How to Choose your ski length
Choosing the right length of ski can be an important factor in helping you spend your days effortlessly gliding around the mountain.
There is no set rule for choosing the correct length of skis. In an ideal world, you would test various models and lengths to find out which type of ski is going to best meet your needs, expectations, and ability level, but we know this isn’t possible for everyone. To help, we have put together a few pointers to help pick out your new carving companions.
Where should I start?
There are several factors to consider when looking for the best ski length for you, such as your ability, style and your choice of terrain. A great rule of thumb to use as a starting point when choosing your future HEAD skis is to look at the length of ski you have been using up until now. You do not want to stray too far from the length of skis that you are familiar with.
If you have been renting skis, you can talk to your rental shop to find out the length and type of ski you’ve been using, and if you’re having lessons then your instructor is another great source of information for you. This is a great starting point to narrow down the search.
A lot of ski shops will allow you to test out their skis before you buy – if this is an option then we would highly recommend that, as it’s a great opportunity to see how the ski feels before you purchase it.
Is it better to have longer or shorter skis?
As a generalisation, a longer ski length will provide stability at speed but will make it harder to perform short, fast turns as you will need more power to steer the skis. A shorter ski will make it easier to turn quickly and will be more forgiving at slower speeds, which is great if you are a beginner. The choice comes down to you as an individual, and what your ability and skiing style is.
You will also want to consider the type of skiing you are going to be doing and what terrain you’ll be skiing on. A great guideline is to choose a ski length where the tip of the ski sits between your chin and your nose. However, if you’re exploring off-piste or onto steeper terrain, then the ski length should be at least as long as you are tall, if not longer.
For any skiers looking to venture into the snow park, then a ski which is a little bit shorter than your height will provide you with more manoeuvrability and make rotations easier.
On the ski racing side of things, the length of ski will be specific to the discipline you are looking to compete in. Slalom skiers will choose a shorter ski that measures up to their chin, whilst Giant Slalom skiers will opt for a ski that is longer than their height, and Downhill skiers something longer still.
It’s also important to consider any regulations that might be in place for races, that will specify a certain range of lengths that a ski needs to be within. We have made this easier on the HEAD website though, as you will see certain race ski models noted as ‘FIS-approved’ so you know they sit within the regulations.
How long should skis be for a beginner?
A good guideline is for the length of your skis to be between your chin and your nose. You don’t want to go too long with skis as a beginner, as they will be more difficult to control and a lot less forgiving when those little mistakes and edge-catches happen.
A shorter ski is much more manoeuvrable, which is brilliant for a beginner, because when you are in the snowplough position learning those first turning techniques, there’s a lot of rotational motions.
What happens if the skis are too short?
The main thing you will notice if your skis are too short is a lack of balance, because your fore and aft movements will not have as much support.
If you’re going at speed with too much weight forward, then the skis aren’t going to provide you with the correct level of support and will cause you to lose control. Similarly, if you find yourself in the “back seat”, with all your weight over the back of the skis, it will be harder to recover your balance if your skis are too short.
It won’t quite be a “Bambi on ice” moment, but your heart may leap up into your mouth from time to time.
Is it harder to ski with longer skis?
It depends on the terrain and the skier. As an intermediate or advanced skier – a longer ski may be easier given the stability they’ll provide and the increased float in fresh snow. They will provide a much smoother ride at speed and help you easily link wide, carving turns together at speed.
But for a beginner, a longer ski can feel like driving a double-decker bus when you’ve been learning to drive in a go-kart – you will still be able to ski but everything will feel much more laboured, so it is advised that you increase the length of your skis only when your skills have built up to a suitable level. Again, speaking to your instructor will help you make an informed choice here.
Overall though, with a longer ski it’s harder to ski at slow speeds, but easier to stay in control at higher speeds.
How do I size my Racing skis?
This comes down to what discipline you will be competing in, and if the competitions are FIS-regulated or not. If you are competing in a variety of different ski race disciplines then you may need multiple sets of skis.
A slalom ski will be shorter in length and with more sidecut, creating a shorter turning radius and allowing quick, snappy turns. As you progress through the faster disciplines towards downhill, your ski length will get progressively longer and with a reduced sidecut – because of the emphasis on speed and control rather than faster turns.
How do I size my Freestyle skis?
For Freestyle skiing, a set of twin tips that are equal length to your height will most likely be the correct size. The twin tips give you the ability to land tricks backwards, and the length gives you the stability and control needed for when you’re taking off and landing on bigger jumps, whether you are facing forwards or back. If your freestyle skis are too short, then you will feel unstable and unbalanced as you ski through the transitions of take-offs, landings and halfpipe walls.