What Are Ski Blades and Are They Worth It?
What are ski blades? Who are they for? Should you get some? Read this guide from Ski Expert Hunter R. to find out the answers to these questions and more!
If you’ve spent much time at ski resorts, you may have seen people riding something down the mountain that's not quite a snowboard and not quite a ski. If anything, it looks like they might have been riding children's skis, but that doesn't make sense because why would an adult be on children's skis?
The small ski in question is called a ski blade, and below, I’ll answer all your questions about them!
What Are Ski Blades?
Sometimes called scorpion blades, skiboards, trick skis, or snowblades, a ski blade is a shorter, wider version of a ski. They are normally between two and three feet long and around six inches wide. For reference, regular skis are usually between three inches (groomer-only skis) and four and a half inches (powder-specific skis) wide.
These short skis have been around since the 1930s but have become a bit of a new trend in the last few years, specifically among terrain park enthusiasts looking to switch things up, folks who are on their first few days on the ski mountain, and kids who are in the learning phases.
At first, they were made with only non-release bindings (a binding that will not release your boot if you fall, as most bindings do). The thought was if someone were to fall with ski blades on, they are so short that they wouldn’t cause a knee injury as is threatened on longer skis. Though that's a nice thought, ski blades became an attractive option to beginners who tend to fall a bit more, causing the non-release bindings to be a safety issue.
But in 2003, Salomon started making ski blades with release bindings (bindings that will release your boot if you fall). Release bindings are generally adjustable so they can fit most any ski boot, and the added safety feature has been the main contributor to blades’ recent growing popularity.
Who Are They Good for?
Adults and children who are newer to skiing can benefit from skipping over the normal skis and, instead, renting a pair of ski blades. Beginners sometimes struggle with longer skis, simply because it's too much ski to work with right off the bat. Due to their smaller size, ski blades offer greater control and maneuverability. The hardest part of skiing for new skiers is learning how to turn, so the smaller turn radius and increased stability offered by ski blades can alleviate some of those issues. They are often recommended in ski lessons where you are going to be sticking to the bunny hill and practicing drills before you take on the steeper slopes.
Many times when you see people using ski blades on a smaller hill or in a class, they will have a leash connecting the tips of the skis together. If you are familiar with the ‘pizza and french fry’ analogy in skiing, you will know that as you’re first learning to ski, it's easier to position your skis with the tips together and tails apart. The leashes keep the tips close together so all you have to get comfortable with is standing up on your skis.
The short length of the ski blades ensures you only have to work to turn and control a small amount of ski, and the leashes eliminate the need to focus on keeping your tips together on your own. Using leashes on a longer ski sometimes results in your ski tips crossing which can be frustrating and make you fall down.
Terrain Park Enthusiasts
The first time I really took notice of ski blades was in the terrain park at my local mountain. I’d seen them before on the bunny hill, but seeing skiers doing jumps and tricks in the terrain park on a tiny ski made me do a double-take. The main reason terrain park skiers like ski blades is because of their maneuverability. It is easier to have a shorter ski while learning to hit rails and jumps. Many ski blades are also twin tips, meaning both the back and the front of the ski flare, so you are able to ski either forward or backward, which is also a necessary feature in a park ski!
Though ski blades are good for some things, they have a few downfalls as well. The shorter length makes them much less stable at higher speeds than traditional skis. So for speed demons or those looking to race down the slopes, you're going to want the stability of the extra length only found on a regular ski.
Ski blades are also not the best for progressing your skills past a certain point. Though they are nice for learners, those sticking to the bunny hill, and those practicing basic skills, they are quite a different shape than regular skis. So if your goal is to get more comfortable on steeps, carving, and general all-mountain skiing, they are also not the best choice for you.
Powder or Resort Skiing
Ski blades are also not great for deep powder or new snow—though there are a few exceptions! The shorter length of a ski blade leads to your weight being more concentrated on the ski surface than it would be on a longer ski, and therefore, you are more likely to sink in new snow.
The exception to this is a few versions of ski blades that are meant to be ultra-wide and therefore function more as snowshoes by keeping you on top of the snow. Because of the added width, these are not a great option for beginners looking to learn at the resort.
Some of the hybrid snowshoe-esque models are awesome for those looking to romp around in the backyard, letting you have a snowshoe on the way up and a ski on the way down. They usually have a fishscale pattern on the bottom, similar to cross country skis, that allows you to walk up without sliding backward but does not impact your ability to ski downhill or require any extra gear such as ski skins. They also have a binding that fits any winter boots and has a liftable heel so you can walk uphill.
The Marquette Backcountry ski and the Black Diamond Glidelite Trek ski shown below are two of these types of ski that act as sort of a crossover between ski blade and snowshoe, and while you wouldn’t want to take them to the resorts, they are really fun and a great option if you like hiking and live somewhere that isn't too steep and gets a lot of snow.
Overall, the biggest downfall of ski blades is that they are not very versatile. Some are good for beginners, some are good for deep snow, some are good to act as a snowshoe, but in general, they are pretty niche and there's not a lot of crossover even between those categories. A pair that is good for new skiers would not be good to snowshoe with at the trails near your house and vice versa. They aren’t great for progressing skills and given the minimal amount of time you will want to use them on the bunny hill, they aren’t really worth the investment for most people.
Where Can I Find Them?
Most rental shops offer ski blades since they are good for new skiers. Though I don't normally think rentals are the best option, financially or otherwise, I do think it is the best choice for ski blades. Even if you are wanting to get them for a ski to learn on, you probably don't want to use them more than 5-10 times maximum before upgrading to something longer—so not really worth the investment!
If you are really committed to the ski blade life, want to look steezy on gaper day, or are trying to master the terrain park but are struggling on your normal skis, purchasing a pair might be a good option! The most popular are the K2 Fatty Blades or the Summit Carbon Pro 99s. The bindings will work with the same boots you use for your normal skis so you won't need to buy a ton of extra gear.
Are They Worth It?
If you are a veteran skier looking for something new to spice up the day, a thrill-seeker looking to spend more time in the terrain park, or if you are considering the purchase for your child who will probably get a season or two out of them and can then pass them down—maybe! I would still rent some first and then decide, but in any of these instances, you’d likely get some good use out of them so it might be a worthy investment!
If you are looking for a fun way to explore your backyard on snowy days that's a little more exciting than your classic snowshoeing, the Black Diamond Glidelite Trek or Marquette Backcountry ski mentioned above are for sure worth it! You will get a lot of use out of them, and it's an awesome choice if this is the type of skiing you are looking to do.
For anyone else, not really. It might be fun or helpful to rent some for a day depending on your skiing goals. But if you are considering purchasing some ski blades instead of a traditional ski, it’s not worth it. It’s a much better investment to just get a good pair of beginner skis instead! They will last longer, are more versatile, and will help you progress your skills to expert way faster!
If you have any other questions about ski blades, skis, or any other ski gear, hit up a Ski Expert on Curated, and we’d be happy to help you find the perfect setup to match your goals and skill level!