For newbies and alpine skiing converts, the mystery of Nordic ski sizing can seem arbitrary and confusing, especially when you throw in both skate and classic ski sizing. Classic skis tend to be longer, while skate skis are sized shorter. Adult ski sizes range between 160 cm for the shortest skate skis and 210 cm for the longest classic skis. While the dimensions and lengths of Nordic skis don’t vary as much as the plethora of categories in the alpine world (we call them ‘skinny skis’ for a reason), dialing in the right length for your ability, goals and weight is important.
It’s All About the Flex
Wait...weight? Notice how I didn’t say height? That’s because height is a non-factor for Nordic skis. Matching a ski’s flex to your body weight is more important. If you’re new to Nordic skiing (especially skate), you might be tempted to go with skis on the shorter side. A common concern I hear from Nordic skiers with skate skis which seem too long, is that the tails tend to click together. Sure, that can be annoying, but as you progress with your technique, you’ll quickly learn how to avoid this. Your body will adjust to longer skis faster than you think, and it’ll be worth it to have the right flex.
Skate Ski Flex
In general, a skate ski that is too soft for you will feel unstable at high speeds and tend to ‘wash out’, meaning you won’t be able to edge properly. It will also be slower as the ski is flexed in ways it’s not meant to, and will dig into the snow. Too stiff of a skate ski will be hard to push off of when you’re transferring from ski to ski, since you’re not able to close the ski. The right skate ski will be just in the middle, supporting your body weight as you ride it and edge properly when you push off.
Fortunately, most companies also offer weight recommendations for each model of skate ski. If you want to get into the nitty gritty, skate skis tend to be flexed at 110% to 120% of your body weight. For example, a 130 lb. skier would want a ski flexed between 143 to 156 lbs. However, the exact flex of the ski isn’t usually known unless you take it to a specialty Nordic shop to have it tested. Also, for all the Type A personalities out there, skate ski flex isn’t an exact science - skis can accommodate a wide range of weights and still be fast. Hence, the weight charts which each ski manufacturer publishes are your best bet as a guideline.
Classic Ski Flex
Classic skis are flexed softer than skate skis to ensure that the wax pocket can be properly closed when kicking. Too stiff of a flex and you’ll be unable to kick, since the kick zone won’t be making full contact with the snow. Too soft of a flex and you’ll be making too much contact with the snow, scraping off your kick wax. Ski manufacturers construct classic skis to be flexed at 60% of a skier’s body weight, but, like skate skis, you likely won’t know this number when you’re purchasing a ski. Instead it’ll be marked with the ideal skier weight for that model.
You probably have a few questions left, so, if you’re in the Park City area, swing by White Pine Touring on Bonanza Drive, or by the White Pine Touring Nordic Center on Park Ave, and chat with one of our experts. They’ll be more than happy to talk your ear off about the intricacies of ski flex, and help you find your ideal ski.
Evelyn Dong, content writer