For a long time, skiers were not concerned with how long their skis were. The length was something they took for granted. But that was not until the invention of shaped skis.
Things had to change. Today, how you ski the mountain and enjoy the snow is highly influenced by the length of your skis.
Well, skis are there to help us ride through the snow; they’re the tools to enable us to do this. But their length and shape will ultimately affect their performance. And that’s why one of the most important decisions skiers have to make is the length and shape of the ski they purchase.
On one hand, you have a short ski. These are good for carving and dominating the mountain. They are easy to turn but you will need to push off with your poles to get them going. On the other hand, you have a long ski. These ones are more stable and can ride over rougher terrain. You can move faster on them, but they’re harder to maneuver. So, how do you choose?
We did a little research to help understand the difference between these ski lengths. We’ll look at the pros and cons of each so you can make a more informed decision. Keep reading!
Initial Thoughts on Ski Lengths
Like skiers, skis come in all sizes and shapes. And although there are some general criteria, there is no precise way to tell what kind of shape or size skis are best for you.
However, shorter skis tend to work great for beginner skiers because they don’t go as fast and are easy to turn and control. Experienced skiers, meanwhile often prefer longer skis because they are more stable and faster for more aggressive mountain riding.
Tip: Your height will normally dictate whether a ski is long or short. A shorter ski may feel long to you if you’re short, and if you are tall, a longer ski may still seem short to you. So it’s good to understand what’s the most suitable size for you to reach your peak performance.
Shorter Skis vs Longer Skis: What’s the Difference?
Long skis go faster, short skis turn faster. That’s what we can say right off the bat.
Longer skis are usually more stable at high speeds. They float on the snow much better than shorter skis but they generally have a bigger turning radius.
Shorter skis tend to compromise stability, particularly at high speeds but they are easy to control, making them ideal for making fast, snappy turns.
Since long skis are more stable at higher speeds they allow you to move faster on them than you would with a shorter ski. Shorter skis tend to feel jittery and rather unstable at high speed.
There’re still other factors to consider such as the ski flex and ski profile. For instance, at high speeds, wider skis may start to rattle/vibrate and feel rather uncomfortable. Stiffer skis will also feel more stable at higher speeds in comparison to soft skis. You’ll realize that during downhill events at the Olympics, most skiers use exceptionally long, stiff, and narrow skis.
On the bright side, though, shorter skiers have greater control, making them ideal for beginners. It is recommended to get skis that fare five to ten cm smaller than your height.
Longer skis generally are more stable, but they are hard to maneuver. As a result, they are suited for expert and professional skiers.
If you’re going to perform many bends/turns, ski over bumps, or just ski slowly, then you might want to choose shorter skis. Long skis are ideal if you want to ski faster and make huge turns.
Having said that, here are the advantages and disadvantages of long skis vs. short skis.
Longer Skis: What Are The Advantages
A long ski will give you greater stability and control. Your edges will be more stable at higher speeds while making turns as they dig into the snow. Longer skis also give a bigger turning radius and better grip in a variety of circumstances thanks to the extra ski length.
They will enable you to ride out the variability in the snow far more easily than shorter ones, especially if you’re moving through chopped-up powder that has been partially skied out.
Long skis are great for frequently skied resort terrains and fluctuating snow conditions in the backcountry where snow can shift from hard snow to ice to powder really fast.
Moreover, since longer skis have a larger surface area than shorter skis, they generally float better in powder. A large ski means more surface area, which means more float.
And in deeper snow, something longer will float better.
Longer skis would also be great for someone who’s taller and heavier. That’s because they tend to be more stable for people who have more weight to move around. And due to the bigger turning radius, you’ll feel more confident if you want to charge, thanks to their stability.
Overall, the turning radius on both options will often depend on their sidecut, but longer skis are typically built for higher speeds and more technical terrain.
Drawbacks of Long Skis?
The drawbacks of longer skis stem from their weight and wider turning radii. As such, a longer ski may not always be the best option depending on your skiing preferences.
For instance, due to their long turning radius, these skis may not be ideal if you want to ski on terrain that involves quick turns and maneuverability, such as moguls and treed runs.
They’re slower and harder to turn and therefore, can be less enjoyable in terrain that involves too many quick, sharp bends.
Longer skis are more challenging to turn on higher terrain and might be daunting when negotiating steep terrain or when trying to make jump turns. Shorter skis dodge stability, yes, but depending on your skills, they might be better and a superior option for steep skiing.
Another thing worth noting is that longer skis are heavier and can be more difficult to spin depending on your height and weight. So keep that in mind when deciding what’s best for you.
If you’re buying a ski for a shorter adult or a child, shorter and lightweight skis might be a great option. Additionally, longer skis might not be the most suitable for a beginner. Be sure to read the section on our suggestions below for more details on the best skis for beginners.
Shorter Skis: What Are The Advantages
Skis that are shorter are much easier to control. They feel more fun and are lighter and more maneuverable. In fact, longer skis are more difficult to turn than shorter skis. Shorter skis have less snow contact due to their shorter length, which results in less friction when making turns.
Also, these skis are made for quick and fun, and they often have a smaller turning radius compared to long skis.
They are easier to maneuver through the woods and more tricky terrain thanks to their shorter turning radius. Short skis will perform better in narrow spaces/glades than longer skis.
Moreover, if you want to practice tricks or simply cruise the slopes in search of entertaining tiny leaps and pops, shorter skis are likely to be more enjoyable than longer ones. And when it comes to teaching others how to ski, shorter skis are definitely the way to go.
Their shorter length will be easier to handle at lower speeds, making them a comfortable choice for teaching kids or friends new to the sport how to ski.
Drawbacks of Shorter Skis
Shorter skis sacrifice stability. They have less float in powder and less stability when skiing at high speeds. When riding on deep snow, short skis can sink in powder and become stuck.
However, having skis that float in powder won’t be as crucial if you ski mostly within the resort on runs terrains that have been maintained, groomed, or tracked out.
Also, skis that are shorter offer less stability when moving at a high speed and are even more unstable when riding in variable snow conditions.
So if you’re planning for a fast, aggressive skiing session, go for a longer ski. They offer much better stability and speed control when moving faster.
Short Skis vs Long Skis: Which Is Best for Beginners?
While it is best to choose your ski based on your height, weight, and skiing ability shorter skis are generally easier to turn and maneuver than long skis. They are lighter and easy to control, making them ideal for beginners.
Note that when starting off in skiing, the point is to master the feel of the skis, maintain balance while going downhill, and know how to make turns down the steeper terrains.
As a result, a shorter-sized ski might be a great option.
Short skis also have longer, more narrow blades. That means you can easily control how your skis’ edge moves. Through edge control, beginner skiers can learn how to carve on groomers and gain better control over their skis when making turns down the mountain.
Additionally, since short skis have a lower turning radius than long skis, they may be the best option for novices as they can turn faster and with less effort than longer ones. Short skis are also an excellent choice to improve your confidence before upgrading to longer skis.
A beginner skier should go for skis that are 1-2 sizes shorter than those worn by the average adult. Remember in order to learn how to turn, stop, and balance on your skis, you’ll first need something that’s easy to turn and control.
You might want to use rental skis for the first few sessions. The guys at the rental shop will assist you in choosing the most suitable ski length if you’re doing this for the first time.
Should You Get Skis Taller Than You?
Well, this was true before parabolic skis with wide sidecuts entered the market. You would start with alpine skis that are the same size as you are tall.
But that was during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Today, the ideal ski length (or starting point) should be the length between your chin height and nose. In fact, only racers still use skis that are the same length or longer than their height.
You wouldn’t use skis longer than your height for any other use. But if cross-country skiing is something you’re interested in, then your ideal ski length can be taller than your height.
How Does Too A Short Ski Affect Skiing?
You run the risk of losing speed and control. If you’re riding on powder, sticky or deep snow, you face the risk of sinking and getting stuck. Be sure to choose something longer that can float better so you can glide over softer snow without losing all of your control and speed.
Skis that are too short can cause you to lose stability and control when skiing in erratic snow conditions. So get something long enough to help overcome such obstacles.
However, if you’d like to test out really short skis, then ski blades, commonly referred to as snow blades can be a nice getaway. Both starters and advanced skiers who want to improve their techniques or try something new can consider using ski blades.
That said, while these can be helpful for a beginner, bear in mind that using ski blades will require a lot of leg and core strength!
What Ski Length Is Best For The Park?
This will mostly depend on your skill level and the kinds of park features you want to use. Generally speaking, a slightly shorter ski; something lighter, and easier to manage can be an excellent choice for park skiers. Medium and shorter-length skis are a great choice too.
A longer ski can be an ideal option if you want to perform big jumps; they are more stable at landing jumps. Skis with camber, meanwhile are suitable for fast speeds and high impact.
A twin-tip ski of average length may be lighter and simpler to jibe with, while skis with a rockered tip and tail (i.e., reverse camber) can be suitable for powder skiing and park skiing.
Best Ski Length For An All-Mountain Skier
These ones will be longer and wider compared to park skis. You’ll ride much better on powder snow and enjoy some maneuverability in tight spaces with a ski that is at least 110mm wide.
If you’d like a ski with a rockered tip and tail (reverse cambered skis) then you should get a ski with at least a 95mm waist. It will help maintain speed and maneuverability when riding through tough snow conditions and tight spaces.
On groomed slopes, choosing skis with a stiffer flex can assist in maintaining balance and control. This is helpful if you’re looking to build your confidence or if you want to ski the entire mountain.
If you’re planning to ski powder, consider choosing a longer, wider, ski that has a gentler flex. It will help you maintain speed while offering more float when coming out of turns.
Look for a ski with a minimum 115mm waist; one with a milder flex that is easier to turn. This will help maximize the sidecut on groomers while still retaining some stability and control.
Final Thoughts on Short vs Long Ski Length
Short skis vs long skis are such a hot topic. Some argue that long skis are always better, some argue the opposite.
One of the major advantages of short skis is that they are much easier to maneuver. Turning is just quick and easy. They also offer quicker acceleration and easier handling in the terrain.
Longer skis offer a number of advantages as well. They’re generally designed to float over powder or crud with ease, while also maintaining better stability at high speeds.
Overall, you might want to choose short skis if you just getting started in the activity, but for an advanced skier, long skis might do a much better job. The ultimate choice is yours. Hopefully, you’ve learned more about short skis vs. long skis and now you can make a more informed decision on the right ski length. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and go skiing!