Powder skis are designed to float on top of deep snow making it easier for the skier to stay out skiing longer without getting tired and burnt out trying to keep their skis on top of the snow. The wider the ski the more float on the snow. Powder skis also have a greater amount of rocker to help drive the ski to the top of the powder. Rocker is when the ski rises early at the tip and tail of the skis. In most cases, the tip of the ski has a greater amount of rocker than it does in the tail. This is so the ski easily and continuously floats up to the top of the snow.
In conclusion, no ski will handle all terrain perfectly, and knowing the type of skier you are and what you will be skiing will help you choose the right ski for you. A skier on the right ski, is a happy skier.