Originally Posted by EmperorMA
But will the 181 be OK, as well? I really don't want to go that long if I can help it. The temptation to go fast will be too great!
Although your weight and leg strength says 191 would be fine, and the Access skis somewhat short, I think that 181 would be OK also, especially considering where you are with your skiing and the primary purpose (chasing kids around Snoqualmie and Ski Acres). You'll be giving up some stability and some float, but you say above that you are not looking for a ski to push (so I am not sure stability is that important - or more important than easy, mobility). You just have to accept that trade. And if you luck out in Targee, just rent something super fat and go for it. But I keep going back to your self description and intended purpose and I just don't think that length is all that critical.
fwiw, I have a pretty clear picture of where you ski and what you are going to be doing (I've got my own kids in red parkas to chase around up there - I know the environment well), and I think sizing up to the 191 isn't the answer for an intermediate coming back to the sport, on the mend physically. If you said that you were hitting Chair 2 at Alpental bell to bell, or skiing Crystal on Chair 6 or Northway all day, at your weight and strength I'd say 191 for sure. But you didn't say that. Cruising around Snowqualmie/Ski Acres at moderate speed? Only 6 foot tall. Not necessary to size up over 181.
For a data point, I am 5'11", 185# ("6 feet in the program"). I don't leg press anything close to 500#, but based on your self-description, I probably ski a lot harder and faster than you do. I typically like pretty damp, metal laminate skis, but I really loved the Access and I appreciated its strengths and I've recommended it to a number of friends who have solicited my opinion. I think that it is a great ski (for our mountains and conditions, especially) and a killer deal (and at 50% off this weekend, a crazy no-risk deal). It has great balance and it is more solid than you might expect. That doesn't mean it is stiff or damp, it isn't. But like the Soul Rider, it is surprisingly solid underfoot (maybe due to the "step down side wall" construction) for such a forgiving, playful ski. The only issue is that it has a top end speed limit and a bit of tip flap at high speed - which isn't going to be an issue in this case.
For me (to the extent that is helpful), 181 is the right size in this ski. I skied it last year in 181 at Crystal (a buddy was demo'ing it and and I swaped with him for a few runs) and I thought that it was a great ski for its purpose. I could ski the 191, but why? The Access is the wrong ski to upsize for more stability - that totally misses the point of the ski - and if the point is pure powder performance and float, there are better options as well. Moreover, a season before, I rode the Access one day in the size too small (171) in about 12+ inches of heavy new snow at Alpental. And guess what? It was still awesome. I knew that more length would have been even better, but even on the 171, I was floating down 'nash delighted. I might have been 5# less fat that year. I rode some other undersized (for me) skis that day and they didn't hold up like the Access - so I think that says something positive if you are between sizes (explanation: the true demo subject that day was a buddy who is way smaller and I was just riding one of the other pairs throughout the day for purpose of swapping out and doing compros without having to go all the way down to the car). And quick reality check: given your height being only 6' you really aren't sizing down at 181. In your case, is just the weight/muscle thing combined with a lighter more forgivng ski - but if you aren't really using those muscles to drive the skis, then . . .
If you really think that you are too big a dude for the 181 Access, for where you ski and where you are in your ski career, rather than length up, I'd recommend buffing up the ski, picking up some metal and going with something like the Alibi in the 181 range, or maybe the Cham97 in 184 (I thought that was a pretty good suggestion, btw).
One final thought. . . and this is coming from a guy who personally favors pretty damp skis (i.e., Bonafide, Influence 105, Cochise, etc. . . ). . . I think that the notion (often assumed as a "truth" in places like this board), that average joe skiers, even over "2 bills" are going to "overpower" a well-made ski without metal, is really pretty bogus. Maybe at the upper margin of weight and power, but generally, not so much. Technique and power (and that is ski power, not gym power) are way more important elements in bending a ski than just being heavy or buff. I totally appreciate why some guys like a metal laminate ski - I do - but it is a flavor choice that goes as much to snow feel and ski "personality" as to stability or edge hold through the turn. Either a damp ski or a snappy ski can get it done. Neither dampness nor metal construction is a necessity borne of mass or "expertness." Terrain choice matters as well in determining the best tool for the job. I personally have had tons of fun on skis like the Access, Soul Rider, Bacons and I've seen extremely strong skiers do the same. Those skis all hold up fine to hard skiing. It may not be the feel or the ride that I am looking for in the daily driver slot for my skiing, but the none of those skis "washed out" under my mass or perceived power. Not if you ski them right, in the appropriate venue and performance band.
It all comes down to choices and tradeoffs, but I am pretty sure that any of the skis you are looking at, in a 180something length, would hold up fine under you, chasing the kids down Golden Nugget.
Good luck, happy shopping this weekend and have fun. Worst case, you are into a ski that you bought for 50% off MSRP - if it doesn't work or hold up, just flip the ski, keep the binding and accept the delta as a seasonal rental payment.