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How Long is Too Long? (and why?)

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
It's been 15 years since I bought a new set of skis. Boy am I out of the loop.

I remember when the new "shaped" skis started coming on the scene, everyone raved about how you could ski a shorter ski, and that seems to be the modern mantra as well: "Shorter is better."

I gotta ask why?

Back in the day you bought a longer ski as your skill level advanced. If you could ski a 200cm or longer comfortably you were a pretty good skier. Beginners usually started out on something in the 150-160 range and intermediates went 170-180. The reasons for going to the longer ski were better flotation in pow, more stability at higher speeds, and the ability to actually ski faster with more surface area in contact with the snow. It was assumed that advanced/expert skiers had the skill/strength to make the longer skis turn. When you looked at racers, slalom skiers skied on a shorter ski to make quicker turns at relatively slower speeds while GS and downhill racers skied longer skis for more speed and stability.

No doubt, much of the same holds true today. Longer skis (all else being equal) are still harder to turn than shorter skis. They still put more base area in contact with the snow, resulting in a decreased coefficient of friction and more speed, and they're still more stable than a shorter ski at speed. GS and downhill racers still ski longer skis than slalom skiers (though everyone's skiing shorter than in the past).

All that being true, why are the ski shop salespeople telling me I should be on a 160-something ski and the people in these forums wondering why I would want to ski on anything longer than a 170-something?

I'm 5'8", 170 lbs and an advanced/expert level skier who skis aggressively on all terrain except the very steepest where I trade off a little aggression for more control. I like to go fast. I like to ski bumps. I like to make short, slalom-style linked turns as fast as I can, then mix it up with some big sweeping GS turns when the thighs start to burn. I know how to make skis carve, not just slide through turns. I wish I'd gotten into racing when I was younger. I want to add more powder and "steep & deep" type skiing to my repertoire though expect I'll have to get out of Washington to experience true powder skiing more than once every couple of years (we just don't get snow like that in much depth very often. Usually when it's real cold it's clear, and when it's snowing it's much warmer meaning very high water content snow is typical around here.)

Last weekend I demo'd two pairs of skis that were 181 and 184 cm in length and one pair that were 176. I really liked the longer skis. They felt much more confidence inspiring and I had no trouble making them turn. The 184s were Volkl AC4s which turn even better than my old 195cm Dynastar Vertical Extremes which were similar to a slalom ski in their day. The 176s were Rossi B3s and I just felt like there wasn't enough ski under me.

Is this a technique thing? Is it just because I'm used to my ancient Dynastars which are really long by today's standards? Is there anything wrong with liking a longer ski? I mean, really, is there some good reason I should be looking at 160-170 length skis if I don't find the longer skis hard to turn or control?

Really curious what the expert, knowledgable take on this is. Thanks!
post #2 of 18
I went from 203cm straight skis (which were probably a bit big for my size and weight, but I didn't have a problem with them) to shaped skis sometime around 1996. I can't remember the exact date. Anyway... I dropped down 13cm to 190cm. The moment I put on those skis I became a better skier. 190cm wasn't too big. Moguls, carving, powder, were all fine. However, the last couple years I've felt that I didn't need a ski this long and I could drop down in size to something less "clunky" and get the same performance.

So I just bought some AC4s at 177cm. Can't wait to try them out. There's no reason to throw around the extra weight if you don't need to.
post #3 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willb
Last weekend I demo'd two pairs of skis that were 181 and 184 cm in length and one pair that were 176. I really liked the longer skis. They felt much more confidence inspiring and I had no trouble making them turn. The 184s were Volkl AC4s which turn even better than my old 195cm Dynastar Vertical Extremes which were similar to a slalom ski in their day. The 176s were Rossi B3s and I just felt like there wasn't enough ski under me.
180 cm to 185 cm is pretty much the right length for someone of your size in most modern midfat all around freeskiing skis. A 176 B3 is pretty wimpy. The trend in the industry and in shops is to undersize people, by alot. But part of the problem is that they don't take you very seriously as a skier when you haven't bought skis in 15 years, so they will undersize you even more.
post #4 of 18
It really depends on the ski company as well. K2, for example, goes by running length, whereas I think Rossi just does the length (their twins are supershort comparitively). Flex is also a major issue, as I wouldn't ski a B3 or B2 in anything shorter than a 180, but my 180 Explosivs (more like a 176-7) are just about perfect due to the stiffness. Solution to all this confusion? Go with what feels best, and don't trust anyone who insists you can always go shorter/longer.
post #5 of 18
Agreed. It's a combination of stiffness and length. A softer ski (like the B3 or a Solomon Xcream) will ski shorter than it's acutal length. A stiff ski like a Vokl will be more stable at a longer length, but more work as well.

I had the same problem - started out in the late 80's and worked UP to 203s, and have been going down ever since my first pair of K2 Fours (in 198 - way too much ski). I got down to a Bandit XX in the last 3 years in a 191, and liked them in almost every situation. I just bought some fatter mid-fats (80+mm waist) and dropped to 185, but they are a much stiffer ski, and feel almost identical to the Bandits in 191. I wouldn't go shorter than 185 because I feel like I'd be sacrificing stability for ease of use. Right now, stability is more important to me. In a few years, who knows...

Sounds like you should settle in around 180-188 from your demo experiences (depending on ski flex). You may go 190 in a softer ski like the B3, though. Demo, demo, demo.
post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willb
Last weekend I demo'd two pairs of skis that were 181 and 184 cm in length and one pair that were 176.
Did you demo the same ski in different lengths, or were these three different skis? Ultimately, ski the length that you like the best - but be sure that you're comparing apples to apples. Just because you like 180+ in one ski, doesn't mean that you will in another ski. My suggestion would be to take the 2 skis that you liked the best, and try them in different lengths.

I went from a 196 straight ski to my first shaped ski at 183, the second 180, the third a 168 (I'm not sure if this should count because it's a dedicated mogul ski) and my newest is a 172 (which I demoed in the 178 as well, and, well, the 172 it is), and I'm 6'0 190. As seen in my own progression in shaped skis, I started out longer and have gotten progressively shorter - nearly everyone I know has done the same thing (I'm not sure if our technique is just adapting to the shaped ski and thus like them shorter, or if we're just getting less young and not as strong...).

As to a general discussion of why shaped skis can be skied shorter, my, admittedly basic understanding is that both of these factors play a role:
1. A shorter shaped ski has about the same surface area on the bottom as a longer shaped ski because the shovel and tail are generally wider. (also skis in general are wider, so again, more surface area in less length.
2. Also because of the shape, there is just us much edge length on a shorter shaped ski as there is on a long straight ski.

J
post #7 of 18
Right on Willb,my sentiments exactly. I've been skiing 40 years, starting in Vermont back in the flower power 60's mostly on good GS 210s.( Rossi Strato 102s,Kneissl Red Stars, Dynamic VR17s {Jean Claude's '68 medal winners}for you history buffs) Stayed with these lengths in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana.Loved em even more on these Western slopes.Now I ski the Sierras, having moved to the Bay Area. A few years back I purchased my first "shorties", A pair of 197cm. shaped Dynastar 4X4 Outlands. Love em even more at Tahoe and Whistler.I love skiing more today than ever, but as I age, I hope I can stay current with new technology and methods.as I begin to reap the benefits of CSFOF.(Thats "Cheaper Skiing For Old Farts&quotI've taken a part time job at a ski shop,not for the big bucks,but to learn even more about modern equipment and for even cheaper skiing. My point being, you're never too old to learn and benefit from change.I've demoed and will continue to try new shapes and sizes of the terrific new boards available today. The variety and choices today are mind boggling, but that ultimately works for your benefit,IF you have the patience and willingness to experiment.As interesting and informative as these threads are, Nothing will replace on the hill trial and error.Ski Hard and Party Hearty.P.S.I did pick up real cheap a pair of 204 Kneisll White Star M1s For old times sake.Got some good advice here on how to ski em.
post #8 of 18
If you get to the bottom, and you still have a smile on your face, your skis are the right length.
post #9 of 18
A simplified plan:

1. Demo skis (different shapes, lengths)
2. Pick and buy the one you like best
3. Have fun
post #10 of 18
The longest I ever skied on was 207. Now I have a 3 ski quiver...167--170--181, and I am not by any means a big guy at 5-8. I could easily drop to 160's and they would still out perform the 207's I used to ski.

I just went to the place I usually sell my old equipment at to try to sell the 181's because they just started to feel like a lot of junk under foot. The help there said they are only taking stuff on consignment up to 182 cm.
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by 12CSki
If you get to the bottom, and you're still alive, your skis are the right length.
Fixed that for yah.
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the input so far!

jake75 has a good point about comparing apples to apples. I demo'd the AC4 in 184, K2 Outlaw in 181, and Rossi B3 in 176. I wanted to try the B3 in the 184 length but the shop's pair were already checked out. Considering how soft they are, I might have liked them in the longer length. I did like how lightweight they were and their mogul performance was very good. Powder flotation was better than the AC4. I was able to make ridiculously tight turns on them but had to slow down a little to do it. However, when things got steep or the speeds went up, they just felt like too short of a ski, almost too quick to turn (squirrely) and certainly not enough in front of me to keep from feeling like I was going to fall over the fronts of them (which I did once on a steep, narrow pitch).

I'd like to go back and try the AC4 in the 177. I loved the AC4s and may end up going with them. Maybe in a stiffer ski like the AC4 the 177 would be fine.

But, I will take heart in knowing that whatever I end up with is what makes me happy, regardless of the length and that there's not something seriously wrong with me if I end up on a longer ski.
post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willb
Thanks for all the input so far!

jake75 has a good point about comparing apples to apples. I demo'd the AC4 in 184, K2 Outlaw in 181, and Rossi B3 in 176. I wanted to try the B3 in the 184 length but the shop's pair were already checked out. Considering how soft they are, I might have liked them in the longer length. I did like how lightweight they were and their mogul performance was very good. Powder flotation was better than the AC4. I was able to make ridiculously tight turns on them but had to slow down a little to do it. However, when things got steep or the speeds went up, they just felt like too short of a ski, almost too quick to turn (squirrely) and certainly not enough in front of me to keep from feeling like I was going to fall over the fronts of them (which I did once on a steep, narrow pitch).
I personally prefer a longer ski in a softer flex, it think they are better all around than a short ski with a stiff flex.
post #14 of 18
I agree that some of the sizing has gone to small. I think the pendulum has swung too far.
post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willb
However, when things got steep or the speeds went up, they just felt like too short of a ski, almost too quick to turn (squirrely) and certainly not enough in front of me to keep from feeling like I was going to fall over the fronts of them (which I did once on a steep, narrow pitch).
Ski whatever you like in whatever length you enjoy the most. But...

What you say here indicates to me an approach to piloting the skis that may lead to some of your preferences. Note: you don't have to change anything. But, if you were to choose to make some efficiency-enhancing changes to your skiing, you may find that shorter skis perform in ways that you enjoy.

Given your experience, my bet is that you are levering the front of your skis through pressure on your boot tongues and perhaps moving your weight up onto the balls of your feet. If so, you'll definitely go over the handlebars on shorter skis. You may find that some coaching and/or work on balancing more in the center of your feet (and skis) will change the way that those skis handle for you.

Of course, there are no rules about what you "should" do. Just some suggestions about ways you may find skiing more efficient and, perhaps, more fun.

I enjoy my 162s more than I ever enjoyed my 205s. And I thought I was in heaven on those 205s. Go figure.
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh
Ski whatever you like in whatever length you enjoy the most. But...

What you say here indicates to me an approach to piloting the skis that may lead to some of your preferences. Note: you don't have to change anything. But, if you were to choose to make some efficiency-enhancing changes to your skiing, you may find that shorter skis perform in ways that you enjoy.

Given your experience, my bet is that you are levering the front of your skis through pressure on your boot tongues and perhaps moving your weight up onto the balls of your feet. If so, you'll definitely go over the handlebars on shorter skis. You may find that some coaching and/or work on balancing more in the center of your feet (and skis) will change the way that those skis handle for you.

Of course, there are no rules about what you "should" do. Just some suggestions about ways you may find skiing more efficient and, perhaps, more fun.

I enjoy my 162s more than I ever enjoyed my 205s. And I thought I was in heaven on those 205s. Go figure.
ssh - Thanks for your input! I am absolutely open to the idea that my technique could use some work. The last coaching I received was in '91 or '92 when I tried out to be an instructor with the University of Washington ski school. To make my old skis carve the technique was to begin pressuring the fronts of them with your toes or balls of feet as required as you initiated the turn. Then, let the weight shift back to center through the middle of the turn.

What I found on these newer skis was that to vary the turn radius still required pressuring the skis in different ways. Tighter turns required pressure on the front of the skis, and boy did they respond, especially the AC4 and B3. Staying centered on the skis produced larger turns and long, high speed arcs were accomplished by just laying them up on their sides or with the weight slightly back.

I'd like to take a couple of private lessons this year or next to "tune up" my technique so to speak. I'm of the mindset that there's always something more to learn, and when it comes to skiing, I'm eager to try it out to see if it works for me.
post #17 of 18
Too long for a good stable stiff ski (like my trusty old kästle SG) is so long that you don't have enough weight to apply enough pressure when you weight is divided over the length of the ski to keep the edge engaged and carving and decambered on a bumpy hard surface.

Too long for a softer ski like a Bandit is when the added wieght instead of adding stability just adds more unstable weight flopping around out there. It's pretty complicated with the softer ski, because extra length seems to add some stability and keep things calmed down up to a certain speed, but then at higher-still speeds the longer ski is actually harder to keep from doing the watusi than the shorter one.
post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh
Ski whatever you like in whatever length you enjoy the most. But...

What you say here indicates to me an approach to piloting the skis that may lead to some of your preferences. Note: you don't have to change anything. But, if you were to choose to make some efficiency-enhancing changes to your skiing, you may find that shorter skis perform in ways that you enjoy.

Given your experience, my bet is that you are levering the front of your skis through pressure on your boot tongues and perhaps moving your weight up onto the balls of your feet. If so, you'll definitely go over the handlebars on shorter skis. You may find that some coaching and/or work on balancing more in the center of your feet (and skis) will change the way that those skis handle for you.

Of course, there are no rules about what you "should" do. Just some suggestions about ways you may find skiing more efficient and, perhaps, more fun.

I enjoy my 162s more than I ever enjoyed my 205s. And I thought I was in heaven on those 205s. Go figure.
ssh, What you say here indicates to me an approach to piloting the skis that sounds very suspiciously like park 'n riding... basically race 101 with no ability to work the whole ski (not just the center). For short radius demo turns on groomed beginner runs, sure, a shorter ski sounds just the ticket. But hopefully you are open-minded enough to understand that many skiers have different needs and tastes than yourself and aren't necessarily less skilled than you just because their choice of equipment differs?

I happen to agree with HS that ski shops are notorious for pushing skis too short for people because... the industry thinks people want instant gratification turns. Been done before with the GLM method and nearly killed the sport.

Now the industry is concentrating on easier slopes, better amenities, easier carving, and maybe pretty soon we'll all be able to stay home and ski on virtual TV. Why work for it when you can just buy it. :
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