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Race skis for 14 yr old son

QUESTION: My 14 year old son, who will turn 15 this winter, is a very strong skier, but his racing has been limited to a couple of NASTAR GS races each year.  He is going to ski for his Massachusetts high school team this year.  The team has had good success in past years, and the coach has an impressive racing resume from her high school and college years.  Two questions:

1. Any particular ski or skis that you recommend he pursue? It will be mostly slalom, but some GS.  He is 5'9" and thin (125 lbs). He is barely entering puberty, so probably has some growing to do.  He is a pretty aggressive skier, having cut his teeth doing a fair amount of climbing and steeps in Utah with me each year since he was pretty small and he loves bumps (but as mentioned almost no racing).  We just got him fitted for new boots by a master boot fitter at a small shop in the Boston area that I like to work with.  He carries a number of ski brands, including Dynastar, Volkl, Elan and Atomic.  He does not have much in the way of racing skis, but can get them.

2. He is looking for a racing camp to go to before the season gets cranking in January, preferably in New England over the Christmas/New Year's break, but we would consider out west.  I've found some things on line, but most are season long racing programs which he does not want to do.  He gets 16 days off over Christmas and 5 over Thanksgiving.  

Any thoughts appreciated!  I've enjoyed reading your thoughtful reponses to other questions.


ANSWER: Dear Chris --

Your son would do well on junior race skis that are still appropriate for his weight.  If he is skiing mostly slalom, he will probably do fine using one set of slalom skis for both races varieties.  The brands you mention at your favorite shop all have good quality versatile junior race skis.  However, some of the brands may not be suitable for his weight.  I recommend considering Volkl Racetiger, or the Dynastar Omeglass (http://www.dynastar.com/#/products/da9mr04-team-omeglass).  Both brands of skis are suitable for dual event competitions.

As far as a race camp goes, I know that Stratton Vermont runs a series of weekend camps.  http://www.stratton.com/lessons-and-rentals/snow_school/race_camps.htm.  If your son finds a coach he likes during these camps, you could probably hire the coach for a multi-day event at the coach's home mountain or a mountain at which he has training slope access.  

Sports Club International has a has a week long race camp at Sunday River in Maine which is excellent but expensive.  The maximum age is also 14, so the timing of your son's birthday, will have an effect on whether he can attend this camp. http://www.rdcwebsites.net/sci/RaceCamps/SundayRiverPreChristmasCamp/tabid/64/De

Please write back, if you have additional questions, or other equipment you are considering and wish to discuss.

Have a great race season!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Cynthia - thanks so much.  I went to my ski shop yesterday, and his advice was identical to yours (Junior Volkl Racetiger Slalom or Junior Dynastar Omeglass Team Slalom).  Each has a max length of 150 cm, which is says should be fine for him.  They look short to me (approx 2" below his chin), but I admit this is a new world to me.  Do you think that length should be ok?  Longer than 150 cm means going to an adult ski in the Volkl or the Dynastar, which is probably not a good idea at 125 lbs. However, the comparable junior slalom skis by Atomic (SL 12 Jr.) and Head (Worldcup SL Team Jr) go up to 155 and 156 cm, respectively, if you think he should be in a bit longer ski (those would be right at his chin).  

I will look into the Stratton camps.  I did find the Sunday River Sports Club International camp the other day, but it is ridiculously expensive.

Thanks again; you are truly an expert!


ANSWER: Dear Chris --

Two inches below the chin for a tall but lightweight skier is perfectly reasonable.  This length is indicated because he his skiing mostly slalom.  A longer ski will be harder for someone lightweight to flex throughout the turn, unless they are a very aggressive skier.  A longer ski will also mean your son will have to be that much quicker on his slalom turns.  I recommend staying with the junior ski in the shorter length this year.  If your son cannot hold an edge at speed on these skis during the GS, that will tell you it is time to get him a GS specific ski.  However, that may not happen for quite a while unless your son gains a lot of weight over a short period of time.

My personal opinion is that both the Dynastar and the Volkl junior skis are higher performance skis than the Head junior skis which tend to be a bit soft.  The Atomic skis will perform as well as the Dynastar skis, but I do not think you need the increased length given that your son will be skiing slalom mostly, and is an excellent but lightweight skier.  Ski length and camber should be based on a skier's weight and aggressiveness not on their height.

Again feel free to write back if you have any other questions.  Have a great ski season!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I am embarrassed to ask another follow up, but my son's ski coach sent me an e-mail over the weekend telling me that she had previously misspoke in that the majority of my son's races will be giant slalom, and not slalom as she originally indicated. Accordingly, I assume that we should buy a GS ski rather than a slalom ski and just try to make the GS ski work for slalom. Would you still recommend the Volkl Racetiger or Dynsastar , but in a junior GS version? The Volkl Racetiger GS Junior Race Stock comes in lengths up to 170 cm (150, 156, 163 and 170) and the Dynastar Team Course Junior GS comes in similar lengths (up to 176 cm). Or is there another GS ski that you think would be better in terms of the ability to also use it for slalom? I would also love your thoughts on the appropriate length for someone the size of my son as indicated above. Thanks for your expertise!

We are registering for the speech weekends at Stratton Mountain, so thank you for your recommendation.


Dear Chris --

No problem with follow-up questions.  

This is a more difficult question to answer since most good skiers can hold an edge on a slalom ski through a GS race, but it is very hard to muscle a GS ski through a slalom course.

My recommendation would be to get either the Volkl or the Dynastar junior race GS version, and then find a used slalom ski in any of the four top brands.  I would lean toward the Volkl or the Dynastar, but since your son is lightweight for his height, even the Head junior slalom race ski should work for him.  The slalom ski will be significantly shorter than the GS ski, and likely softer in flex to allow for quick turn initiation through the close-set slalom poles.

As far as the length of the GS skis.  If your son loves to go fast, and he carves well (rides his edges smoothly) I would look at a 155 to 165 range.  If he is more tentative, I would go shorter.  He is not very heavy so you don't want him on a really stiff ski yet, which is why the junior GS skis should still be right for him.

Please write back, if you cannot find a reasonable used slalom ski. I will recommend a dual use junior race ski, if you have to use one ski for both races and the races are predominately GS.  That will change my brand and length recommendations.

Good luck to you and your son working through these equipment issues.  Again, please don't hesitate to follow-up if you have more questions.  I hope you have a great time at race camp at Stratton.  I have had terrific coaches' clinics there.

Best regards,  

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