The 5 Best Ski SetsPublished on 06/13/2023 · 6 min readHit the slopes in style with these recommendations of the 5 best ski sets. Discover the perfect combination of skis and bindings for an epic skiing adventure!
Casablanca Glades, Saddleback, ME. Photo by Adam St. Ours
tl;dr Looking for the best ski setup for your specific preferences? Feeling anxious reviewing the myriad options out there, and trying to wrap your head around how the various items interact with each other and affect performance? Just sit back and relax, because I’m going to walk you through various ski setups, and how to find the right fit for you and your unique winter sports adventure.
What Is a Ski Setup?
A ski setup is any combination of ski gear sold together in a package or “bundle”. This can be done by the manufacturer from the factory, or by the retailer as a convenient value option.
Most people think of a ski setup as the skis and bindings that come together. While beginner and rental skis commonly feature integrated bindings, the vast majority of skis are sold “flat”, or without bindings. From here, you can use almost any ski bindings you want—meaning you can select the most appropriate binding for your individual needs.
Different Types of Ski Setups
Beginner Setups/Integrated Bindings
An integrated binding comes pre-mounted to the skis, usually with a plate or rail system. This is done for either convenience for beginner skiers or performance reasons for intermediates and experts. Most beginner and rental skis have bindings that are sold pre-attached to the skis. These bindings can be adjusted to fit different size boots—which is particularly desirable when buying a setup for growing children.
- One-stop shopping
- Adjustable to fit different size boots without remounting
- Mountain rail may limit ski flex
- Most integrated bindings feature lower DIN ratings
Keep in mind, not all skis that have integrated bindings are for beginners. Most high-end carving skis are also sold with bindings that are set on rails and pre-mounted to the skis. This is because when the boot sits higher on the ski, you can reduce the angle of your leg to the ski in a carve, thereby increasing the forces produced. The railing that the binding is attached to can also help more effectively transfer the force from your boots to the skis and dampen the vibration from the skis back up to your boots at high speed.
- Skis designed specifically for the binding
- Mounting plate increases force transmission to the ski
- Mounting plate and adjustable bindings add extra (possibly unnecessary) weight
Open bindings are sold separately from skis. You have to take them to a ski shop to be mounted directly to the ski by a certified technician—according to your individual DIN setting and ski boot sole length (BSL). In terms of a ski setup, the manufacturer will select and sell the binding along with the ski as a discounted package. But keep in mind that they come separately and are not pre-mounted.
Some common brand combinations for these setups include Salomon/Atomic/Armada, Volkl/Marker, Head/Tyrolia, and Rossignol/Dynastar/Look. Rossignol and Dynastar pair particularly well with a Look binding because the warranty on the skis then increases from one to two years.
- Most-customizable option
- Higher quality and performance options
- Usually the most expensive option
Even though an open binding comes separately, there are still advantages to getting them bundled with a ski vs selecting a binding on its own. In the instances where a ski manufacturer also makes their own bindings, the skis were literally designed to be used with that specific binding. That means that the shape of your skis, turn radius, and flex profile all were designed and tested with that specific binding in mind. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use different bindings.
Setups With Other Gear
Some complete ski packages come with boots as well as skis and bindings. This is almost always done as a convenience and ease of use factor—as there are no benefits to skiing one brand of boot over the other in a particular binding or ski.
Finding a setup with a compatible boot should be considered a savings method, and not the best option for the best fit or high performance. This also applies to any other gear you find in a packaged set up, whether it be ski poles, helmets, or goggles. It's a great way to get the best price by showing a little flexibility in your options, but does not impact performance or how the products work together on the slopes.
Selecting the Best Setup
So, should you go with a bundled setup, or piecemeal your gear together? The benefit of selecting a bundled package is that it takes a lot of the guesswork out of choosing; you can be assured that the bindings are appropriately selected for the ski you choose.
With open bindings, however, you can match up any binding and ski that you want—effectively creating your own ski package. It's a personal preference, and up to you how you want to balance customization and performance with the best value.
Expert-Recommended Ski Sets
Below we’ve included some of our top-recommended ski sets. Though as always, feel free to reach out to a Curated Skiing Expert for more options.
The Maverick is an easy-going ski that’s not demanding, but incredibly versatile across a wide range of conditions—from cruising groomers to venturing out into some light mixed ungroomed snow. They’re the perfect ski for the progressing intermediate who is still working on getting their skis up on edge in a carve, and also wants something that’s comfortable to start venturing off trail. The Atomic M10 GW binding is simple, easy to use, and offers consistent feeling in a wide range of snow conditions.
Seamlessly blending all-mountain with freestyle skiing, the Faction Prodigy is equally at home ripping down a groomer as in the trees or a terrain park. They’re paired with Salomon’s new Strive 11 bindings, which are lightweight and sit lower on the ski than most other bindings on the market. This combination is ideal for a playful, freestyle approach to the mountain.
3. K2 Disruption 78Ti
These skis are performance carvers for aggressive frontside skiers that come with integrated Marker MXC 12 bindings. As can be seen from the PowerRail, the bindings are mounted on to provide increased transfer of energy from skier down into the skis.
A great example of a setup with integrated Look Xpress bindings, the Rossignol Experience 76 is an easy, one-stop shop for beginner skiers looking to avoid the rental line. Plus, you won’t have to worry about buying the right skis and bindings separately. Further, the Experience lineup comes in all sizes and abilities—from kids sizes all the way to high-end expert carving options.
This set is available as a bundle with the Look NX 12 Konect bindings, which are adjustable like a demo ski. Therefore, they can fit different-sized boots without remounting. However, they don’t have the power rail found in dedicated carving skis, so the ski can flex more naturally. This provides greater stability for all-mountain skiing versus frontside carving.
Looking For the Perfect Set Up? Chat With a Real Expert
Ski setups, or ski gear in general, can be notoriously tricky to choose. If you’d like a hand finding the best gear for your specific needs, reach out to a Curated Skiing Expert, like me. Our knowledge team can walk you through the best options for your personal preferences and offer free, customized gear recommendations in live time.