An Expert Guide to Head Skis
Ski Expert Adam St. Ours takes us through the main skis from HEAD and shares a step-by-step process on how to determine which pair of HEAD skis is right for you!
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tl:dr HEAD makes some of the most technologically advanced ski gear in the industry. They’re specifically known for the use of Graphene, the strongest, lightest material in the world, which makes their gear among the lightest in their respective categories while maintaining the same performance qualities of the top-of-the-line gear in the industry.
For almost 80 years, HEAD Skis has been at the forefront of ski innovation and technology. From creating and building the first skis with a metal construction in the 1940s, to utilizing space-age materials like graphene in their modern equipment, HEAD consistently produces top performing gear for the slopes. This quality and performance is reflected on the podium, where HEAD has dominated just about every aspect of competitive alpine skiing for over 60 years. From the Olympics and World Cup, to the Freeride World Tour down, to local NASTAR leagues, HEAD skis can be seen on the feet of the best skiers in the world.
I enjoy recommending HEAD Ski products to people who are looking for a high-performing piece of gear that features state-of-the-art technology. Their all-mountain KORE skis are exceptionally lightweight and perform equal to a ski that’s much heavier. So they’re a great option for someone looking for something that won’t be fatiguing during a long day on the mountain, but wants the same stability and support as other high-end ski options.
Who Is HEAD Skis?
During a ski trip to Stowe, Vermont, in 1946, Howard Head found he was frustrated with the lack of performance wooden skis offered. Returning home, he was convinced that a better ski could be made by sandwiching metal and wood together—such as was being done at his job manufacturing airplanes. The following year, he founded HEAD Skis: a company centered around the pursuit of using technology and innovation to create a better ski. His first ski, the Head Standard, was constructed from two layers of aluminum bonded to plywood sidewalls that encased a core of honeycomb plastic.
While initially slow to be embraced, the later popularity of the Standard eventually helped HEAD to become the best-selling brand of skis in the United States and Europe by 1955. In the decades since, HEAD Skis developed a strong, loyal following due to their lightweight and high-performing skis—which continues to this day. HEAD also owns and manufactures Tyrolia ski bindings.
What to Consider When Buying HEAD Skis?
Being one of the largest ski manufacturers in the world, HEAD has a ski for every individual and ski style there is, and an appropriate Tyrolia binding to go with it. In order to figure out which HEAD ski is best for you, it can be helpful to consider the following questions, and how you would answer them for your individual situation:
Ask Yourself 1. What is my preferred ski style? 2. What is my skill level? 3. What is my ideal price range for skis? 4. What type of bindings or other gear do I need to go with my skis?
What Is My Preferred Ski Style?
Skis come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and constructions, all of which affect the skis performance and feel on various types of snow conditions and slope styles. Do you mostly cruise on smooth groomers? Do you like to carve big turns at high speed? Do you seek out soft snow at every opportunity you can? Do you like to pop, jump, jib, and make the mountain your playground? How you answer these questions can help narrow down potential ski options, but it’s important that you’re honest with yourself. It’s understandable to want a fat powder ski because you love skiing in powder, but if you’re not skiing deep powder multiple times a year, then you would be better served with a ski more suited for the conditions you typically see.
What Is My Skill Level?
Like all of the top ski brands, HEAD makes skis to suit every skier and ski style in the world. However, most of their all-mountain skis tend to suit more advanced intermediate to expert skiers. This is mostly due to the use of Graphene, which makes them incredibly light and stiff simultaneously. This combination can be demanding to ski and have a harsh feeling that many beginner skiers will want to stay away from. But if you can keep your technique clean, you’ll be rewarded with a strong and confidence-inspiring ride.
What Is My Ideal Price Range for Skis?
The impressive technology of HEAD ski gear does come at a cost, with most of their skis being priced at the higher end of their respective categories. Now, high cost is relative, but in my opinion, the amount of innovation and performance you get with HEAD is very impressive, even at the higher end of the spectrum.
What Type of Bindings or Other Gear Do I Need to Go With My Skis?
Make sure you choose the right type of ski and ski gear to match the intended use. If you plan on venturing into the backcountry, you not only want a ski that’s suitable for the terrain and conditions you intend to ski, but you need the appropriate bindings and skins as well. If you plan on doing some occasional short hikes to access some powder, a 50/50 hybrid ski and bindings would be ideal where weight is less of an issue. But if you plan on doing more traditional alpine touring with long approaches and high alpine faces, a narrower ski that’s light and nimble and paired with a lightweight binding is probably a better choice.
What Are the Different Types of HEAD Gear?
Frontside / Carving Skis
HEAD’s frontside skis are divided into two main categories; the men’s Shape and women’s Joy series. Both these ski lineups use the same technologies and construction features to achieve a lightweight ski that is easy to turn on mostly groomed snow surfaces.
The HEAD Shape V2 and HEAD Pure Joy are entry-level skis about 70mm underfoot and are designed to help beginner skiers perfect their turns without being overly demanding. With a generous shovel and sidecut in the front that grips the snow when you tip the ski on edge, combined with Allride Rocker for easy turn initiation that is tailored for the individual turn radius of the ski, what you get is confidence inspiring turns and a lifelong love of skiing.
As the skis get wider, the stiffness and responsiveness increase proportionally to allow for more advanced skiing, at faster speeds, and in mixed snow conditions. The HEAD Absolute Joy is 79mm underfoot, and geared towards the intermediate skier who is comfortable linking turns on groomed runs, and is ready to start getting more comfortable at faster speeds and off trail in soft snow.
On the men’s side, the intermediate/advanced frontside skis are renamed “Supershape”, and feature HEAD’s EMC technology along with the graphene found in the Joy series. The Supershape e-Rally is a strong ski that’s a bridge between a dedicated frontside carver and a versatile all-mountain ski. It’s meant for carved turns wherever the day takes you, from fresh groomed corduroy in the morning, to chopped-up trails and some light ungroomed skiing in the afternoon. The combination of EMC and graphene with HEAD’s world-class racing pedigree gives a supremely smooth and damp feeling of being glued to the snow at high speeds for maximum power and engagement.
- Lightweight construction.
- Technology that is tailored for the intended use and experience level for each ski.
Keep in mind
- HEAD Shape and Joy series of skis are meant for mostly groomed runs, and can be a handful to turn in soft, deeper snow.
Freeride / Powder
HEAD’s freeride lineup of skis is named KORE. Generally, they are lightweight and strong skis meant to effortlessly transition between varying snow conditions. They utilize a Karuba-Poplar wood core in the center and graphene embedded in the length of the ski to reduce weight to a minimum without sacrificing performance. Less weight means less energy burned, more turns, more confidence, and more powder!
There are a couple of interesting points to note about the KORE skis that will help when deciding which one is right for you. First off, the widths of the skis change in proportion to the ski lengths. That means the shortest lengths of the same ski are narrower and the longer lengths are wider—with the reference length of 177cm for men and 170cm for women being equal to the naming convention. This is done by a few different ski companies as a way to give the shorter and longer skis the same general characteristics and feeling on snow. It lets a smaller and/or lighter skier feel like they have better control of their skis, while also avoiding having a larger/heavier skier feel like they are overpowering theirs.
Originally released with an all-mountain focus, and the corresponding widths from 93–111mm, the KORE series has been expanded on both ends of the spectrum, and now truly encompasses the full gamut of ski styles and conditions a recreational skier will find on any mountain in the world. Whether you’re looking at the KORE 87 as a bridge between frontside and backside skiing, or the powder-hungry KORE 117 for maximum float in the deepest of snow, or anything in between, you’re getting the same technology and characteristics.
Graphene is utilized to provide stiffness without increasing weight, and when combined with the stiff Karuba-Poplar wood core and wrapped in a dual carbon layer, the effect is a powerful ski that will provide support and inspire confidence when you’re at the limits of your abilities.
The best-selling model is the KORE 93—it is the most versatile in terms of varied snow performance. Narrow and stiff with camber to hold an edge on icy hard-packed groomers, but wide enough to remain stable in mixed snow and still be nimble in ungroomed moguls or trees, the low-to-mid 90s width tends to be the sweet spot for true all-mountain skiing.
- Lightweight construction gives them a light swing weight that is easy to flick around in tight spots
- Graphene makes the ski like a metal ski without any of the metal
Keep in mind
- Requires an active and dynamic ski style to mitigate the lack of weight
- Stiff nature makes the skis more demanding than average, not the best for beginner skiers
The other important point to note is that the KORE skis are all unisex. There is no difference between the men’s and women’s skis outside of the available lengths and colors. In fact, the men’s and women's skis have identical dimensions in the lengths that they share, with the women’s available in shorter sizes and the men’s in longer. It is due to the changing widths mentioned above that the ski name is different, and not anything about the build. See the table below for the women’s KORE 91 and the men’s KORE 93 for an example.
|Womens Length (cm)||Mens Length (cm)||Shovel (mm)||Waist (mm)||Tail (mm)||Radius (m)|
HEAD is also a manufacturer of ski boots. The Formula is HEAD’s resort-focused boot, available in both men’s and women’s models. They are top-of-the-line boots available in a wide range of flexes for every skier on the mountain. They have many of the common features seen on most high-end boots; micro-adjustable buckles, cuff alignment capabilities, GripWalk soles, and moldable plastic shells.
A unique feature of the Formulas is their liner. The vast majority of ski boot liners are thermo moldable; the level of molding varies based on brand and price point, but generally you can heat the liners briefly in an oven, put them on, and after a few minutes they will mold to your individual foot shape.
HEAD uses a unique technology called Liquid Fit, where material is injected into the liner around the heel and ankle, filling any gaps and providing uniform ankle wrapping for maximum comfort. The benefits of this process is that you can add material to form around your unique ankle structure, rather than just pressing a mold into a liner—and it can be repeated as necessary.
This latter point is important, because the traditional imprint molding done with most boots is an irreversible process, and the liner will continue to pack out over time and eventually need to be replaced. If you think about it, if you continue to imprint on the liner, it’s eventually going to hollow out and create too much space in the boot, and your foot will move around while skiing. With Liquid Fit, if there is any compression of the material, you can simply refill the extra space for a “like new” fit. Now, this is not to say that the boots will have an indefinite life—but this process will absolutely extend the life of your boots.
HEAD’s alpine touring boots are also called KORE. And like their freeride skis, they also use graphene to give them outstanding strength-to-weight capabilities. HEAD actually just recently redesigned them and added extra weight compared to the previous model to make them more supportive, but the KORE boots are still lighter than most hybrid resort/touring boots on the market.
Features to Look Out for When Buying HEAD Skis
HEAD currently utilizes two unique technologies in their alpine skis: Energy Management Circuit (EMC) and Graphene.
Energy Management Circuit (EMC)
EMC is the world's only electronic ski-dampening system. It uses an electronic circuit embedded into their race and performance skis to filter out unwanted vibrations when riding—meaning more stability and better grip. It does so by converting the kinetic energy of the unwanted vibrations into electrical energy, and then filtering out the negative vibrations through a resistor and harmonizing the ski.
Graphene is one of the lightest, thinnest, and strongest materials in the world. The thickness of a single atom can be 300x stronger than steel. HEAD was one of the first companies to use it in their sports equipment, and it didn’t take long before they started adding it to their skis. This gives their skis the performance and attributes of metal, without the additional weight. So, their models that utilize graphene are strong and hold an edge on firm snow very well, but are also exceptionally light and nimble. HEAD has also started incorporating graphene in their ski boots to harvest support and responsiveness at a lighter weight than most competitors.
How to Choose the Right HEAD Skis for You
Combing through all the different HEAD skis and picking the right one for you can be a tricky task. That’s why you can always reach out to a Curated Ski Expert to discuss what models are best for you. To get a head start, it can be helpful to think about the kind of skier you are and what you’re looking for in a ski. Take a look at these three example customers with varying skill levels and preferences.
Will is new to skiing, and is looking to get comfortable making turns on mostly green runs. He wants to concentrate on perfecting his parallel turns.
Ski examples: the HEAD Shape V2, HEAD Pure Joy
Sarah is an intermediate to advanced skier who prefers to make big, long turns at high speeds on mostly groomed runs. She wants something that will be more supportive than a beginner ski. Though she also wants to up the speed and not worry about her skis chattering.
Ski examples: HEAD Absolute Joy, Supershape e-Rally
Daryl is an advanced skier who likes to ski the whole mountain, including a mix of groomed and ungroomed snow. He lives in an area that frequently sees deep snowfall, and he prioritizes off-piste performance over everything else. He wants to stay stable on top of mixed snow conditions.
Ski examples: KORE 99, KORE 105
Connect With Us
HEAD Skis is all about high-performing alpine ski equipment, driven by technological innovation and proven on the competition circuit. From when the company built the first metal ski in the 1940s, to their 21st Century use of graphene and electric ski dampening, with HEAD you can always be assured that the equipment you receive will be cutting edge. If you have any questions on HEAD gear, or would like to see what is the best ski gear for your individual needs, talk to a Ski Expert like myself to get a list of personalized recommendations.