The Proper Ski Length Based on Weight & Height

The best ski length is the one you enjoy most.

The best ski length is the one you enjoy most.

Male skiers think the most embarrassing part of skiing is skidding out of control and wiping out an entire lift line, but women know the most humiliating aspect of the sport is revealing your real height and weight to the technician helping you select skis. No matter how embarrassing, you must tell the truth. If you are on the wrong length skis, you'll have problems controlling speed and direction, so when you do crash into a lift line, you end up entangled with some large hairy guy with a beer belly instead of the gorgeous ski instructor you aimed at.

Ski Length Based on Weight

You can calculate a standard ski length based on your weight. If you weigh between 100 and 125 pounds, use 145 centimeters skis. Skiers weighing from 120 to 140 pounds should select 152-centimeter skis. For weights from 135 to 155 pounds, choose 160 centimeters. If you weigh more than 150 pounds, use 162-centimeter skis.

Ski Length Based on Height

If you don't want to admit to how much you weigh, you can determine ski length by your height. The simplest way to measure the correct ski length is to place the tail of the ski on the floor. The tip of the ski should be on roughly the same level as the tip of your nose. If you are less than 5 feet tall in your bare feet, choose skis between 135 and 145 centimeters long. If you are between 5 feet and 5 feet 4 inches tall, select skis between 140 and 155 centimeters long. Women from 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall should choose skis from 155 to 170 centimeters in length. If you are taller than 5 feet 8 inches, go for skis from 160 to 175 centimeters long.

Ability Level

Shorter skis are easier to control and require less effort to turn, but they can be unstable at high speed and don't grip steep or icy slopes as well as longer skis. Therefore, you need to modify height and weight guidelines for ski length to take into account your ability level. Beginners should subtract 10 to 20 centimeters from the recommended length, cautious intermediates should subtract 5 centimeters and experts add 5 to 10 centimeters.

Terrain and Snow Conditions

Skis with greater surface area provide more flotation in deep, ungroomed snow. Specialized powder skis are wider, softer and 5 or 10 centimeters longer than all-mountain skis. If you enjoy cruising at high speeds on wide-open slopes in the Western United States, you'll want a longer ski than if you normally ski narrow trails or moguls. Racers use longer, stiffer skis than recreational skiers, ranging from 155-centimeter slalom skis to 205-centimeter downhill skis. Because pure race skis are designed to be stable at high speeds on racecourses, they are too long and stiff to be used safely for recreational skiing.

Personalizing Ski Length

Your personal fitness level, ski style and taste also affect ski length. If you are injury-prone, out of shape or have weak knees, choose a ski 5 centimeters shorter than the recommended length for your height or weight. Aggressive, athletic skiers can go 5 to 10 centimeters longer than more cautious skiers. The most important issue is what feels good when you ski. Always try out skis on a variety of terrain, and choose the length that feels best to you.

About the Author

Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.

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