There is no foolproof formula for choosing the ski size that is right for you. Beyond the obvious indicator of height, factors like skier ability, weight, snow conditions, terrain, and type of ski should all be plugged in to the hypothetical algorithm. But even if you were able to get an exact number from these calculations, plain old personal preference comes along to play the role of outlier.
In an effort to simplify things, for our purposes we’ll stick to the all mountain category – in this case, skis with a waist width of, say, 80 – 90 mm. This versatile category of skis is the bread and butter of the industry, and from East to West the single-ski-quiver of choice for skiers of all ability levels.
Choosing the Right Size All Mountain Ski
So, what size all mountain ski do you need? The first determining step is to make an honest assessment of your skier type. While not an exact science, skier type more often than not relates directly to the speeds at which you ski, the terrain you prefer, and your ability to engage an edge and truly flex a ski. With these factors in mind, a properly sized ski when stood upright can reach anywhere from just below your chin to all the way above your head. It is important to note that just as parabolic design changed sizing practices some two decades ago, the near universal adoption of rocker technology by ski companies has similarly altered sizing methods. So without further ado, here are some general guidelines for finding the right size all mountain ski for you.
Type 1 Skiers
Type 1 skiers, or beginners, are considered those who prefer to ski cautiously, at slower speeds, and on gentle slopes. As such, skis for Type 1 skiers are generally sized to around the chin or mouth. Since beginners ski at slower speeds on moderate pitches, a shorter ski – with a shorter turning radius – allows for the easy turn initiation and increased control necessary to learn proper skiing technique.
Type 2 Skiers
The Type 2 category is in many ways the catchall for typical all mountain skiers. Type 2 skiers prefer to ski at a variety of speeds across varied terrain, and have learned to pull a ski up on edge and make a true carve turn. Skis for intermediates are generally sized to the area between the nose and eyes. For a typical all mountain ski, this sizing accurately pairs the radius of the ski to the desired turn shape of a Type 2 skier. The result is more fluid and energy efficient skiing.
Type 3 Skiers
Type 3 skiers are a rare breed. Preferring high speeds and steep terrain, these experts use skis that are sized to the top of the head, or slightly higher. The longer the ski, the more edge contact with the snow, and therefore, the more stability you have at speed. And since Type 3 skiers are travelling at higher speeds, and covering more ground with each turn, a longer turning radius is necessary to maintain fluidity and rhythm.
As stated before, this method for sizing skis is simply a general guideline. There are plenty of expert skiers who prefer the workout of a shorter radius underfoot, while some intermediate skiers may prefer the added stability of a slightly longer-than-recommended ski. The only way to truly know that you are getting the proper length ski is to put a range of sizes to the test with a ski demo program. With an on-snow “test drive,” and the guidelines provided above, you’ll be able to zero in on the size ski that is right for you.
For more tips and advice on choosing a ski, check out this video from Jans Hardgoods Buyer, George “Squid” Sideris:
Nate Tomlinson, Content Writer