Skis are designed slightly differently to encompass the needs of a cross country skier or a downhill skier. Skis in terms of ski equipment have a selection relating to the design of a set of skis which relate to the physical needs of a skier and the conditions of a skier's terrain.
Cross country skis alone are actually varied in design to target a specific activity. Cross country skis are designed to accommodate certain conditions. In the sport of in-track touring, skis are mainly designed for existing, smooth tracks where a kick and glide motion is best. Off-track touring skis are designed for areas without any tracks at all. These cross country skis are usually wider and float better in the snow. Back country skis are designed for a wide range of snow terrain. These usually have a broad width and some have metal edges for more control. Skating skis are great for groomed trails. This type of ski is shorter, lighter and narrower than the typical cross country skis, and is used with an in-line skating motion.
Downhill skis, also referred to as Alpine skis usually have cores made of wood or foam surrounded by fiberglass and coated with plastic. They have the sharp metal edges and wider width that sets them apart from cross-country skis. Their specific feeds the ability to maneuver properly. Now there are shaped skis that allow for a great ski without exerting effort. A shaped ski has considerably more of an hourglass shape than a traditional downhill ski because the tip and tail are a lot wider than the middle section. These allow for a skier to turn more easily because they enhance the ski's ability to turn.
Someone who is just learning to ski will want to purchase a ski that is softer in flex because a softer flex will allow for the sudden and frequent off balance movements of a beginner. A softer ski will move slower than stiffer skis but complies better with the snow and will absorb the unsure movements of beginner skiers.
There are two ways that skis flex and those are lengthwise and widthwise. A simple way to test the flex of a ski is to stand the ski up and try to bend it a little. Also try to twisting the ski with your hands. On a softer ski, you will generally witness some movement, but you won't see any on a stiffer ski. Note that a heavier individual will need a stiffer ski that supports more weight and women have a lower center of gravity than men, so ladies skis are designed to accommodate the difference.
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