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Confused over skier height vs weight when picking a ski size

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I’ve been a long time unregistered lurker on these boards so it made sense to register and post up now that I have a specific question.  There’s a lot of experience on these boards and I could certainly use some of that knowledge.


I’ve been skiing for about 8 years but have only put more time and effort during the past two years.  When I first started I only skied about 4-5 days a year so progress was slow.  I’ve progressed much more during the past couple of years and would consider myself an advanced Intermediate, but not an advanced skier.  I can ski most blacks some better than others.  I’d consider myself fast and aggressive on the blues and am steadily improving on blacks.  Being that I’m aggressive and love speed on the blues, I think my hesitation on the steeper blacks is more mental than anything else and that’s my project for the next winter. 


Now that I’ve introduced my history and where I’m currently at skill wise, my question has to do with proper ski sizing and the relation between height and weight.  When I first started I bought Atomic Beta Carvers at 150cm.  They were fine for the first few years, but as I got faster they felt unstable and began to chatter.   Last season I bought a pair of Atomic Smoke Ti’s in 157cm.  I didn’t really notice a difference going up 7cm in size.  The Smoke Ti was great at speed, but seemed lifeless at low speed, kind of like a 2x4 on my feet.  I’m wondering whether the metal made the ski too stiff for me.    


My confusion over ski size stems from the fact that some charts emphasize only height and others only weight.  I also read references to heavy skiers and wonder whether that is heavy in general or heavy for your height.  I’m between 5’4” – 5’5” and weigh 170lbs. 

According to every chart I’m heavy for my height. I’m not overweight at all just have a stocky build.  The size recommendations differ greatly between the height and the weight recommendation.  The ski size recommended based solely on weight is generally 10-15cm bigger than the recommendation based solely on height depending on the chart referenced.


I’m thinking about picking up a different set of skis and was looking at the Blizzard Magnum 8.0 CA based on the reviews that state it is stable and stiff at speed but also playful at slower speeds due to the lack of metal.  As I mentioned I’m currently on a 157cm.  The next jump in the blizzards is 158cm and 165cm.  My Atomics come up to my forehead so my thought was that the 165cm’s would be to big based on height, even though they are within range based on my weight.


I’d love to hear any opinions from similarly sized skiers out there. Thanks for the help.

post #2 of 10

Hi Lpass, 

fellow stocky-build guy here.  Ski size depends on a lot -- height, weight, skill, type of ski, etc.  But, I'd suggest you are thinking and skiing everything too short.  I'm 5'7", 175 and I ski my hard-snow carvers (full camber, narrow waist) at about 170.  On the other end, I recently bought a pair of wider, all-mountain skis with some rocker and went 179.  


Generally, I think weight and skill and ski design are more important than height.  What length is about is the ability to bend and/or use the ski.  Too long and it's unmanageable; too short and it's unstable and prone to skidding.  Height as a measurement of the "lever" in skiing is over-rated. 


Full-camber, less-skilled, slower speeds, groomed snow = shorter

Rocker/rise, more skilled, faster, 3D snow = longer.


Like I said, I think you should be thinking one size longer than your height suggests.  For the Blizzard, that'd be 165 for sure.  

post #3 of 10

Of the two weight is more important. In powder, heavier weight means the ski needs more length to float. On firm snow, more weight puts more force on the edges in a turn, so longer length means more stability and edge hold. Height matters because a higher center of gravity applies a little more weight (force) to the tips and tails of the ski, at least if the stance is not centered--so in a sense it's still weight we're concerned with.

Rather than look at absolute length, look at where in the available lengths for a given model a given length is.  This will correct for construction, intended use, etc. Frontside carvers will come in a shorter range of lengths than powder skis, but if you're happy on the second longest carver you'll likely be happy on the second longest powder ski. Although not necessarily--you might ski very fast on the groomed and want a longer carver, but ski the trees when there's fresh and want a shorter more maneuverable powder ski. 

Always nice to demo--but not easy to find all the models in all the lengths you want to try, on the hill so you can try different skis on one day. Demo days for the public seem to be getting scarcer all the time. 

post #4 of 10
Hi Lpass,
I think the recommendations are "guidelines". It comes down to what works for you. I'm similar in height, 15# lighter, similar skill level, and am skiing 163-170cm. Have been trying out different skis to see what works for me. My favorite so far is a 170 cap construction soft flex (2009 atomic blackeyes (non ti)). Also have 163 blizzard 7.6 and feel like I'm going over the handle bars a lot, but they're very easy to turn. Also, as my current project, am trying to get used to 168 86mm mid-stiff flex. I can see that the 86mm will be the (near) future, if not right now; love them on hard/icy corduroy.

Good luck exploring! (I like this tyope of "soul searching" ;-)
post #5 of 10
OP, reading your sentenace "Being that I’m aggressive and love speed on the blues, I think my hesitation on the steeper blacks is more mental than anything else and that’s my project for the next winter."

Has more to do with you not owning a short radius turn. I was stuck where are a long time ago. I took a few lessons with a focus on short radius turns.

Once I owned that skill, it opened up the whole mountain for me. I can ski anything now. When I dropped into the the Blowhole at Blackcomb and made the first turn, a light went off in my head, Hey this is just short radius turns. The 58* pitch was piece of cake.

As for you lenght of ski you should demo 163's and 170's. For a wider, rockered ski got up to 177cm or 183 if you into deep snow a lot.

I'm 5'11" 195lbs and ski the volkl kendo in 177, and shiro 119mm waist in 183.

With the new rockered and early rise tips you can go a size longer. I was on a 170cm ski from 2003-2011.

Demo, demo, demo
post #6 of 10
I would go with at least the 165s if not longer. Height and weight are just general guidelines, it will vary a lot from person to person. Demo some skis if possible. Short skis will be more maneuverable in trees and bumps. Long skis will be more stable at speed. Also keep in mind that rockered skis feel shorter, so if the charts you are using are a few years old (rocker is a pretty new concept), you should get something a bit longer than what they recommend, if you're getting a ski with rocker (most skis produced now have some rocker, the exception being race skis and 100% on piste carving skis).
post #7 of 10
I would worry more about flex and sidecut than length. Anything in the 170-175 range should be OK.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

A big thank you to everyone that took the time to reply.  Your comments were great and I have a greater understanding of how weight and height affects ski size and skiing in general.   I seriously appreciate that you shared your knowledge. I certainly value all of the experience on this board or I wouldn't have asked. 


I'm definitely going to go longer on my next purchase whatever I do decide to go with. 


And Max Capacity you hit the nail right on the head. I do NOT own a short radius turn. That will be my priority next winter and will take as many lessons as it takes.  I felt like this was holding me back and I guess I was right.  Some days I feel like I'm close to where I want to be at this stage. I'm fairly confident that if I can own a short radius skill it will be the breakthrough I'm looking for.


Totally appreciate everyone's help.


Cheers, Louis  :)

post #9 of 10

The ski only knows the loads you put on it.  Weight is by far the most important factor.  Height is a secondary factor, because you have a shorter lever arm for doing fancy things like over-pressuring the tips to get them to bend more than the rest of the ski in certain situations, but it is minor as far as determining what length to get.  The speed you ski is another secondary factor, faster = higher loads = longer ski.  Sounds like your being short and you skiing faster cancel each other out.  At your 170 lbs, it seems to me you should be on 165 for a SL ski, 170 - 175 for all-mountain and maybe a little higher for higher speed gs skiing on hard surfaces.  Or to put another way, you are about middle in terms of adult skier weights, but ski fast, so choose a ski that is in the middle or slightly above middle of the range of sizes that ski comes in.


I don't know how fast you are pushing your skis, but maybe, just maybe (I don't know) the skis you have weren't made to go that fast, and that's why you don't feel good skiing them that fast.  If it doesn't feel good don't do it!  

post #10 of 10

Okay, full disclosure, I basically know nothing about skiing having skied for five days in total this year with my little kids on greens.


Having said that I am 5'2 160 pounds.  Rentals at each of three locations were 140cm.   5'2 is 158 cm.  If skis came up to my chin they would be in the 145ish range.  Anyway after some research and advice on this forum I ended up buying skis that are 158 cm long.  I found I was comfortable on these so far and that I could turn them etc.    Obviously I am not as advanced a skier as you are, but it does suggest to me that if you are heavier it may be a mistake to be afraid to choose a ski that is in relation to your weight.



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