Originally Posted by Colossus178
As I understand it, there are only two advantages to a longer ski: better control at high speeds (less chatter and better edge hold), and better float in powder. Does that about sum it up?
Originally Posted by dtraub1
I think you are right, Colossus178, to a point. However, skis too long will be too hard to turn even at higher speeds. Also, it will be hard to carve skis that are too long so your turns will be skidded which can lead to less control. Longer skis will float higher in soft snow but shorter wider skis will float as high and be easier to turn.
My understanding of this whole thing is that skis used to need to be longer and have wood cores to provide stability at speed. If you think about it, the longer the edge the more edge there is to grip the snow and carve the turn. This doctrine has been modified in the last few years due to the use of new materials which make it possible to make a short ski more rigid, especially more torsionally rigid for mid fat or fat skis. There is an interesting thread somewhere on this site on the Metron b:5, which indicated that an Atomic spokesperson said they would have not had the materials and methods to laminate this ski just several years ago. The b:5 is one of the hottest new skis going, but is very short and stiff with a wicked side cut, you can only get it in shorter lengths like a 165 and 175. So newer skis that incorporate things like titanium, magnesium, stainless steel topsheets, etc. can be much shorter and still carve well on hard pack and ice.
That said, the average intermediate to advanced intermediate does doesn't go fast enough, or have strong enough legs, to push stiff racing skis so that they engage the ski along its entire running surface for hours on end. This is why intermediate skis, generally speaking, are not as stiff as expert skis, even in the old longer lengths. I understand most male world cup racers are on 188-193 cms for GS and Atomic this year is not offering anything longer than 186 in its regular (non-race stock) GS skis in the US, so you certainly would not want to be on anything longer or stiffer than that. Slalom skis are getting even shorter with 165-175 being more common.
Long and soft also used to be the rule for powder skis in the 1970's and 80's because people used fairly different technique to ski powder back then (ie pop tips up to float the skis in the powder so you could make a turn). This older technique often resulted in the proverbial "face" plant of lore. And the longer skis were needed to "float" the turn. New school technique uses a shorter fatter board with a more balanced stance to sort of skid the turns through the powder, closer to the way you turn a water ski. For us old school skiers it seems crazy but it works. You can also go a lot faster with less effort. If you want to see the most dramatic development in this area do a search for the Volant Spatula.
A really dramatic example of this new type of ski is the Volant Machete FB, which has lots of acolytes on this site. This ski is very fat, very stiff, and very torsionally rigid, thanks in part to a stainless steel topsheet. I'm about the same size as you, 6'3" 220lbs, and on the advice of my dealer I went with a 175 which seems fairly short for an old school skier like me. But these are great skis, and I don't need any extra length whether for powder or hard pack. On the other hand I also have a pair of Dynastar Little Big Fats in a 168, which are torsionally rigid thanks to a titanal top layer, but are just not long enough at my weight to carve well at anything over 25 mph. But they are a blast in the trees and work well in soft snow and bumps.
For a lot of us old school skiers, it is hard to get used to the idea of a shorter ski working as well as the old long boards we are used to. As a result, I think a lot of us probably over-buy on length and this has led to a sort of macho mystique about being unable to ski well on anything shorter. But many of us would be just as happy on something shorter, and would probably not have to work as hard to carve turns at lower speeds if we had gone shorter.
I would echo dtraub's comment that you should probably not get too hung up on whether your skis are too short right now, but buy something that feels right and is easy to turn at the speed you usually ski at now. Unless you are planning to go 35-40 mph on the groomers you probably do not need to have a longer or stiffer ski to ski well. And you will look better and have more fun at the shorter length. If you improve rapidly you can always go out and get more advanced or longer skis later by shopping closeouts and end of year sales like all the rest of us gearheads on this site. So go with the shorter skis and enjoy yourself.