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In skiing lingo, alpine skis are synonymous with downhill skis, whereas Nordic skis are cross-country skis. Although there are a few types of cross-country skis, there are so many types of alpine skis that the novice ski-buyer might easily become confused. Since the first step in choosing an alpine ski is determining your ski ability, it benefits you to take a ski lesson with a certified ski instructor.
Once your instructor gives you an accurate assessment of your skills, you can judge which type of terrain you are most likely to ski. Additionally, it helps to consider the location where you will be doing most of your skiing. For example, a ski that does quite well in the New England ice might not work as well in western powder conditions, and vice versa. For this reason, it's important to research various manufacturers' catalogs to find out which alpine skis will work best.
You may find that the alpine ski of your dreams is out of your price range. Don't despair! At the end of the season, great deals can be found on Skis.com.