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Skiing is an amazing pastime. It’s a fun winter hobby for some, and a real form of sport and athleticism for others. Whether you’re a weekend at the ski slopes over winter vacation type or a professional athlete who wants to seriously shred the mountain, you have the same question to ask before getting started: What size skis do I need?
When you’re buying skis, it can be easy to lose track and get overwhelmed, especially when you don’t know much about the sport. Asking the ski rental guy, “What size skis should I get?” is a lottery, too. If you’re lucky, the guy will know the best skis for beginners and have some available. If you’re not, you may end up wondering why exactly you decided to go ski!
In this guide, you will learn all about the different sizing requirements there are when considering your new skis. The article will help you find the best measurements for your body, and our sections on ability levels and sky styles will help you know when and where to modify the basic guidelines.
What Size Skis Do I Need?
Unfortunately, there’s not an easy magical formula that can answer this question.
Skis need to match your height, weight, and individual ski style and ability.
These vary greatly from person to person, so the best we can offer is a guideline for recommendations that can narrow down your options.
What Length Should My Skis Be?
Length changes the way a ski performs along a straight line and turns. Shorter skis are more dexterous, providing faster turns and more maneuverability. Longer skis will have a long turn radius and provide stability for high speed skiing.
The reverse also applies. That is to say that longer skis are not great for slow skiing, and may become sluggish and get in your way. Shorter skis will lose stability and topple you over when you try to go at fast speeds.
As a general guideline, taller and heavier people will prefer longer skis because they can get better leverage for maneuverability. Shorter and lighter people (along with beginners at skiing) will feel more comfortable with shorter skis that respond much quicker to direction.
In general, the appropriate ski length for a person will be somewhere between your chin and the top of your head when you stand it on the ground lengthwise. That means that someone who is around 6 feet tall will want skis in the 170 to 190 centimeter range.
Height and weight provide some good starting points for your ski sizing, but you also need to consider the type of skiing you’ll do, the sow’s consistency, the terrain, and yes… your personal preference. If you’re just starting out, then you’ll probably want to go for the short end of this range, maybe even shorter. Advanced skiers will want their skis as long as possible.
Ski Sizing Chart
This chart is a quick and easy ski size guide. While it isn’t the end all be all, starting with the suggestion will get you much closer to finding your perfect ski size. I’ve provided a chart and a that can help you determine you starting point for skis, but it only takes height into account. For a full sizing guideline based on your gender, skill level, weight, height, and the ski style and terrain, you can enter your information here.
Skier Height in Feet & Inches
Skier Height in Centimeters
Suggested Ski Lengths
115 to 130 cm
125 to 140 cm
130 to 145 cm
135 to 150 cm
135 to 155 cm
145 to 165 cm
150 to 170 cm
155 to 175 cm
160 to 180 cm
165 to 185 cm
170 to 190 cm
175 to 195 cm
180 to 200 cm
When to Size Up or Size Down Your Skis
There are several reasons to choose longer or shorter skis within your suggested range. As mentioned, shorter skis turn easily and longer ones provide stability.
Carving skis with skinny waists and small turn radii can be shorter than all mountain skis with fatter waist widths. Rockered skis make pivoting easy so length can be added. We will go into more detail later.
There are several reasons for keeping skis shorter, and closer to your chin. If you’re having some trouble mastering the skis, because you’re at a more beginner level skill, go ahead and size them down. If you weigh significantly less than average, it might help as well.
Sizing down can help skiers who like making short and quick turns but taking their time down the mountain. Finally, if you like to carve but only have one camber and no rocker, then short skis are good options.
There are also several reasons to lengthen your skis so they’re closer to the top of your head. If you’re a rapid and aggressive skier, long skis are great. People who weigh more than average may also enjoy the maneuverability of longer skis. If you usually ski off of the beaten trail, go for longer skis. If you have twin-tip skis or lots of rocker, length can also help.
Choosing Skis by Ability Level
Your ski sizing will also change with your ability, although this is less relevant than it used to be thanks to advancements in technology. Still, some of that technology is specifically geared for certain skill levels.
People who are new to skiing tend to stay on the green circle courses and occasionally venture into the blue square ones. These skiers are looking for types of skis with a softer flex and narrow widths. They need skis with composite, soft wood, and foam cores that have capped constructions. These skis are forgiving of mistakes and easy to turn. The rocket and tip in a tail will make the ski turn more smoothly.
Intermediate skiers ski down blue square and single black diamond courses. They have mastered smooth turns, and tend to enjoy carving down groomers and exploring the best powder skis. Skis made for this skill level are wider and their wood cores are stronger. They also have sandwiched sidewall construction. These skis may have a full camber, a rocker, or a combination of the two.
Advanced skiers go for lots of diamonds. These are very skilled and aggressive skiers. Skis for this level of skiing usually include Titanal, flax, carbon, and other stabilizing materials that can offer high performances at high speeds or in demanding terrains. These skis are much stiffer with regards to both longitude and torsion, and are not a great option for slow speeds at all. Even experts change out of these when they ski casually. These skis all have a wide variety of different rocker configurations, because each is designed for different types of skiing.
Ski Style, Dimensions, and Feel
A lot of different factors go into how a ski feels and performs. We describe them the best way we can with simplified common measurements.
Ski dimensions tend to be assigned 3 numbers as a descriptor, with the first being the tip, the second being the waist, and the third being the tail.
If you see 120/92/108, then these skis have a 120 mm tip width, a 92 mm waist, and a 108 mm tail width.
Things like flex and feel are so subjective you won’t be able to assign numbers.
Ski Waist Width
This is the most common spec for a ski aside form length. This measurement is taken at the middle of the ski, where the narrowest point is formed. This measurement influences how easily a ski will turn and how it can handle powders and snow that hasn’t been groomed. Narrow waists are quick at edge to edge turning, and wider waists will float over powder and choppy snow.
Ski Turning Radius
The turn radius works similar to a car. The way you can tell how well a ski will turn is by looking at the tip, waist, and tail width. The narrower the waist is in relation to the tip and tail, the shorter its turn radius will be and the deeper its side cut. Deep side cuts will turn much more quickly, and longer turn radii will be slower to turn but also provide much more stability at higher speeds. Modern technological advancements now allow doe some skis to combine 2 turn radii on a single ski edge!
If you’re a skier who likes to carve or use all mountain skis with tapered tips and tails for powder, then you need a short turn radius of less than 16 m. Top all mountain skis, as well as park and pipe skis, will have medium turn radii of 17 to 22 m. If you’re doing powder skiing or big mountain skis, you will need a long turn radius with a greater than 22 m measurement we have reviewed best powder skis so check out the top models..
Ski Rocker and Camber
Camber is a slight upward curve in the middle of a ski with the contact points close to the ends. A rocker is a reverse camber. Cambers require precision when turning, but also provide precision and power on groomed and hard snow. Rider weight will provide even pressure from tip to tail for better edge hold and pop.
Rocker/camber skis use a traditional underfoot profile but elongated tip. This puts the contact point further back in the front and leaves the back contact point where it was before. This lets you float in deeper snow while functioning like a cambered set. It’s great for a lot of all mountain and big mountain skiing.
A rocker/camber/rocker profile will float really nicely like rockered skis but still give you the edge hold of a cambered ski. These skis offer midsection contact points that are effective in hard packed snow and offer edge hold and stability. They’re pretty versatile, so if you only have 1 ski this is you best bet.
None of these profiles is any better than another. Determining the right choice fro you will be based upon your typical ski style and terrain, along with personal preference.
Size vs. Terrain vs. Discipline
We have touched a bit already on how the type of skiing you do will affect the right length and sizing for your skis. Here are some of the different styles to consider when it comes to terrain and discipline.
These slopes are designed for skiing and have been groomed and prepared. There will be very few terrain difficulties, if any. They allow you to cruise and enjoy the view or speed down them quickly.
These skis are designed fro speed demons.
If you get an adrenaline rush from shooting straight down the mountain at full speed, you’ll need racing skis that have sharp edges that can slide through a few different snow types.
This ski will require precise technique for slaloms and straights.
Best all mountain skis are for all sorts of snow on any mountain. They can handle just about anything that you send their way, including powder, groomers, steeps, heavy snow, and anything else. They won’t be elite performers in any specific category, but they’ll do the job in all of them.
Freestyle skis are for fun tricks.
These skis are designed to work like skateboards and BMX bikes on icy slopes.
These have been groomed into snow parks with half pipes and rail lines for trick skiing.
Freeride skis are for use in lower temperatures, where you expect a lot of precipitation. These ski lines will let you feel like you’re floating on air as you cruise through deep powder and tight trees.
Telemark skiing is very specific.
This requires your entire body to be very strong and coordinated, and the free heel of these skis also requires perfect technique.
Your ski boot will let you lift your heel off the ski and lower it back down for this style of skiing.