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The effect of wide skis on knees

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#1
I just stumbled upon this article about the strain wide skis (for this article, this means 90mm and up) put on the skier's knees. What do people here think?
https://realskiers.com/revelations/why-wide-skis-arent-good-for-your-knees/

Some excerpts:
--Ground Reaction Force is a major contributor to knee vulnerability on wide skis that also causes skiers to change how they navigate downhill.
--Depending on snow density and water content, it takes 8 to 14 inches of snow to reduce the negative effects GRF. When you’re romping around on 6 to 8 inches, GRF is with you all the way. The wider the ski, the more GRF is multiplied and the greater the strain on knee ligaments when trying to get the ski on edge.
--Whether by instinctive reaction or conscious decision, a skier with a wide ski on hard snow defuses GRF simply by not edging.
--While being in a constant power drift helps reduce knee strain to some degree, it also entails an inherent loss of control.
--Wide skis on hard snow are a bad idea, period.
--My theory is that a ski’s width is essentially invisible to the skier’s knee as long as the ski is no wider than the skier’s tibia head, or the point of ligament attachment. When advising skiers on ski width, my homemade metric is most men can ski up to a 100mm-wide ski without feeling routine strain when edged, while for women this guideline is 90mm.
--One reason no one knows exactly how wide is too wide is that research in this field requires money, perseverance and patience to test any proposition about ski-skier interaction. Money for this purpose doesn’t drop from the sky. When Prof. Seifert sought funding from the National Institute of Health, his request was denied on the grounds that skiing was an elitist sport. Ouch.
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
My own personal experience agrees with this. That's why I ski on an 88 under foot almost every time I ski here in Utah (which is a lot of days per season.) The younger gals (I'm 50) poopoo this, but I believe it WILL catch up to them eventually.
 
#3
I used to routinely ski a 95-98mm ski on the east coast as my daily driver, currently my daily driver is a 92, my “powder” skis are 96, and my super icy day skis are 81. I’ve had a mild knee strain once skiing, and it was after a week at Big Sky. I assume it was from the many long days in a row, my lack of powder technique, and more extreme terrain than I normally ski versus anything to do with my skis. Perhaps it has to do with the individual’s anatomy as well as age and joint history. Perhaps it can compound over time. I’m not sure, but I personally feel exceptionally good on my current skis and don’t feel any strain on my knees. The past few seasons I’ve also been working a lot on bumps and trees so I’m usually actively trying to get off of my edges more, this could be a factor in my experience. Though I definitely have my groomer days when I’m on edge more as well.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#4
Well, I have to agree with the point, "wide skis on hard snow are a bad idea, period". My knees really ache after skiing anything but my slaloms.

Also the point of not edging. That's what I see on the hill with people with wide skis. In powder or crud edging is not required, but on groomed snow and eastern powder (aka hardpack) it is.
 

tinymoose

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#5
I have this issue with wider skis, but for me it starts lower than 90 mm. I'm not sure if that's a reflection of my height/petite-size or I'm destined for knee problems down the road. I spent most of last winter skiing my slalom skis here in PA due to a lack of any trees/bumps/snow in general.
 

VickiK

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
It's like a rubber band. Ski waists stretched out, now they're contracting again. Here's a video from the same person, 82 is the new 88. But especially important for shorter people like me. I don't travel with a quiver of skis, so the most versatile ski that is also the most fun ski is what I really want. The catch is that I do have to compromise along the way.
 

sibhusky

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#7
As I said over on Pugski I find wider skis on hardpack tiring, and even more so at the beginning of the season. It's sheer physics and geometry, you just use different muscles. Those that don't see a difference are just in better shape when it comes to those muscles.

My "fat" skis are a mere 98. I wouldn't even consider demoing over 104. But we get actual snow on the trails here on occasion, so I need to own wider skis, because skis in the lower 80's are a lot more work once the snow is over four inches. (My first "powder skis" were 78's, but they really didn't float.) Fortunately I rent a locker, for those days I find out that it's deeper or denser than I was expecting.
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#8
It's like a rubber band. Ski waists stretched out, now they're contracting again. Here's a video from the same person, 82 is the new 88. But especially important for shorter people like me. I don't travel with a quiver of skis, so the most versatile ski that is also the most fun ski is what I really want. The catch is that I do have to compromise along the way.
That Black Pearl 82 he references in the video was loads of fun when I skied it last February during testing. I'd happily own a pair for days where I know I'm not going off-piste much, or when I want to work on moguls.
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#9
As I said over on Pugski I find wider skis on hardpack tiring, and even more so at the beginning of the season. It's sheer physics and geometry, you just use different muscles. Those that don't see a difference are just in better shape when it comes to those muscles.

My "fat" skis are a mere 98. I wouldn't even consider demoing over 104. But we get actual snow on the trails here on occasion, so I need to own wider skis, because skis in the lower 80's are a lot more work once the snow is over four inches. (My first "powder skis" were 78's, but they really didn't float.) Fortunately I rent a locker, for those days I find out that it's deeper or denser than I was expecting.
You owe it to yourself to try the Santa Ana 88. I find them to do very well in powder compared to any other 88s (or in that width range) I've ever skied. And I'm with you on nothing much wider than a 98 (or 100.) When I get much wider than that for more than one day of powder, my knees are telling me.
 

racetiger

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#10
My "wides" are my 88 "all mountain/ park" heavily rockered skis and I don't like how they feel on midwest icy hard snow in January. They Love it when the temps are 20-50 °F though. My others are 81 "all mountain" and 65 "race" and Ive never had tired achy knees after long days on those. I pretty much learned how to ski on 65s so that might have something to do with it.
So yeah, I too agree that wide skis in the wrong environment arent great for the knees. Im lucky to see powder once a year so I dont see myself owning anything much wider than the 88s
 

Bookworm

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
You owe it to yourself to try the Santa Ana 88. I find them to do very well in powder compared to any other 88s (or in that width range) I've ever skied. And I'm with you on nothing much wider than a 98 (or 100.) When I get much wider than that for more than one day of powder, my knees are telling me.
Have you tried the BP 88s? If so, would you compare them to the Santa Anna’s?
 

mountainwest

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#12
Timely article - thanks for posting! This will help me in deciding which skis to buy this season (it’s time to replace my firm snow skis). I rarely have to ski hardpack and agree that wide skis are not good for it just based on how poorly they perform on it (although to me wide is more like 100+), but had no idea that wide skis on hardpack could also be bad for your knees. I was thinking about buying Nordica Santa Ana 93s because I loved them at a demo day last season, but now I might go with their new 88s instead.

@contesstant, you have the Santa Ana 88s already and love them?
 

WaterGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
Interesting about measuring your tibia head. So if you have "larger" knees, you may be able to go wider??????? I did purchase narrower skis (86) last year to play around with skills / drills and rip on some groomers. Absolutely hands down easier and less tiring on the mt. But there are other factors - turn radius etc. Longer turn radius which I tend to gravitate towards 18+ for wider skis (+97) may make it less stressful to ski? B/c really just smearing on piste to get to fresh and charging thru crud? Yes its an effort to carve wider skis. Although I'm mostly off piste, I can't ever imagine a short turn radius fat ski. Just not me. * However, I do own the Elan Ripstick 94 as my AT set up w/ TR of 15 and this ski is absolutely a blast on the mountain for carving and handles everything. So definitely multiple variables that come into play and why the study will never really be 'scientifically accurate', but certainly informative on the trend back to narrow and confirmation that trying to make a wider ski perform like a frontside ski is a lot of effort and possibly not in your best interest.
 

sibhusky

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#14
You owe it to yourself to try the Santa Ana 88. I find them to do very well in powder compared to any other 88s (or in that width range) I've ever skied. And I'm with you on nothing much wider than a 98 (or 100.) When I get much wider than that for more than one day of powder, my knees are telling me.
I actually never look at women's skis because I'm over 200 pounds these days. Plus I have new, used only 6 days, 84's, so I'm not in the market for 88's unless these don't work out (they are maybe a tad stiffer than the ones they are replacing--I don't like them as much SO FAR.). On top of that, my experiment with Nordicas has been underwhelming. Those are my powder skis. We're on speaking terms, but that's it. Those skis are the ones I want to replace next. But I've been using them less, so I keep thinking, "Ahhh, maybe I can get another year out of these." I need to demo something, but demo day for skis is always before I'm ready.

I guess I could look at their 100's-sisters.
 
#15
I have 'old, used up knees, torn MCL's and severe arthritis (so the Dr says) they don't hurt when I ski unless I do too much. Last year I skied my Z-90's EVERYWHERE. They for some reason do not hurt my knees.

I have Atomic 11's- 71 under foot, they are a precision ski, no fooling around. They are quick turners and fast skis. I can torque me knees on them more than on the z-90's.

I demo'd Liberty 76W's at Mammoth this past May/June. Frosty, frozen in the AM turned to corn and bumps in the PM these skis were the bomb. I think I'm going to sell the 11's and get the liberty but now that Renoun made 80's under foot that may be my ski.

I think the fatter the ski the more the schmear/skid vs Hard Carving, rail road tracks.

I am thankful for Technology it is amazing for old knees. Renoun Co, I think could get an award from the arthritis foundation for 'easy on the knees' construction. I can not ski skis that have 'tip shake/bobble' that kills my knees. When I ski a ski too short that also hurts my knees every time.

Demo Demo Demo for a ski that works where we specifically ski
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#16
Have you tried the BP 88s? If so, would you compare them to the Santa Anna’s?
I OWNED and skied the BP 88s for 2 full seasons. GREAT ski, but their shape made them not nearly as fun in untracked powder as the Santa Ana 88s. In fact, the Santa Anas, for me, are better than the BPs in everything. Just smoother, more stable, easier even though they have titanal in them (absent in the BPs.)
Timely article - thanks for posting! This will help me in deciding which skis to buy this season (it’s time to replace my firm snow skis). I rarely have to ski hardpack and agree that wide skis are not good for it just based on how poorly they perform on it (although to me wide is more like 100+), but had no idea that wide skis on hardpack could also be bad for your knees. I was thinking about buying Nordica Santa Ana 93s because I loved them at a demo day last season, but now I might go with their new 88s instead.

@contesstant, you have the Santa Ana 88s already and love them?
I bought a pair in February and have skied them in every condition imaginable, probably about 40 days on them. They made everything I skied easier and more fun.

For those who think the BPs are not quite "enough" ski, but who find a Volkl Kenja or Secret "too much" ski, the SA 88s are the perfect balance in the middle.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
It would be very helpful if everyone talking about how their skis work would identify where they ski as they evaluate how their skis treat them.

Some skiers are on hard groomers all season long, or on hard bumps in the trees or ice bumps on the few trails left ungroomed. I'm talking about New England here. We don't have bowls or lift-served above-tree-line skiing.

Other skiers ski where it snows regularly, where there are bowls and acres of tree skiing, and can get themselves onto some form of soft snow almost every time they ski.

The same ski won't serve both equally well. It would help to know what flavor of snow people are skiing on to understand their evaluation of fat skis.
 

kiki

Angel Diva
#18
I have 'old, used up knees, torn MCL's and severe arthritis (so the Dr says) they don't hurt when I ski unless I do too much. Last year I skied my Z-90's EVERYWHERE. They for some reason do not hurt my knees.

I have Atomic 11's- 71 under foot, they are a precision ski, no fooling around. They are quick turners and fast skis. I can torque me knees on them more than on the z-90's.

I demo'd Liberty 76W's at Mammoth this past May/June. Frosty, frozen in the AM turned to corn and bumps in the PM these skis were the bomb. I think I'm going to sell the 11's and get the liberty but now that Renoun made 80's under foot that may be my ski.

I think the fatter the ski the more the schmear/skid vs Hard Carving, rail road tracks.

I am thankful for Technology it is amazing for old knees. Renoun Co, I think could get an award from the arthritis foundation for 'easy on the knees' construction. I can not ski skis that have 'tip shake/bobble' that kills my knees. When I ski a ski too short that also hurts my knees every time.

Demo Demo Demo for a ski that works where we specifically ski
I ski the west coast so maybe a bit softer conditions than a lot of you deal with. My z90s are my everyday ski and i feel they are kind on my knees. I have been eyeing up the new renoun 80 width skis amd will be interested in what people find with them
 
#19
I was pretty underwhelmed by the article itself, everything seemed very subjective, and it didn't go into any description of where the information was coming from. Even if he noted "a study conducted by XXXX concluded that XXXXXX" it would have helped out the article a lot.

However, it did intrigue my interest enough to watch the video linked. I haven't finished it yet, but the video helped redeem some of the shortfalls of the article. Definitely interesting stuff on how wider skis affect the joints, forces in a turn and muscles as a whole. Some of my lingering questions may be answered later in the video...so take these comments with a grain of salt.

One thing that has stood out to me thus far is that all of the skiers in these studies come from race, or demonstration team backgrounds. I would be very curious to see these same studies conducted with a different range of talents, more specifically adding people that focus their careers on "3D" terrain.

--My theory is that a ski’s width is essentially invisible to the skier’s knee as long as the ski is no wider than the skier’s tibia head, or the point of ligament attachment. When advising skiers on ski width, my homemade metric is most men can ski up to a 100mm-wide ski without feeling routine strain when edged, while for women this guideline is 90mm.
This is an interesting theory...would like to see how this shakes out. I'm actually very surprised that the theory wouldn't be foot/boot width. Coming from a snowboarding background, I've gone thru many different snowboards, and one of the greatest factors of getting a board up on edge is the width. I have relatively small feet, and really feel the difficulty on hard pack. This is something my husband, whose also an avid snowboarder, has never experienced. To me...skiing is the same thing...you're just going from pinky toe to big toe rather than heel to toe.

All in all...ski what you like. If wide skis hurt your knees, don't ski them. Some people are willing to give up hard snow performance and technique to have a more stable platform when they get off-piste. It's all about compromise and what you're willing to give up.
 
#20
I ski in SoCal - locally is pretty much groomers, or chopped up crud, all the time. My Volkl 90eights are still my preferred ski in everything. I bought a pair of Renoun Z-90s at the end of last season. I did like them on the spring icy morning corduroy, but I did not like them on the slushy, heavy stuff that came later in the day. They will get a true test this season during regular winter. My 90eights are definitely more versatile and they do carve. I don't have knee problems and I don't feel the knees complaining with those skis. They were terrible one time - on steep solid "coral reef" off piste. I had to side slip. I have Volkl Ones (116) for powder days over 6" because I am a terrible power skier and need all the help I can get! I don't dispute the article but I just don't feel any knee issues with wider skis. I'm 60, but my knees are good ... now the hips ... well that's another thread.
 

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