Last updated on February 3rd, 2022 at 02:38 pm
With a shape similar to carving skis, all mountain skis are designed for many types of piste and off-piste terrain. Freestyle skis take a twin-tipped shape for riding and jumping in terrain parks. When choosing freestyle vs. all mountain skis, you’ll find both styles take a variety of shapes to work in different settings.
Skiing has come a long way in a short time, as ski shapes took off in several directions in the 1990s. The sport was no longer for racers, as casual carvers and deep powder chargers now had designs specific to their style. And with the birth of the terrain park, a new ski shape emerged that defied downhill conventions — the freestyle ski.
Today, the resort skier will see a range of freestyle options alongside the more traditional all mountain ski. The differences between the two aren’t always easy to catch, but they can have an impact on how you enjoy the slopes. And with a growing number of shapes, you’ll also see a ton of crossover between the two styles.
Choosing between freestyle skis and all mountain skis is more difficult than ever. But the vast selection also means there’s a better chance of finding the perfect ski for you. We’ll help you navigate the confusion with this breakdown of freestyle vs. all mountain skis.
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What Is All Mountain Skiing?
All mountain skis are versatile enough for several different types of mountain terrain, similar to freeride skis. But while freeride skis are designed like powder skis that can be used on groomed trails, all mountain skis are carving skis that can work in powder.
A carving ski will usually have a thin waist under 85mm. That allows for a smaller turning radius without making the tail or tip too wide, meaning you also have a faster ski.
Unfortunately, the low surface area of carving skis limits you to hard-packed conditioned trails. If you want to explore ungroomed territory after a day of trail-riding, an all mountain ski will get you there.
All Mountain Ski Shape
An all mountain ski has a wider waist than a carving ski, ranging anywhere between 85-105mm in width. With a wider mid-section, all mountain skis will usually have a larger turning radius as well.
Although they won’t be able to take the tightest turns possible, all mountain skis will have more stability than skinnier skis. And if you find yourself in choppy snow, you’ll find all mountain skis have an easier time holding an edge.
The other benefit of more surface area is improved float, the ability to stay on top of the snow. If you’re in deep powder, an all mountain ski’s added girth will keep you from sinking in like you would with a carving ski.
All Mountain Profile
All mountain skis are designed to work in a variety of conditions, so they have a more convoluted profile to manage your needs in different terrain.
A ski’s profile is defined by its camber, the degree of bend when looking at it from the side. An all mountain ski will often have a camber, so the middle will sit off the ground when you’re not standing in it.
For an all mountain ski, the camber helps distribute the weight of your body across the entire edge. With more of the ski’s edge putting solid pressure on the snow during a turn, you have more control and stability. It helps you maintain speed through a smoother turn.
The camber also provides solid turn initiation, with a responsiveness that helps you bounce between carves. In general, an all around ski will have a camber or near-flat midsection. They encompass a broad range of depths, but they are all generally geared toward better edge control and easier turning.
The opposite of camber is the rocker, which bows down in the middle and raises on the ends. While an all mountain ski has a camber in the middle, they’ll often feature a rocker tip. That is the essential difference between an all mountain ski and a carving ski.
Coupled with the wider shape, the rocker tip of the all mountain ski allows it to stay afloat in deep powder. A non-rocker tip doesn’t stick up as high, so in deeper ungroomed snow, it is more susceptible to sinking beneath the surface.
The rocker tip shortens the effective edge of the ski, but it does help with starting a tighter turn. And although they’ll have a higher shovel on the front, the uni-directional nature of many all mountain skis means they can do a more subtle rocker in the tail. You’ll then have a healthy amount of edge to control a turn, and the high tip to cruise over powder.
How Are Freestyle Skis Different?
Skiing owes a lot to snowboarding, and you see that in freestyle skis. The idea of freestyle types of skis had been around since the 1930s, but the modern freestyle ski has only been used for the last 30 years.
When snowboarding took off in popularity in the early 1990s, it introduced terrain parks to the ski resort. Before long, skiers became anxious to show off their skills, but they needed a ski that made sense for doing tricks. A new design featuring a twin-tip soon became the standard, popping up from American ski brands and giving jibbers bi-directional control on park features.
Freestyle Ski Shape and Profile
Freestyle skis have a similar width as all mountain skis, usually ranging between 85-105mm. A semi-wide shape gives them more stability without adding undue amounts of weight.
With a wider midsection, the sidecut radius is usually larger, making for a straighter ski. You can’t carve as well as you can with a carving ski, but the reduced weight from skinnier tips and tails helps maneuverability. The straighter design is also critical for skiing bumps, so you’ll often see very little curvature in mogul freestyle skis.
Reducing weight is essential for maintaining control during aerial tricks and maneuvering in general. To further reduce swing weight, freestyle skis should often be shorter than an all mountain ski for your height. The shorter size will hurt stability, but the relatively straight shape helps offset that drawback.
The main difference between a freestyle vs. all mountain ski is the profile. While both ski types feature a camber mid-section to varying degrees for softer landings, the tips can have a significant contrast. Most of that is due to the twin-tip design of freestyle skis.
With a freestyle ski, the tail is upturned like the tip. Skiers can ride forward and backward without dipping the end.
To get the most out of that bi-directional flexibility, skis will usually have symmetrical tip/tail rockers and a center-mounted binding. It’s easier to maintain body control on rails and in the air during spins with a balanced weight in front and back.
Freestyle vs. All Mountain Skis: Picking the Right Skis
Length, sidecut, camber, and rocker have been put together in every conceivable combination. As a result, you may see the lines blur between freestyle and all mountain skis.
Freestyle skis are usually identifiable by the symmetrical tips, while all mountain skis are more suited to one direction. But there are many freestyle skis that you can take out of the park, and there are all mountain skis that can handle jumps and rails. And with the popularity of parks on the rise, twin tips are more common on more ski types.
When it comes time to choose your pair of skis, you need to focus on two factors — your riding style and your frame.
Your riding style, where you take your skis, and how you use them will determine what combination of specs is best for you. You may hear that freestyle skis are weaker in terms of how long they last, but most of that comes from the impact of riding park features.
For example, if you’re not a rider and mostly stick to the park, a pair of short, fat, and center-mounted twin tips will get you down the mountain safely while giving you control for doing tricks on jumps and rails. If you’re more of a trail rider who likes going off into glades and powder, a longer all mountain setup with a rocker tip and set back bindings will work everywhere you go.
Once you find the right ski design, the flex and size can depend on your gender, height, and weight. A taller person will need a longer ski, and a heavier person will generally need a stiffer camber.
Your experience level can play into the right amount of flex as well. A softer ski is more forgiving and easier to control for beginners.
Find Your Style, Find Your Ski
There’s a lot to consider in finding the right ski, but when it comes to freestyle vs. all mountain skis, it’s all about where you’re taking them. There is a ton of crossover between these ski types, and you’ll likely favor a blend of both. But if you know where you plan to spend most of your time, you’ll know at which end of the spectrum you should start.
Freestyle and all mountain skis are great options for many skiers, but there’s more to learn if you want to get the right ski gear. Check out our ski gear posts for more insights and information on getting the most out of your time on the mountain.