You can imagine it right? Waking up to deep powder, clipping into your skis and going off for a full day adventure.
I love skiing but when I was looking at new skis, I hadn’t realized how many variables were involved in the buying process.
I spent a ton of time researching to find my ideal skis. I’ve put together this ski size chart and guide so you can learn quickly how to choose your dream skis without the hassle.
How Important Is Choosing the Right Skis?
Have you ever bought something that was poor-quality because you wanted to try it before committing to a better version? I have.
It always ended the same way for me. I’d either never use it because it was uncomfortable or I’d have to upgrade almost immediately. End result? Waste of money.
When you buy skis that aren’t right for you or the conditions, you’ll have a terrible time. You’ll get frustrated, you won’t be able to improve, and your whole experience will be disappointing.
It’s far better to put the time in and choose skis that are perfect for you. With better technology and more choice, the right pair of skis should help you go from where you are now to the skier you’ve always wanted to be. I’m no pro skier, but I definitely spend less time on my butt these days!
Ski Anatomy Terminology
You’ll come across lots of ski tech jargon when you’re looking for skis. If you bought your last pair ten years ago, you’ll find the technology has changed. So I’m going to explain the terminology before we get stuck in.
Easy. The length of your skis from tip to tail.
You’ll see this a lot. The waist measurement is the width of the ski right in the middle. Differences in the waist have a big impact on the way your skis turn.
The waist is also referred to as ‘underfoot’.
This is the size of the turn your skis can make. You’ll see it measured in meters with smaller radiuses making sharper, quicker turns.
An upward curve in the middle of the ski. Your weight forces the camber down so you can hold your edge in turns.
Rocker (or Reverse-Camber)
A rocker is where the tip and sometimes tail of the ski are curved upwards. It’s not always rocker or camber though. Sometimes skis will have both camber and rocker.
Types of Skis
This was one of the variables that slowed me down when I was choosing my latest pair of skis because of changes in technology. There’s much more choice these days and you can now get a pair of skis tailored to your skiing preference.
Here’s a straightforward breakdown of the types of skis you can get.
All-mountain skis are your one-stop-shop for skiing everything. They’re especially great for beginner to intermediate skiers who like to tackle both groomed and un-groomed trails.
This type of ski has a little bit of everything. They often have mid-wide waists seeing measurements of 80-110mm to deal with powder easily and long, easy carving.
If you’re used to skiing groomers but want to move into a bit of powder and backcountry, all-mountain skis could be an ideal choice.
These are your classic groomer skis with narrower waists than all-mountain skis so they turn more quickly. If your dream ski trip is carving down groomed trails, a pair of carving skis might suit you perfectly.
With 70-80mm waists, carving skis don’t have much float in powder though. If you want to try some un-groomed trails, you’ll need all-mountain or powder skis.
Which brings me onto the next type.
The last thing you want to do in powder is to sink and grind to a halt. Powder skis have wide waists to allow you to float through powder and get an exhilarating ride.
They’ll usually have a rocker that rises early so the tips don’t dig in and the waist sizes tend to start around 115mm and get up to 140mm. You’re not stuck on groomed slopes though, as modern powder skis can often handle these well.
For deep backcountry adventures, powder skis will be one of the best options.
Big Mountain Skis
If you’ve been watching those insanely cool ski videos where pros are charging down mountainsides like it’s easy, you’ll be watching big mountain skis in action.
These skis have to handle a lot and are the arena of expert skiers. They’re longer than usual, wide to cope with powder, and often stiffer.
Ever cruised past the park at your favorite ski resort to see skiers performing 360s off massive ramps? Those amazing acrobats will be on park skis. What makes park skis stand out is their twin tip design.
Twin tips are where both ends of the tip rise up to allow you to ski and land tricks backward as well as forwards. These skis are usually shorter, softer, and more flexible than carving or all-mountain skis because they need to take a lot of impact and turn fast.
You might see them referred to as twintips or freestyle skis.
If you’re up for a proper backcountry ski adventure, these will be skis worth considering. Backcountry skis have a lot of flexibility and are usually designed to work with climbing skins.
Climbing skins go on over your skis to let you go uphill without taking your skis off and walking. When you’re ready to head down the mountain, you simply take the skins off and away you go.
Often as wide or wider than all-mountain skis, backcountry skis need to deal with powder and a variety of terrain. The narrower the waist, the better they’ll perform in harder snow, so it’s a good idea to look at the general snow conditions for your favorite backcountry area.
Ski Size Chart
So we’ve gone through what the technical terms refer to and what types of skis you’re likely to see. But the most important thing to know when choosing your new skis is the length.
Whether you’re new to the sport or want to upgrade from your old, beaten up skis, length will have a huge impact on your skiing.
If your skis are too long, you’ll find them difficult to turn and control. If they’re too short, you’ll also feel out of control and high speeds will be bumpy and dangerous.
Your height is the fundamental measurement for getting an idea of how long your skis should be. After you’ve got that, I’ll talk you through the variables that can alter the length.
SKI SIZE CHART HERE
How Your Skill Can Determine Your Ski Length
The more experienced a skier you are, the longer your skis should generally be. Increased length gives you more speed and you’ll have the experience to turn them. Beginners often opt for shorter skis as they’re easier to turn and don’t reach speeds they can’t handle.
Choosing your skiing ability can be tricky in itself. Plenty of folks find their skiing improves dramatically in a short amount of time and you don’t want to find yourself on skis that are holding you back.
Going for skis that are above your ability level won’t help either. Expert skis are harder for intermediates to control and you’ll look like (and be) a much more competent skier if you choose skis suited to you.
- For beginners, a good starting point is to use the ski sizing chart then subtract 3cm.
- Intermediates can generally stick with the size chart length for their height.
- Advanced skiers can add around 6cm to the chart length for faster speeds.
Other Factors When Choosing Ski Length
When I was choosing my skis I was scratching my head when it came to length. It seemed like there were so many things to consider. We’re almost there though, just a couple more points to think about.
Your ideal ski length will also depend on your weight as skiing is all about the right weight distribution through your skis.
If you’ve got a large frame, longer skis in your height range may be a good option. Similarly, if you’re on the lighter side for your height, you might want to knock a few centimeters off your ski length.
Matching your skis to both your height and weight is what will offer the most control and ease of improvement.
If you’re a backcountry boss whose best friend is powder, you might be better off with longer skis than if you only ski narrow groomers.
Backcountry: Add 9cm to your size chart length.
Length is an indicator of how quickly you can turn so if you ski in busy resorts where quick turns are important, going for the short end of your length range could be ideal.
Busy groomers: Stick to the shorter end of your size chart length.
If your favorite ski area is famed for wide-open trails, longer skis will give you speed and long, carving turns.
Open trails: Add 3cm for groomed open trails and 6cm for powder skiing
I’ve talked a bit about different waist widths but it’s important to understand how the width ratios along the whole ski affect your choice.
Ski widths are usually written in three segments. So you might see something like 131/94/117. This means that the tip width is 131mm, the waist is 94mm, and the tail is 117mm wide.
Waist widths directly impact your turning radius which is how tight a turn you can make. Narrower waists allow for tighter turns and it’ll take less time to transfer your weight from edge to edge.
Tighter turns are great for busy or narrow trails but sacrifice powder ability as they have less surface area than wider waists. Waists tend to be wider than they were in the 90s without sacrificing much as the whole ski technology has modernized to compensate.
The key to understanding ski widths is in the difference between the tip/tail widths and the waist. A narrow waist in comparison to the tip/tail widths will turn faster. A waist with less difference to the tip/tails widths will have a larger turning radius and turn more slowly.
Wider widths in general will be more adept at handling powder and the waist on powder skis may be as wide or even wider than the ends.
Choosing the Right Skis for You
I love taking deep dives into backcountry gear so it was fun to read in-depth about all the variables that go into ski choice. But when you just want to buy a sweet pair of skis and hit the slopes, the complexity can feel overwhelming.
Thanks to modern technology, skis are a lot more forgiving than they were back in the 90s. As long as you get the right length ski for your height, weight, and style, you can push your ability as much as you like.
One of the key things is to be honest about what terrain you’re going to be skiing. There’s no point in buying carving skis if you know you’ll be spending most of your time as a backcountry powder hound.
And there’s no point in investing in a pair of powder skis if you’ll be guiding the kids down beautiful groomers for the majority of every ski trip. All-mountain skis with a mid-fat waist are a real winner for those who do a bit of everything and crave flexibility.
See You on the Slopes
By using the ski size chart and working out the terrain you’re psyched to be skiing, it’s easy to find the skis that will work with you, not against you.
Follow us for more easy guides to choosing the best backcountry and adventure gear. See you on the slopes!