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If you're on the mailing lists for Xscape and Ellis Brigham you'll notice of the test days. They do tend to be early in the season though, Braehead was a few weeks ago.
Skis should vary in length and width depending what you want to do with them - piste, powder, touring etc. E.g. my mountaineering/touring skis are 16cm longer than my downhills and relatively narrow under foot for pushing uphill. Not as easy to turn on piste though.
I have just come back from 2 glorious days in Val d'Isere. The snow is amazing and I had a pair of rental skis and they were great in the powder so yes, the skis you have do make a huge difference. Last year I was given a pair of twin tips and simply didn't get on with them. Eventually I gave in and went back to the shop thinking I couldn't ski but it was the equipment (well that's what they told me)....I would recommend that you speak to the owner/manager of the shop and say you would like to try before you buy and ask them what the recommend.
We're driving, so I can bring skis back with me no problem.
I think hiring some out there and seeing what I think to them is a good idea. I'm sure if I like them they'd be willing to sell them to me even if they're not officially for sale as it'll be end of March when I'm there. <excited>
End of last season (having had huge old carvers for about 15 years) I tried some hire skis, with a view to buying them. Wow - what a difference. Skiing (in heavy slushy stuff) was FUN! Can't wait to ski on them again.
I bought the ex hire skis for about 150...probably 500 new.
Whether you want to buy / rent must depend on your circumstances...add on costs to flights etc.
I had an ex hire rather ancient pair then upgraded to new ones from the ski show a few years back. Mine are getting on in years and I now think rental ones are much better (or perhaps I'm going to better resorts). When I first got my skis I could still book cheap flights and not be charged extra for the skis but not now. I'm not even sure I'll take my own this winter.
I think sometimes there are special ski promotions in resorts where you can try out skis before you buy, I have heard of this before.
I've skied for the last 8 years on an ex hire pair of Salomon skis. The skis are ok but I oly got them as I liked the boots so much. I asked the hire shop at the end of the week if I could buy the boots and he said I had to have the skis as well. Cost me 80euros for the lot!
A small part of me thinks maybe I could ski better if I had better skis??? I think mine are beginner/intermediate skis. I ski reds no problem now and some blacks.
I saw some Salomon lava skis last year which look very pretty. I've read reviews which are all glowing. They're an intermediate/advanced ski.
When you buy new skis do you just buy them and hope you get on with them? Or will places like Xscape let me borrow skis from their shops to try out on their slope? Or do I wait till I'm on holiday, can you try skis with a view to buying in resort?