How Snow Skis Work

By: Jacob Silverman

Snow Ski Boots and Bindings

An experienced retailer can help you to sort through the many ski boot and snow ski options.
An experienced retailer can help you to sort through the many ski boot and snow ski options.
Thomas Northcut/Getty Images

Men and women often buy different types of skis because women have a lower center of gravity. Men tend to lean forward more than women, meaning that men's bindings are placed farther forward on the skis. Women's skis also tend to be lighter to offer them the same flexibility that men get out of their heavier skis.

Most all-mountain skis feature what are known as integrated bindings -- bindings built into the skis. Such bindings are common for everyone but advanced level skiers, who often have specific binding needs, especially if they engage in competition. The virtue of integrated bindings is that they are flexible and slightly mobile, which in turn ensures flexibility throughout the ski, even when your boot is in place.


Ski boots should provide comfort, warmth, support, waterproofing, flexibility and a firm link with your ski bindings. A typical ski boot will have a hard plastic outer shell, an inner boot, several clips, adjustments for flexibility and a power strap that allows you to tighten the top of the boot. A forward-lean adjustment permits the wearer to adjust how much he or she may lean forward in the boot. Some boots offer other adjustments, such as a ski-walk adjustment, which lets the top part of the boot flex backward, making walking easier.

There are two main types of ski boots -- rear-entry and top-entry, with mid-entry serving as a kind of hybrid model. Rear-entry boots have fewer clasps -- just one or two in total -- than top-entry boots; rear-entry boots can then be opened wide, allowing you to insert your foot at a shallower angle, rather than from the top. Except for the most expensive models, top-entry boots usually are considered higher-end because they offer superior foot support.

When it comes to buying ski boots, you may prefer to try a ski shop, where you can work with an experienced retailer to find the proper fit. It's recommended that you wear wool socks or other thick skiing socks, as you will when skiing. A decent pair of ski boots retails for around $100, while high-end boots can set you back $400 to $600. Still, major sales are common, so after you figure out what you want, hunt around -- including online -- for a bargain.

For more information about snow skis, winter sports and other related topics, take a look at the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Dawson, Louis. "Chronology of North American Ski Mountaineering and Backcountry Skiing."
  • Smith, Allen. "How to Select Snow Skis." 2009.
  • "Alpine Ski Boot Guide." Summit Online.
  • "Alpine Ski Sizing."
  • "Buying Guide." Ski-O-Pedia. July 1, 2009.
  • "How to Choose Skis and Ski Sizing Chart." Evo. 2009.
  • "How to Fit Snow Sports Products." Play It Again Sports.