How to Think about Ski Length

Blister Gear 101: How to think about ski length
Drew Kelly (5'11" / 180 cm) on the light, stiff, & minimally rockered 183 cm Black Crows Corvus Freebird, Crested Butte, Colorado.

We get a lot of questions that go something like this:

“Hi, the new [insert name of a particular ski] sounds exactly like what I’m looking for! I’m 5’9”, 180 lbs – should I go with the 184 cm or 177 cm length?”

There’s a good reason we get asked this a lot, because there is no truly reliable formula to determine what length of a given ski will unquestionably work best for you.

With so many different ski designs on the market, the correct ski size for you can differ quite a bit from one ski to the next. And it’s an important choice to get right, since the size of a ski plays a big part in affecting how a ski is going to perform.

(If you’re just starting out, and you’re unsure what kind of ski to look for in the first place, you might want to check out our 101 article, The Best Skis for Beginners, before continuing here. We’ll also be updating that post with new 20/21 skis later this fall.)

The vast majority of skis no longer all have the same straight shape and fully cambered profile these days, so no chart can accurately tell you your specific, ideal ski length for every given ski based on a static measurement like your height or your weight.

One graph from a certain online retailer suggests that at my height (5”8”) I should consider skis between the lengths of 160 cm and 180 cm. That’s quite unhelpful. While I’m sure I could ski a 160 cm ski and be somewhat ok, I’ve preferred longer skis (of all widths / designs) than that since I was about 15 years old (and the same height), and the chart doesn’t explain why I might opt for a longer or shorter length in a given case.

So in this GEAR 101 article, rather than just throwing a graph at you, we’ll present some important factors to consider when you’re in the market for a new ski and need to choose a particular size. This information will be especially helpful if you find yourself stuck in between two lengths of a given ski, unsure whether you should (or why you would) go with the longer or the shorter size.

The topics mentioned below mainly have to do with the design and performance of skis that we discuss in our reviews, and as will become clear, the topics are all related — there will be some overlap in thinking / principles from one to the next.

[Note: Will Brown and Jonathan Ellsworth worked up the original version of this article several years ago, and we continue to revisit it and revise it when we see fit to do so.]

Where to Begin? Establishing a Baseline

We’ve just said there is no-hard-and-fast rule to determine what length of a particular ski you should go with, as there are now plenty of reasons a person might opt for a ski that’s longer or shorter than they may have say, 10 years ago.

If we’re talking about a traditional, fully-cambered ski, since the introduction of parabolic skis (i.e., skis with wide tips and tails and not-super-straight sidecut radii), the general rule has been that your ski should reach somewhere between your chin and the top of your head; a beginning skier was told to go with a ski length that leaves the ski tip closer to their chin, and a more experienced skier would typically go with a ski that reaches closer to the top of their head.

There is still some validity to that system today in that it ought to steer someone away from purchasing at the ski swap either a pair of snowblades or a 220 cm world cup downhill ski. But again, the rule assumes that you’re looking at a traditional, non-rockered, fully-cambered ski from about 1995. And if you’re shopping for an all-mountain ski these days, you’re probably not looking at many skis that are truly non-rockered / fully-cambered (dedicated carving / groomer skis being the main exceptions). And even if you are, there are a number of good reasons why you might go with a ski longer or shorter than this older, overly simplistic system would suggest.

Rocker / Camber Profile, Running Length, & Effective Edge

Generally speaking, running length refers to the portion of a ski’s edge that’s in contact with the snow when you’re standing on the ski. In a sense, it’s a measure of how functionally “long” the ski is (i.e., how much of the ski is actually in contact with the snow when skied bases flat). Some people call this effective edge, others call it by some other name, but here, we’re just referring to it as “running length.”

On a ski with “rocker” or “early rise” in its tip and / or tail, the edge (along with the rest of the ski) comes off the snow sooner than it would on a traditionally cambered ski of the same length

Gear 101, Ski Length, Blister Gear Review.
Profile of a ski with some tip and tail rocker.

(See our Rocker 101: A Brief History of Rocker + A Glossary of Terms for a more in-depth discussion of rocker and ski camber profiles.)

Gear 101, Ski Length, Blister Gear Review.
Profile of a ski with full, traditional camber.

As a result, the total running length of a rockered ski is shorter than that of the ski with a traditionally cambered profile.

Caveat: technically, the running length of any ski is variable. For example, when you get a ski into soft conditions, some of the edge and surface area on the rockered portion(s) of the ski will come in contact with the snow surface, lengthening the running length. And when laying a rockered ski over into a carve on firm snow, depending on the ski’s sidecut and the curve of the rocker in the ski, you may engage more of its edge than is in play when it’s gliding with its bases flat on the snow.

The other term usually used to describe how “long” a ski feels is its “effective edge.” This is often used interchangeably with “running length,” though they’re different and, again, many people seem to disagree about what each of those terms actually means. For us, the effective edge refers to the distance between the widest point at a ski’s tip and the widest point at its tail, so it’s determined by the sidecut / shape of the ski, whereas the running length is determined by the rocker profile of the ski. So a ski with a lot of tip and tail taper (i.e., the widest points of its tips and tails are closer to the middle of the ski, not at the very ends) will have a short effective edge. That said, the effective edge and running length are often correlated since many skis with short effective edges also have deep rocker lines and therefore short running lengths, though there are always some exceptions. What you should really focus on is the combination of (1) rocker and (2) taper — the more tapered and more rockered a ski is, the shorter it will feel compared to a minimally rockered, minimally tapered ski.

In general, a rockered ski will behave like a shorter ski on hard snow compared to a non-rockered ski of the same length, because you are skiing on a shorter edge as if you were on a shorter ski. So if you’re used to skiing a fully cambered ski that is, for example, 178 cm long, but the new very-rockered ski you’re looking at comes in a 178 cm length and a 184 cm length, you’re probably going to be better off going with the longer 184 cm length. The 184s will feel more like your old 178s on snow, given their reduced running length.

Examples: I’m happy skiing the mostly-cambered and minimally tapered 177 cm Blizzard Brahma 88, and I’m equally happy skiing the very tip and tail rockered and fairly tapered 190 cm Moment Wildcat.

Blister Gear 101: How to think about ski length
Sascha Anastas (5'1" / 155 cm) on the light, very rockered, and very tapered 172 cm Rossignol Soul 7 HD W, Crested Butte, Colorado.

In sum, the amount of rocker / running length and taper / effective edge that a ski has is very important to consider in conjunction with the actual material length of the ski. If you’ve been skiing a fully cambered pair of skis for years, and you’re looking at a new pair that has some tip and / or tail rocker, think about the running length of those skis rather than their material length.

Your fully cambered skis may have reached the bridge of your nose, and these new rockered ones may reach over your head. But if you size your new, rockered skis the same way you sized your old, fully cambered skis, your new skis will very likely feel too short, twitchy, and unstable.

Speaking of which…

Stability & Instability

Another factor to consider when deciding on what length of a ski to go with is how stable and planted it feels on snow. How stable or “damp” a ski feels are things that we always cover in our reviews. If a ski is especially stable and exhibits good damping — i.e., it does not get twitchy or feel ‘noodly’ at speed or in bumped-up conditions — the more appropriate it might be to opt for a shorter length than you otherwise would.

Stability can serve to counteract the sometimes de-stabilizing effects of a rockered ski’s shorter effective edge.

Conversely, if a ski isn’t especially stable at speed (maybe it’s quite light, has a lot of sidecut, and / or is super soft), but you’d like to get as much high-speed stability out of the design as possible, you might consider going for a longer length. If you’re looking at different lengths of the same ski model, the longer version is generally going to be more stable at high speeds, while the shorter length is generally going to be easier to ski at slower speeds.

  • A Note on the Insufficiency of the English Language – “Damping” vs. “Damp”

For the grammar police out there, we are aware that “damp” means that something is “not dry,” while an object (like a ski, for example) might have good damping properties or be “well damped” — i.e., the ski is not twitchy or reactive, but smooth, stable, and … damp.

Language is a tool to be used, not a system of unbendable rules. That’s why dictionaries have second, third, and fourth definitions of words. So we use the word ‘damp’ to mean planted / not twitchy / not reactive / not “harsh.” We do not mean that the ski is kinda wet.

And since it’s more intuitive to many people, we’ll often say skis that feel quite damp offer “good suspension” — i.e., they don’t transmit the full impact / force of every little bump in the snow directly to your body. Instead, they feel smoother, more “plush,” more “muted,” and less “harsh.” For the mountain bikers out there, think of riding a hardtail down a rock garden, vs. riding that same section on a full-suspension downhill bike.

Flex Pattern

While there are certainly exceptions to this statement, in general, the stiffer and heavier a ski is, the more stable it will be in rough conditions at speed, but the more demanding it will be in moguls and tight spots.

So if you’re considering a pretty stiff ski, but you are planning to ski a lot of moguls, opting for a shorter length might be a good move; in a shorter length, a stout ski will be easier to manage, yet will still provide some stability when you’re going fast.

Blister Gear 101: How to think about ski length
Kristin Sinnott (5'8" / 173 cm) on the light, minimally tapered, fairly stiff 170 cm Rossignol BLACKOPS Rallybird, Crested Butte, Colorado.

And at the same time, a ski that’s particularly soft will often be more forgiving and less punishing than a stiff ski, so you may want to go for a longer length than you’re used to for the sake of gaining more stability at speed.

However, no matter how soft the ski is, the material length of a ski can still make it cumbersome in moguls, so sizing down a stiff ski is usually more appropriate than sizing up a soft ski if performance in either (a) big moguls with deep troughs, or (b) tight tree skiing in low-angle terrain is what you’re most interested in.

Sidecut Radius

The longer the sidecut radius of a ski, the slower it will react when put on edge to arc a turn across the hill, and the longer that turn will be.

In this way, skis with shorter sidecut radii (e.g., ~14-18 meters) will be more responsive and easier to get on edge and turn, while skis with longer sidecut radii (e.g., ~24-32+ meters) will be more stable at higher speeds, especially in variable, rough conditions.

So if the ski you’re looking at has a long sidecut radius, you might consider choosing a length on the shorter side in order to make the ski more maneuverable, without sacrificing too much stability. For example, I like the 184 cm ON3P Wrenegade 108, which has a 26.8-meter sidecut radius (and is pretty strong and heavy), but I have little interest in skiing the 189 cm Wrenegade 108, which is heavier and has an even longer 27.5-meter sidecut radius.

Swing Weight

As a generalization, the heavier a ski is, the more difficult it will be to pivot back and forth quickly. The lighter it is, the easier it will be to maneuver.

If you happen to know (from one of our reviews, perhaps) that a ski is not particularly light / quick, then sizing down will make it easier to handle, which will be important depending on where you ski (tight trees? big bumps? wide open terrain?) or how you like to ski (big turns at high speeds? smaller turns at moderate or slow speeds?).

Or if you’re looking at a light, highly maneuverable ski, you might be able to go with a longer length than you are accustomed to, in order to gain some stability while still having a ski that will feel relatively quick and easy to maneuver.

Blister Gear 101: How to think about ski length
Luke Koppa (5'8" / 173 cm) on the light and very rockered 184 cm Moment Deathwish, Crested Butte, Colorado.

Flotation in Deeper Snow

The more surface area a ski has, the better it will plane up and float in deep snow. So if you’re looking at a ski that you plan to use in lots of fresh snow, you’ll get more float out of a longer length. Of course, the surface area gained by going with a longer length may be less important than the weight added to the ski or the decreased maneuverability, but it is a legitimate factor to consider.

And then you should think about the width of the ski, since that also plays an important role in flotation. E.g., the 184 cm K2 Reckoner 122 (a 122mm-wide ski) provides plenty of float in deep snow for me, and I don’t feel the need to bump up to the 191 cm version. But if I were to ski super deep snow on, say, the 106mm-wide Armada ARV 106Ti, I’d prefer to be on the 188 cm version rather than the 180 cm. That said, in many cases, length will play a larger role than width when it comes to float (especially if the width difference between some skis you’re comparing is less than ~10 mm).

Blister Gear 101: How to think about ski length
Luke Koppa (5'8" / 173 cm) on the 184 cm K2 Reckoner 122, Eleven Catskiing, Irwin, Colorado.

Mount Point

Mount point is closely linked to skiing style and stance, but it also factors into ski length. Skis with mount points close to the true center of the ski (around -6 cm from true center to literally true center) tend to encourage a more centered / neutral / upright skiing stance where you’re not putting a ton of pressure on the front of your boots or the shovels of your skis.

Skis with more rearward mount points (around -7 cm from true center, or farther back) tend to encourage a more traditional, forward stance with more pressure on your shins, front of your boots, and consequently, more pressure on the shovels of your skis. At Blister, we tend to call more rearward mount points “traditional,” and more centered mount points “progressive.” You’ll most often find more centered mount points on skis that are designed to be more playful and feel natural in the air, since the more centered mount point makes them feel more balanced. 

Mount point comes into play relating to ski length since it changes where your feet will be positioned along the length of a ski. For example, if you mount a 184 cm ski exactly in the center of the ski, you’d theoretically have 92 cm of ski in front of that mount point, and 92 cm behind it. But if you mounted that same ski -10 cm back from its true center, you’d have 102 cm of ski in front of that mount point, and 82 cm behind it. 

This is most important when considering a ski that has a very different mount point than the skis with which you’re familiar.

E.g., if I spent all my time skiing a center-mounted, 184cm-long freestyle ski and then tried the 184cm-long DPS Wailer A112 (which has a very rearward mount point of -14 cm from true center), it’d feel like the Wailer was really long in front of my boots, but quite short behind my boots. In the opposite scenario, someone who skied the Wailer A112 a lot and then switched to an equally long, but center-mounted ski might think the front of the ski feels really short, but they also might think the tail / back of the ski feels long. 

All that said, if the difference in mount point is only a few centimeters, you shouldn’t worry too much about it affecting how long the ski feels. And if the mount point difference is significant, the more important thing to ask is whether that ski will work with your preferred skiing style and stance. 

Measured Length vs. Stated Length

If you took five “184 cm” skis from five different brands, there’s a good chance they won’t all measure the same length if you pulled a tape measure in a straight line from the ends of their tails to the ends of their tips. (i.e., basically just measuring the horizontal distance between the tips and tails, rather than having the tape measure sit on the top sheet and follow the contours of the rocker profile. We call this horizontal measurement a “straight-tape length measurement.”)

That discrepancy may seem odd, but it mostly comes down to how each ski manufacturer decides to measure their skis, among other factors. Most manufacturers measure the length of the material of their skis when it’s still perfectly flat (sometimes referred to as “material length”), and before it’s pressed in the mold that bends the material and creates its curvy rocker profile. Since the bent, rockered portions of the ski curve up during pressing, this effectively shortens the physical, straight-line, horizontal distance between the end of the tail and the end of the tip.

But then a few manufacturers measure length via a straight-tape measurement after pressing the skis / creating their rocker profile.

If company “A” measures their ski length before pressing and company “B” measures length after pressing, company B’s “184 cm” ski will measure longer than company A’s “184 cm” ski when using the straight-tape length measurement. 

And some companies just kind of come up with the stated length number that they deem appropriate. E.g., Rossignol says their BLACKOPS Sender is available in a 178 cm length, while their BLACKOPS Sender Ti is available in a 180 cm length. We measured both of those skis, and their straight-tape length measurements are exactly the same.

Luke Koppa reviews the Rossignol BLACKOPS Sender for Blister in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Luke Koppa on the 178 cm Rossignol BLACKOPS Sender, Crested Butte, Colorado.

This is why we list a measured length (again, measured via that straight-tape method) for all the skis we review, in an effort to standardize things and give you an idea of how various skis compare. In general, most brands measure ski length before pressing, with the most notable exceptions being ON3P and K2 (which measure length after pressing). So rather than saying all skis apart from K2 and ON3P’s “measure short,” it’d more more accurate to say K2 and ON3P’s skis “measure long.” 

All in all, the differences in stated length and measured length via a straight-tape measurement are typically within 1-3 cm, which is quite small. But, it’s worth checking to see if a ski you’re considering measures very short or very long, or just bring a tape measure with you next time you head to your local ski shop. 

How (and Where) Do You Actually Ski?

We touched on this above, but being clear about which sort of terrain you tend to ski to get down the mountain — or how you most often like to get down the mountain — will go a long ways toward helping you choose the right length of ski. This is one of the most important factors to think about when deciding on ski length.

Do you like to make big turns while going very fast, or do you prefer a more dynamic, active approach to terrain and like to make more turns?

The faster you like to go (and the more open the terrain is), the more appropriate a longer ski will be; the shorter your turns are and the tighter the terrain you tend to ski (e.g., tight trees, steep moguls, etc.) the more appropriate a shorter ski might be.

For example, our reviewer, Paul Forward, loves the 189 cm DPS Koala F119 at his home mountain of Alyeska Resort in Alaska, where he is usually skiing more open terrain and rarely skiing moguls. But for the tighter terrain of Crested Butte, I’m confident that I personally would get along better with the 184 cm model. (It’s also worth noting that Paul weighs ~40 lbs. more than me.)

In a similar vein, the more concerned you are about how light and maneuverable a ski feels in the air for doing tricks and jumps, the more sense it makes to go with a shorter length. (I enjoy skiing the 184 cm Moment Wildcat for its in-air playfulness, but I also enjoy the 190 cm Moment Wildcat for its increased stability in chop.) Of course, as mentioned above, if the ski you’re considering also happens to be particularly light, then going with a shorter length may be less necessary.

Finally, especially for people with a quiver of skis, it’s important to note that you may not want all of your skis to feel similarly long when skiing them. Sometimes you want one of your skis to encourage a very different skiing style than another, in which case it might make sense to get one in a size that feels longer or shorter than the other. For example, I love the 184 cm Line Sir Francis Bacon and 184 cm K2 Reckoner 102. Both of those skis are light, have deep rocker lines, and are quite soft — all of which make them feel short for their actual size, but I really like them because they’re perfect for when I want to throw tricks and ski with a really playful, dynamic style. But then for a heavy, damp, stable, and fairly stiff ski like the Dynastar M-Free 118, I like the 189 cm length because that ski encourages me to ski pretty hard and fast, and going down to a shorter length wouldn’t magically turn it into some ultra-playful ski, so I’d rather optimize its strengths by skiing it in a longer length. 

Final Thoughts For Now

Hard and Fast rules are nice, but they are often too simplistic to be genuinely useful.

If this article seems to have complicated the topic more than cleared it up, we’re okay with that, because we think that you will be in a better position to understand and evaluate the numerous factors that go into answering the question, Should I go with this length or that length?

Still Have Questions?

If you do still have questions about which length of a given ski (or several skis) you should be considering — or if you have any questions about skis, ski boots, bindings, etc. — become a Blister member, send us a note, and we’ll be happy to get you sorted out.

55 comments on “How to Think about Ski Length”

  1. Hi guys, OUTSTANDING article here! Succinct and very well organized. I think you did a great job isolating key parameters of ski design (e.g. rocker vs full camber, sidecut shape, stiffness etc) and discussing how the variable of length plays against each of those parameters. Well done!

    Just one minor correction, about the last paragraph on page 1. It’s “damping” not “dampening”. It’s true that “damp” can mean both ‘wet’ and ‘stable’, but “dampening” always implies moisture, and “damping” always refers to stabilizing factors. (I have a degree in mechanical engineering, FWIW. :-)

  2. Great article,
    You would think it would be a good idea for manufacturers to actually give the effective edge length in their ski dimensions with the overall length, tip width, waist and tail width numbers. Would give a more accurate on paper indication of what the ski really is rather than just saying tip/tail rocker and help purchasers gauge skis against each other, even the different lengths in the same ski.

    • In addition, some ski manufactures model lengths are not the actual measured length of the product. Case in point would be K2. K2 only labels skis as 189, 179, 169, etc… (similar to the $9.99 marketing ploy) when the skis typically measure significantly longer. Not a big deal to an experienced ski purchaser, but worth mentioning….

      • Is that still the case? I had heard that K2 has changed their measuring strategy to bring it into line with everyone else, but I’ve only ever used their older stuff so I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of that.

        Certainly, this is a point in the favour of smaller manufacturers who often have a lot of detail about their skis on their websites.

  3. Great article guys and a good read for anyone before they go pull the trigger on a new ski especially if its something different than what their used to.
    I agree effective edge would be great as would surface area. I see a few reviewers adding that to their data but about the only ski company I know and excuse my ltd knowledge to do something close is Kastle. They state the % increase in surface area over a traditional carver/ski. It’s a bit qualitative but it sure helps you compare their skis anyway. I have more than once grabbed a tape measure or tried to calculate surface area.
    Agree smaller companies often have more info on the product perhaps it show a greater design over marketing emphasis?

  4. GREAT ARTICLE, THANK YOU. Ultimately, you got to ski on a pair of ski to know how it function for you under the tested conditions then speculate on how it would under conditions that are not available. And, if different sized are available for demo, you will get it right. Otherwise, it would be a good deal of gamble.

    • Incredible article. Should be bold print on any place that wants to try and explain/review skis.

      That’s said, if the word “suspension” is going to be transferred from the various places it’s used in the outdoor world, perhaps the word “plush” can be as well. The similarities between skis and mountain bikes—their handling, suspension, liveliness vs plushness—is all very apropos for skis as well. Here and now the word “damp” shall be no more for ski reviews! Skis use various materials, weights, and flex patterns to alter their suspension characteristics, increasing or decreasing their resistance to unintended movement across the snow, i.e., plushness.

      Amazing article. Thanks Luke.

  5. Great article. I got a pair of Nordica Hell and Backs last year and opted for the longer size based on the reviews and feedback here despite the local shops saying I was crazy. I couldn’t be happier with my choice. Thanks for the great info and reviews! Keep it up!

  6. Really helpful thanks. I’m weighing up length of a new lightweight touring ski purchase, from a known baseline of existing and past skis and was struggling to decide. Put all your factors into a spreadsheet, added a couple of my specific requirements, and it was overwhelmingly clear that going longer than my current ski would be best. None of this info was new to me, but just so helpful to have it all listed and the interrelationship of the factors discussed. Nice job!

    • Thanks, Peter! So glad we could help. Out of curiosity, have you been able to put some time on the ski you purchased. Do you feel you ended up with the right length?

      Cheers,

      Will

      • Hey Will, Got some time on that ski (Movement Response) over the southern hemisphere winter. Happy with the length. Not an issue I even thought about again until I saw a notification on this thread. So yeah, that worked out nicely. Cheers.

  7. Will, thanks for another insightful piece… You Blister guys are doing an amazing job.

    Just one more point to make, based on personal experience: a fat ski which is too long for one’s weight/height or ability/style can give you a shin/calf bang of your life (this applies in particular to all-mountain species which you would take to bumped-up groomers in the afternoon).

    Which once again brings us back to the perrenial DEMO BEFORE YOU BUY advice.

  8. Hi

    Great article and most informative. It got me thinking about edge grip. What attributes in a ski’s design result in strong edge grip ? Is it effective edge (seems logical), torsional rigidity, flex, damping (does less chatter result in better edge grip ?), width (force being exerted on the edge for a given edge angle, skier weight etc), edge bevel angle ? I suspect all of the above but do some attributes dominate ?

    • Hi Ian,

      Very sorry for the delayed reply. I think you’re right – all the factors you mentioned contribute to how locked in a ski is, and certain factors to dominate. Effective edge is generally the most influential, but flex, weight/dampening, and width of a ski certainly play a role as well in how planted and stable it feels.

      Best,

      Will

  9. I found this article immensely informative. Most of the shop Folks, even in Ski Towns, are still stuck in the head high, full camber age and are pretty much leading Folks astray with regard to All Mtn & Off Piste Equipment sizing.
    Had I found this article earlier, I wouldn’t have missed my opportunity sitting on the sizing fence whilst Moment sold out of the Blister Pros 190’s.Now, ARGHH, I have to wait till next year and miss out on that ultra cool Black & Green Graphic- probably the most bad ass no nonsense looking ski ever IMO.
    Thanks Again for one of the most germain ski articles that I have ever read.

  10. I’ve been looking into this with the Cochise and Soul 7, two skis with very different characteristics. I already have 177cm but couldn’t decide what size to go with for the Soul 7, 172 or 180. The advice on Blistergear for the Soul 7 is to size up. Getting into real OCD mode I found a spreadsheet that spits out the turn radius of a ski based on effective edge and tail/waist/tip width. Rather than solve for turn radius I solved for effective edge. Given the Rossi’s specs for the 172, 180 and 188 I found that the effective edge for all three was between 130-132cm. While the effective edge increased by only 2cm the surface are increased proportionately. My takeaway is that for the Soul7 body weight is the key factor and on the Rossi website while they list the usual suspects in determining size the table for the 7 series is based on weight. I ran the 177-191 Cochise through the numbers and found that both effective edge and surface area increases proportionately. Also almost all of the added length for each size goes to increasing the effective edge. Seems like for skis like the Cochise sizing is more complicated and it would be best to just spend $40-50 to demo some for the day.

  11. Great article im 5’9 190 and was torn between the brahma 173 or 180. Given that i ski mostly in the midwest with 10 or so days out west feel like having the maneuverability while stil having some stability the brahma provides was more important. Demoed the exp88 in 180 and 174 and felt the braham was easier to ski while still being able to push it a bit when opening it up on longer wider terrain. Wasnt able to demo the braham in 180 so hopefully that extra 7cm wont really make a difference on the skiing and ski going forward.

  12. I’ve found this article really clarifying but I still need some advice about which length should i pick up for the 4FRNT YLE (it comes in 177cm (138-118-138) and 187cm (140-119-140). I’m 173cm tall and i’m 62-63kg, i’m 25 yo and i ski since i was 4.
    I usually ski in the Dolomites, near Arabba, i consider myself a pretty good skier since i usually ski tracks like Fodoma, Granrisa and Sasslong which are some of the most hard ones you can find there.
    I’ve recently upgraded my skis from a 170cm model (70mm in waist) to a Blizzard Brahma 180cm (125-88-110), having no problem at all with the new ski and charging hard since the 1st track.
    I’ve also read that when looking for powder skis it’s usual to add +10cm from the ones you are currently using and another thing is that the YLE have more rocker in the tip and more in the tail (it’s symmetrical) than my actual Brahma.
    So i’m wondering if the 177 YLE would feel too short for me since it’s also shorter than 3cm than my Brahma and have also an effective edge of 93cm while my Brahma has 153cm.
    Thank you in advance for your advice :)

  13. I’m looking into a pair of Atomic Cloud Seven skis for myself, debating between the 162 and 155. I am 5’8″ but only 125 lbs. on a heavy day. I am a strong beginner-intermediate skier looking to improve. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

  14. Great info, thank you. I’ve made the progression (because I’m 59 yrs old) through the cambered 203cm skinny era, to the cambered 184 cm mid-fat, to a cambered ski with just a touch of tip rise- 185cm 2012 Nordica Enforcers- to a cam-roc- Salomon 183cm Q Lab. I’m looking to replace the Enforcers with a 2017pair of 180cm Blizzard Bonifides. I’m 5’11 & about 150lbs. The 2012 N. Enforcers sounded great on paper, but the rise in the tip is really small and the flex balance between that & the forebody of the ski was not very balanced IMHO. They could get “hooky” in the tip, and felt like they would “rail” when I backed off the forward pressure. The design changes the year after that- I had a chance to compare- made them more user friendly. My weight plays a big part in all this. I generally make fast open turns on open terrain- I usually ski the upper terrain of Breckenridge Co. The ’12 Enforcers can be great blasting fast GS turns, but speed is not always an option. I try to avoid bumps, but they are a fact of life sometimes. The skis are tough for me on steep, slow, turny terrain. I like the 98mm u ft & 21r. for most of what I do. I have the 104mm u ft Q Labs for deeper, slabby-er, or deep spring slush. I’ve already bought the Bonifides, but my concern is that they are stiff skis, and the tails feel especially so. I just don’t see myself buying a cam-roc design in a shorter length than 180 though. I think I will really like ’em, but I’d appreciate any input from others concerning this particular ski.

  15. Quote: Generally speaking, effective edge refers to the portion of a ski’s edge that’s in contact with the snow when you’re standing on the ski. In a sense, it’s a measure of how functionally “long” the ski is (i.e., how much of the ski is actually in contact with the snow when skied bases flat).

    Sorry, but I disagree with your explanation of Effective Edge. What you are describing is Running Surface which is contact point to contact point when ski bases are flat. Effective edge is measured from wide point to wide point on the edge of the ski. It measures how much of the sidecut and blend curves are using to turn the ski.

  16. I would add two points to this good article.
    1)
    Dampening the vibrations.
    The longer skis can suffer from vibration caused by a high frequency travelling wave that can contain the fundamental and also sub-harmonics. The ski vibrates in a similar way to a guitar string. Damping-down this vibration can be done by clever construction. Other components can be inserted to cancel vibrations. The unwanted vibration causes the longer skis to flap, and lose edge grip. A stable ski could be described as well dampened. But I’ve never heard “we’ll damp”.
    2) Sidecut radius. This is a fixed design feature.
    It marks the maximum output carving radius.
    It isn’t the same as carve turning radius, which is a variable radius dependent upon angle of edge tilt.

  17. So turning it around:

    As a tall skier (6’5”), who’s not particularly heavy(175 lbs), and who likes moguls and tight tree lines, in order to balance mobility in tight spots with stability on rough snow or landings:

    Would I better of with a stronger, more stable ski in a shorter length, or with a lighter, more agile ski in a longer length?

    • Umh…skier weight has more to do with picking the best length than skier height. Your skis ARE flexed by your weight but they can’t “tell” how tall you are. Sure, body length (especially lower body) has an affect on angulation and inclination angles but it’s your weight that will flex and decamber the skis, as well as apply proportionate force to steer them.

  18. Will,
    Thanks for the interesting article.
    I have a question regarding ski length in relation to skier’s height and weight.
    I understand how weight affects the length of ski one should ski but why is height such an important factor?
    Thanks!
    Jo
    PS: Also interested in the question posted above.

    • I had this explained to me in a local ski shop: height determines the amount of leverage you can get on a ski. I also found this on the DPS Ski Finder: “Height is a dominant factor in sizing a ski. A skier’s ability to bend and leverage their ski is directly related to their height. Weight is the secondary consideration for ski length. A heavier skier can more deeply flex a ski, but weight is less dominant compared to height and the skier’s ability to create leverage while on edge.”

      • That makes sense. I guess I‘ve been skiing too long skis all my life then. Always liked the stability at speed.
        Still curious about the above poster‘s question:
        ‚Would I better of with a stronger, more stable ski in a shorter length, or with a lighter, more agile ski in a longer length?‘
        I know rocker, taper, etc play a role too.

  19. Most fun I’ve ever had on skis is a handmade Swiss RTC Classic Carver in 128cm. I’m 6′, 220 lbs., and an expert skier. The 28’er is no toy with a huge plate and a weight that would make you think you were holding a pair of 183s. I’ve had them up to 80 km/hr in the speed test course and ski at very high speeds all over the mountain. My regular skis now are a 166cm cross carver but I’ve skied up to a 210 in the past. If I listened to advice, I never would have tried the 28’er and missed out on all this fun!

    • Haha, as long as it’s on purpose. Conversely, I just found a pair of 200+ cm straight skis in my parents’ garage that I might have to steal…

  20. If you’re doing that thing where you’re vacillating hard between a 177 and a 184, please keep in mind that a 184 is roughly 4% longer than a 177. YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY: FOUR PERCENT. A lot of the time you’re skiing in soft snow or bumps or steeps there’s a larger-than-4% difference between what’s happening to your uphill ski than what’s happening to your downhill ski at any given moment. Or, to put it another way, you could sometimes have a 177 on your left foot and a 184 on your right foot without being able to tell the difference. 4%. I went ahead and tried this out at a demo day last year with a friend. We got two sizes of the same ski then traded one at the top of the lift. It’s A LOT more noticeable on a groomer (different radii side-cuts is a real thing on 2D snow), and a lot less noticeable in soft snow (even soft bumps weren’t that big of a deal). So just remember: buy whichever size is on sale and stop stressing about it. The difference may be WAYYYYY smaller than your think. PS: I recognize that sometimes the 195 big mountain gun has a unique construction and is built a lot stiffer than the 188, in which case this does not apply. Obviously

  21. I so love the 2008-9 Gotama that I bought 176, 183, and 190 lengths. (Hey, cheap internet summertime prices, what can I say?) 7cm makes a remarkable difference between otherwise identical skis. I’m 5’11’, 160 lbs, 50 day a year over 45+ year skier here FYI. The Gotamas are still active in my multi ski quiver.

    The 176 is the most fun carver length at 23.5 meter sidecut, but I can easily overpower them in many situations. Their light weight and short length make them the best fast turn anywhere on the bump ski of the three. Float in pow is minimal but certainly better than a 60-80mm under foot ski. On the other hand In a place where I was cranking nice floaty turns on a pair of 193 Shiros one day, the 176 goats sank like rocks and got stuck the next day.

    The 190 has the best float. They require bump technique that relies more heavily on the use of the depressive contours (I think of them as the dips rather than bumps) to counter flex the ski and thus the bumps set the turn rhythm rather than the skier. At 28.5 meter radius sidecut, if they are carved, the resulting speeds get fairly high. I cannot overpower the 190s. They can take any demand I put on them and, in my imagination, they just laugh at me like “Is that all. you can dish out, wimp?”

    The 183, 25.9 meter radius, is the best all around length for my skiing style, but there are a very few circumstances where they just are not enough ski and are overpowered. I still experience my ten years ago initial thrill at how much performance I can extract from them.

    My preferences are that 183 the best all around length, the 190 is a very close second, and and the 176 is a more distant third place. They also made a 168, but no thanks to that length.

    • I have these same Goats in 190 and I am 6′ 2″ and weigh 190 lbs. They have a turned up tail so spray a rooster drowning your mates behind you. I got on to them after a demo at Baldface in BC then bought them here in NZ from a pro free skier. Just used them in Treble Cone in our winter of 2020 and they still rock. I bought the next model as well in 194 and they do not perform as well. Certainly at 194 tight trees a la Revy are not easy to handle at speed and a quiver would be the call if your baggage permits.
      Now all my ski buddies are hunting super light skis with light touring boots and new style pin bindings as all we do is slack country touring.

      • Trivia for you. If your goats are the black skis with pink graphics, the Volkl trademark, the Volkl word, and the Buddha all glow in the dark.
        Skied Treble cone twice. I like it better than Coronet. Someday I’d like to give the Remarks a whirl.

  22. +1 for the effective edge specs – that would be useful. Being 6’9″ I usually filter out any skis shorter than 190cm – would love to see more skis over 200cm (love my 203cm Volkl Shiro’s).

  23. Great stuff! Also consider the backpack if you will carry one. I learned that the pack changes your balance point and can make the tips feel short. The ski in question is borderline short for me at 176 cm, but responds sweetly… until putting on a pack, then I want longer tips.

  24. Helpful article and good comments! What about ski length for telemark skiers? One might argue that the telemark turn creates a longer running surface and as such would dictate shorter skis than the conventional alpine turn. I’m 5’10”, 175 lbs and can say that any rockered or early-rise ski over 180cm seems way too long for me when telemark skiing. Any other telemark skiers out there? Comments?

  25. Hi Greg, this is Andy from the comment above yours. I only tele.
    I find that for packed consolidated consistent snow that I normally telemark in the East Coast USA, shorter is fine, can be great. In those conditions I’ve owned a series of park skis between 181 and 168… a big range, and they were all fine and super fun. Typical mount was boot center 4 – 5 cm back from true center, NTN boots (26.5) and bindings. I’m 5-10 about 155 lbs.

    Traveled to Europe, tele skied steep-ish, inconsistent, and unconsolidated snow… I chose 176cm heavily rockered Liberty Origins. Nice! But, to be honest, it would have been better to have been on a longer version of the same. I wanted more tip, basically. It was still great, just not optimal.

    Your view of tele creating longer running surface holds water for me when considering gentle terrain, soft consistent snow (powder). Love it! But it kinda falls apart thinking about steeper and inconsistent snow. In those challenging conditions, tip length and tip behavior seems to dominate the sense of security and control in tele turn for me, where too short begins to feel unstable and insecure at the start, and choppy in the middle of the turn too. Another way to say it… with a tip that feels too short or insecure, one needs to lean a bit back, which messes up the way I hope to telemark in tricky stuff.

    If 180s feel long, try shorter for sure. We don’t tele at super high speeds, so why not? I loved my 172 that actually measured 168 and were so heavily tip and tail rockered that they looked like clown shoes. Maybe you can find a picture, they were the RMU Wisco model from maybe 6 years ago (mine are now part of a deck chair.)

    Hope this comment is food for thought!

  26. Great article. I’m a snowboarder. But last year I decided to learn to ski so I could still go on wintersport when I’m older. So I wanted to buy skis. If you want to buy a snowboard, the manufacturer mentions a recommendation on length vs weight. And gives the effective edge at different lengths. This makes it a lot easier to choose. But when I was looking at skis. It’s so vague. Lucky I found someone who could really help me out. But I think the manufacturers should help out buyers more than they do now. Unless this is part of their marketing strategy.

  27. Just want to say a huge thanks! Such a helpful and – not to be dramatic – important article; have never seen anyone explain the factors influencing modern ski length this clearly. Cleared up a lot of questions I had about why some similarly sized skis felt so different. And informed me on how to approach the question of ski length with future purchases. Thanks Blister!

  28. Hey great article! I read with great interest, but still cannot find a good tip how to think about my ski sizing problem.
    I am 200cm tall at 90kg, freeriding in the Alps and now I am looking to replace my Whitedot Ranger 195 with more forgiving and damped allmountain freerideski. I have to stay in the range of 190-200cm, but I cannot decide about the width.
    At one hand the really long skis at the market are around 115mm in the middle ( Fischer Ranger 115,196cm ), on the other hand the longest available allmountain ski like K2 MB 108Ti or BC Corvus are up to 193cm.
    What is your opinion about it? Should I compensate the bodyhight to skilength ratio with a wider ski ( Fischer Ranger 115,196cm ) or go ahead with a bit shorter, well damped and narrower ski ( Fischer Ranger 115,196cm )

  29. Great article Luke, and timely to promote it at the end of pre-season, not only does is shed a spot light on ski length, but while it does so, it illuminates pretty much all aspects of ski design and what the intention is with the designs. Skiers can really look at this, mostly knowing what their current skill level is or what their direction is and enables them to discount the sales pitch to make much more informed purchases. This is what set Blister apart from the “marketing” review publications

  30. Another great article from you all. And yes, you complicated things for me… at the same time, you gave me a guide to read through your reviews and be able to hone down what length I would want in different skis. I guess I won’t just skim over the flex and mount point sections anymore!

  31. Short skis suck, long skis truck.
    You have to learn how to ski a long ski, but I dont see it as a limiting factor at all in bumps and trees.

    Good article that goes into a lot of depth and it true Blister form, covers everything. However, in my opinion, too much nit picking on “actual vs measured size” and recco mounting position for the topic of size.
    After you determine a model that suits your skiing style, most skis have 2 sizes that are realistic options. I encourage learning how to ski the long one if you you consider yourself a skilled and aggressive skier.

  32. All the usual Blister kudos apply here: Thoughtful, well researched, well written. Thank you for that. Thumbs up.

    However, the usual Blister caveats ALSO apply here. I think that as an article geared toward people who are new to the topic, or at least confused by it, you would do well to be more explicit about your strong bias towards western skiing on ungroomed snow. New readers won’t “just know” about that bias; you have to tell them about it so that they can read the piece with the right perspective.

    Luke writes:
    “One graph from a certain online retailer suggests that at my height (5”8”) I should consider skis between the lengths of 160 cm and 180 cm. That’s quite unhelpful. While I’m sure I could ski a 160 cm ski and be somewhat ok, I’ve preferred longer skis than that since I was about 15 years old ”
    and
    “… the general rule has been that your ski should reach somewhere between your chin and the top of your head …. But again, the rule assumes that you’re looking at a traditional, non-rockered, fully-cambered ski from about 1995.”

    Actually the rule is perfectly good if you are looking at a traditional non-rockered, fully-cambered ski from about 2021. As is the suggestion that someone who is 5′ 8″ is likely to find a 160 – 180cm ski spot on, lengthwise, if it’s that kind of ski.

    So here’s the thing: A HUGE percentage of North American skiers live and ski in the east. We’re not talking about a handful of troglodytes hiding out since the Korean war or something. I have been skiing here in northern New England for 50 years, and I have been watching available snow conditions and people’s skiing habits the whole time. 90% of the people, 90% of the time, are skiing on firm groomers, or maybe sometimes on firm mogul runs. They are not skiing fluffy powder or heavy crud or slush bumps or windbuff or [name your 3D snow condition of choice] … almost ever. The combination of skier traffic on limited acreage, dense forest growth, snow-unfriendly climate, and brain-dead demand for over-grooming makes those conditions simply unavailable to all but untethered pow seekers without families or regular jobs. (I now fully expect hordes of those exact people to rip off their Peruvian hats peevishly and start squawking loudly here about all the powder to be found in the Jay Peak sidecountry on Tuesday mornings. Thus proving my point.)

    As a result of all this, a “traditional, non-rockered, fully-cambered ski” is more often than not the best choice for an eastern skier with a one-ski quiver, regardless of what Blister or Ski Magazine or TGR or whatever may be talking about at the moment. Yes, you will see plenty of people on Bonafides and Mantras and whatever. Feh. It’s a free country. But when you watch the local high school and college stars who really know how to bend a ski, they are on their race skis every day, unless there has been a big storm or it’s 60 degrees and sunny. There’s a reason for that.

    Being snarkily dismissive about good sizing rules for hard-snow skis is doing your readers a disservice. The easy way to adjust for this is simply to say, up front, “This article is written from the following perspective, blah blah blah.”

    • Thanks for the note, Tony.

      As we stated in the rocker section, carving / dedicated piste skis are the main exceptions when thinking specifically about how a ski’s rocker profile impacts how long it will feel. If someone has been skiing fully cambered skis and is considering a new, fully cambered ski, then the rocker / camber profile won’t be a factor they have to pay much attention to when thinking about length. A lot of our reviewers grew up on the East Coast or Midwest skiing fully cambered skis, and many still frequently return there each year.

      But rocker profile is not the only factor, which is why we also point out many other things like weight, flex pattern, stability, etc., because those things are applicable to both fully cambered skis and skis with any amount of tip / tail rocker. E.g., the very heavy and stiff 178 cm Fischer RC4 The Curv feels drastically longer / different to me than the far lighter and softer 177 cm K2 Disruption 78C.

      As for the established technique of choosing a ski that hits somewhere between your chin and forehead, that’s still a good way to establish a baseline, which is why we included it in that baseline section. But a 160 – 180 cm range is still really, really broad no matter what ski you’re looking at (a number of companies will offer 3 or 4 different ski lengths between the 160 – 180 cm range) which is why outline in this article the number of factors that might make you opt for a ski on the longer or shorter end of this unhelpfully broad range.

      With this article, we have no interest in telling people they need to get on a different ski length or type of ski if they’re already having a good time on the mountain. Instead, we’re trying to provide some clarity and explanation for those who are confused about all the factors that go into ski length.

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