There is no golden rule to purchasing the correct size ski. The length of a ski has a lot of variable factors including; height, weight, skier ability, ski type, what terrain you plan on skiing, camber/rocker ratio and personal preference.
A good starting point is that a beginner skier usually uses a ski from shoulder to chin height, an intermediate generally uses from chin to eyebrow and an advanced skier is usually anywhere from nose up to wherever the skier feels comfortable.
It’s also worth noting that every ski brand measures their ski length differently. So even if the ski states it’s a 170cm it may be slightly shorter or longer than its description.
This is where our variable factors come into play. There are multiple reasons why some people chose a shorter or longer, narrow or wider skis. As a general rule a shorter narrower ski will be easier to turn because it will have a naturally shorter turn radius - this is compared to a longer ski which will be more stable at higher speeds and wider skis which will provide flotation and control in deeper snow or variable terrain.
Reasons you might prefer a shorter ski
If you are at a lower ability level and aren’t too confident with your skiing.
Your weight is below average for your height range.
You have a preference for short, tight, quick turns.
You prefer slow to moderate speeds and manoeuvrability over high speed stability.
After a more traditional carving ski with little to no rocker.
Some reasons you would prefer a longer ski
Classify yourself as an upper intermediate to aggressive skier.
If you are carrying a couple more kg’s than most in your height range.
Have a preference for faster, long, open turns.
If venturing from the groomers is more your style or you’re after a powder specific ski.
Planning on skiing twin tips, or skis with lots of rocker.
Most piste specific skiers will opt for a slightly shorter ski in their ability range for ease of turn initiation while off-piste skiers generally look for a longer ski as the increased surface area of the ski will provide more flotation in lighter snow.
For those that enjoy sticking to groomers, carving skis use narrow widths underfoot to allow skis to roll in and out of turns easily and quickly with fast, strong edge engagement and release. Skis come in a variety of different levels of stiffness. The correct choice is dependent on the ability level of the skier; softer skis are aimed at beginners through to intermediates for their ease of use, while more aggressive skis prefer stiffer skis re-inforced with metal laminates to provide torsional and longtitutional rigidity for control at higher speeds. Lower profile tip rockers are now common in these skis to aid turn initation.
All Mountain Skis
As the name suggests these skis are designed for skiing the entire mountain. Wider in widths than carving skis, generally between 80-100mm underfoot. These skis are narrow enough for turning on piste but have enough width to plow through chopped out or variable snow. Like carvers all mountain skis will come in a variety of stiffness to match the skiers ability level as well as different rocker set-ups for the ratio of time spent on and off piste. All mountain skis also come in a variety of shapes that give an indication of their handling characteristics - heavily rockered and tapered designs are likely to be more playful feeling, with easier manoeuvrability and increased flotation off-piste, where more traditionally shaped and cambered designs will feel more powerful, generally have a higher 'top speed' and are more suited to busting through crud rather than floating over the top.
Designed for chasing powder, these skis are the widest skis available ranging from 100mm up to 150mm underfoot. The added width provides great flotation in deeper snow and when combined with large tip and tail rockers or even a full rocker set-up give that fun surfy feel. Most people prefer a longer length for their powder skis; more length equals more surface area providing more flotation. Because powder skis often have heavily rockered designs, the increased length also helps increase the effective edge of the ski (which is often reduced by rocker) helping with edge grip and stability on harder snow.
Park and Pipe Skis
Twin tips designed for jibbers looking for solid bombproof skis are usually tougher in design, featuring thicker more durable cores and edges to handle rails, bonks and hard landings. Traditionally park skis have been narrower in widths but with freestyle skiing being pushed in every direction, freeride powder skis have been created to allow skiers to take the park off piste. Many park skis make effective on-piste and all mountain skis too, so don't necessarily rule out a ski because its intended usage is for park.
Touring or backcountry skis are designed with weight and practicality in mind and come in a variety of widths. Whether you’re looking for a wider rockered powder ski to do short hikes to reach untouched stashes or a narrower, lighter, more traditional cambered version for all day spring hikes, touring skis will have you covered. Some touring skis have specific skins they are designed to be used with (generally due to attachment designs) where others are more universal - check this before purchase to ensure you buy the right skins for the ski.
Women’s Specific Skis
Designed specifically for women these skis are generally lighter and shorter for ease of use and the graphics are usually more appealing to the eye. Many brands have also incorporated different mounting positions as a womens centre of gravity is generally lower than mans. The Women's specific ski range has increase dramatically over the years so no matter what your ability is or which terrain you prefer, there is a women's specific ski available in all levels of stiffness, widths, shapes and rocker profiles.
The addition of rocker in a ski can also affect the choice of length. Most groomer specific skis have a small tip rocker designer to aid turn initiation which doesn’t greatly affect the length of the ski compared to a powder ski which will have extended tip and/or tail rockers or even a completely reverse camber or full rockered design. Because surface area and flotation are the key in this range of skis almost all skiers prefer a longer powder ski; top of the head and above.
The traditional profile for skis can be shown by placing a ski on a flat surface and leaving the tip and tail unweighted. The ends of the ski will touch while the middle of the ski won't come into contact with the surface. Once weighted the ski will provide superior edge control on groomed and hard packed snow because there will be even pressure on the edge of the ski from tip to tail. Cambered skis will generally also have increased rebound and pop out of turns.
Rocker is also known as reverse camber, and is the opposite of traditional camber. The tip and tail are elevated while the middle of the ski is in contact with the snow. This provides great flotation and that “surfy feel” in powder skis but has also been used in piste specific designs to ease turn initiation and make it less likely for skiers to catch an edge. Rocker allows faster rotation on the snow and can still provide excellent edge grip dependent on design - shallow rocker on full-rockered skis essentially 'pre-bends' the ski into the ideal shape for the radius, providing excellent edge contact when in a turn.
Blending rocker and camber gives skiers control and stability with traditional camber underfoot, while the rocker in the tip and tail can aid in turn initiation as well as increase flotation in deep and fresh snow depending on the degree of rocker. Many skis now use this design as it is highly versatile and tends to create an easier overall ride regardless of the snow conditions or terrain. Skis with only tip rocker will have increased float and manoeuvrability, but retain excellent edge grip due to the traditional tail. Those with tip and tail rocker will generally be more playful, more pivotable and have the extra benefit of being more easily skied switch in powder, but may sacrifice edge grip and stability on hard-packed snow.
The increase of technology, innovative design and creative use of materials in the ski industry has broadened the horizon for all, giving more choice and a wider selection of skis appropriate for different ability levels whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned professional.
People new to the sport or that aren’t as confident. Most skis geared at beginners are of a softer flex made with softer woods or composite cores, making the ski more forgiving at lower speeds. Narrower waist width combined with tip rockers help skiers initate their turns and make rolling edge to edge easier. These skis are designed to make learning easier, allowing you to improve at your own pace and develop good habits.
Most skiers fall into this category and opt for larger widths underfoot than beginners giving skiers the ability to explore the whole mountain. Generally made with full wood cores and a blend of sidewall and cap constructions. Most skis in this range will have a combination of rocker and camber for control and stability as well as flotation and lift.
Aggressive and demanding skiers usually lean towards longitudinally and torsionally stiffer skis. The skiers are usually made with steel, titanium, carbon or bamboo layers combined with full sidewall constructions and come in a huge variety of widths and rocker profiles to suit all conditions from charging groomers to chasing powder.
On all our skis you will notice the shape specification which is a set of 3 numbers (for example, 121/80/115).
The first number is the ski’s tip width. The middle number, the most common talking point of the ski, is the width underfoot of the ski. The last number indicates the tail width.
The easiest way to determine the width you're after is generally your skiing style.
For groomer focused skiers, narrower widths are more suitable (80mm and below). This enables faster edge transitions and allows full engagement of the edge at a variety of speeds.
All mountain skiers will prefer the more versatile widths between 80mm to 110mm. Keep in mind that generally the wider you go, the faster you need to be to get the skis up on edge and properly engaged in a carved turn. With all mountain skis in general, the wider the ski is, the more 'difficult' and aggressive its feel will be. The all mountain category itself has a diverse range of skis that can feel remarkably different from one another, from more playful skis to serious high-speed chargers. Also, the wider the ski the more flotation it will provide, increasing control in choppy or deep snow.
Powder skiers will be interested in skis from 100mm up. The narrower you go, the more you'll sit in the powder, and the wider you go the higher up you'll be. Keep in mind narrower skis will often have increased control on hard-packed and variable snow, so are a good choice when conditions are unknown. Super-fats from 130mm up will provide maximum flotation for an incredible surfy feel. These skis will generally plane very quickly, and will allow some of the highest speeds on powder, but may be more difficult to control on hard snow.
Turn radius is the size of the turn a ski will naturally make while on edge, which is expressed in metres. This means the narrower the waist of the skis compared to the tip and tail dimensions the shorter the turn radius will be. The lower the turn radius the sharper the ski will naturally turn, so skiers looking for a short sharp turns usually purchase skis with smaller turn radii while people that ski at higher speeds and do longer open turns prefer those with a larger radius. Rockered and tapered designs combine large widths with short radius designs, for floaty skis that turn quickly (such as Armada's TST and JJ, or DPS' Wailer).