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220lbs on 160s?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I skied 3 days on Head "Big Easy" 160's at the recomendation of the rental shop, and really liked them (greens and blues, beginner +15 days over the past 5 years), the last day I demo'd a pair of K2 Apache Blackhawks at 160. I freakin' love these skis!!! (Conditions were fair to poor: groomed, thin snow/some ice, on-trail only).

I'm about to hit Copper for 7+ days, and was going to purchase the demo pair, but am puzzled:
- The length charts all have 220+ lbs at 190 or above, and I hurting myself by going with 160s?
- Will these really limit my ability to advance?
- If I get them in 181, or 174, will I notice a huge diff in performance? Will they be "too much?" What does that mean?

I really like the K2s, and would consider the Crossfires as well (they seem to be easier to find) Although they are rated EXPERT, I found that I had more fun on them (the Blackhawks) than I had on other skis that more matched my skil level. Is this insane?

Compairing the Heads against the Blackhawks, I found the K2 lighter, easier to turn, a bit faster. (BTW, using a pair of Rossi soft boots)

I've read a ton about the K2 skis this year, but can't find too much on a big guy like me hitting the 160-174 range, of any ski.

post #2 of 13
That length range (160-174) is just fine. Forget the "length charts" that refer you to 194 cm they are either out of date or hopelessy misinformed. In the east you will see very few people who are actively involved with skiing on boards longer than 178. Exceptions would be racers and "big mountain skiers" neither of which apply to you. Oh and if you want to hang out in the park/pipe you'll probably get a lot of comments if you're on anything less than mid 170's.

When shape skis first became popular the recommendation was to go down 20cms. Most said "yeah right" and went down 10cm. For me that meant 193cm and I stayed on those for probably 2 years. I think it was 02/03 when suddenly everyone jumped dramatically down in size and they've never looked back. Currently I'm skiing on 160 race slaloms for every day skiing - that's 40 -45cm less than the ski I would have been on in 1997! I like the 170 length for all around use and can't imagine skiing on anything much longer than 180cm anymore.

The fact is it is very difficult to develop an active inside foot technique with skis that are too long. What's long? hmmm...Certainly 190cm is in the long category and I'd say anything longer than 180 would actually hinder your development. It's very difficult on long skis and at reasonable speeds to do the things you can do with shorter skis. (I wouldn't go below 150 for you though)Of course you could always go longer later and the techniques you've learned will apply.

The general improvement in people's skiing in the last five years (those who ski regularly) has really been quite amazing. The main driver of this improvement is definitely the skis.

Last year I remember skiing with a guy I'd skiied with for years and was blown away by the turns he was making. He'd never skiied so well. Well he was delighted with his new Metrons of about 155cm (he's like 5'9" 175 lbs).
Skis are so much better than they used to be. Maybe we were all on too long skis before anyway.

For you getting back into skiing, 174cm is the longest I'd recommend. 167-170 would probably be a good choice initially. Don't be surprised though when after awhile you try something in the 155-60 range and you really love them.

edit: I see you're on soft boots. I'm not sure they'd be capable of handling anything longer than 174...
post #3 of 13
The "right" length is a function of quite a few factors, but the main ones are how much energy you but into the ski, which is a function of your weight and how fast you ski, and the construction of the ski. A big guy going slow could be on the same ski as a light person skiing faster and both could get good results. If you are 220 and skiing pretty fast on 160s you will reach the limits of the ski pretty quickly, unless it is a stiff racing ski built to take it. What happens with a big guy on short skis is that as you pick up speed and load the momentum into the ski there is just not enough edge to hold onto the snow or ski to dampen the vibration and they start to chatter and wash out. Instead of carving the turn into the snow you end up doing a sliding windshieldwiper turn. You can get away with this up to a point, but it is not the optimum situation for advancing your skiing.

The kind of skis you are taking about are more general purpose and I doubt if you will find much on a guy your size using skis that short. I am around 220 lbs and generally ski 190s and 184s depending on the snow and terrain, but I am a pretty good skier.

If you really loved the 160s and felt comfortable on them then you probably should not jump all the way up to a 180. A short ski will let you get away with things that a longer ski will not, so you might find that a 180 will not cooperate very well with your current technique and punish your mistakes more severly (that's what they mean by "less forgiving"). The longer ski will be more stable at speed and when you hit unpacked snow, but if you are not loading it up enough to turn it then the length will be more of a hinderance than a help until your ability catches up to the ski. "Expert" skis are made to be skied with more energy which means they do not work very welll at slow speeds or with soft boots.

Considering how serious you seem to be about your skiing, maybe you should use your trip to demo some skis in longer lengths. If you are intent on buying the Apaches then I would not recommend going beyond the 174s unless you get a chance to demo the 181s, especially since you have soft boots. It takes a stiffer boot to drive a longer and stiffer ski. If you end up on a ski that is "too much for you" it takes you for a ride instead of the other way around, which I can tell you from experience is not a good feeling.

Hope this gives you some userful info.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Tog

Soft Boots: Yes, bought them as a noob last year, before I realized they were falling out of favor. However, they fit well, and are comfortable.

Thanks for your help, Tog and Mudfoot.

post #5 of 13
I had a similar question, so I figured I'd post it here instead of starting a new thread.

What would say about a level 5/6 skier, 225 lbs, on a nordica suv 12.1? I demo'd the 170, and liked it alot, but had the aching feeling that something longer would be better. I got this feeling in the middle and end of turns, and when running them straight. The next size up is a 180, which is the longest made and is not available to demo.

My style is still mostly old school, but Im working on it. I'd like to ski faster, and steeper, but Im prettty moderate in both right now. West coast location. What do you think, 170 or 180?
post #6 of 13

Whatever feels right!


You need to ride on whatever feels right to you. I am a bigger guy like you, 5'10" 220lbs and very athletic. I skied for a few years back in the mid 80's and did not care much for it. The problem was that people kept pushing me towards skis over 200cm and I never felt comfortable. However, I loved the mountains so I wanted to like it. Eventually I gave it up.

In the late 90's my brother gave up skiing and started riding skiboards (mindless parrots insert sophomoric fruitbooter comment here) and is still riding them today. He talked me into trying them at Mary Jane in the 1998 and I fell in love with the sport all over again. I could ski the trees and bumps better than I ever believed and could carve anything.

I like the skiboards except for two things, 1) The non release bindings, and 2) they get tossed around in crud and suck in the powder. Because of this I migrated towards longer skis. However, I took what I learned from skiboards and applied it to my skis. I looked for something with a wider profile, shorter, and a little stiffer than the average ski. I found some skis in the 160 range that I loved, but quickly fell into the trap of listening to all of the experts on this forum and around the mountains who kept telling me to "go longer" "go longer". So I went longer and hated it. It was like a repeat of the 80s. Instead of being fun it was frustrating. I decided to go my own way and not worry about what the experts or a chart tells me.

Right now I have a pair of Salomon 1080's in 161 (114/80/108) which are great, a pair of Salomon Scream Pilot Extra Hots in 160 (114/80/108) which are a stiffer version of the 1080's without the upturned tail, and a pair of K2 Escape 4500's in 160 for harder snow. I feel very comfortable on each pair.

I am comfortable with the fact that I may ski 10 times a year and what I do will never make the cover of Powder or Freeskiing magazine. I have fun going down the hill and that is what counts.

Let me use a golf analogy. 25 years ago nearly all golfers under a 10 handicap used blades. Blades are hard to hit, can be frustrating, and are made for the better golfer. We now have oversize, perimeter-weighted, game improvement irons that make golf fun for almost anyone with a decent swing. Yeah, there are still a few pros that play blades, but they also practice three days a week and play the other four. With that said, there are pros that use game improvement irons. Why? Because they do not want to make it harder than it already is.

It is the same with shorter shaped skis. It makes skiing easier for those of us who cannot ski 50+ days each year. Not to start a new topic, but my theory is that in skiing you do not keep score so there are those who use equipment to keep score. The teams are divide into areas such as "old straight long team" "most expensive gear I can find team" "quiver with skis for 45 different conditions team" "snowboard, park team" and everyone else. If you are on the "old straight long" team and are in the lift line behind someone with 160cm Head Big Easy skis (good skis by the way) you will think "Yes! score one for me".

My advice is to do whatever feels right. It is supposed to be about fun and enjoyment. The next time someone tells you you should be on 190's ask them if they will play you for $100 a hole. You can use my Callaway X-18's and they can use my old Wilson K-28's!
post #7 of 13
the k2 blackhawk is the apache x is the axis x. i have the latter. do not buy it shorter than 174. it is a very easy-to-use ski imho. i weigh 160lbs and would buy the 181 next time.

actually the ski is a bit off for your weight anyway. a shorter ski with more stiffness would be better. such as a head monster 70 in 163 or 170 or so, just to give an example. i doubt the blackhawk in 160 will provide much edge hold for you.
post #8 of 13
I think Mudfoot gave you the best info. As skis get longer they get proportionately stiffer in the same model. You would like a longer, softer ski or a shorter , stiffer ski, but they will feel differently.

I'm 210#, 6', and was skiing expert terrain (steep bumps, hard pack, powder) moderately fast on top-line Head i.Supershape 165 cm with excellent control and stabililty. I also skied Head Monster i.70 in 170, liked that length, but prefer the characteristics of the Supershapes. I'm considering those in 170.

Ski technology has improved a huge amount. Short is stable in the right ski model for any specific skier. I was skiing with a former World Cup racer and coach, and he likes the top-line 170.

So, if you like 160 in those skis, OK. If you want room for improvement, get one size longer.

post #9 of 13
Slightly different perspective here... I'm about 175lbs and have been on a pair of 177's for the past few seasons, skiing in the West. This season I decided I wanted a bit more float in the pow and stability at speed in crud, so I went up to a 188. So far it's definitely been the right decision.

I was on my 177's a couple weeks ago and they felt way too short and unstable compared to the longer sticks in cut-up snow.

If you're comfortable turning them, they're not too long. If you like opening them up for high-speed turns through crud you'll appreciate the extra length, at least I did.
post #10 of 13
160's are going to be to short for you once you become a competent skier. Go for a 170 to 174. The extra length will handle your weight a little better at high speeds. Do yourself a favor and don't buy something as short as a 150 or 160.
I am 5'7" at 165 lbs. I am an advanced skier and I ride 165s. I wouldnt even think of buying a 150 unless I was using it for slalom racing, and you are much bigger than I.
post #11 of 13
What matt7180 said...
If you think 160's are wimpy or will "chatter at speed" just remember that in the World Cup the minimum length allowed for men is 165cm. (This is for safety reasons i.e. injuries) As far as I know almost everyone is skiing the minimum length. If they could they'd ski shorter. They're all way stronger and quicker than we'll ever be.

The thing with slalom skis though is that they really always want to be turning. Their sidecut radius is in the 9 to 15 meter range with most around 11m. To go straight you either keep them flat and accept that they're dancing around or you go in a very long curve. Still once you get used to them you'll be surprised how versatile they are. They're even not bad in powder - though you'll be skiing in the snow (many prefer the sensation)instead of on it as with a fat ski.

The biggest change in skis since you last purchased over 10 years ago is the profusion or really good non-race skis. In fact, almost no one except racers buys race skis anymore. Partly because there is so much more choice and partly because race skis have become so specialized. When you last purchased skis good skiers would basically buy either a gs or a slalom race ski. I think it was the Saloman x-scream which really started to change all that about five years ago.

For eastern skiing I honestly don't know anyone who'd recommend you get a ski longer than say 183cm. (and even that's really pushing it). But listen, if you want to go say 188, 193cm, just go to a ski town and either look on the used racks or find a store/ad where people are selling those lengths. They'll be under 100 $ unless they're brand new. (exemption for ny state - windham area- where I've seen the most ridiculous prices on three year old skis)
Over christmas a guy with a tuning shop had a rack of good skis (all > 188cm)w/bindings for 30$. They weren't exactly flying out the door. Still, for you what's to lose on a 50-100$ pair of skis? You could probably re sell it for 25$ - or go to Windham, Ny and sell them for 150$.

go bucks- (not go buffs?),

it's really impossible to say about the 180. Nordica lists the 170 as a 16m radius and the 180 as a 17m radius so they're not all that different arc wise.
I suggest you try to demo something with a similar shape/radius in 180 or try the nordica speed machine 14.1, 16.1.

Tech Support for Skiers tried all three in the 170 length. The speed range for the speed machine 14.1/16.1 was rated at 10mph to race. The suv 12.1 was 10-20mph. So if you're looking for more beef you might want to try another model instead of a longer length. (hmmm...that could get real complicated huh?)
They said of the speed machine 16.1 that it was one of the highest rated ski's by their testers. (Also said the 14.1 was very similar maybe more appropriate for improving level 7-8 skiiers)

edit: just saw your comment on the straight running issue. Yeah this was big for me when I first started trying shorter shaped skis. Maybe I'm more used to it. If that's a concern than you should probably stay say above 18meters or look at Tech Support for skiers (20$/year) because they rate each ski they test on how it goes in a straight run. (by the way, the Speed machines got a 4 (out of 5) and the suv 12.1 got a 3 on straight runs. (Higher means more comfortable going straight)

just remember boots are way more important
(but oh what a pia to get right- way more fun to buy a cool new ski)

" If poles were so important we'd call it Poling instead of Skiing" - Phil Mahre
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks folks!

I'll let you know how I made out when I get back from Copper.
post #13 of 13
Every ski is different. I am 225lb, 6'1" and have been happy in the 180-185cm range. I skied Volkl 6* in 175cm and 182cm. While the 175 was OK, and I could probably have lived with it., the 182cm was a lot better for all around confidence. On a K2 Axis X, I was most comfortable on 188cm. Right now I am on 180cm Fischer RX-8 and 184cm Elan M666.

I think it's a mistake to go too short. While shorter skis may seem easier to ski and more fun at first, they may crap out on you at high speed or in tight situations. On the other hand, you should have no problem adjusting to skis that are the right size (which also depends on your height, not just weight). IF they are too long, they will be cumbersome.
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