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You might be wondering, what’s up with ski length – I thought it was to do with height, and then I saw a fully grown man wearing short skis? In this article I’m going to answer everything you need to know about ski length, so you can rent or buy skis that are right for you.
TLDR; Longer skis have more stability and float better in snow, but they also have a larger turning radius. Shorter skis sacrifice stability (especially at speed) but are quick to respond and easier to make short sharp turns. Short skis turn faster but long skis go faster.
What Size Ski Should I Use?
While there is no magic formula for the perfect ski length (as it depends on the riding style and preferred feel) – the average recreational skier would do well to look for a ski length that is between their chin and the top of their head.
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What are the Benefits of Shorter Skis? 👍
1. The main advantage of short skis is that their turning radius is naturally smaller which can make turning more sharply – easier. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on the terrain.
2. Short skis are faster to react to your movement because your energy transfer has less of a distance to travel.
3. Because shorter skis tend to be lighter and more manageable on hard snow (really short skis aren’t), park skiers tend to go for a slightly shorter ski.
Reasons To Have Shorter Skis
- You’re a beginner skier – shorter skis tend to be easier to control.
- You’re getting older and your strength, fitness, and reflex speed is not what it once was – you’ll benefit from shorter skis.
- You prefer to ski at a slower speed.
- You’re not as an aggressive skier.
- For skiing moguls or choppy terrain, shorter skis can be easier to handle. More reasons.
What are the downsides of Shorter Skis? 👎
1. Shorter skis make it harder to longer S-shaped turns and turns can be too sharp when traveling at speed. At high speed, this can lead to more severe injuries to tendons or ligaments if the skier loses control.
2. Shorter skis sacrifice stability as there is less contact with the snow and a smaller distribution of weight.
3. Shorter skis don’t float as well in powder which can make skiing more challenging if you stray off-piste or it is snowing heavily.
What are the Benefits of Longer Skis? 👍
1. Longer skis for a given width, have a greater surface area, which gives them more flotation when skiing powder or deeper snow.
2. Longer skis are heavier but because of the longer edge, it has more contact with the ground and makes the ski more stable at higher speeds.
3. Longer skis generally have a longer turning radius, which means the natural arc of the ski takes longer to turn (also dependent on the sidecut shape, weight, and stiffness). Longer skis can still be turned at speed, but it takes a bit longer for them to swing around. This isn’t a bad thing, in certain conditions like deep powder, a longer S shape turn is more desirable for momentum and stability. further reading
Reasons to have Longer Skis
- You like to ski faster.
- You ski more powder.
- You ski more aggressively.
What are the downsides of Longer Skis? 👎
1. Longer skis have a larger turning radius (can make skiing steeper terrain hard for beginners).
2. You need a bit more strength to turn the skis.
What are Skiboards?
(Also known as ski blades or snowblades) Ski blades are very short skis that are closer to the length of ice skates than they are regular skis.
Skiboards are fun, great for learning tricks and skiing backward and many skiers have great fun using them. They’re hard to use on ice or powder.
Are Longer Skis Faster?
Longer skis are technically faster if you’re pointing straight downhill because overall there is less pressure exerted on the snow and less capillary drag (source).
A longer ski also gives you more confidence because it will vibrate less at speed. That’s not to say you can’t go fast on a shorter ski – you can, but at high speeds, you may experience more vibrations.
To go faster you’ll also need a firmer stiffer ski that can stay stable as weight is transferred through the edges during turns.
Should your Skis be Taller than you?
If you’re a very good skier, then it’s fine for the skis to be taller than you. You’ll benefit from greater stability at speed and more float on powder.
For beginners or new skier, a ski that is taller than you is going to be harder to turn and control. I’d recommend looking for a ski closer to your chin height. You’ll find it easier to§
Are Longer Skis Easier to Control?
At speed, longer skis are easier to control and the turns are less sharp and so less likely to throw you off balance. At lower speeds, shorter skis are generally easier to control.
Are Longer or Shorter Skis Better for Beginners?
Shorter skis that come up to around your chin, rather than skis that are taller than you are easier for beginners to learn on.
What Size Skis do I need for my Kid?
Kids like adults will benefit from a shorter (chin height) rather than a longer ski (forehead or higher) while learning. Further reading.
Kids Ski Size Chat
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Suggested ski lengths (cm) 🎿
Adult ski size chat
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Why Boots are Key
Even with the ‘perfect’ length ski, it means little if your pair it with a poor-fitting ski boot. The boot transfers the energy from your foot to the ski and so without a snug fit, you’ll lose lots of energy transfer to internal movement.
Unfortunately, most rental boots have a wide fit and are oversized which makes it hard to get a good fit (even if they feel comfortable) – especially for people with narrow or low volume feet for their size. The best thing you can do is try a few different brands of rental boots or look into buying a pair that you own and can mold to your feet.
If you’re considering upgrading, I wrote this Ski Boot Buying Guide which will give you a rundown of everything you need to know.
If you own a pair of ski boots that don’t fit like they once did, then its worth replacing the liner – liners wear out sooner than the shell.
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