Ski length is important if you’re skiing for the first few times or considering purchasing skis. As a result, many people wonder what the difference is between short vs long skis when choosing ski length. Well, the short answer is: there are many!
When considering ski length, it’s essential to factor in a person’s ability level, as well as the intended skiing conditions and terrain. Here are some considerations for different experience levels:
- Beginner skiers: A ski length closer to chin height is a good rule of thumb, as it provides better control and maneuverability for novice skiers still building their skills and confidence.
- Intermediate skiers: Skis with a length between the chin and top of the head would be suitable, as they offer a balance between control and speed for those with some skiing experience.
- Advanced and expert skiers: Longer skis, reaching closer to the top of the head or slightly beyond, are better suited for experienced skiers seeking more speed and stability.
Although there is no definitive ski length hard rule, taking experience level into account when deciding on ski size can better tailor the skier’s selection to their unique needs. Keep in mind that personal preferences and individual body types also play a role in the ski length choice. It’s crucial to find the right balance of ski length based on an individual’s skill and goals, ensuring an enjoyable and safe skiing experience.
This article will cover some of the most frequently asked questions about the differences between short vs. long skis, and will help you understand how a ski’s length affects your skiing style and performance. We’ve also given some of our top picks for short and long skis for the 2024 season.
15 Ski Length FAQs Answered
- What is the Best Ski Length for My Height?
- What is the Best Ski Length for My Weight?
- What Are the Advantages of Shorter Skis?
- What Are the Downsides of Shorter Skis?
- What Are The Advantages of Longer Skis?
- What Are the Downsides of Longer Skis?
- What Size Skis Are Good for Beginning Skiers?
- What is the Best Ski Length for the Park?
- What is the Best Length For an All-Mountain Ski?
- What is the Best Length For Skiing Trees?
- What is the Best Length For Powder Skis?
- How Does Ski Length Affect Maneuverability?
- How Does Ski Length Affect Speed?
- What Length of Ski is Best for Carving?
- What Happens if Your Skis Are Too Short?
- Top Picks for Short and Long Skis
What is the Best Ski Length for My Height?
Selecting the right ski length depends on your height, weight, and skiing ability. Generally, skis should stand between your chin and forehead when held vertically. The table below provides a basic guideline for choosing ski length based on height. Remember, these are starting points, and you may need to adjust based on your skills, style, and preferences.
|5’0″ – 5’2″
|5’3″ – 5’6″
|5’7″ – 5’10”
|5’11” – 6’2″
|6’3″ – 6’6″
What is the Best Ski Length for My Weight?
It’s important to note that providing recommended ski lengths based solely on weight classes can be somewhat imprecise because the ideal ski length depends on a combination of factors, including skier height, skill level, and preferred terrain, in addition to weight.
However, I can provide a very general guideline based on weight classes. Please treat this as a starting point and consult with a ski professional to make the best choice for your specific circumstances.
|Under 120 lbs
|180 lbs and above
|165-175 cm and up
Our friends at EVO.com have a comprehensive video about how best to choose the right ski size based on some of the criteria in this article:
EVO.com also has a ski size calculator that can help you narrow your options based on your height and your weight:
What Are the Advantages of Shorter Skis?
Shorter skis are great for ease of control. They are lightweight, more maneuverable, and feel more playful. Shorter skis are easier to turn than longer skis. Because of their reduced length, shorter skis have less contact with the snow, so there is less friction when pushing through a turn.
Shorter skis also tend to have a smaller turn radius than longer skis, as they are designed to be quick and playful.
Because they are often light and playful with a tight turn radius, short skis are easier to take through the trees, the moguls, or more technical terrain. In tight situations or glades, shorter skis tend to outperform longer skis.
Short skis are generally more fun than longer skis if you plan to work on tricks or cruise around looking for fun little jumps and pops. Shorter skis are good for smaller hills.
An often overlooked advantage of shorter skis is in trying to teach others how to ski. The shorter lengths will make them easier to control at slow speeds, making them a good choice for teaching children or friends to ski.
What Are the Downsides of Shorter Skis?
The downsides of shorter skis are that they have less stability when you’re skiing at high speeds and they have less float in powder.
In deep snow, shorter skis have less float. Instead of floating over deep snow, shorter skis will sink in powder and get stuck. However, if you mainly ski inside the resort on runs that have been groomed or tracked out, it won’t be as important to have skis that float in powder.
Shorter skis have less stability when you’re traveling at high speed. At higher speeds, shorter skis will start to feel less stable and can feel wobbly. They can also feel less stable in variable snow. If you’re looking to ski aggressively and fast, a longer ski is a better choice because they are easier to control at high speeds. Note that while Nordic (cross-country) skiing uses longer skis, we’re focused mainly on alpine skiing here.
What Are The Advantages of Longer Skis?
Longer skis give you more control and stability. Turning on a carve with your edges digging into the snow will make them more stable at higher speeds and for racing. That added ski length will also give the skier a better grip through variable conditions and a larger turning radius.
If you are charging through chopped-up powder that has been semi-skied out, longer skis will help you ride out the variability in the snow much more easily than shorter skis. This can make longer skis good for frequently skied resort runs on the mountain and variable snow in backcountry skiing conditions, where snow can sometimes change from hard snow to ice to powder all in one run.
Longer skis also provide more float in powder than shorter skis because their length provides more surface area. The longer the ski, the greater the surface area and the greater the float. Something longer will float better in deeper snow.
A more experienced skier with greater height and weight would also want to choose something longer. Longer skis provide greater stability for big and tall skiers.
Because of their larger turning radius, longer skis also help people with increased confidence if they want to charge. The larger radius makes people feel more stable at higher and slower speeds.
The turning radius for both ski types will depend on its sidecut, but longer skis tend to be designed more for higher speeds and a larger turn radius.
What Are the Downsides of Longer Skis?
The downsides of longer skis can be that they are heavier and have a longer turning radius. A longer ski might not always be the best choice, depending on what you like to ski.
If you like to ski terrain requiring quick turns and maneuverability, like treed runs and moguls, longer skis might not be the best choice because of their longer turning radius. They are slower to turn and can be less fun in terrain requiring many short, quick turns.
For steeper terrain, a longer ski is more difficult to turn and can be intimidating on navigating steep terrain where jump turns can be necessary. Depending on your ability level, a slightly shorter ski, might be best for steep skiing and be the better choice.
Depending on your height and weight, longer skis can be heavier and more difficult to turn. This is something to remember when choosing what skis work for you. If you’re looking for skis for a child or an adult that is shorter and lightweight, this can be an important factor in determining if longer or lighter skis are the right choice.
These types of skis also might not be the best for someone learning to ski. For more information on what type of skis are best for beginners, read our section below on our recommendations.
What Size Skis Are Good for Beginning Skiers?
Choosing a ski based on your ability level is super important. Generally, a shorter ski will be easier to maneuver and turn than a longer ski. A shorter ski will be lighter and easier to control for new skiers.
When learning to ski, the focus is on learning to get used to the feel of skis, stay in control downhill, and learn to make turns down the mountain. Because of this, a ski shorter in size can be the better choice.
A shorter ski also tends to be more narrow in length. This means you can have more control over the edge of your skis. Edge control can help beginner skiers learn to carve on groomers and gain more control over their skis as they turn down the mountain.
For beginners, a shorter ski length can be the right choice because shorter skis have a smaller turning radius than long skis. This means they are easier to turn and faster than longer skis. Short skis can help build confidence before progressing to longer skis.
What is the Best Ski Length for the Park?
A light and easy-to-control ski can be a good option for park skiing. Medium and shorter-length skis tend to be a good choice for park skiing. This is because shorter skis are lighter and spin easier.
If you like to ski big jumps, a longer ski is a good choice because they are more stable at landing jumps. Cambered skis are good for high impact and high speeds.
For jibbing, a normal-length twin-tip ski can be lighter and easier to jib. Skis with a rockered tip and tail (meaning they have a reverse camber) can also be good for park skiing and skiing in powder.
Finding the best ski for the park depends on your ability level and what type of terrain park or features you want to ski.
What is the Best Length For an All-Mountain Ski?
An all-mountain ski will be longer and wider than a park ski. Choosing something that is 110mm or larger underfoot can help you float better through powder snow while still maintaining some maneuverability in tight spots.
If you want to get a ski with a rockered tip and tail (meaning they have a reverse camber), you might want to consider something with at least a 95mm waist. This will help keep more speed when riding through different snow conditions while maintaining maneuverability in tight spots.
Choosing skis with a stiffer flex can help you maintain stability and control on groomers. This is good if you plan to ski the whole mountain on stiff skis or are trying to gain more confidence.
If your main goal is to ski powder, consider getting something with a softer flex that’s longer and wider. This will help keep your speed while giving you more float when coming out of turns.
Choosing a directional or twin-tip ski will help you get more out of the side cut and offer more turn control. This is good if you plan to ski groomers but also need something to maneuver in tight spots when necessary.
If you’re looking for a ski with a softer flex so it’s easier to turn, look for something with at least a 115mm waist. This will help you get more out of the sidecut while maintaining stability and control when freestyle skiing on groomers.
What is the Best Length For Skiing Trees?
If you’re looking to ski trees, a shorter length with a wider width will help you navigate the tight turns and branches. Choosing something at least 90mm underfoot with a directional or twin-tip shape is best. This will give you more control when navigating the trees.
A longer ski with a smaller tip and tail rocker, can also be great for tree skiing because it helps maneuver through tight spots. It’s best to go with a narrow waist to better fit between the trunks of the small evergreens in your path.
What is the Best Length For Powder Skis?
If you want to enjoy powder and steep terrain, a longer ski will help you stay afloat in variable snow. It will also help keep more of your speed so that you can move through different conditions with less effort.
Choosing a long ski with a rockered tip and tail (meaning they have a reverse camber) is another great option for skiing in powder because it helps the tip stay up when coming out of turns and offers more control on tricky or bumpy snow. Consider choosing something wider and longer if you want to ski big features like pillows or pillow lines. This can help keep your speed while making turns and give you more float when coming out of turns.
How Does Ski Length Affect Maneuverability?
Short skis are generally easier to maneuver and turn, as they have a smaller turning radius and are lighter compared to long skis. This makes short skis more responsive and adaptable to various snow conditions.
Long skis provide better stability and are more suitable for carving long, smooth turns on groomed slopes. They may require more effort to turn, but they offer increased stability at higher speeds.
How Does Ski Length Affect Speed?
Longer skis generally provide more stability and higher maximum speeds compared to shorter skis. The increased surface area and stability can help maintain a smoother glide, particularly at high speeds or on steeper slopes. Shorter skis, while more maneuverable, can be less stable at higher speeds.
What Length of Ski is Best for Carving?
Carving skis should be slightly longer than skis designed for all-mountain or park use. The ideal length varies depending on your height, weight, and skiing preferences. Longer skis promote a smoother, more stable carving experience and better edge grip in turns. Aim for a ski length that is slightly above your chin for more effective carving.
What Happens if Your Skis Are Too Short?
If your skis are too short, you risk losing speed and control.
If you’re skiing in powder or soft, sticky snow in the spring, you risk sinking and getting stuck with something shorter. Choosing something longer can help you float better and move through softer snow without losing all of your speed.
If you’re skiing in variable snow conditions, you can lose control and stability with skis that are too short. Choosing something longer will help cut through different conditions.
However, if you’re looking to try out super-short skis, you might be interested in checking out ski blades, also known as snow blades. Ski blades can be great for beginner and more experienced skiers looking to perfect tricks or try something new. While these can be good for a new skier, remember that you will use a lot of leg and core strength on ski blades!
Top Picks for Short and Long Skis
Using EVO.com’s ski size calculator for height skiing type, here are some of the top picks for shorter and longer all-mountain skis (beginner-intermediate):
- Men’s Shorter All-Mountain Skis (Beginner-Intermediate)
- Women’s Shorter All-Mountain Skis (Beginner-Intermediate)
- Men’s Longer All-Mountain Skis (Beginner-Intermediate)
- Women’s Longer All-Mountain Skis (Beginner-Intermediate)
Aside from these basic criteria, be sure to consider the kind of skiing you enjoy most. If you’re keen on doing tricks and jumping, the lighter and more maneuverable short skis are the way to go. On the other hand, longer and more stable skis are better suited for skiing at high speeds and on challenging terrain.
Scott founded FunOutdoors to connect his professional life with his passions. When Scott isn’t working, you’ll find him on the bike trail, riding a wave, or skiing down a mountain.