Short Vs Long Skis: What’s The Real Difference?

by Simon Naylor | Updated: September 11th, 2023 |  Skiing Articles

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.

ski length

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Though longer skis float better, discovering the ideal ski length for your height, weight, and skiing style is key to maximizing performance on the slopes.

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.

Ski Size Calculator

Pro Tip: Check out our free Ski Length Calculator

Watch My Video Explanation (5 Minutes)

What are the Benefits of Shorter Skis? 👍

One of the main benefits of short skis is their naturally smaller turning radius, which allows for sharper, quicker turns. This characteristic can be advantageous or disadvantageous, depending on the terrain, skiing style, and personal preference.

In certain situations, such as navigating tight spaces or skiing moguls, the ability to make sharp turns quickly can be a significant asset.

Additionally, short skis tend to react faster to your movements because the energy transfer has less distance to travel. This responsiveness can be particularly helpful for those who value agility and quick maneuvering on the slopes.

Furthermore, since shorter skis are generally lighter and more manageable on hard snow, park skiers often opt for a slightly shorter ski to improve their performance in the park and during aerial tricks.

ski length type
Powder skis are usually the longest

Reasons To Have Shorter Skis

  1. Beginner-friendly
    If you're a novice skier, shorter skis are generally easier to control and maneuver, making them an ideal choice for learning the basics of skiing and building confidence on the slopes.
  2. Aging and physical limitations
    As we age, our strength, fitness, and reflexes may not be as sharp as they once were. Shorter skis can be more manageable for older skiers or those with physical limitations, providing a more enjoyable and less strenuous experience on the mountain.
  3. Slower skiing preference
    If you prefer skiing at a more leisurely pace, shorter skis may be a better fit, as they offer quicker response times and increased maneuverability at slower speeds.
  4. Less aggressive skiing style
    Skiers with a less aggressive approach to skiing may find shorter skis to be more suitable, as they facilitate easier turning and better control in various terrains and conditions.
  5. Navigating moguls and uneven terrain
    Shorter skis can be a great choice for skiing moguls or navigating choppy, uneven terrain. Their smaller turning radius allows for better control and easier handling in these challenging conditions.
  6. Park skiing and freestyle
    If you're into park skiing or freestyle, shorter skis may provide better control and maneuverability for performing tricks and jumps. The increased responsiveness can also help with precise landings and quick adjustments.
  7. Enhanced mobility in tight spaces
    In situations where tight turns and quick reactions are necessary, such as navigating through trees or narrow trails, shorter skis can offer a significant advantage.
Skier wearing Green Jacket

What are the downsides of Shorter Skis? 👎

  1. Difficulties with longer S-shaped turns:

    Shorter skis can make executing smooth, long S-shaped turns more challenging, especially at higher speeds. When traveling at a rapid pace, turns can become too sharp, potentially leading to loss of control. In some cases, this may result in more severe injuries to tendons or ligaments if the skier is unable to maintain stability.
  2. Reduced stability:
    Due to the decreased contact with the snow and smaller weight distribution, shorter skis tend to sacrifice overall stability. This is particularly noticeable when skiing at high speeds or on challenging terrain, where maintaining balance and control is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience.
  3. Limited flotation in powder:

    One of the most significant drawbacks of shorter skis is their reduced ability to float in powder snow. This can make skiing more difficult when venturing off-piste or during heavy snowfall. Skiers using shorter skis may find themselves sinking into deep snow more frequently, which can make it harder to maintain momentum and require greater effort to traverse the mountain.
  4. Adaptability to varying conditions:

    While shorter skis may be advantageous for certain styles of skiing or specific conditions, they may not perform as well in a variety of situations. Skiers who frequently encounter diverse terrains and snow conditions may find that longer skis provide more versatility and adaptability, ultimately leading to a more enjoyable skiing experience.
Blue Ski Pants
Ski LengthAdvantagesDisadvantagesIdeal For
Shorter SkisEasier to turn, quicker response, lightweight, beginner-friendly, better for park skiing and tight spacesReduced stability, limited flotation in powder, less adaptableBeginners, park skiers, slower skiing, less aggressive skiing styles, moguls, tight spaces
Longer SkisBetter stability, increased flotation in powder, better performance at high speeds, suitable for aggressive skiingHarder to maneuver, larger turning radius, require more skill and strengthSpeed enthusiasts, powder lovers, aggressive skiers, advanced skiers, big mountain skiing
Key Facts around Ski Length

What are the Benefits of Longer Skis?

Longer skis, in comparison to their shorter counterparts, boast a larger surface area for a given width, resulting in enhanced flotation while skiing in powder or deep snow. This increased flotation is particularly advantageous for skiers who frequently venture off-piste or revel in fresh snowfall.

Although longer skis are typically heavier, in my experience, their extended edge offers more contact with the ground, contributing to greater stability at high speeds. This additional stability is essential for those who love racing down the mountain or tackling challenging slopes.

It's worth mentioning that longer skis usually possess a wider turning radius, which implies that the natural arc of the ski takes more time to complete a turn. Factors such as sidecut shape, weight, and stiffness also play a role in determining the turning radius.

While longer skis might require more effort to maneuver, they can still be turned efficiently at high speeds. In specific scenarios, like skiing in deep powder, the longer S-shaped turns are actually preferable, as they help maintain momentum and provide better stability.

In essence, longer skis offer a range of benefits including improved flotation in powder, increased stability at high speeds, and better performance in certain conditions, such as deep powder. Skiers should carefully weigh these advantages against any potential drawbacks, such as the need for more strength and skill to control these skis effectively.

Reasons To Have Longer Skis

  1. Speed enthusiasts

    If you love the adrenaline rush of skiing at high speeds, longer skis are the way to go. Their increased stability and better edge grip make them a top choice for those who prioritize velocity on the slopes.
  2. Powder lovers

    For those who can't resist skiing in fresh, deep snow, longer skis provide the optimal flotation needed to glide smoothly through powder. Their larger surface area ensures you won't sink or get bogged down in snowy conditions.
  3. Aggressive skiers

    If you're a skier who tackles challenging terrains with determination and intensity, longer skis are designed to accommodate your style. They offer better control and stability, allowing you to ski more aggressively and confidently on steep or uneven slopes.
  4. Advanced skiers

    Longer skis are generally better suited for more experienced skiers. Their characteristics require more skill and physical effort to maneuver, which can be advantageous for those looking to challenge themselves and develop their abilities further.
  5. Big mountain skiing

    If your skiing adventures take you to big mountains with expansive, open terrain, longer skis can provide the stability and versatility needed to conquer those slopes.

In summary, longer skis are a great choice for those who prioritize speed, powder skiing, aggressive skiing styles, and big mountain adventures. Just remember, they might require more skill and strength to maneuver, so factor in your own skiing abilities when deciding.

skier smiling

What are the downsides of Longer Skis?

Longer skis, with their greater surface area, offer improved flotation when skiing in powder or deep snow. This enhanced floatation is ideal for skiers who prefer off-piste adventures or enjoy skiing in fresh snow.

Despite being heavier, longer skis provide more stability at high speeds due to their increased contact with the ground. This stability is a must for skiers who love to race down the mountain.

Keep in mind, longer skis also have a larger turning radius, meaning they require more time and effort to complete turns. This is influenced by factors like sidecut shape, weight, and stiffness. However, in certain situations, such as deep powder, the longer S-shaped turns are beneficial for maintaining momentum and stability.

Terrain Considerations

When it comes to ski length, the terrain you usually ski on plays a vital role in determining the right choice. For instance, if you're fond of navigating tight tree runs, you'll want a ski that's easy to maneuver, and that's where shorter skis come in handy. Their smaller turning radius allows for quicker turns and enhanced agility, perfect for weaving through trees and other obstacles.

On the flip side, skiing open bowls or exploring off-piste areas often requires more stability and float, which longer skis excel at. With a larger surface area, longer skis offer better flotation in deep snow, allowing you to glide smoothly and maintain momentum. So, depending on your favorite skiing spots, it's essential to match the ski length to the terrain!

Ski Construction and Technology

Ski technology has come a long way, and it's essential to consider construction, materials, and other technological advancements when choosing ski length. Rocker profiles, for example, can dramatically impact a ski's performance. A ski with tip and tail rocker can turn more easily, while a ski with camber underfoot provides better edge grip.

Moreover, advanced materials such as carbon fiber can make skis lighter and more responsive, enhancing their performance on the slopes. So, when you're in the market for new skis, don't just focus on length—take a closer look at the tech!

Advanced Skiers and Expert Terrain

or advanced skiers who tackle expert terrain like steep slopes, cliffs, and challenging off-piste areas, longer skis are often the better choice. The additional length provides stability and control at high speeds, which is crucial when navigating demanding terrain.

Longer skis also offer a smoother ride in variable snow conditions, allowing experienced skiers to maintain their balance and composure even when the going gets tough. So, if you're a seasoned skier looking to push your limits, longer skis are worth considering.

Ski Length and Carving Performance

Carving is a crucial aspect of skiing, and ski length can significantly impact your ability to carve smoothly and effectively. Longer skis typically provide better edge grip and energy transfer, allowing for smoother, more controlled turns. Their increased stability also makes them well-suited for high-speed carving.

However, that doesn't mean shorter skis are ineffective at carving! They're ideal for quick, snappy turns and can be exceptionally agile on groomed slopes. So, when it comes to carving, consider your preferred turn style and speed before settling on a ski length.

Women-Specific Skis

These skis often feature a more forward mounting point, lighter construction, and a softer flex, providing a better balance and tailored performance.

Additionally, women's skis may have a narrower waist width and a more pronounced sidecut, making them more responsive and easier to turn. So, when choosing ski length, keep in mind that there are options specifically designed for female skiers, and they're worth exploring!

ski energy

Alpine Touring and Backcountry Skiing

Finally, if you're into alpine touring or backcountry skiing, ski length becomes even more crucial. Skinning uphill and carrying additional gear might require shorter, lighter skis to make the ascent easier. However, you'll still need enough stability and float for the descent, so it's a delicate balance. Remember, your choice of ski length should ultimately reflect your preferred skiing style and the terrain you frequent.


What are Skiboards?

(Also known as ski blades or snowblades) Ski blades are very short skis for adults 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.


Why Boots Are Key?

ski boot fit

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 and it hurts to wear them, read: Why Do Ski Boots Hurt My Feet? or Will My Ski Boots Stretch?

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.