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Ski length: Do experts go longer?

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
I'm curious to know if good skiers prefer longer skis. After reading many of the posts about ski length, I see that the consensus is "ski on what you're comfortable with." However, I have also heard that, as a skier improves, he will probably want to go to a longer ski. I'm wondering if the expert skiers in here tend to prefer a longer ski.

I ask this question as a rookie who wants to buy new skis but is baffled by the multitude of differing "expert" opinions. A salesman in one store will tell me that, with today's technology, I would never want to go longer than 165; then a salesman in the shop next door will tell me that I never want to go shorter than 180.

I've recently compared the Dynastar 8000 in 176 and 184. I found the 176 to be easier to ski on. If I buy the 176 now, though, will I regret it in a year, and find myself wishing for a longer ski? As my abilities improve, will the 184 likely become the length of choice? Is there a consensus among expert skiers that longer is better?

(A little background info: I'm 6'2", 230 lbs., and I try to ski agressively (which usually means "faster than I should, in terrain that is a bit over my head").)
post #2 of 31
You will continue to get mixed votes on this subject. Off the groomed (off piste in ski vernacular) I like longer skis because they are more stable and don't get knocked around as much. I don't ski bumps much any more and I like to ski really fast, so I don't see the advantage of short for me.

That said, a lot of newer skis are made to be skied in shorter lengths, so they are stiff. I read of many guys your size who are experienced skiers and ski on 168's. Hopefully some guys here who ski on the Dynastar can give you some insight into them and whether they ski "long" or "short". LewBob
post #3 of 31
You won´t get a reasonable answer if you just say "skis".

It´s not just skis: it´s different types of skis for different purposes and different conditions.

You don´t use your slalom skis longer than 165-166 cm even if you are a worldcupper.

There is some truth to the "better skier = longer skis" principle but a very limited and rather complicated one: it depends...
post #4 of 31
Thread Starter 
"It depends" is a lot like "use what works for you": technically, it's correct, but it's not very helpful.
post #5 of 31
Many 'experts' tend to ski faster and as such would likely prefer a longer ski for the stability. However as you describe your level and tendancy to ski terrain abit over your ability at speeds a bit over your ability going longer might just exacerbate that tendancy and actually help hold back skill progression which I'm sure is not he idea.

For your two choices in the 8000 the shorter which you find easier will be your better choice. In a year or 2 or 3 you may want more length for SOME of the skiing you do but the 176 will likely remain a preference for much of the skiing you do.

Todays skis offer a great deal in a small package. You are not a small fellow though. To say you should never go over a 165 is ridiculous but as checkr says still applicable for some skis.

If you went to an Atomic metron in a 171 or 172 you would find it to offer all you need and very versatile. A 178 in an M10 would likely be a battle even though a guy your size might eventually be able to 'handle' it. As you advance the 171/172 would still give you all you needed for most everything.

You get the boots sorted?
post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 
L7

Thanks for the comments. Yes, I got the boot problem under control. After a day of skiing in pain, I was ready to fire the boots into the dumpster and by a brand new pair. A visit to Max at Ultimate Bootfitters in Banff set me straight, though: he fixed them up, and I had a ripper of a day at Sunshine, with no foot pain at all.
post #7 of 31
Wouldn't the more relevant question be do women like men who have longer skis? And is there any corelation... never mind.
post #8 of 31
Oh, and don't forget to wax...
post #9 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colossus178
L7

A visit to Max at Ultimate Bootfitters in Banff set me straight, though:
I'm very sorry to hear that. Day one with no pain is much different (and easier) than day 15 through day 150 with no pain. I was very specific about who you should see. I try to not be specific of who not to see. If I were that would have been a name you would have heard quickly and loudly.

I sincerely hope it works out for you and long term not just for now.
post #10 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colossus178
A salesman in one store will tell me that, with today's technology, I would never want to go longer than 165; then a salesman in the shop next door will tell me that I never want to go shorter than 180.
You sometimes hear absolute BS from some salesmen, especially if they think you don't know any better. The latest I overheard was a salesman telling a customer that the skis flex and torsiional rigidity, in fact the entire ski construction, had no effect on its ability to get through corners at speed.

As to what length is best for what level of skier it is complicated, but a few points can be made.

In the past it was necessary to get a long ski +200cm in order to be stable on hard snow and ice at very high speeds, but modern top end skis have such good vibration absorbing characteristics that at any speeds outside of a DH or SG course, a 170 cm ski such as an SX11 should be fine. You don't need to go longer to get more stability at speed. What you need extra length for is transmitting more force to the snow that can only only push back so hard per cm length of edge. Also if you have a stiffer ski it can be shorter as it does a better job of distributing your force to the entire ski, and not relying totally on the central underfoot portion. If you have a softer ski you should go longer. If your ski is wider it can be shorter too.

Shorter skis are easier to skid and pivot. Longer skis are also harder to muscle around if you get caught out of position; longer skis are less forgiving. If you want to skid and pivot, then why penalize youself by getting a longer ski. Sking with a ski that's too long for your skills can be miserable. If a ski is too short you will still have balls of fun, you will just be overpowering it in high g turns and not be able to ski comfortably at super fast speeds.

Shorter skis generally have a shorter turn radius, If you are planning on making a lot of short turns in tight places get a shorter ski. If you are planning on making longer turns on high speed runs get a longer ski. SL and GS side cut also makes a difference in turn radius you want to make.

If I weighed 230 lbs, I think I would be looking more at the 180 cm end of the scale. It depends on the turn radius you want. If you're looking for a special purpose ski like a slalom racing ski to be used on a slalom course only, then you may want to look at 155-160 cm, along with a race flex, but if you were racing gates I guess you wouldn't be asking.
post #11 of 31
Thread Starter 
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?
post #12 of 31
It used to be, the "bigger the man you were, the longer of a ski you skied", now it is the opposite. Somehting is wrong when the FIS puts a limit on how short a ski can be.
post #13 of 31
Quote:
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?
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.

I see a lot more skiers who would ski better on shorter skis than skiers who would ski better on longer skis. I know several good skiers that ski over 50 days per year and they would ski a lot better on shorter skis. I believe there is still too much ego involved in ski length.

Here is a rule of thumb I use. I get the longest skis I can carve with at the lowest speed I want to carve with those skis. If you don't carve turns yet, err on the shorter side because they will be easier to learn to carve. I think this is one of the reasons so many people highly recommend demoing skis. If you don't know what carving is, take a lesson. :-)
post #14 of 31
Quote:
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?
Quote:
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.
post #15 of 31

Misguided Ski-o-phite

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colossus178
...I ask this question as a rookie who wants to buy new skis but is baffled by the multitude of differing "expert" opinions. ... If I buy the 176 now, though, will I regret it in a year, and find myself wishing for a longer ski? As my abilities improve, will the 184 likely become the length of choice? Is there a consensus among expert skiers that longer is better?
You say you feel better on the 176cm? Buy the 176cm.

Skis today are waaaaayyy more versitile than they have ever been. I don't think you can go wrong. Chances are you're not skiing as fast as you think you are ("Rookie"), and the 17x has plenty of headroom for you.

In the end it doesn't matter what length you buy because even if you were lucky enough to find the holy friggin grail of skis you'd be looking to add to the quiver after 5 days on them.

It's all about the quiver.
post #16 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Pugliese
It used to be, the "bigger the man you were, the longer of a ski you skied", now it is the opposite. Somehting is wrong when the FIS puts a limit on how short a ski can be.
You will get on the b5 in a 162, and you will want them. BAD!
post #17 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by dtraub1
Here is a rule of thumb I use. I get the longest skis I can carve with at the lowest speed I want to carve with those skis.
And I get the shortest skis that I can carve at the highest speed I'd want to go! How funny is that!

Bry, it really depends on the ski. In general, though, you can ski on skis from 165 to 185, depending on your turn radius, terrain, and snow conditions preferences.
post #18 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colossus178
"It depends" is a lot like "use what works for you": technically, it's correct, but it's not very helpful.
I know. I only hoped there would be somebody going into detail instead of me. It takes a bit more time in a foreign language. I was partly lazy and partly didn´t have time enough.
post #19 of 31
Quote:
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?
It is not just chatter and edge hold: a shorter ski can not overcome the laws of geometry that dictate that they deflect faster crossing a given bump at a given speed. Good flex pattern can only go so far. This is why short skis can knock the crap out of you in bumps and long skis can feel so smooth.

I ski in the glades in poor visibility a lot. We get many peaky transverse drifts in there we call shark fins. On a long ski I can blast through the fins but on the short ones if I don't see them in time it can be knee in the chin time.

I for one never had trouble adapting to long skis. I used to train slaloms on my 215 GS skis just for kicks--just let the ski do the work, pop some tip pressure and they'd hook around. I'm mostly on 170's now but it has taken some time to get confident and centered enough to ski them fast in poor visibility.

I remember seeing a skier from Japan's national team point his 157 slalom's (before the FIS limit) straight down and go fron 0-55 in a flash. I remember thinking there was no way I could do that. The long ski Nazi in me died then and there. Skiing a long ski is easy.

I think it is harder to ski on short skis, but if you can do it the pay off is the perfect carves the long skis can only do in certain speeds and radii.
post #20 of 31
The original question was simply "I'm curious to know if good skiers prefer longer skis." The answer to this question is not what it used to be. Less than 10 years ago, the answer was simply yes based on the assumption a good skier would go faster and require the greater stability of a long ski. Today, length is overwhelmingly affected by the equipment design, and is increased or decreased based on the skier weight. Ability enters into the length formula only as it affects intent to ski faster, slower, longer radius and terrain selection. You cannot compare super carvers with free ride skis. Skiers that want the best of both worlds, will need more than one ski.

Equipment is manufactured in different lengths. The shortest lengths tend to be preferred by lighter skiers with shorter turn intent; the longest by heavier skiers with longer turn or off-piste intent. In general a "good" skier has a higher speed limit. With the best equipment out today, that may, or may not require a longer length to accomodate.

I agree with Woodee skis are more versitile than ever. Still, no one ski is best at the full range of on and off piste. So, for any given ski in the quiver, I think a skier's ability is far less important in determining length, than the equipment design itself, and the skiers intention.
post #21 of 31
Back to the original question. Yes, better skiers prefer longer length, but now it's a 170cm as opposed to a 145, not a 208cm as opposed to a 180cm.
post #22 of 31
Thread Starter 
It sounds like, in today's world, 185 is long.
post #23 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colossus178
It sounds like, in today's world, 185 is long.
Except for powder skis and real GS skis, there a very few skis available that are as long as 185.

BK
post #24 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost
Back to the original question. Yes, better skiers prefer longer length, but now it's a 170cm as opposed to a 145, not a 208cm as opposed to a 180cm.
I've been on a 158 slalom ski for a coupe of years, and I wouldn't even consider a ski much longer than 170 any more. The 158 is great on the groomed, but a little too short for moguls. I don't have any problem skiing as fast as I want.

BK
post #25 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost
Back to the original question. Yes, better skiers prefer longer length, but now it's a 170cm as opposed to a 145, not a 208cm as opposed to a 180cm.
Better skiers prefer longer skis for the same reason poor skiers prefer shorter skis. Because they are easier to handle at the level they ski.
post #26 of 31
I demoed the 8000s in a 184 this weekend and did not think they skied "long". In fact, I thought they were much easier to pivot in the moguls and trees than some rossi B2's I tried in a 176. This is obviously due to the shape of the ski. I haven't tried the 8000s in a shorter length though so can't comment on the diff between the two lengths.

I'm 5'10" 200lbs and am planning on buying the 8000s in a 184. Mainly because I ski a lot of off-piste and really want to make sure I'll get decent float in the pow. I'm also really used to skiing a 184 so maybe that is part of it.

I'll post a full review of this ski, the apache recon, and b2s in the equipment forum later today or maybe tomorrow.
post #27 of 31
yo bryan. I've seen you ski and thought you were pretty decent given how long you've skied. Given how committed you are to improving you won't have a problem with a longer ski.

Given how much you ski and intend to ski and where you live wtf are you doing buying an all mountain ski? Go buy yourself a carving ski and a fat ski. There's lots of carving skis out there so go demo one. You're a big guy but you're coordinated and given how much you ski you'll get into it just fine. Speaking from mine and Sharon's experiences for example you'd be an atomic sx 11 180 and a Volkl Supersport 5 star 175 at least.

I've got a head mad trix mojo in 185 you can try if you get out here sometime and that's plenty fat and that can be your fat ski if you want it. Or you can just wait till turkey day sales roll around in your neck of the woods. I know the atomic demo guys will be selling off stuff soon so maybe even look into that. If you know what size you want i can ask scotty or julius at whistler what they have - or you can ask julius himself as he's on this board.
post #28 of 31
Thread Starter 
Lee

Yes, I remember having the "carver vs. all-mountain" discussion with you. I kept your advice in mind when I demoed the 5-Star, 6-Star, 724 AX4, and the Dynastar 8000. The 6-Star and the 8000 were my favorites, with a slight edge going to the 8000 for all around versatility. The 8000 carved well on steep, fast groomers, was pretty nice in the bumps, and cut through crud fairly well. All in all, it seemed like a nice, well rounded ski.

That's not to say that I didn't like the 6-Star. That is a really fun ski that I would love to own. However, I think that the Dynastar would have served me better when I floundered my way down Boundary Bowl with yo and Sharon; anything with a 68mm waist, in those conditions, holding up my considerable weight, just isn't going to do it.

I demoed the 8000 at Squaw Valley. I tried them on a very steep groomer called Olympic Lady and found it easy to carve nice turns on them. I had no trouble initiating turns, setting my edge, or changing my turn shape. It worked pretty well for me. Later, I took it into the moguls to the right of the Squaw Creek lift (looking downhill from the top of the lift) and found that I could ski the bumps much better than I could on the 5-Star or the 724.

I know you've got no use for all-mountain skis, but a skinny guy like you can be held up better by a thinner ski; a fat bastard like myself needs a fatter ski to stay on top. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Nice to see that you're getting in some good turns at Whistler. Hopefully I'll see you there again someday, when the conditions are better.
post #29 of 31
Actually come to think of it you are a hell of a lot bigger then me so you probably do have a point. Perhaps a 79mm waist ski is a carving ski for you. If you've demo'ed all of those then you should be good to go - sounds like you've got tons of info now to go on.

btw I don't think all around skis suck. I just think that they're a compromise. Skiing the atomic B5 and the new R:ex went a long way to changing my mind I must admit - its quite a ski.

I used "given" way too much in that post didnt I? You thinking of another Dave Murray next year?
post #30 of 31
I ski the 6 star in a 168 and Mantra in 184. Each has its strengths depending on conditions. LeeLau is correct. A single ski may not cover it all for you. Tried to explain this back on post #20, but got lost in translation. Length and expertise are unrelated. Ski design and intent are everything.
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