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What does ski length do?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I'm trying to figure out how critical ski length actually is. I'm coming over to the shaped skis from the old straight skis after several years absence. I'm 6' @ 225lbs, 55 years old. I ski here in the east which can mean anything from fresh snow to an ice rink (sometimes in the same day). I have tried the Volkl AC 30 in 177 length and the AC 20 in 170. The AC 30 is more stable at speed but the AC 20 is a lot quicker to turn short. Now there is a difference in width under foot and the AC 30 is definetly stiffer both ways. I'm at a 6/7 level (yes I can carve) but am still regaining my balance and comfort level after being away a few years. Is 7cm that much of a difference? or is the width under foot making the difference? or both? I'm inclined to go longer (177) because of my height and weight but have been told that a 170 is ok for me here out east. Looking for opinions from people who have experience coming over from straight skis. By the way my old skis were 210. Thanks for any advice you can give.
post #2 of 22
It's not that simple. Each ski is unique and length, width and stiffness/torsion all factor.

Need float in powder .. look for additional length and width.

Want a beefy "crud and pile buster" ... go a tad long and wide and a bit stiffer ... like the old version DP's.

Stability at speed, added length ... but if the ski is a noodle (soft), it will become "spit on the griddle" and start chattering and dancing once it get up to speed.

My 156 SL's are probably viewed as too short for my weight, but they have great flex and grip on the ice .... of course as short SL's go, they tend to wander a bit at speed (sidecut), so ..... all things factor.

At 255 you will have no problem bending a ski ... I'd tend to go for something with some beef behind it and try to demo a "citizen race" ski for comparison .... something in the "cross" genre.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks Yuki. So you would suggest a 177 in the AC 20 or 30 then. The AC 30 is definetly a stiffer ski and it doesn't seem to be too hard for me to bend it even at 177. The 170 AC20 is a lot quicker to turn but does seem to be a bit more unstable as speed picks up. These shorter ski lengths have me a bit confused as we used to go longer for speed and stability but I keep hearing that you should go short for eastern conditions. I would also assume that width would play a large role in picking a ski length as well. Just not too sure on what to go to at present, a 170 or 177. By the way my weight is 225 not 255.
post #4 of 22
Skip the AC, go for the Tigreshark 10 in 175.

AC20 not enough ski for you. AC30 is more suited to softer snow.
post #5 of 22
once you have me by about 100 pounds .. it's academic ..

You mention "ice rink" and those skis ... I tend to lean toward a race type ski for ice.

Ontario condtions ... what is the norm up there. Believe it or not, here to the south east (PA), we probably see more ice just through compaction of the surface, so emerging ice is more our norm.

The RC Tiger ??? About the same radius and perhaps better ice hold.
post #6 of 22
If your main method of turning is to tip the skis and make nice arcs, you might also like Head SuperShape Speed, Atomic SX12, Fischer WC SC or RC. Don't go smaller than 175.
post #7 of 22
My moto is this: I never ski anything that is shorter than me, or narrower than my boot.
post #8 of 22
For reference, I am 52 year old 5'8" 153 lb and a level 9 skier who also skis the east, with an occasional trip out west. I, too, used to ski 203cm when skis were skis but have accepted the new shape skis as technology that REALLY makes a difference. I also ski on Volkls and my Six Stars are 167cm and my AC4s are 170cm. Both skis have tremendous edge grip.

The Six Stars (which I think are 67mm underfoot) are simply amazing and the length is perfect for ripping small turns or big arcs. I dropped down from a 184cm Bandit X and the 167cm never felt "short". A huge sweet spot. These skis were highly rated (when new) and did not disappoint at all. I never demoed them.

I find the sweet spot on the 170cm AC4s (@ 82mm) to be smaller than the Six Stars and they don't turn nearly as tight. They are a good powder/crud ski but these somehow feel a bit "short" in powder. They absolutely rip long turns. The AC4s were also highly rated and I bought them based on reviews and my Six Star experience w/out demoing them. However, I am actually a little disappointed in their overall performance relative to the Six Stars.

That said, you did the right thing by demoing them. I recommend that you throw out conventional wisdom and buy the ski that felt better on your feet. While length will make a difference, the model of the ski will probably make a greater difference. Trust your feet.

This is just an opinion from an old timer with a similar background.
post #9 of 22
Greybeard, all skis are shaped in some way, and the very acute hourglass (carving) shapes you might be referring to are just one choice. Its really more useful to think of a ski's shape in terms of its intended mission. As a general rule, a ski that turns shorter radius turns is more suitable to ski in a shorter length. So, the lengths you tried the AC20 and AC30 in may have been appropriate to the ski and your size. At your size I comfortably skied a Six-Star in a 168, but preferred the AllStar in 175. I have wide skis ranging from 183 to 195 cm lengths. So there really is not one "right" answer for your question because the ideal length may vary with the type of ski, and what you intend to do

If you want to predominately focus on groomed or mogul runs with short radius (slalom) turns, a shorter length of ski from 168 to 177 is appropriate along with a radius from 13 to 16 meters. If you prefer higher speeds GS turns and some off-piste ability, the ski should have a bit less shape and a longer radius of 16 to 20 meters built in, and will generally be a bit wider under-foot. In this ski, you should be on a length from 175 to 185. On an off-piste ski, a length of 180 to 190 cm and radius from 18 to 30 meters would be fine. Not trying to confuse you, but this is why you will find many members here actually have several different skis, and that those skis may vary considerably in width, length and function.

Also, as far as East/West goes, you need something that will be reliable on icy condition, but it doesn't preclude longer radius skis up to 78 mm in width if you preference is long radius. If you like the Volkls, also consider the Nordica lineup. The Mach 3 and Nitrous are similar to your AC20 and AC30, and I would probably recommend them in a 170 and 178 mm length respectively.
post #10 of 22
Originally Posted by greybeard View Post
By the way my weight is 225 not 255.
Well, you know what they say.... the internet automatically adds 30 lbs.

Originally Posted by greybeard View Post
I'm inclined to go longer (177) because of my height and weight but have been told that a 170 is ok for me here out east. Looking for opinions from people who have experience coming over from straight skis.
There are others here way more qualified to comment on the specifics of individual ski models, relative to width, length, stiffness, etc... [and since I started typing and got interrupted, they have].

But I can at least comment on my personal experience, in general terms, since we share a few characteristics. Me: 50 yrs, 6'1", 175 lbs, eastern skiing in variable conditions, approx. level 6/7... plus my beard is increasingly grey! And to your question, I was very slow in making the jump to shaped skis. My only concession to advancing age and less frequent skiing was to drop from 200cm (since age 15) to 195cm. Then two seasons ago I finally got my first shaped... Salomon Crossmax 9. They seemed plenty short at 178cm, but the transition from straight was easy and pleasing. This year I set out for new skis, and ended up with 168cm in an Atomic carving ski. To be sure, I was uncertain giving away that much length, and it still seems intuitively too short, after a lifetime of measuring up to your fingertips... but they feel great underneath, and I'm finally starting to appreciate the advantages. I put great stock in the recommendations I saw on this board, including those specific to my skis by Sierra Jim et al.

Of course, as mentioned by others, some also depends on what kind of turns you like to make. But the biggest lesson for me was to let go of the fear of going "too short."
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
Great advice from all of you. I don't have the opportunity to demo a lot of skis so I'm taking your advice very seriously. The reason I took the Volkl's out was that I remember them as always being a very stiff ski which given my size seemed the reasonable thing to do. I've owned one pair of Volkl's in my life and can remember that one thing about them. Length is something I'm trying to get an appreciation for with these new skis and it appears that somewhere between 170 - 178 is were I should be. The 170 AC20's seemed really short to me but skied quite well. The 177 AC30 seemed more stable not only at speed but through the cut up crud usually found on the slopes as the day wears on. Now that may be because they are wider and stiffer than the AC20's or simply that my size is better suited to this ski. Ghost, I'm curious why you think the AC20's are not enough ski for me. Living in Ontario you know the conditions we see here and I'd really like your thoughts on that. I've read some of SierraJim's replies and his comments make a lot of sense. Anyways, if you get the chance please continue giving me your advice as I really do appreciate it.
post #12 of 22
First of all I have to say that I have not skied the AC20, nor the AC30; I'm just going by all the reviews I've read, and extrapolating using the reviews in conjunction with the various (magazines and web sites) reviewer's description of similar skis I've been on. One review site that mostly agrees with my opinion of the skis I've been able to try is the subscription (20 bucks) to Realskiers.com.

My skis: 165 Fischer WC SC (13-m turn radius), 190 Volant Machete G, 208 Kästle Super G (my old one-ski quiver).

Skis I've tried and really like: Atomic SX11:, Head Supershape Speed:

Skis I like: Head Supershape, Fischer RX8, Rossi 9S Oversize, Salomon Equipe SC, Ellan S12.

Skis that I didn' like on hardpack: Salomon Streetracers, Head IC160, Ellan S8,

My weight: 170 lbs, height 5'9.

Skiing style: I like to carve groves whenever I can. I also like to ski fast. I've been stuck in Ontario for quite a while so I'm biased to our conditions, can't tell you much about modern equipment for the really deep stuff.

My level: Probably 7 or 8, except that I think I'm much better at high-speed carving and making high-g turns than my level would suggest. I've been skiing for a few decades, but it's only in the last one that I've been at all interested in short turns or moguls. For reference, I've skied everything at Tremblant and Jay peak, on super Gs, at speed (thighs were on fire at the end of Tremblant's mogul runs).

Now about those AC20s:

It's really hard to recommend skis over the internet without seeing you ski. A crucial bit of information is your statement, "Yes, I can carve". If you do indeed use tipping the ski as your main method of turning and prefer to cut clean groves in the snow while skiing arc-to-arc, you need a ski that is designed to do that. The key ingredient for making good arcs is torsional rigidity, and an even flex pattern that matches the side cut and design speed of the ski.

However, as I learned when I stumbled upon this forum, most people did not and still do not learn to ski by arcing their skis early on in the learning process. They ski using what has been called "smearing", "blending", "soft-edge", and various other terms. The key difference as I see it is that the "soft-edge" skiing method has the edge of the ski with a lateral component of motion (snow moving across the edge rather than along the edge). People who learned to ski using this method would be very frustrated if they were put on a ski that did not allow the edge to slip sideways.

Skis like the SX11 or supershape speed, only want to arc; they don't like going sideways. You need to know how to arc your skis in order to enjoy these skis. Arcing is also not recommended in big tight bumps (too much speed is gained).

Ski companies make a plethora of skis directed at a lower level of skier who does not know how to arc skis in order that they can still enjoy skiing while they are developing the required skill to arc skis.

The AC20s are designed with an edge that will allow you to smear turns easier; they will let go easier when push comes to shove. Apparently this makes the ski easier to ski for some skiers.

Some skis, like Nordica Speed Machine 12.2 split the difference.

An other very important thing about skis, particularly for experienced skiers is stability at speed. This is a pet peeve of mine, not just because I'm a recovering high-speed addict. My brother quit skiing after he lost control on his "intermediate" skis skiing to fast. If you are going to ski fast you need skis that can handle the speed. The AC20 will not be stable at speeds you an easily reach on Blue Mountain, no matter how long you get them. On the other hand, Fischer WC or Atomic SX11 (and I presume the updated SX12) will be stable, even in the shorter lengths.

I am in the minority along with my daughter who is an intermediate in being a little confused : by these learner skis. She demoed a bunch of skis yesterday and every ski they put her on based on her reported ability she hated because they could not hold an edge. She likes skis designed for level 9 skiers even though she is a 6, probably because I showed her how to arc skis in a couple of days instead of putting her through years of smearing turns.
post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 
Ghost, first, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. It's greatly appreciated. You along with the others from Ontario know our conditions and what works here. Your description of your style is quite a bit different than mine. I can carve a ski and come up on edge very quickly which is something I have always done. These new skis seem to allow much easier initiation of the turn compared to what I was used to (K2 4's @210cm). You ski at a much higher speed than I do from the sounds of it. I'm slowing down not only because of my age but because of an accident I had years ago which broke my collar bone, fractured several rips and broke my leg just above the cuff of my right boot. I gave up skiing after that and have just now returned to it after over a decade away. I demoed the VOLKL AC 20 (170) and the AC 30 (177) and found both quite good. The AC 20 was a muche softer ski and was quite nimble on short turns but not as stable as the AC 30. The AC 30 is better suited to longer turns and higher speeds. I'm just not sure how much the length is affecting that. The hill I use most often is Mount St. Louis - Moonstone and I did not hesitate taking either of these skis on any of their runs (I know, it's not that challenging). I wish I could get my hands on the TS 10 as you suggested as it may very well be a good choice for me.
post #14 of 22
About length, it makes a little difference, but not nearly as much as the model of ski.

The AC 30 in a smaller length would still be stable; it doesn't matter how long an AC 20 you try it will not be stable at speed. At 76 mm the AC 30 is a little wider than I would want for Ontario, but MSL does have more snow than most places around here, and it is a matter of taste. So long as you pick the correct ski, you don't need to go long for high-speed stability, but I would suggest the 177 cm AC30 was the right length for you.

If you want more nimbleness, pick a ski with a smaller turn radius, not a ski for a lower level. The 177 AC 30 has a turn radius of 18.1 m and the AC20 has a turn radius of 16.1 m. That's why it's more nimble. You can get smaller radii in a stable ski that carves better than the AC 20.

You might want to consider an RX8, or Supershape, which are quite nimble and work at slow speeds, and are stable enough at higher speeds. Given your weight, an RC4 Progressor or Supershape Magnum might be also be good choices. These skis work as well at slow speeds as fast speeds.
post #15 of 22
Greybeard - We have some things in common. Last year I jumped back into skiing after having only one good year in the last 6. I'm 44, 5' 9" 210#, but I was heavier (220-230) last year. I was probably level 6 or so at the start of last season. I had not bought new skis since '97.

On the advice of others here on this forum (HRStrat57 & SkiMangoJazz), I picked up some RX8s at 170cm. They have worked out great for me. I don't plan to go any longer than I need to. Maybe some hard-core, high-speed madmen want the extra length, but I don't need it.

Anyhow, I'm skiing great on these this year and the edges are unreal. I feel like I'm being thrown from side to side when I really push these things out from under me.

Keep browsing the threads here and post your questions before you make your decision. There is a boatload of great advice on this forum.

Also, go to a top-notch bootfitter. If you can get to Vermont easily enough from where you're at, you can find a bunch of recommendations right here. I went to Race Stock Sports just a few miles south of Stowe. I'll tell you more about my experience if you're interested. The crew down in Stratton Vermont also have an excellent reputation.

Most of all, enjoy! The new boots and skis have re-awakened my passion for this sport.
post #16 of 22
I've skied the AC30 not the AC20 but based on your size and ability would definitely go with the AC30 in a 177cm...Just don't think the AC20 in a 170 is enough ski.
I'm 190lbs and ski the AC40 in a 184cm but prefer longer/beefier skis anyway.
post #17 of 22

The length of the ski is not what we really want to know, but that's all the info we're given.

Going back to Yuki's first post...the stiffness is somewhat proportional to the length. In any ski brand & model, as they get longer they also get stiffer and require more energy input into them (by you) for the skis to respond as they are designed to do. For my size and ability, I buy the next-to-longest size in a model line. I've found that to be a good starting point for my ski selection.

I'd suggest that you rent some high performance skis wherever you ski. Get used to the modern skis first before you buy. Then, you might make a ski trip to an area that has a very good demo shop, maybe on a weekday where you can arrange to switch skis during the day. Try as many models and sizes as you can arrange, maybe only two runs on each ski. You'll be amazed at both how good the skis are and how much difference the size of your smile is with any of these excellent and suitable skis. Some will feel great to you, and some excellent ones won't be right for you at all. Buy the ones that put the biggest smile on your face.
post #18 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks folks. Some good advice and I really appreciate it. To answer one question, yes I have new boots fitted by a very good shop. I also have custom footbeds in them (I wear orthodics in my shoes at all times). I've had the opportunity to try several different skis out due to some good friends. I like these shaped skis, makes life easier than I remember on straight skis. I'll keep trying as many as I can over the next little while and I'm sure I'll find a ski thats suitable for me. Please feel free to make recommendations and give advice. Rest assured I'm listening and learning.
post #19 of 22
greybeard, you've been given some pretty good recommendations here. It's true that ski length ain't what it yewstuh be. However, you CAN go too short and you CAN go too long. In each model ski, you can handle one size down or one size up from optimum - but optimum is where it's at.

I have a brand new, wonderful pair of skis. I've had two consecutive runs on them - that's all. If I HAD to ski with them and only with them - I could. Truth be known, though, they're shorter than optimum for me and I would have had happier feet with the next size up. I also skied some demos in a length I'd consider one size up from my optimum. I liked them, and they were my only skis and if I HAD to ski with them and only them - I could. Knowing what I know, I've ordered them in the next size down.

My gut and brain are agreeing with each other, and they're telling me that the 177 will feel happier to you than the 170.
post #20 of 22
Greybeard, I am also stuck skiing here in Ontario and travel to most of the hills here, private and public with my kids race teams. The one thing in common is ice and hard pack. With the proper ski you will learn to prefer these conditions. A ski you may like is the Head Magnum. I am 6'1 and 195 llbs and ski it in the 170 and for around here it is great. If you are from the GTA then PM me and I can arrange for you to demo several of the Head models if you want.
post #21 of 22
I also agree that a little longer is better, particularly at your weight. Although MarcusFire is happy with his 170 RX8's, I am happier with my 175 RX8's. I weigh about 195 and am about a level 8 skier. Although I like to go fast, I mostly try to keep it down a bit being 55 and more cautious. I find the short turns just fine on them, and like the extra length because of less of a need to be perfectly centered all the time. I skied 165's for 2 years and loved them, they really turned great, but the sweet spot was smaller and it was easier to get in the backseat on them.

There's another thread I started with a lot of discussion on this topic if you're interested http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=60175
post #22 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the advice folks. booch, thank you for the kind offer. If we ever get snow again I may come down and take you up on it. I think I'll keep trying different skis and lengths as conditions allow. I'm sure I'll find something suitable amongst all of your suggestions.
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