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Bigger down side: Skis too long or short?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I've been reading lots of advise on these boards telling people to go longer on all sorts of skis. I think going longer is tied to the ego. So many experts are advising the opposite.
What is the down side to going to long or short? I know them, I'm thinking there is less down side in going to short, given the move is one size in either direction from perfect.
post #2 of 26
Stability often suffers if the ski is too short for the skier. However, many skis can be skied very short on firm snow with almost no loss of stability!

Ski length is a multi-variable problem. Too long or too short is dependent on ski design, construction, skier size and skill. No simple answers here.

post #3 of 26
There are downsides to both. Too long and they may be cumbersome in bumps, too much effort involved in skiing, hard to make short turns, just too much work. Too short, and they may not have enough surface area to support your weight in powder, not enough power to blast through the crud, may feel unstable, may seem to have a smaller sweet spot. Generally I favor the idea that shorter is better. Shorter skis usually hold better on ice. I think that many people still have their ego tied to their ski length and ski them too long. The best way to find out what length suits you best is to demo.

post #4 of 26


Think long and hard about this issue. It's not just a matter of short versus long! It's a matter of who you are and where you will be skiing.

When I am on the icy eastern steeper stuff I prefer my Stockli SL's (156 cm and I'm an aging 170 pounds). On a steeper trail with a "target rich environment" (lots of bodies too dodge), they are a bit stiff for the average skier however. On the first runs with little traffic I'm on my SC's (168's), a ski with lots of guts that won't wash out in a more "GS" higher speed environment.

That's me, but who are you? Where are you in your skiing? If you go too short as an intermediate (on a softer ski), you will not be happy either will you? Put some power on when the ski is too short or too long .... but too soft for your ability and the ice dance ..... well .... it won't be a pretty sight!

How much do you weigh? What terrain will you be on and where? How often do you ski and how much time are you willing to devote to it?
post #5 of 26
Yuki is right, length is not just and ego thing. A good skier can ski the same conditions well on a skis that are 20 cm different and get a completely different experience. I think it should be based first on ability, then on the conditions that you usually ski, and then on personal preference. After skiing for 45 years I have come to the conclusion that a longer ski gives a better ride in many ways, but you can certainly find others here that will dispute that opinion. Short skis are generally easier to change direction in many conditions, but don't equate easier with better. If you are tuned into the feel of the ski the proper length for you should become obvious rather quickly. Don't listen to the "experts", demo, demo, demo. As Buddha said, "don't believe anything I tell you until you experience it yourself."
post #6 of 26
A very good point was made above...demo the skis your interested in the two different lengths at the resort you frequent most, if you can. When I was looking for new skis last year, I had the opportunity to try the ski I was looking for in a 168 and 175 length. If I hadn't demoed the ski, I would have bought the 168's(and probably would heve been happy, you know...ignorance is bliss). After demo'ing the ski in both, I walked away with the 175's. The point is, in my case, and to my surprise, I was much more comfortable and had more fun on the longer of the two, eventhough I thought I would have enjoyed the shorter at the start. Demo if you can, skis are expensive and you may as well get what's right for you. At least in my case, when I buy skis, it's usually for the long haul and I intend to get my moneys worth out of them. Good luck.
post #7 of 26
Also, just because you like one ski in a particular length doesn't mean another ski in the same length will work out as well.

I was extremely reluctant to start going "backwards" in length when the shaped skis came out -- heck, I didn't even like shaped skis. I went from 193's to 190's to 184's and thought I might move down to 175's. When I demoed the 6 stars in 16_, which I was pushed into by the rep at the demo center, I hated them and was insulted at being pushed onto that length. The skis were all over the hill at speed. I then insisted on the 17_'s and found them to be much more stable at speed. However, it was not a ski that interested me. I then moved on to another tent and tried the Phat Luv's in 167 protesting quite a bit, but liked them pretty well. Then I tried the Axis XP's in 175 and 167 and LOVED the 167. I felt at the time that the increased girth compared to the six stars made up for the shorter length. They happen to be the shortest ski I've ever been on in my entire skiing career, but I've loved them.

I moved from Rossi Vipers in 184 that were fine back East on the ice, to K2 XP's in 167, which I think is a BIG adjustment, but once I got over the concept it was the right move. I found out today that my very large brother is using the shortest skis he's ever had as well -- 175 Fischer Big Stix 7.6's. He had been looking for a powder ski and admits these are sinkers, but they are so reactive due to their shorter size he doesn't mind the submarining.
post #8 of 26
A minivan is perfect for a mom and kids, but a racecar driver needs more power. When you go deep and fast, the added length greatly increases stability and float. Otherwise, I agree on shorter skis for intermediate/recreational skiers.
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
All great responses, but, The question is: Once you know your ideal length, Is there more down side going one size shorter or longer? There may be to many variables to answer for some of you. So say you most comfortable on 183's is there more down side to skiing 191's 0r 175's. Skis are wider now= more float, Better dampening materials= more stability. For me just seems better off making the mistake of skiing too short than too long.
post #10 of 26
If there is any downside it would be too short because a lack of stabilty at speed. With shaped skis I started at 191cm then to 150 cm and finally 170cm seems the best fit for me. 5'10" @ 180# and over 50 yrs.
post #11 of 26
Pls don´t forget that sometimes the difference is not just the 10cm of length. It´s typical of 155 vs. 165cm SL skis. The former is a typical ladies´ and light skiers´ ski which would often be softer with different flex pattern and hence different behavior to some extent.
10cm is quite a lot considering lengths between 150 and 170cm. Sometimes two or even three lengths within the 10cm range might work well (not identically but each will have some benefits/drawbacks), other times it´s only one that´s the hit. Again, for the particular skier.

In all examples above I mean the same model in different sizes.
post #12 of 26
It used to be the "bigger the MAN you were, the bigger the ski you skied", now it is almost the opposite. Trying different sizes of the same ski is huge. I tried a Metron 9 in a 171 and had a blast on it. I bought the Metron 11 in a 162 because of the perceived performance difference. The 162 was too short, I basicly swung the pendiulum too far and (thanks to the Metron Guarantee), I upgraded to the 171.
post #13 of 26
Originally Posted by ski=free
All great responses, but, The question is: Once you know your ideal length, Is there more down side going one size shorter or longer? There may be to many variables to answer for some of you. So say you most comfortable on 183's is there more down side to skiing 191's 0r 175's. Skis are wider now= more float, Better dampening materials= more stability. For me just seems better off making the mistake of skiing too short than too long.
Skiers should avoid the notion that one length is right for them. Consumers often go to a retailer and say “I am looking for a ski, and I need a 170cm length”. Just to demonstrate that there is no single optimum length for skis; I have 3 different skis that are 191cm, 185cm and 170cm. Each ski is the correct length.

The 191cm ski is a shaped Rossi 9X 10.2 a retail GS ski. I only use it at higher speeds where the longer edge line supports stability and edge grip. The ski does not want, or need, to make short radius fall line turns; that’s not its intended purpose. I completed a 2 mile downhill in less than 120 seconds (many years ago), and you need a long platform to balance against at higher speeds.

The 170cm Fischer Scenio S500 is meant to be skied short and is described as an “all mountain SL”. The ski is very stiff and demanding and the 180cm size would be reluctant to bend while turning. The 160cm size would not be as stable at speed, would not support my weight and would not be versatile in softer snow, so the 170cm size is correct.

The 185cm Volant Sin is a soft snow, powder and crud-buster for all-mountain use. This ski provides float and stability in variable conditions. The long length distributes my bulk better than a shorter ski would in soft snow. I also like the stability of the long radius sidecut and the strength of the heavy construction. A shorter ski would not float my bulk as well, and I’m not expecting short turns here.

Different lengths for different tasks.

Best regard,

post #14 of 26
This is the problem with Atomic's metron sizing chart. The perfect example is the M:EX. In order to rate in the 185 range, you must be either an offensive lineman or king kong. However, this system really does not take soft snow conditions into account. if you ski in Utah, or other places where the pow is plentyful, you will want to ski this ski longer. I am 6'0", 185, and have skiied both the 175 and 185 in 8-12" of freshies. I disliked the 175 and really enjoyed the 185. In pow., I say, error on the side of length. On ice, error on the side of shortness.
post #15 of 26
[quote=ski=free]I've been reading lots of advise on these boards telling people to go longer on all sorts of skis. QUOTE]


(besides me)
post #16 of 26
I think the danger is not so much the length as the stiffness. A ski that is too stiff (particularly in the tail) for the weight and style of a particular skier will not perform for him/her because they are not bending it enough, and the ski skis them. I would much prefer a long soft ski in the moguls or powder than a short stiff one. Alternatively, some people are going short on skis that are too soft and finding that they will not handle speed on crud.

As pointed out above, length does not equate from model to model or brand to brand. Don't let the "experts" or the sizing charts tell you that a certain length ski is right for you. Once you find that ski I think the danger is greater going longer if it is a stiff ski and shorter if it is a soft ski.
post #17 of 26
Canyons - i agree with you on the metron sizing...

i have demo'd a few of the atomics out here in the east, and there was a noticeable difference in the same ski model, but in different lengths. even with the SX:B5 and the SX:11; the longer lengths behave much differently than their shorter lengths. but the skis i have demo'd have all been pretty different...

ski=free - out here in the east i think going longer wouldn't be as good than shorter - i went shorter when choosing my last pair but i got to ride all the sizes i was interested in before i bought.
post #18 of 26
Shorter downside...if you go faster and turn longer than you think.
Longer downside...if you are slower and turn shorter than you think.
post #19 of 26
If you huck, the extra length is helpful for the added stability at the speeds you will carry upon landing. Of course if you don't ski out of jumps, disregard..
post #20 of 26
I should add my shortest ski to my list.

99cm Salomon skiblade!

On smooth surfaces this 105-80-100mm sidecut and 6 meter radius can carve the shortest turns at speeds that would surprise you!

Don't "get in the back seat" though; there isn't one!:

post #21 of 26
Actually off-topic but I couldn´t resist.

A big downside to going too short is being DQed at the Olympics, WCS, WC or other FIS races (the opposite doesn´t exist except ski jumping, I suppose).
post #22 of 26
Basically what this comes down to as I see it...

With shaped skis, each length is a "different ski" than the ski in another length. You have to demo all the lengths before you find the right one. What you ski in one ski just gives you a starting point as to what sizes to try in the next ski. And there can be no generalizations about "erring" one way or the other. You need to ski the ski you are thinking of buying... (Oh no, I just bought Recons based on my XP's and didn't demo them!!)
post #23 of 26
Hello all - New member, first message. I'm 6' 165, skiing 44 years, level 9, switched my 177 Karmas (anyone want a nice pair?) for a Mantra 177 and have 168 6* for the n'east where I live. Also ski in the west. Looking to change 6* to AC-4's or Top Fuels. Question for all of you (esp any Volkl or Nordica reps) is not about "best" length, but how to make sense out of manufacturer length ranges versus what you all seem to ski.

I've read a lot of threads where guys 40 lbs heavier than me rave about how the 170 TF or AC-4 rocks. Yet the 170 is BELOW the mid-range for each line - traditionally, in a four or five length range, territory for good females or very light, ah, less good guys. My 168 6* for instance is the middle of 5 lengths, largely because I need its quickness in bumps; I've owned the 175's which are more stable north of 40 mph and much less nervous on groomed. Wouldn't want to even try the 161.

So if 170 is the new best, where does that leave all the 177's or 184's? Suitable only for Godzilla's younger meaner brother? It makes no sense to me that manufacturers, who have a lot of bright designers and focus group types working for them, would produce over half their skis in lengths no one is expected to want. But if we assume Volkl and Nordica know vaguely what they're doing, why do so many presumably strong skiers out here say that the mid, let alone the one above mid, length is "too much?" I'm truly confused. Ideas?
post #24 of 26
The original question is "which has the bigger downside". I am extremely reluctant to give advise about what length is best. Its different for different skis, styles and objectives in skiing. I ski on boards ranging from 168 to 193 and waist sizes ranging from 68 to 94 mm; and they all work fine for what I want to do, and I feel I know how to match the task to the ski.

People come on these boards and ask "what length for me?" Once we know what ski they want (performance parameters), describe their skiing style and terrain, and objectives, they usually get a range of advice and wonder why there is no concensus here. If you need to ask what length is appropriate for you, I will probably err on the short side. The question is often accompanied by qualifiers like "I am a strong skier but prefer short turns" "Need to go down tight trees and chutes" All of these statements are begging for a short ski answer, or are another way of asking "can I handle a longer ski?". A confident, fast, charging skier does not ask the question.

Now the original questions: Putting a skier on a shorter ski IMO poses less risk than putting them on a longer ski. The shorter ski is easier to manuver, will generally gain less speed and has few drawbacks until it reaches its upper speed limit. This speed limit is probably outside the comfort zone of the person asking the question, and is not much lower than the ski of the next available size. So if someone asks, what size ski do you like...I can answer, "depends". If they ask me what size they should like, I will probably go short for their own benefit with a recommendation to demo. Most of us can ski multiple lengths well. A response should not infer a shorter ski is appropriate only for a weaker skier; you will just make the Metron owners mad.
post #25 of 26
If you ski west go longer, more open big mountain skiing. In the east the goods are in the woods so go shorter. If you want to ski Rossi Bandit XXX's at 193 in tight eastern woods you better be ridiculously strong. Even if you are that strong you will still get caught up in spaces too tight to maneuver on such beasts. Likewise ski short maneuverable boards down the hobacks on a powder day and you will be missing out. Nothing like blasting monster turns at high speed through pow like that and having your skis cut like a hot knife through butter

post #26 of 26
Stiffness is as important as length, but as the original question relates to length only, I will restrict my answer. The effect of length on turn radius will not be discussed either, except to say that it should be considered as well because typically longer skis have longer turn radii.

My final answer? It depends on skill level, and on how much you ask of the skis.

In my opinion going too long has a bigger downside for most beginner to intermediate skiers. The torque that forces applied where tips and tails meet the snow are a lot higher than they would be with a shorter ski. Going too long will make it harder and more frustrating for you to learn, and you will spend more time on your face. Where as going too short will probably limit your top speed stability.

Once you have a good command of the forces you are commanding your skis to apply to the snow then going too short has the bigger downside. Too short a ski will not only lower your comfortable skiing speed, but it will leave you with not enough edge (even using both) to get the force you want out of some hard turns. Even with a high skill level, too long will be a nuisance in tight quarters, but I would rather put up with the nuisance than feel that my ski isn't giving me enough.
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