Water Ski Buyer's Guide

The waterski world can get very technical, and there are a lot of options out there for both Slalom and Combo Skis. This guide is designed to help people select the right ski, or pair of skis for their ability level. We will cover size ranges, construction types, and shapes of skis for all ability levels.

1. Skill Level

Skill Level is the best way to determine which ski, or pair of skis is right for you. It is important to be honest with yourself about your skill level. Buying a ski that is too advanced for your ability will usually not produce a good outcome.

Beginner (combo or slalom skis) used at a speed of 22-28 mph

First time skiers who are just learning to ski should definitely consider a combo ski set. These skis are usually made of plastic and have adjustable bindings. Combo skis are as they sound, two skis, one having a rear toe binding for when you are ready to drop a ski and learn to slalom.

Combo skis are very user friendly, and come in a variety of sizes. Because they are made of plastic, combo skis should not be used in excess of 26 mph. This is because at higher speeds the plastic ski will flex too much and you will lose control of your ski. Once you find yourself dropping a ski as soon as you get up, and wanting to increase your speed it is time to step up to a true Slalom Ski.

Beginner slalom skis are a single ski with a front binding and an adjustable rear toe plate (sandal like rear binding). Beginner slalom skis are wider than traditional slalom skis, this allows the skier to pop up out of the water at a slower speed, and not have to drag behind the boat for as long when getting up. Beginner slalom skiers often use a second ski (usually a combo ski) as a drop ski. This means they get up with 2 skis, and drop one of the skis once they are up to speed. Beginner slalom skiers are not usually in the ski course, and ski in open water at speeds of 24-28 mph. Generally beginner slalom skis are made of compression molded fiberglass, with a lace up front binding, and an aluminum fin.

Intermediate (Slalom Ski) skiing at a speed of 28-32 mph.

This category of skier has mastered the deep water start on 1 ski, either by dragging their rear foot (as a keel) to direct the ski while getting up, or they can get up with both feet in their bindings. At the intermediate level skiers can either be aggressive open water carvers, or starting to get into the slalom course. Intermediate level skis are usually made of stiffer compression molded fiberglass or carbon fiber. Skis for intermediates are narrower than combo or beginner skis, but a little wider than advanced level skis. The slightly wider ski allows the intermediate skier to slow their turns down a little, and ski at a slightly slower boat speed. An intermediate ski can also benefit an advanced skier who is getting a little bit older and wants to reduce their boat speed.

Advanced (Slalom Ski) skiing at a speed of 32-36 mph.

This category of skier spends most of their time in the slalom course, and is looking for a stiff narrow ski that will turn sharp as soon as weight is applied into their carve. Quite often an advanced skier will want a double binding setup on their ski for increased leverage into their carve. Advanced level slalom skis are much narrower than the rest (particularly from the tail of the ski to the rear boot). They feature a deep wall to wall concave on the bottom of the ski that allows the skier to push more water in their carve, making the ski more responsive when you turn into your carve. Advanced skis are made from stiff compression molded carbon fiber with a light responsive foam core.

2. Weight Ranges for Skis

Selecting the right size of ski is crucial to the user’s control of the ski, and their success out on the lake. Ski sizing is determined by the skier's weight, and not their height like many people expect. The other important variable to consider is the speed you like to ski at. The faster you are towed, the higher in the water the ski will ride. If you are on too large of a ski being towed too fast you will lose control of the ski because you will be planed out of the water too far and not be pushing as much water when you are carving.

General Ski Sizing: *Always remember to check the manufacturer size chart on the specific ski you are buying.

Combo Skis Size Chart Slalom Ski Size Chart
40 - 90 lbs 44 - 50” 70 - 110 lbs 58 - 62”
80 - 120 lbs 54 - 58” 110 - 150 lbs 63 - 65”
110 - 160 lbs 60 - 65” 155 - 185 lbs 66 - 68”
130 - 230+ lbs 66 - 70” 185 - 230 + lbs 69 - 71”

3. Slalom Ski Shapes

There is a lot of theory and technicality that goes behind the different shapes of skis manufacturers are making. Some tech specs you may hear about are bevel configuration, rocker, sidecut, concave, and radius. For the purpose of this guide, we will cover the basic shapes.

More than anything, the width of the ski and the shape of the bevel (sharp or more gradually rounded) will dictate how a ski performs on the water. Beginner skiers should be looking for an overall wider shaped ski, with more gradual bevels, and a bigger flat spot in the rail around the center of the ski. Imagine the ski is sitting flat on a table, a beginner ski is going to have a larger flat spot contacting the table when you look at it from the side. This allows the skier to float higher in the water for gradual acceleration at slower speeds, which makes the ski more forgiving as you learn to carve back and forth. As your skills become more advanced you should be looking for a narrower ski, with a deeper concave, and sharper bevels along the rails of the ski. This will allow you to ski at higher speeds, and create faster acceleration, and faster transition when you carve.

There are a lot of things to consider when buying your new slalom ski setup. Hopefully this guide helps answer some questions. If you need any additional help feel free to fill out the contact form, use the live chat, or call the shop because we are always here to help!