Ski Demoing: Why You Should Try Your Skis Before You Buy

by William Stupp | Published: February 1st, 2023 |  Skiing Articles

As every consumer knows, it’s best to try before you buy. This is doubly true when it comes to buying skis. The skis you use will have a significant impact on how you ski, so it’s best to deliberate carefully when making a purchase.

If you’re in the market for new skis, demoing is definitely the way to go. You'll end up not only with new skis, but a wealth of knowledge about skiing. The trick is to hit the right terrain, try out several different kinds of skis, and be prepared to change the way you ski.

Les Gets France

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What is Demoing?

Skier wearing Green Jacket

Demoing, quite frankly, is the best way to buy skis. The concept is pretty simple. You go into a ski shop and get introduced to the various kinds of skis on offer. Someone will ask you questions about how you like to ski and your ability level. Based on that, you’ll be set up with a pair and try them out on the mountain. 

Key Takeaway: You can come back down at any time, get suited up with a different pair, and test different skis to your heart’s content.

Whether you do this for one day or three, by the end of your demo period, you should have a much better idea of which skis work best for you.

To do all this, you obviously have to pay something. This will be in the form of a daily fee which is usually a little bit higher than what you’d pay if you were simply renting skis from the same shop.

The perk is that if you choose to buy one of the pairs that you’ve demoed, the money you paid will be subtracted from the total cost of the skis.

Buying Skis is Hard. Demoing makes it easy 

ski with friends

Buying skis can be tricky and that’s what makes demoing such a great option. Especially for new and newish skiers, picking out the right pair based on a short description can be incredibly confusing. It certainly doesn’t help that every year, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of new skis on offer. Ski Magazine’s Gear Guide alone has well over 50 and the descriptions of each tend to blend together.

This can all be very frustrating. Skiing is complicated, as are the skis themselves. This makes relying on written descriptions problematic. Personally, I would never buy skis without trying them first because otherwise, I couldn’t be confident enough to know what I’m really getting.

Such catalogs and official descriptions written by reviewers and ski manufacturers will talk about things like stiffness, camber, weight, and size. Even for an experienced skier, a description of a given ski’s stiffness will only tell them so much about how it’ll actually ski. 

I might do some research and read, say a list of two dozen new models of skis, but ultimately I won’t buy something I haven’t tried.

An Easier Way To Learn How Skis Work

skiing at Gourette resort
Photo by Jerome Bon under CC BY 2.0

Tip: If you don’t know how camber, stiffness, and other characteristics affect a ski’s performance, demoing is the best way to find out.

With each new pair you try, you’ll get a better idea of what these factors actually mean in practice. 

Ideally, you’ll have the aid of a friendly and knowledgeable ski shop employee who will walk you through all this, explaining the technical difference between each ski and then sending you off to get a feel for how these affect your ride.

Explain how you feel about each set of skis you try and, chances are, you’ll learn a lot and move ever closer to finding the right gear for you.

Key Takeaway: Demoing isn't just about buying new skis; it's also a great way to learn about skis and skiing.

What To Do on Demo Day

piste images

Hopefully, you’re convinced by now that demoing is the best way to buy skis and also an ideal way to learn more about skiing. But, moving beyond the ‘why’ of demoing, let’s look at the best way to approach shopping for skis.

First of all, you need to think about what kind of skis you want. I think it’s best to put aside technical matters and ask the most basic questions; are you looking for all-mountain skis that will take you down every kind of terrain you like to ski?

Skis that will be easy to turn on or something that will help you go faster than ever before? The best skis for a powder day? Or do you want something that specializes in carving up groomers? 

Buying skis is an important decision for any skier and the timing should be right. You might want new skis for the start of the new season (I’ve been there), but sometimes it’s best to wait.

You’re probably looking for skis that will serve you well on the kind of terrain and snow you normally ski. If you’re looking to buy powder skis, you need to wait for a powder day before going out to demo.

Get The Most Out of Your Demo Day(s)

So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about when to demo skis and what you should think about before getting started. Now let’s take a look at how to approach demoing in a more specific way.

Tip: If you’re looking to buy your very first pair of skis, I’d argue it’s even more important to test out several pairs.

If you don’t know whether you like them stiff or flexible or what kind of camber suits your style and ability, there’s all the more reason to test out a wide variety of skis. 

But there are only so many hours in a day (and sadly, even fewer in a ski day). This means it’s wise to be efficient with your time so you have a better chance of finding some skis which complement your skills and help you reach new heights.

Test Your Skis on the Terrain You Normally Ride


The best way to demo skis is to run through all the different kinds of terrain you like to ski. You may be tempted to immediately head over to your favorite part of a resort, but don’t forget that you’ll likely want to change out your skis at least once during the day. This might mean it’s best to stay relatively close to the base area where your ski shop is located.

If you’re an all-mountain skier, you might want to plan ahead and work out the ideal route for testing skis.

When demoing, I like to do a cruiser, a run with moguls, find my way into the trees, and see how the skis I’m demoing fare on an icy or slushy patch of the mountain before heading back to the shop to do the same terrain with a different pair. This is the best way to be able to compare the qualities of various skis truly.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for powder day skis or skis that will excel in the late-season slush, you’ll surely want to focus on that kind of terrain.

That said, I’d still recommend even doing a cruiser or two while testing prospective powder skis. Even on a powder day, you won’t be in fresh snow 100% of the time so it’s useful to know how a given pair of skis will handle themselves in other kinds of snow.

Reminder: Another thing to keep in mind is that you can try out the same skis twice.

In fact, you should be encouraged to do so. If you’re demoing over multiple days and try out, for example, a half dozen pairs of skis, it’s easy to get a little bit mixed up on which you liked best.

Refreshing your memory by retrying skis is a great way to solidify your choice. Taking notes, mental or otherwise, immediately after testing a pair is also a great idea.

Advice: Think about what kind of skis you want before you start demoing.

solo ski

Why Is Demoing The Best Way To Buy Skis?

Buying skis is a tricky proposition, especially if it’s your first time doing so. Luckily there’s an easy way to test skis before you make a purchase.

Demoing is practiced in ski shops all over the world and, in my opinion, it’s not only a fun thing to do but also the best way to buy skis.

Key Takeaway: Take care to think about how your ideal skis would ride and what kind of terrain you normally ski down. Try as many different skis as necessary, letting your feelings and the advice of staff help you to find the perfect skis.