How To Choose the Best Skis

Skis in snow at Mountains

There are hundreds of skis on the market all made to suit a specific type of skier. You can choose a ski without much consideration but you might not end up with something that would really fit you. Depending on your length, the conditions you like to ski in and your ski style, you need to get the right ski. This guide will guide you through getting the right length, width, ski profile, shape, and stiffness. So, let’s get started:

Choosing the right ski length

The right length of the ski is crucial since it will affect how comfortable you’ll feel on the slope and ultimately how well you’ll ski. The general rule is to pick a length somewhere between your chin and your forehead. If you should get a bit shorter or a bit longer ski depends on many factors such as your ability, your skiing style and the terrain and snow you usually ski in. To make it easier I’ll tell you when to get shorter and when to get a longer length:

Get a shorter length when:

  • You are a beginner skier
    • Aim to get it at chin level or below for maximum control
  • You are a intermediate skier
    • Aim to get it at mouth level, for a bit more stability and more veristality
  • You want to make, quick, short turns

Shorter skis are easier to control and makes it easier to pivot in between turns. However, shorter skis lack stability at higher speed. So if you are skilled enough skier consider to size up to get a better effective edge.

Get a longer ski when:

  • You are an advanced or expert skier
    • Aim for forehead height or above
  • If you ski a lot off-piste and in deep snow

Consider getting a bit longer skis than you usually would if you are an aggressive skier or you have a weigh more than average for your height. Longer skis are harder to control so don’t get longer skis than you can handle. Too long skis demand more power to turn and can lead to a higher risk of injury. It’s also not as fun as a ski that’s easier to control and master.

In the end, it comes down to get a long enough ski to fit your length, your ability and then adjust the length slightly based on your weight and skiing style.

Choosing the right ski width

Tips of skis on groomed snow

The skis width is measured at the narrowest point of the ski, most likely in the middle of the ski under the foot. It’s important to get the right width of the ski because how wide it is will determine in what conditions and for what skier the ski will be ideal for. I’ll go through the most common width ranges and what skier that width is best suited for. However, if you just want a quick answer, skinnier skis are for carving and wider skis are for people that want to go off-piste and ski in powder.

<82mm: These narrow skis are meant for groomed runs. They are skinny to give you better edge hold, especially in firm conditions. If you are mostly skiing in nice groomed conditions and want the best downhill performance this is the width to go for.

82-95mm: This width range is the sweet spot for most skiers. It’s a very versatile width range. You can ski in many different conditions all over the ski resort. However, if you want to ski a lot of off-piste, a bit wider skis are recommended.

95mm-115mm: If you lean a bit more toward skiing on softer snow and not as hard packed snow as the skinnier skis are designed for, consider this width range. A ski with a width of 95mm-115mm is still a very versatile ski that excels in many conditions, but the wider width makes it lean more towards softer conditions.

>115mm: Skis that have a width of over 115mm are usually dedicated for powder skiing. They are wide to get more surface area to get you on the top of the deep snow and keep you there. SKis this wide are hard to turn on packed conditions, so they are not really for everyday use.

Choosing the right ski profile

When choosing a ski it usually comes in either a so-called rocker profile, a camber profile or a combination of the two. Let’s have a look at some common ski profile configurations and the advantages and disadvantages they have:

Chossing The Right Ski Shape

The big thing to look for when it comes to ski shape is the skis sidecut. The sidecut of a ski is the difference of the width from the widest and narrowest spot on the ski. The sidecut will determine how easy it is to turn and how large turn the ski is made to do. Depending on the sidecut, the ski will get a longer or shorter turn radius. The narrower sidecut, the narrower turn radius.

So, how does he turn radius affect your turns? Have a look at this table:

Turns Usually found in Turn Style
<11 m Kids Skis
11m-15m Slalom and carvin skis Short quick turns
16m-22m Most resort skis (the sweet spot for most skiers) Medium range of turn radio give you versitility in the turns
22-29m All-montain soft snow skis and powder skis Slow large turn for stability at high speed
>30m Powder skis Super big turns at high speed

The turn radius of a ski is often desplayed at the listing info or on the ski (often near the tail of the skis).

Choosing the right Ski Stiffness

The stiffness of the ski is often refered as a skis flex. How stiff you want your ski depends on:

  • Your ability level
  • Your ski style (agressive / defensive)
  • Your weight

You want to go for a softer ski if you:

  • Are a beginner to intermediate skier
  • Want to relax on the mountain and don’t want to make much effort to turn
  • You weigh less than the average for your height

Softer skis will require little effort to turn and make them move. This means they are ideal for beginners that want something easy to learn skiing with. However, before you buy a soft ski, consider how good of a skier you might be in the future. If you are an active skier or ski a lot in a season, you will quickly go from a beginner to an intermediate skier. Then the really soft skis might not be enough when you want to push the ski a little bit further or when you need more stability for the steeper pistes.

Go for a stiffer ski:

  • You are an experienced skier that want to go faster and want better grip
  • You are an aggressive skier that want to push your skis
  • You weigh more than the average for your height

Stiffer skis are excellent if you want added stability and better edge grip. They will require more effort to bend and provide better power and stability at high speeds. However, don’t get a too stiff ski for your ability level. A too stiff ski will make it hard to control the ski: Instead of better control, you’ll just tire yourself out and slide the ski around instead of correctly turning if you get a too stiff ski.

Twin Tips

Twin tip skis are curved at both the tip and the tail.

Ski rider grinds on rail with twintips in sunny winter day

For a freeride skier it makes it a lot easier to ski switch and it’s easier with twin tips to smudge turn on softer snow. If you are skiing on hard packed snow or in icy condition, the back end will slide out a little bit more. So if you want to race down the mountain at high speed, a twin tip ski does not give the same locked in feeling as with a regular ski. Nevertheless, for freeride skiing such as jibbing in the park and going switch up on jumps, it’s a must-have.

Womens specific skis

Photo of young smiling female athlete looking away in helmet with skis in hand against blue sky and snowy hill during dayNot so long ago, women’s skis were just shorter men’s skis with a different paint job. These days women’s specific skis have some real benefits.

Women’s skis are often more forgiving and take less energy to turn. This is because women’s skis are generally around 20% lighter and have 20% softer flex. Some women’s models have a little more ramp angle, and many women’s models have the bindings moved a bit more forward. This is to suit women’s lower center of gravity better.

Women can still ski on shorter regular unisex skis, but a women model can be worth it as it will often provide a less tiresome skiing experience.

Ski Guides