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All-In-One

You’ve searched long and hard, visiting web pages that seemed sketchy and reading blog posts that didn’t quite answer your questions. Fortunately for you, the wait is over. Below you’ll find everything that you need to consider when choosing the length of your skis.

It’s a process that is far more complex than you would think. Often, when determining the size of something, we only look at our own height and weight as viable factors. However, even when sorting through freestyle skis, there is a lot more to consider.

So while answering what ski size do I need, everything from your terrain type, ability level, skiing style, and whether you ski often on soft snow or deep snow should all be considered.

Perhaps this sounds a bit overwhelming. This is why we have a section that provides you with general guidelines for getting started. Ski sizing is serious, and so were we when compiling this info for you.

What Length Should Your Skis Be?

As always, when it comes to getting the right gear, there are many factors to take into account, and generally speaking, a rule of thumb won’t yield the best results. However, when it comes to getting the proper ski length, there are some things that you can use to narrow down your search.

ski size chart

A good starting point for the length of your mountain skis is for them to reach as far as the bottom of your chin. This is a generalist length, and as your skiing ability grows, this will affect what skis work best for you.

Nonetheless, when first starting out, place any skis you may be interested in purchasing, in front of you. Have the ski length extend from the bottom of your toes to the tip of your chin. You could go for longer skis, ones that extend from your toes to the top of your head but keep in mind that this may make them harder to maneuver.

Ski lengths aren’t just for your height, but they also determine your ski style and the amount of control you have over them.

A Simple Ski Sizing Chart

Don’t have the time to read through paragraphs of technical information? That’s fine, it’s why we have included this handy sizing chart for you down below. This chart will display the average heights of a skier and then break down what skis they should be using based on their ability level.

If you can’t find your specific height, then pick the one closest to yours and then account for any extra inches that you may need to add or subtract.

Remember that a beginner or intermediate skier should stick to shorter skis for beginners as they are easier to control. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Sizing Your Skis Up or Down? When and Why

Once you’ve moved past generalities, you are left with two choices. Whether you should size your skis up, which means that you get longer skis than your base size would recommend, or whether you should size your skis down.

There are valid reasons for both options, and it doesn’t always come down to skill level. Sure, being able to control your skis is incredibly important. However, certain cambered skis are designed to help with maneuverability.

To help you decide which path you should take, I’ll quickly be outlining the reasons and benefits for either side. One isn’t definitely better than the other. Many factors come into play when determining which is best for you.

Reasons to Size Your Skis Shorter

I’ve touched on the subject of control and how shorter skis are easier to handle than longer skis. This is true and reason enough alone to opt for a shorter ski length. However, the terrain park you find yourself in and your riding style should also be taken into consideration.

For example, a small ski size is optimal for terrain that is loaded. What does loaded mean in this scenario? Loaded means any terrain, whether it is groomed terrain or not, that has many bumps, trees, and other varied structures. Moguls ski riding would be a great example of such a terrain type.

Within these areas, suggested ski lengths trend toward the short side because the smaller a pair of skis, the faster you can turn. It shouldn’t be difficult to imagine why having a quick turn radius is paramount when weaving in between trees and moguls.

Sure, advanced skiers could handle the terrain types mentioned above with any size of skis, but that could be said about anything. If you are good enough, then anything is possible but for the rest of us mortals in the ninety-nine percent, having the right gear is a smart move.

For tight terrain that requires quick turns, size your skis down.

Reasons to Size Your Skis Longer

I’ve touched on the subject of control and how shorter skis are easier to handle than longer skis. This is true and reason enough alone to opt for a shorter ski length. However, the terrain park you find yourself in and your riding style should also be taken into consideration.

what size skis do i need

For example, a small ski size is optimal for terrain that is loaded. What does loaded mean in this scenario? Loaded means any terrain, whether it is groomed terrain or not, that has many bumps, trees, and other varied structures. Moguls ski riding would be a great example of such a terrain type.

Within these areas, suggested ski lengths trend toward the short side because the smaller a pair of skis, the faster you can turn. It shouldn’t be difficult to imagine why having a quick turn radius is paramount when weaving in between trees and moguls.

Sure, advanced skiers could handle the terrain types mentioned above with any size of skis, but that could be said about anything. If you are good enough, then anything is possible but for the rest of us mortals in the ninety-nine percent, having the right gear is a smart move.

For tight terrain that requires quick turns, size your skis down.

Your Ability Level and Your Skis

Certain ski sizes are easier to control than others. The easier something is to control, the easier it is to ride but this isn’t always the case. Skis that rank high in responsiveness aren’t as forgiving as freestyle skis or the best snow skis.

This makes it more difficult for beginner skiers to stay afloat and not crash land face-first into the cold, unforgiving snow.

Over the years, the above has become less relevant. With the continued evolution of ski technology and the average skier being able to dabble in various different styles, your ability level isn’t as definitive in determining the length of your skis.

However, skill level does play a part and you shall see how in the following sections.

Beginners to Intermediates

Beginner intermediate skis have a number of key defining features that I will break down shortly but first, what makes a skier a beginner or intermediate? Obviously, if you are learning how to ski or still struggle with the absolute basics, such as your balance and simple turns, then you are a beginner.

Quantifying what makes an intermediate requires a bit more nuance. More so because most intermediates don’t see themselves as such, further diluting the advanced and expert categories.

In my opinion, a beginner intermediate is someone that has the basics down but struggles to chain them into more complex maneuvers. With this in mind, beginner-intermediate skis have a relatively soft flex.

This soft flex makes the skis more forgiving and therefore, harder to fumble around on. When it comes to physical attributes, mountain skis in this category are skinnier and have lightweight cores.

These softer cores make the skis easier to turn with, and even turn initiation sees a boost. It’s a fine balance that isn’t easy to reach. While you want to tone down the responsiveness in favor of a more forgiving ride, you still want the turn initiation to be easy. The workaround was that the ski’s width was reduced.

Intermediate to Advanced skiers

Intermediate skiers are those that can weave the basics with more complex maneuvers. It’s not exactly a seamless transition, but it is possible, and that’s what counts.

Advanced skiers can do one better. The basics are more of a reflex at this point, and so it’s weaving complex mechanics into one another that determines your skill range.

Intermediate-advanced-level skis fall into a wider ski category than beginner-friendly skis. Not only are stronger and heavier materials and woods used to construct the ski’s core, but the construction type itself has also been reinforced.

The stronger woods make for more durable skis, and this is only further enhanced by the sandwich construction model that skis in this category regularly employ. Aggressive skiers need this level of durability because they aren’t playing it safe the way a beginner would.

what size skis do i need

Your ski rocker and camber will vary. Sometimes you’ll have a fully rockered ski, and other times, a full camber will be present. You’ll even encounter a combination of the two types. The variety here exists due to the differences in skier preference and style.

Suffice it to say, that the main difference between skis at this level and those at lower levels is the construction of the skis and therefore, their durability.

Advance to Expert Skiers

While our last skill level category was the largest, the advanced to expert level is the smallest. As is apparent from the name, this is where the top-level skiers find themselves. Any kind of ski, whether powder skis or rocker skis, that fall into this category are a lot more mechanically demanding than the rest.

When choosing skis within this category you will notice that the materials used to construct them are of a much higher standard. For one, it becomes a lot more common to see different metals used in the ski’s structure.

Titanal sheets are typically applied to the ski edges for better carving ability and stopping power. Carbon inserts can be found within the core, tip, and tail of the skis. These inserts increase durability without weighing the ski down significantly.

Advanced expert skis have much stiffer flex levels, and this extends throughout the entire ski. Even those with a progressive flex don’t generally have any soft spots. What do all of these features equate to? A ski that is much harder to control when traveling at slow speeds than any skis for any other skill level.

Again, size doesn’t play as much of a factor when it comes to skill level, as does build quality and flex. However, smaller skis are easier to control and therefore better for newbies with typical beginner ski qualities. The longer the ski, the better suited they are for high skill levels.

Choosing Your Skis by Terrain Type

By far, the most important factor to consider when it comes to effectively picking out the right ski sizing for you is your location. Where you will be conducting the majority of your skiing is important because certain ski lengths will fair far better in certain terrains.

I’ve touched on this before, earlier in this post. Moguls and stretches of land with plenty of bumps and side hits are a whole lot harder to navigate with longer skis.

It honestly feels like you are a bull in a china shop. Constantly clattering into one mound or the next. Not to mention that the probability of you catching an edge and a mouthful of snow increases dramatically.

All-Mountain Skis

Now is the time to define the sizes of each specific ski type and how this affects their performance. Starting off with best all-mountain skis. All-mountain skis are the generalist option. For those fence sitters that can’t choose a side and would rather have a ski that can be used anywhere.

All-mountain skis have waists that are not as narrow as shorter skis but also aren’t as wide as powder skis today. With a slim waist comes a great figure that’ll have you dreaming about pounding out a great time with it anywhere on the mountain.

As for the overall length of all-mountain skis, it is usually in the medium level. You won’t find any all-mountain skis that lean heavily toward one side. This is by design, it wouldn’t be possible to be a one-ski quiver if your shape isn’t made for it.

However, it is possible to find all-mountain skis that have rocker configurations that perform better in certain areas. The point is that the range here is massive, and so are the ski shapes available.

Powder Skis

On those glorious days when the snow begins to fall, and the layers keep on stacking, powder skis are what you want. It wouldn’t feel as satisfying to carve and cut through deep snow without skis that were specifically made for the task.

Powder skis have excellent flotation. This should be your main concern when skiing or snowboarding through powder or heli ski trips. Of course, snowboards offer superior float, but that doesn’t mean that skis are mediocre for the task.

You’ll want a cambered ski, one that places that camber underfoot. This is followed by a generous rocker in the tip and tail. It’ll help both ends rise above the pow and adversity and let you go airborne with greater ease.

what size skis do i need

Something you’ll notice is that good powder skis are wide skis. Primarily the waist but also the lower end, the tail. Many skiers find these fat bottoms desirable because it is easier to grab a hold and play with the edges.

Many powder skis also have a softer flex level and unique sidecuts. The types of sidecuts that taper the farther out they move from the center. Again, all of these design features and capabilities are to provide your skis with better float and lift.

Carving Skis

A carving ski is a perfect weapon for aggressive skiers that need to unleash some pent-up aggression on the mountain. Besides skis with excellent carving ability, therapy would be the next best solution for dealing with any internal anger.

Carving skis are known for their sandwich-constructed edges. It should go without saying, but you need a strong edge if you want to slice through the snow. Especially when it’s hard-packed.

Carving skis are definitely on the smaller side. They need to be in order to give you the control required for slashing. This ski type is shorter, and you’ll find that the waist is narrow as well. With a narrow waist and short length, comes a short turn radius with a responsive edge-to-edge performance.

Turn initiation is also quicker and as such, you have everything you need to make the most out of groomed runs. Despite their smaller size, I wouldn’t recommend these skis to beginners.

Jib Skis

What exactly are jib skis? Furthermore, what is jibbing? It’s an awkward-sounding word, but jibbing is when you ski across or on top of any surface that is man-made and not covered in snow.

Let’s imagine that you are flying through the snow, your own one-horse sleigh, when suddenly a pipe, like the ones from Super Mario, rises from the ground. For the purposes of this fantasy, you are as good at skiing as Lindsay Vonn. Instead of smashing into the pipe, you fly on top of it and fly off the rim.

Congratulations, you have just jibbed. Jibbing skis can also be considered freestyle skis. Essentially, they are skis that are great for these risky maneuvers at a jib skis park. These kinds of skis have narrow waists, are short in length, and have thick edges.

The last defining feature of these ski types is that they have an extruded base. Necessary for the hard metal surfaces you’ll be gliding across.

Alpine Touring Skis

Our final ski type is alpine touring skis. These kinds of skis are better known as backcountry skis. Backcountry skis need to be able to handle the rough and varied terrain that one will come across when venturing off-piste.

Despite their wider base, skis within this category are low weighing. They also have plenty of add-ons that while not necessary, are a big help for extended ski trips and hikes. Generally, the wider options are for deep snow and the narrow options are used when skiing in warmer seasons and conditions.

By far, the most popular skis for skiers that venture into the backcountry are those with a slim waist and wide bottom.

My Final Thoughts

Who knew that it wouldn’t be as simple as measuring your height and then using that to find the right skis? Modern skis combine many features that were once the domain of only the best, but this doesn’t mean that there is a perfect universal pair of skis that’ll guarantee anyone a great ride.

Given the prices of most quality skis, it is best to be a cautious skier. Use our size chart above and our advice on nailing down a size range. From there, you can further your quest for the right ski size by taking into account what was written about ability level and terrain type.

You want a ski that feels right, nailing down the size is a great start toward this goal.

Categories: Skiing

Adrian Salazar

My name is Adrian Salazar and I have been wrapped up in the world of water and other extreme sports since the first time I went kayaking. When I’m not working hard trying to deliver the best writing that I can, I am usually out on a lake or hiking up a mountain. My world is completely dominated by writing and the mix of adrenaline and peace of mind that can be achieved while engaging in new sports. I will use my knowledge, experience, and mistakes, to inform you about the best ways that you can become a part of the world of extreme sports. You can count on me to give you my informed and unbiased opinion about any sporting equipment you may need. I know from personal experience that extreme sports are something that you need to head into completely and accurately informed. Let my experience guide you.

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