The slalom is a type of ski race that requires both speed and agility. Not only does the skier have to make it down the hill quickly, but he must also navigate the poles or "gates" set up along the course. That type of course typically requires a ski with which you can maintain a good amount of control -- which is typically a shorter ski than other types of downhill races. When you're trying to determine the right size for your slalom racing skis, you'll need to first consider the rules of the competitions you plan to enter.
Consult the governing body with which you race to get its guidelines on the minimum ski length for your gender and age. Different organizations have different guidelines; for example, the World Cup and the World Ski Championships have a minimum length of 195 centimeters for the men's giant slalom, while the NorAm Cup has a minimum length of 185 centimeters for the same men's event. These rules may override any other decisions you may have made about the length of your competitive slalom skis, so be sure to do it first.
Locate the shortest skis that still fall within your governing body's guidelines. Slalom racers typically want the shortest skis possible for the sport -- so long as they meet the guidelines for the race. In the regular slalom, for example, that length is typically 165 centimeters for men and 155 centimeters for women.
Test the flex of the skis by holding one ski vertically, with the bottom end resting on the floor. Hold the top end of the ski and push down and slightly outward to see how bowed you can make the ski; this demonstrates how much flex it has. Typically, racing skis have less flex than standard skis. You may have to test a few pairs to determine whether the ones you're looking at are more or less flexible than others. This is another case in which the retailer can help you make the best choice based on your skill level and how you'll be using the skis.
Rent, buy or borrow the skis that seem to be the right fit and flex, and test them out on the mountain. Try to hit a slalom course at racing speed to test the performance of the skis, then base your decision to keep the skis on how well they performed.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.