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Ski Length and Women

chasinghorizons

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
On the tram at Palisades recently, I looked around and was so annoyed. All the guys had skis that were around head height and all the women had skis around chin-nose height. I remember thinking most of those skis can't possibly feel very good, and most of those women were likely being short-changed. Why can't those guy friends/bfs/husbands advise them better?!
Also rode the lift at Kirkwood recently with a ~5'7" lady who was just getting back into skiing, but still at least a solid intermediate and going on black runs - the rental shop had given her length 158! We started talking about skis and she said she had noticed some shakiness, but thought it was just the conditions. I think rentals shops have such a terrible tendency to size down, likely because most people will blame the shakiness that comes from too-short skis on conditions or their own skills. It's infuriating.
 

lisaski

Certified Ski Diva
As background . . . I started skiing on straight skis that were over my head (late 1960s). But only skied a couple of seasons as a teen. The first pair of skis I bought as an adult are still in my closet. They are mid-170s. I'm 5'0" (officially a bit shorter), 110 lbs, and didn't become a solid advanced skier until 5-6 years ago (after age 55). The skis I've bought in the last 15 years range from mid-140s to 159cm. The powder skis I've rented when I got lucky on trips out west have ranged from mid-150s to mid-160s.

The exception was the BP98 at Taos @152 during a Ski Week when no black terrain was open but we got to ski 9 inches of fresh snow for a day. Of course, the emphasis at Taos is skiing bumps and trees, not wide open powder bowls. Some of the instructors prefer that people renting get relatively short skis.

I'm very happy with the DPS Zelda @158cm, 133-106-122, R 18m, that I bought from a Diva a couple seasons ago. They are most definitely powder skis at 106 underfoot, but my technique has improved to the point that I could carve them on soft groomers at TSV last week.

By taking every opportunity to demo (Massanutten and Whitetail in Jan, Alta in April, in the northeast a few times), whether at a Demo Day or by checking out multiple skis when renting demo skis, I became a lot less worried about ski length. Any powder skis that are 5-10 cm longer than my all-mountain skis are fine. When you're petite, sometimes can't be too picky.

Then there are the indie ski that are completely different in terms of design on purpose. I had a chance to demo a pair of Mad Russian skis (all wood, made by hand by the inventor/creator) at Wachusett (near Boston) back in 2018. Not only way over my head, but also had bindings mounted far from the center of the skis. There was a LOT of ski length in front and almost no sidecut. However, they were quite easy to turn on groomers and in a few inches of untracked powder (side of a blue).

View attachment 15405
Wow! The bindings are so far set back on those skis! My immediate impression is that to ski those and stay in control one has to be in front of them - a lot of weight forward. It's cool that you demo skis whenever you can. That is one thing I have not done. Fortunately, my ski purchases have worked out so far.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Wow! The bindings are so far set back on those skis! My immediate impression is that to ski those and stay in control one has to be in front of them - a lot of weight forward. It's cool that you demo skis whenever you can. That is one thing I have not done. Fortunately, my ski purchases have worked out so far.
I just skied the way I normally do. Seemed to work fine.

I started demo'ing as much to know what to buy as to know what to rent when I didn't have the best skis during a trip to big mountains. I found I tended to learn more from skis I didn't like than the ones I found fun because they were easier to control and turn.
 

scandium

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
On the tram at Palisades recently, I looked around and was so annoyed. All the guys had skis that were around head height and all the women had skis around chin-nose height. I remember thinking most of those skis can't possibly feel very good, and most of those women were likely being short-changed. Why can't those guy friends/bfs/husbands advise them better?!
Also rode the lift at Kirkwood recently with a ~5'7" lady who was just getting back into skiing, but still at least a solid intermediate and going on black runs - the rental shop had given her length 158! We started talking about skis and she said she had noticed some shakiness, but thought it was just the conditions. I think rentals shops have such a terrible tendency to size down, likely because most people will blame the shakiness that comes from too-short skis on conditions or their own skills. It's infuriating.
Sometimes I wish they would size skis with a weight range like they do with snowboards, to give people an idea that they can go longer if they are heavier. I know the leverage that comes with height seems to influence ski length choice more, but it always seems silly to put people on soft beginner-intermediate skis that are also too short and limit their progression when they might benefit from the stability of a slightly longer or slightly stiffer ski.
 

NWSkiGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Interesting article in Skimag.com on the appropriate ski length for women. What do you think?

Ladies, Don’t Let Shop Guys Sell You Short Skis

Jenny Wiegand March 29, 2021

Womens Skis: With new ski technologies, the old chin rule doesn't apply anymore.

Q: In the latest SKI Gear Guide, I found very few skis that come in a length less than 150cm. There was only one ski in the All-Mountain category, a few in Frontside, and none in the other categories. Maybe next year you could include a section on Petite Women Skiers. – Ellie G. (under 5-foot skier)

Most women’s-specific skis entered into SKI’s annual test come in a variety of lengths, but the shortest does usually hover around the 150cm-mark. Here’s why: In most cases, even petite women should be on a ski that’s at least 150cm long. Modern ski technology and construction, such as rocker profiles, have made longer skis much more accessible even to shorter skiers. And in most cases, the added length of the ski is a bonus. To help you choose the right ski length for your height and skiing ability, let’s dive deeper into how modern technology has changed the way skis perform relative to their length.

Rocker Technology and Ski Length

Most modern skis—even skis designed for on-trail performance—have at least a little bit of rocker in the tip. Wider skis designed primarily for off-trail performance will generally feature more rocker in both the tip and tail of the ski. If a ski is rockered in the tip (and tail), a portion of the ski’s tip (and tail) is designed to slightly curve upward away from the snow, so that this area does not make contact with the snow.

Rocker profile varies widely between ski manufacturers and the category of the ski. But whether a ski has minimal or generous rocker, this construction makes skiing easier because it reduces the effective edge of the ski, or the amount of edge that actually makes contact with the snow. Less edge contact allows the ski to pivot more easily from side to side, making turn initiation and release more effortless. But less effective edge also makes skis less stable at speed. Whereas skis of yore without rocker used to ski true to their length because you skied the entire edge length, skis today tend to ski shorter than their length because the amount of effective edge is reduced by the rocker profile.

Previously, women were often advised to purchase skis that reached up to their chin or nose (if you were considered a beginner, the chin-rule applied). Advanced and expert women were sold skis that reached to the middle of their forehead. But this sweeping rule is now outdated. If a woman were to choose a ski that only comes up to her nose today, chances are, that ski would ski too short for her because the rocker profile in the tip will provide less effective edge relative to the length of the ski. So instead of relying just on height to choose the right ski length for you, you should first and foremost consider your skiing ability and where you like to ski.

Choosing Ski Length Based on Ability

Despite rocker technology, true beginners may still want to stick with a short ski because it will be lighter and more maneuverable, making the learning process a little easier on them. But intermediate women should feel comfortable choosing skis that are as long as they are tall. Even if you’re very petite, say 4-foot 11-inches, a 150cm ski will reach right up to the top of your head. Remember, a rockered ski that reaches to the top of your head will ski shorter than its length, so choosing a ski that’s as long as you are tall gives you a little more effective edge to work with.

Advanced and expert women, on the other hand, may want to choose a ski that’s actually taller than they are, especially if they are particularly strong and athletic skiers.

Stronger skiers tend ski in a forward position and bend a ski a lot more than intermediates, so they could probably use more effective edge. Picking a ski that’s slightly longer than they are tall gives them more edge grip and more stability at speed, while still benefiting from rocker technology which generally makes longer skis easier to turn.

The average height of SKI’s female gear testers is around 5-foot 6-inches (or 168cm). Most of our female testers prefer a ski that is at least 170cm, and when testing all-mountain or powder skis, most size up to 172cm to 175cm.

Choosing Ski Length Based on Terrain and Style

Besides your ability, the type of terrain you like to ski and your skiing style may dictate the length of ski you want. Intermediate women who spend most of their time on groomers should look for a frontside ski that comes up to their forehead or is about 3-5 cm shorter than they are.

Frontside skis have less rocker, more effective edge, and ski truer to their length, so a slightly shorter ski will give intermediate skiers enough edge grip and stability on hard snow without bogging them down. Again, advanced and expert skiers should look for a ski that is roughly as tall as they are.

All-mountain and powder skis generally feature more rocker in both the tip and tail of the ski, so intermediate women should feel comfortable sizing up slightly to a ski that is as tall as they are. Advanced and expert skiers may want to consider an all-mountain or powder ski that is slightly taller than they are provided the ski has a generous rocker profile.

Short Women’s-Specific Skis

Petite women who have done their research and still feel more comfortable on shorter skis can look to manufacturers like Stöckli, Kästle, Blizzard, Nordica, Rossignol, and Elan. These brands do make some skis that come in lengths starting at around 147cm.

If you need something even shorter than that, you may need to look at junior skis. These skis will generally be even easier to maneuver and come in multiple lengths below 150cm. It’s worth noting, however, that junior skis may not be up to the same performance standards as the women’s-specific skis tested and reviewed in SKI’s annual Gear Guide.
It's a great article! I sized up my Volkl Auras as I needed more stability at speed. I'm only 5'4", but they are all rocker and were skiing too short. My Sheeva 10s are 164 and seem about right. I learned about longer skis on this site!
 

Soujan

Angel Diva
For myself, I actually enjoy a shorter ski and the more playful feel that comes along with it. I'm currently on a Head Wild Joy, 89 underfoot, 153 length, and a 2021 Head Total Joy, 85 underfoot, 158 length. I bought the Wild Joys after demoing both the 153 and 158 lengths and preferred the 153 for playfulness and maneuverability. I purchased the Total Joy without demoing. I went with the longer length because it was a narrower ski and my application would be different. However, the Total Joy gives me more of a "meh" feeling as compared to the Wild Joy, which I love. The types of wood in the skies are different but I also wonder how much length is a factor.

Also, proper length also depends on how much how much edge contact the ski has. I've tried skies with a lot of rocker and I had to size up a lot to get enough edge contact for the skis to feel stable. I prefer skis with very little rocker.

For reference, I'm 5'2", 140 lbs and an advanced intermediate that likes to push the speed of the skis. Not so much of a tree or bump skier yet. Working on it.
 

Amie H

Angel Diva
I'm embarrassed to admit that I *thought* both pairs of my skis were 153s but they are actually 146s! :embarrassed:
But, hey, they are easier to travel with (I don't need a roof rack on my car!) I *was* actually thinking about moving up to a 153 length on a newer model ski for next season because I felt I was skiing well this past season.
The funny thing is, I never wanted to give up my good ole' long planks from 1990 or whatever. I loved those and the boots I had with them. It was the rental shop in Taos in 2018 that put me in 146s (I took a pic of what I rented to local shop after I got back.) I demo'd either 158 or 162 BPs in Whitefish in 2019 and they were uncomfortably fast for me at the time.
 

sibhusky

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
My skis are the same length as I am, oddly, exactly the same cm. They feel right for me. But my daughter also skis that same length and she is 5'4" (I'm 5'8".) I've been thinking of going slightly shorter as I age.
 

SkiBam

Angel Diva
Most skis I've liked have been in the 146-149 range. (I'm short - just a bit taller than these skis.) Whenever I go shorter than that I've never been happy. It surprises how such a small amount changes my ski experience. I had bought the Super Joy in a 143 (having demoed the next size up - maybe 149?) and wasn't happy with it - just didn't have the stability I wanted. Bought the longer length this year and was happy. (PS - my daughters and now granddaughters have benefited greatly from all my hand-me-down skis!)
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Most skis I've liked have been in the 146-149 range. (I'm short - just a bit taller than these skis.) Whenever I go shorter than that I've never been happy. It surprises how such a small amount changes my ski experience. I had bought the Super Joy in a 143 (having demoed the next size up - maybe 149?) and wasn't happy with it - just didn't have the stability I wanted. Bought the longer length this year and was happy. (PS - my daughters and now granddaughters have benefited greatly from all my hand-me-down skis!)
I'm in the same petite size category, pretty much 150cm at this point after having started shrinking after age 60 or so. My all-mountain skis for big mountains in the Rockies have been 154-159cm for a while. Might have been a little long when I was an adventurous intermediate over a decade ago, but I learned on straight skis that were over my head so a longer length wasn't intimidating at all. Still felt quite short in fact.

Used to rent powder skis that were up to around 165cm but have been sticking to 159-162 in recent years. Bought a pair of used powder skis @158 after having a pretty good time on them renting for a day at Alta a few years before the opportunity to buy from a Diva came up. Having skied the DPS Zelda skis in a variety of conditions the last couple seasons, including on warm snow at Alta after getting Phantom on the bases last April, I'm quite happy with the length. Makes them far more versatile when it isn't a deep powder day with cold snow.

I have shorter skis for skiing short trails in my home region, which is the southeast. No reason to carry skis longer than 150cm when skiing groomed runs with 100% manmade snow that take no more than 4 min to finish even when making lots of turns.
 

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