Beginners Guide - How To Choose The Right Ski Size
Are my skis the right size? This is one of the most common questions we receive at the shop. I've seen a variety of different approaches to sizing skis but most are based on just the skier's hight alone. Most guides to sizing skis skip over the fact that ability, weight, and terrain choice also play a big part in your choice. Follow this guide and you'll have all the information you need to get the correct ski size.
Why can't I use skis that are too big/small?
Regardless of whether you are skiing East coast hard-pack, floating down fresh lines in the west, or ski touring, choosing the right ski size will only help your experience. Having an incorrect size can be compared to riding the wrong sized bicycle. You will be able to make it around on a bike that is way too small, but it makes the experience less enjoyable and uncomfortable. With skiing being as much of an investment as it is, having the optimal gear to ensure the best experience should always be non-negotiable.
What information do I need to know?
When deciding on the correct sized ski, it is a good idea to have an updated number for both your hight and weight. Also take time to think about your ability. Are you a casual skier who prefers relaxing days on easy to moderate trails? Or are you a hard-charger who skis aggressively down every side of the mountain? Also think about the type of terrain that you encounter on your home ski mountain. Do you stick to groomed trails? Are you constantly hunting for powder in the trees? Are you in the high alpine skiing technical terrain? This information will help you make a more informed decision on your new skis.
Choosing your ski size.
Generally speaking if you are newer to skiing, selecting a smaller size closer to your chin is going to be easier to control. A short ski won't require a lot of speed to engage a turn and can still be handled in a wedge or snowplow technique. For these reasons, this is often the size that rental shops on the mountain will provide to those who are more casual or new to the sport.
"A short ski won't require a lot of speed to engage a turn and can still be handled in a wedge or snowplow technique"
If you are a confident skier that can manage most trails on any given mountain while maintaining moderately good technique, a slightly longer ski will be a better option. The added length will provide more stability at medium and high speed turns while still being easy to engage. This is the most common size for most skiers who identify as "intermediate". When looking to upgrade from your first pair of beginner skis, this will likely be a good choice and will be sized closer to your nose or eyes.
"If you are a confident skier that can manage most trails on any given mountain while maintaining moderately good technique, a slightly longer ski will be a better option"
Most skiers in the advanced category will have a sense of their preferred ski size. If you consider yourself to be an aggressive skier who tackles every aspect of the mountain at high speeds (including steeps, trees, and more) an even longer ski will be recommended. The added length will make skiing at very high speeds much more stable and comfortable. The added length will also provide more float in variable terrain like powder or churned up snow on the edge of trails. This size will typically be anywhere from the skier's eyebrows to the top of their head. This length of ski will provide a more aggressive experience that requires higher speed to engage turns.
"If you consider yourself to be an aggressive skier who tackles every aspect of the mountain at high speeds (including steeps, trees, and more) an even longer ski will be recommended"
What if I just prefer a shorter ski?
There will always be a grey area and the ski industry is certainly not an exception. Even the most advanced of skiers will sometimes prefer shorter length skis. Common reasons for this is easier turning in tight glades or a more nimble feel in moguls. Some ski mountaineers will also favor a shorter ski that is easier to mount to a backpack and climb with. If you find yourself in any of these scenarios often in your skiing, a slightly smaller ski may be a consideration.
Remember that skiing is about having fun. Having the wrong gear can certainly ruin even the best day on the mountain so use this information to make the correct choice when buying or renting your next set of skis.
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