Key Differences Between Adult and Children Skis (When Is It Time To Upgrade?)

by Robert Stanley | Updated: September 19th, 2023 |  Buying Guides

One of the great benefits of skiing is that both children and adults can enjoy it together. As in any sport, the equipment you use when skiing needs to be right for you and working correctly to ensure you get the most out of your time on the mountain.

Adult and children's skis are constructed differently, where the cores of children's skis are softer, which gives more flexibility so that children can flex them more easily. Also, children's skis often have a rocker, which is a turned-up tip. This has a dual function of enabling easier turns and improved grip, especially when performing a wedge.

Children Skis vs Adult Skis

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5 6 Year Olds kids skiing


Ensuring you have the right length of skis is absolutely essential. Using the wrong length of ski impacts how you turn, and also how fast you can travel. The correct length of your skis is determined by your height, with recommendations below. 

Skier Height (cm)Recommend Ski Lengths (cm)

As the above indicates, children will understandably have much shorter skis than adults. When children are starting out, they should have shorter skis, as this will help with their control. As a very rough measure, children's skis should reach the height of their chest.

If your child is more advanced, longer skis that reach up to their mouth or nose should be fine and if your child excels at racing, skis that reach eye level are recommended. 

Is There Anything Else I Should Know About Shorter Skis?

kids on ski

Key takeaway: As your child develops their skills, it's good to slowly transition to longer skis. However, there are advantages why sticking to shorter skis for as long as possible is a good thing. 

If your child is light and weighs less than their age average, then continue with shorter skis, as this will enable them to negotiate slopes more easily. For complete beginners, shorter skis will not only help with applying new skills, but they should also make the experience more fun!  They help with executing turns and with building confidence.

Are Children’s Skis Softer Than Adults?

kid begin to ski

In short, yes. In order to help children, children’s skis are often made of softer materials than adult skis. These lighter and softer materials make the skis far more flexible. This enables the child to learn more quickly and control the skis better. 

What Material Makes Up an Adult's Skis?

Both children’s and adult skis share a lot of the same components but normally the core of adult skis is made with harder materials. Usually, the core is composed of several laminated strips of hardwood, using wood such as beech, birch, aspen, paulownia, ash, and sometimes even bamboo.  Children’s skis might have carbon or fiberglass cores.

Are There Different Types of Children’s and Adult Skis?

Happy Family - Minnesota

As you can imagine in a varied sport such as skiing there are numerous types of skis that you can choose to rent or buy. Frequently, children's skis are manufactured with a rocker.

A rocker ski has a slight upward curve at the front of the ski. This upward bend enables the child to make turns more easily and quickly. A rocker should also assist when the child is performing a wedge. The rocker grips the snow better, which enables the child to perform easier actions.

Twin Tip Skis

Twin-tip skis are skis where both ends of the ski tips are curved upwards. These types of skis are becoming increasingly popular. This type of ski offers versatility, as it helps with regular mountain skiing, as well as freestyle.

All Mountain Skis

These skis do as they say in the description and are suited for every type of mountain terrain. They are bigger than your average child's skis and are also wider in the middle. 

Key takeaway: All mountain skis are great for off-piste skiing and they also offer youngsters greater balance as they traverse trickier terrain.

Carving Skis 

Arguably the most popular of all children's skis, a carving ski is designed with an hourglass shape that really aids turning. These are wider skis, which offer a great turning circle. Once a child starts to achieve parallel turns these are the most effective skis to master.

Freestyle Skis

If your kids are drawn to the thrill of the snow park or half pipe, then freestyle skis could well be the way to go. The tips of these skis are more curved than normal skis and the bindings will be further forward. With the binding further forward, the skier can move backward and forward more easily. These are the best skis to choose from to perform a whole variety of tricks.

Different Types of Adult Skis

ski length

The skis we have mentioned above mostly apply to adult skis too, but there are some specific variations that are more suitable for adults.

The first type is powder skis. These skis are perfect for powder snow, which can often be deep.  These skis are designed to be lighter to help them keep moving through the snow. They are ideal for heavy, off-piste areas and for more advanced adult skiers.

Racing Skis

These skis can be used by both children and adults but should only be used by more advanced skiers. The skis will be longer than standard skis and also slightly thinner. The design of racing skis is purely to achieve speed and with this in mind, only accomplished skiers should use them. 

Waxing and Tuning Skis

Waxing Ski

Both children and adults can benefit from waxing their skis. It is more commonly done with adults but it’s still important that children’s skis are serviced, as the life of the skis will be extended.

Waxing children’s skis should help with grip and ensure a smooth flow when heading down the mountain. When waxing children’s skis, the focus shouldn’t be on speed, but on the grip. For adult skis, waxing is important. Speed can be an important element to an adult skier and frequent waxing can enable that.

If an advanced skier is looking to maximize their ski potential then sharpening their edges can lead to better grip and more effective cornering. 

When Should a Child Turn to Adult Skis?

teenager skiing

It can seem a big stepping stone when your kids transition to adult skis. Often this is triggered when they suddenly start shooting up and outgrow their current skis. Other times a change needs to be initiated as a result of improved performance.

Key takeaway: In some instances, children become so advanced in their skills that their children’s skis hold back their ability.

In order to progress to the next level, an adult ski may well be more appropriate.  On average, children aged around 13 or 14 should start considering a move to adult skis.

In Conclusion

There are lots of similarities between adult and children’s skis, but no matter what your age is it’s essential that you choose skis that are right for you. Use the height chart to ensure you have the right length of the ski as this will help with your turns and general skills. Similarly, you need to use the right skis for the terrain you plan on skiing.

Family Skiing - California

It’s also important to recognize the type of skis you need. For children, skis that have rockers are ideal for learning. It’s also essential that you choose the right skis depending on the type of skiing you wish to incorporate. 

Carving skis are a great all-purpose ski and it doesn’t matter whether you are an adult or child beginner, these should be the skis for you.