As with any sport, the equipment you use when skiing often plays a key role in how you can perform. Choosing the right skis to use is one of the most important factors to consider when you’re just starting out, and so knowing which length of ski is right for you is vital.
Choosing the right ski length requires some information about your height and weight, along with your skiing style and ability. With this information, you then just need to follow some basic sizing guides to find the right ski length for you.
It’s important to think about all of these factors when picking your ski length, as what might be fine for a day on the slopes might not be suitable if you plan to ski very often on varying terrain. Below, we’ll go into more detail about how to choose the right ski length.
Deciding on the right ski length for yourself can become quite complex when you consider all the factors that go into your purchase. Simply entering your height and weight into a sizing chart will not yield the best results if you are looking to get the most out of your skis. Below you will find a chart of ski lengths in centimeters given the corresponding height and weight:
Not Always The Best Method
This method is common for internet shoppers and can serve as a rough guide for picking a ski length that is accurate, given that your source is knowledgeable. Sizing charts are great for finding the correct ski length in a generalized manner, but they forget many key components of choosing the right ski length.
Notice that the chart doesn’t say anything about the skier’s abilities or the style of skiing that they will be doing. These are factors that should be considered when you are deciding how long your skis should be, as beginners will typically use shorter skis and more advanced skiers tend to use longer skis.
There are many different things skiers consider when deciding what length of skis are best for them. They also can be used in different ways to determine if your skis should be longer or shorter than what a generalized chart will provide. Let’s now consider the key factors in more detail.
1. Your Height
Your height is the most important factor. If all else fails and you must guess, you can always eyeball a pair of skis and see if they will work. We recommend using your eye level height here, rather than your height from the ground to the top of your head.
The reason we want to use eye level height is that we typically choose skis somewhere in between our chin and the top of our heads, with beginners adjusting closer to their chin and advanced skiers choosing their ski length based on the height to the top of their head.
2. Your Weight
A pair of skis needs to be able to support your weight sufficiently without compromising speed or turning abilities. If you are too light for the length of your skis, you could risk losing control of your turns and flying down the mountain way too quickly and hurting yourself.
On the other hand, if your skis are too short for your weight you can get stuck in certain snow conditions, such as heavy powder or wet snow. Don’t worry about getting your exact weight because we will just be choosing if you are heavier or lighter than normal, rather than taking any precise measurements.
3. Your Skiing Ability
It’s important to know if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced skier as the length of your ski can determine how quickly you can control yourself on the mountain. You must also evaluate your abilities honestly. If you don’t know your skill level, let an instructor or more experienced skier provide their opinion. You can get hurt if you choose skis that are not right for your skill level.
Beginners will want to cut a few centimeters off of their ski length as this makes it easier for them to turn and control their skis. Intermediate skiers shouldn’t add or subtract anything from their ski length, while advanced/expert skiers can add as much length as they need to increase their speed.
4. Your Chosen Terrain
It is typically recommended that you add or subtract length based on the style of skiing that you enjoy or the type of terrain that you ski on most. For example, I often ski in the backcountry where there are no groomed trails and there is a lot of heavy powder, so my style of skiing can either be backcountry/touring or heavy powder/ungroomed.
5. Your Skiing Style
It’s not as important to add or subtract length depending on your skiing style, but it is still something to consider when determining ski length. Really aggressive skiers will want to add some length to get that extra speed and power when charging down a run. More casual skiers will benefit from being able to turn easier with a shorter ski length.
There is no one size fits all method to choosing the right ski length. Advanced skiers may take a more technical approach when sizing up their skis compared to a casual skier who plans on keeping the same pair for the next few years.
A professional skier may consider everything from the materials in their skis to the snow conditions of a particular day, while a beginner may just want to know what will help them turn easier. Taking these 5 basic factors into account, it’s now time to see how each one affects the length of your skis.
How To Select The Right Ski Length
The size of your body is still going to be the main factor in determining your ski size. As we previously mentioned, use your eye level height to get your starting ski height. We will want to convert this height to centimeters because ski dimensions are based on the metric system.
Next, you really only need to determine if you are of average weight, lighter than average, or heavier than average. It is up to you to decide this factor based on how you feel about your weight, but here is how we will adjust the length of our skis according to our weight:
- Average weight: ± 0 cm
- Lighter than average: -2 cm
- Heavier than average: +2 cm
I personally consider my skiing weight to be heavier than average and add two centimeters based on the above guide. Given the size of my body, the first step gives us the following base measurements:
- Eye level height: 170 cm
- Heavier than average: +2 cm
- Ski length based on body size: 172 cm
Now that we have our base ski length, we can adjust the ski length using our skiing ability.
Determining how good you are at skiing can be a bit tricky, and it requires some honesty. While you can claim whatever skill level you choose, it is wise to follow a simple method of determining yourskiing ability. For accuracy, you can base each ski level on the difficulty of runs you ski most often:
- Beginner: Greens can be easy or challenging; Blue runs are challenging
- Intermediate: Blues are easy; Blacks are challenging
- Advanced/Expert: Backcountry or Big Mountain Freestyle Skiing
You can also ask a ski instructor or an experienced skier what they think your skiing ability level is. Before you adjust the length of the ski, you may want to note that this is also the step that you want to choose the width of your ski. Beginners will want a wider ski, while intermediate and expert skiers should go for a normal width for their skis.
Beginners will want to subtract 5 cm from the length of their skis. Intermediate skiers will add 2 cm to the length of their skis and expert skiers will want to add 5 cm. Adjusting your ski length is necessary at this point because the length of the ski will really affect your turning ability. Let’s adjust the length of my skis using the advanced/expert level as I usually ski backcountry:
Body ski length plus advanced length = 172 cm + 5 cm = 177 cm
After we have taken our skiing ability into account, we move to the third and final step in the process. The final step will base our next adjustment on the style or terrain that we like to ski the most and how aggressive we like to ski.
The nice part about this step is that you have more choice in how you calculate the length of your skis. You can’t just choose your height and weight (easily anyway) and your skiing ability is limited by your experience on the slopes. But you can choose your style by choosing what terrain you want to ski the most often and you can always choose to be more or less aggressive.
One of the biggest choices that skiers make every year is deciding how they will ski. Sometimes we make this decision based on purchasing a season ticket to our favorite hill or maybe we are going to participate in competitions, and need to adjust our style to be more or less aggressive.
The style of skiing is adjusted based on the kind of terrain we will be skiing and the condition of the snow. Here is how we make adjustments based on each style:
- Slalom or ski racing: +10 cm
- Heavy powder or ungroomed runs: +5 cm
- Backcountry or touring: +6 cm
- All mountain or all-around: +2 cm
- Groomed runs or lower mountain: -2 cm
- Terrain park: -5 cm
- Freestyle or big mountain: +4 cm
There is flexibility to adjust these numbers slightly, but we recommend sticking to the adjustments listed above. These figures are based on what will provide the best ride for each style of skiing, but there is room for personal preferences in each style.
For example, some freestyle skiers prefer to adjust their skis by more than 4 cm because they are dropping into big runs that require a helicopter to get to and there is ungroomed powder that they must be able to turn efficiently through or else they can really be injured. More experienced skiers will know how to adjust their preferences accordingly.
Finally, we will make our final adjustment by adding 2 cm for more aggressive skiing or subtracting 2 cm for skiers who are more playful. If you are in between, you don’t need to make any adjustments. This final step is really just based on your personal preference of skiing.
For my final adjustment, I will use the backcountry or touring style as well as adding 2 cm because I am an aggressive skier. Here is what my final adjustment will look like:
Body size + ability + skiing style: 177 cm + 6 cm + 2 cm = 185 cm
To quickly check if my ski length makes sense, I will consider how tall I am compared to the length of the ski. I am 5’10” and typically add extra length because of my skiing ability and the style of skiing I spend the most time doing. I will convert the 185 cm into feet and inches to compare it with my height:
Ski length of 185 cm = 6’ ¾”
If I compare 6’ and ¾” to my height, I am adding almost three inches to my height for the length of my skis. This is actually what I would expect for a backcountry ski because I need to charge through heavy powder aggressively. Backcountry skiing sometimes requires out-skiing snow that can trigger sluffs or avalanches, so the longer length makes sense for more speed.
While you can choose your ski length just based on your height and weight, this usually won’t be accurate enough for anyone that plans to ski even remotely regularly. But if you want to get the best performance out of your skis and have the best winter of skiing yet, you need to consider your height, weight, ability, ski style, and how aggressive you ski.