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Ski Length, Go Long or Go Short?

Updated: May 22

Long or short? The day old question which ski length to go with. Before we get into depth with this let's make this simple. You wouldn't wear a pair of sandals in the winter while it's snowing, or wear of a pair of five inch platform heels on a hike. Equipment are tools, and tools help you get the job down.

 Let's be honest as females we have far less options than our counter part when it comes to skis and variety. While this can make it a bit trickier for us ladies ( when in the outdoor industry has it ever been simple ) we can often find ourselves between sizes. That 168cm is going to feel quite a bit different than that 161 cm esp. when you're staring down a new run that may be a bit technical and that simple turn feels like the biggest turn of your life.

The trend the past few seasons has been overwhelming pushing for longer skis. While we have heard it all, there's more camber (making it more poppy) so she will ski "short". To oh no you want to go longer, trust us. But is longer always better? We all ski differently from terrain, speed, aggressiveness, frequently, etc. how could it make sense that we all should go longer then? Not all of us were skiing back in the day when the skis were running a shabby 225 cm length. There's a reason why we're not skiing those long sticks any longer right?

When you're attempting that new line that's steeper, tighter and more techy than you have ever skied are you reaching for those skis that you know you can turn on a dime? Or are you going for those longer skis that if you get sightly off are taking you for the ride rather you controlling them? It's extremely important to be honest with yourself regarding ski length. Too long you're risking higher risk of injury, too short you may be throttling yourself.

Common knowledge is your skill level is a one of the biggest factors for ski length. We have all heard the basics. New skiers should go for skis that are near their chin, and as you progress so does the length working its way up to your head or above (pro status). Granted learning to ski on shorter ski is a huge advantage. Having less ski to turn. Less ski to get caught either on the tips or the tail. Talk to any experienced skier, skiing short is at times a luxury hence why ski blades feel like you're cheating and you can ski any line with little hesitation.

They say you need 4 cm to tell a difference in a ski length. For example of you're skiing a 165 cm and you ski a 167 cm the odds are you're not going to notice anything. If you jump up to a 170 cm you're going to feel that length. Honestly we tend to feel it around a 3 cm difference, however this is dependent on which skier. How do you find your perfect ski length? More importantly how do you pick a perfect length for yourself?

When To Reach For Those Longer Skis:

The real question, when do you go longer on that ski length? Different skiing requires different tools. When you're going down fun open bowls that longer ski is going to provide more stability and some fun speed. If you notice that your skis are chattering on the way down and you can feel you over skiing the ski, it's time to go up in size. Charging full on send on big mountain / freeride terrain you may want to go long to absorb the chudder.

As some of you may have noticed some skis only come in longer lengths. This is especially true for powder skis. For example Blizzard Sheeva 11 has opted to make their shortest ski a whomping 168 cm which for those of you who are riding a 156 cm in resort may be confused as to why. When you are deep waist in four feet of blower pow ( talk about a DAY ) that length is going to provide float which is essential. Some skis only come in longer lengths that are labeled as "expert" skis and for good reason.

When To Go Shorter:

What about those times you want to go shorter? Some of us like to cruise and leisure ski (who doesn't enjoy relaxed laps) or perhaps you're just getting into the back country and are just starting to tour. Whether it's your first pair of skis or you're just looking for a different experience going short has its own slough of benefits.

We already covered why you want to go shorter for your first pair of skis. What about other situations. You just got AIARE certified you're stoked, now you're looking into a touring set up. The bindings are different, the boots are different, and more importantly so is the skiing. Touring skis come in a far different range of sizes compared to freeride/ all mountain skis. Do you really want to go shorter? Ask yourself this, the first season or two when you're standing on unknown terrain and you have no idea what's under you. Are you looking to whip a long ski in a pin binding and hoping that you don't take a tumble? Or does knowing you can turn without hesitation in variable conditions feel more comfortable. When you're getting into touring you're more likely than not going to ski far more conservative than you would in resort. Why would your ski length be the same then.

Perhaps you're a ripper who's looking to get into some serious big mountain terrain. If you're just getting into billy goating, and you're standing on the side of a cliff maybe something a little bit more on the shorter side is going to feel a little more reliable. Different styles of riding require different tools. Even if you're just looking for a ski to cruise without thinking about crossing those tips, shorter may be the way to go.

How long is too long? How short is too short? That's a personal question based on a variety of factors that only can be found from your unique ski style. While there are basic charts to help navigate the reality is if you're a ripper you're probably going to disregard that info and pick something based on your personal preference. The only way to figure out what is too long is by demoing different sizings of the same ski. This way you can figure out what your sweet spot is a play around.


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