If you’re looking to rent ski equipment, you’ll have noticed that there are often three types of skis available:
- Demo skis
- Performance/ premium skis
- Sport/ basic skis
But what is the difference between them? Are demo skis worth the extra money? I’ll be explaining everything you need to know so you can choose the right skis on your next trip.
Demo vs Performance vs Sport Skis
Demo skis are the best option available when renting equipment. A demo ski package typically costs $65-$70 per day (includes the skis, poles and boots). They are designed for intermediate and advanced skiers looking for maximum performance.
Most rental shops will have many different types of demo skis available to suit different terrain and conditions so you’ll be able to choose from:
- Carving (on-piste) skis
- All-mountain skis
- Freeride skis
- Freestyle skis
If you choose demo skis at the rental shop, then you’ll be expected to know more about the specific kind of skis you need. For example, you may get asked what camber-rocker profile, flex and waist width you prefer.
Demo skis are made by the best brands including: Rossignol, Volkl, Blizzard and Solomon. It is a good idea to rent some demo skis before buying your own pair of skis so you can figure out what features work best for you, hence the name “demo” skis!
You can expect most demo skis to be stiffer than regular sport skis which makes them feel more stable at higher speeds and suits more advanced skiers due to their increased responsiveness. They will also come with better bindings with more adjustability.
Performance or premium skis are designed primarily for intermediate skiers who want skis which are better quality than the sport skis, but not as expensive as the demo skis. Most performance rental packages which include the skis, poles and boots cost approximately $50-$60 per day.
Complete beginners will not really benefit from performance skis as you really need to be able to carve properly to get the most out of them. Performance skis usually have a moderate waist with and stiffness, so there is a jump in performance compared to sport skis, but they aren’t as aggressive as demo skis.
Sport skis are also known as regular or basic skis and are the cheapest rental option available. A sport ski package typically costs $40 per day and includes the skis, poles and boots. Sport skis are designed for complete beginners who have little to no experience skiing.
Typically, the rental shop will have a few sport ski models available in different lengths. Sport skis are designed for use on-piste on groomed terrain so will always be carving skis. The specifications can vary but they typically will:
- Have a waist width of 70-80 mm
- Have turning radius of less than 15 meters
- Be pretty flexible
These features are designed to make skiing easier for beginners. A smaller turning radius and narrow waist width helps to perform turns, whilst plenty of flexibility makes the skis more forgiving.
Comparing Ski Types
In this next section I’ll be directly comparing the three types of rental skis in terms of their features, purpose and prices to help you make a decision.
Demo skis will vary the most in terms of features with different waist widths, stiffnesses and camber-rocker profiles to suit different conditions and preferences.
There will be some variation in the features of performance skis available in the store, but the choice will be more limited. Sport skis will usually have a narrow waist width and be quite flexible as these are the best characteristics for beginners.
Skill Level Suitability
Demo skis are designed for intermediate and advanced level skiers who will find the most benefit from using a higher-end and more specialist skis. Sport skis are only really designed for complete beginners. Performance skis are designed for intermediates or beginners with a little bit of experience who can carve turns.
Demo skis are more expensive to rent compared to performance skis, and sport skis are the cheapest option. On average, demo ski packages are 22% more expensive than performance packages and 40% more expensive than sport packages.
Average Ski Package Rental Price in North America:
- Demo ski package = $67
- Performance/ Premium ski package = $53
- Sport ski package = $40
How to Decide Which Skis to Rent?
If you’re a total beginner, go with sport (basic) skis as these are the cheapest and you won’t be able to feel the performance benefit from performance or demo skis.
If you aren’t’ a total beginner but are still relatively inexperienced a general rule of thumb is if you can carve your turns go with the performance skis, and if you still skid your turns, it’s okay to stick with the sport skis.
If you’re a very experienced skier then you’ll want to go with demo skis. They will offer the best performance and help you to test out the skis so you can buy them in the future if that makes sense for your situation.
If you’re any other ability level, then I’d recommend asking the rental store assistants for their advice. If you want to reserve the equipment ahead of time, just give them a call and ask for their expertise.
Be honest about your ability level and the type of skiing you’ll be doing and they’ll be happy to help. They don’t work on commission so there’s no need to try and sell you demo skis if you don’t need them.
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