Ski Size Chart: How to Size Skis

Trying to figure out which size to purchase for your next set of skis? Look no further! Ski Expert Gunnar O. gives a full rundown on how to size your skis!

A man holding skis on a snowy ski mountain.

Photo by Visit Almaty

Many factors come into play when determining the correct size ski, but the most important is simply what feels right for the individual. However, most skiers don’t get a chance to try on many skis before purchasing. And when it comes to buying skis online, most of us don’t get a chance to even see them in person before we purchase. As a result, buying skis online can be intimidating—unless they are working with a Ski Expert, who can evaluate an individual’s experience, preferences, and goals as a skier, and will ultimately help them make the best choice of ski length.

Let’s start with the basic sizing formula for determining ski length, which is a simple evaluation of skier height and skill level. But as we will see, there are additional factors that should be considered when buying a pair of skis!

Ski Sizing Based on Height

For most skiers, the tips of your skis should line up somewhere between your chin and the top of your head when holding the skis upright in front of you. This can be checked easily when trying skis in ski shops, but when buying online, this isn’t possible. Instead, it is best to locate your height off of a standardized chart and determine what size skis are best for your skill level. The chart below is intended to give you a good sense of how a ski will fit in regard to your height and skill level.

A chart showing appropriate height for skis compared to skiers height and ski ability level.

It is worth mentioning that ski manufacturers typically make models in 7-10 centimeter increments, on average. It is best to choose a ski in the middle of your ski size range, but the recommended sizes are listed as a 10cm span because finding a ski that is the exact length to the centimeter is not always possible. Also, some ski manufacturers measure ski material before pressing, and some measure their final shape—so the measurements are not always consistent!

Instead, aim to start within the middle of the corresponding range on this chart, and consider sizing up if you are a more experienced or confident skier; and sizing down if you are less experienced or a cautious skier. Making these minor changes within your skill level can help you fine tune your skis’ feel.

Ski Sizing Based on Ability Level

A ski racer turning down a run.

Photo by Victoire Jonchera

As a general guideline, beginner skis should be shorter and stand closer to your chin. This is because shorter skis are more maneuverable and easier to control at lower speeds. Advanced skis should be longer and stand closer to the top of your head. Longer skis are better for higher speeds and offer stability through more advanced terrain.

To put it another way: beginner skiers should choose skis around 20cm less than their height; more confident beginners can choose skis that are closer to 15cm below their height; intermediate skiers should have skis around 10cm less than their height; advanced skis should be 5cm less; and expert skis can be the same height as the skier, or taller.

As noted, though, choosing skis based on a general length on a chart shouldn’t be the only factor in determining ski size. Many other variables come into play that could cause a skier to alter the length of a ski. Below are some common reasons that ski sizing is altered; but before you apply them, keep in mind that working with your Curated Ski Expert to determine ski size is the best option, as they can take all of these variables into account for you!

Ski Construction and Length

Skis along a wall in a ski shop.

Factoring in Ski Profile

Ski profile can dramatically affect the way a ski’s length feels beyond its measurement. This is because a ski’s effective edge is often more important in determining the way a ski feels than its measured length. The effective edge is the amount of ski edge measured between the contact points on the ground. Some skis incorporate rocker into their designs—where the tips or tails of the skis arc away from the snow—and this moves the contact points closer together. Closer contact points make a ski feel like a shorter ski, and further contact points make a ski feel longer.

Full camber skis have a longer contact patch with the ground, and thus feel longer than their rockered counterparts. Skis with only a tip rocker have a shorter effective edge than cambered skis and ski as if they are shorter than their measured length. Skis with tip and tail rocker have the shortest effective edge and as a result feel the smallest. So in summary, when choosing a ski, it is best to also evaluate the ski profile to determine if you would be a better fit on a longer ski or a shorter ski.

Factoring in Ski Width

Ski waist width can play a large part in a ski's overall feel. Narrower skis are often more maneuverable and can be skied at a longer size. Wider skis are often more unruly, and are helpful to be sized shorter. So ski dimensions can make a difference in sizing.

Tip and tail width can also change the way a ski is sized. Skis with less tail are typically mounted further back and can be skied shorter. Skis with wider and longer tails need to be sized longer to better balance the ski tip and tail.

Factoring in Core Material

Core material can also change the way a ski feels. Modern ski technology uses a wide variety of core materials to finetune the flex of a ski. In composite core skis, foam cores allow for more forgiveness, and skis are often less demanding and thus feel shorter. In wood core skis, lighter materials such as aspen, poplar, and paulownia can keep a ski lighter and more maneuverable; whereas heavier materials like ash and maple can make a ski harder to maneuver, and thus feel longer.

Added materials made to stiffen the skis such as carbon, titanal, flax, graphite, and others can make a ski feel more aggressive and require you to size your ski down slightly. Ski dampening agents such as cork, rubber, or PU can make a ski feel easier to handle and allow you to size up. Also, sidewall types can make skis stiffer and more aggressive, or softer and more forgiving. Sandwich sidewall skis use a layer of ABS on the sides of the ski to help keep the ski stiff. Cap sidewall construction wraps the top sheet over the edge and keeps a ski more forgiving. Semi-cap construction skis have a full sidewall underfoot, but a cap construction at the tip and tail; this provides a balance of stiffness and forgiveness.

Factoring in Turn Radius

The turn radius of the ski is the measured radius in meters of a circle that makes up the ski’s sidecut. Essentially, this number determines the length of a curve that a ski makes when on edge. A longer curve is indicative of a longer turn radius, and a shorter curve is of a shorter radius. Shorter-turn radius skis allow for quicker turns, and longer-turn radius skis allow for longer turns.

Skis with a shorter radius are best skied at a shorter length because they are often skied at lower speeds. Skis with a long radius are best skied at a longer length because they are usually skied at higher speeds. Some skis use an elliptical sidecut that incorporates multiple radii into the length of the skis. This can add more versatility to the ski, and doesn’t limit them to a single turn shape. These skis are best sized off of the average radius.

Ski Length Based on Terrain and Ski Type

A skier and a snowboarder heading down a run.

Photo by Suleyman Seykan

Skis length can also vary greatly based on the type of terrain and the type of ski. Different types of skis are sized according to their intended use and the terrain type where they will most often be used. So when picking a specialty ski, it is best to consider the ski category and its intended use to help determine the best length of the ski. Ski terrain and snow type also play a role in choosing the overall dimensions of the ski.

All-Mountain

All-mountain skis are capable of skiing most conditions and terrain. They use a combination of camber underfoot and rocker at the tip or tail to allow for controlled turns on hard snow, but also maintain floatation in soft snow. All-mountain skis can vary in length and width based on the geography where they are more often used. Eastern U.S. skiers may choose all-mountain skis that are a little narrower and have more camber than Western U.S. skiers because they need a ski that can handle more hardpack conditions and ice. Because of this, certain all-mountain skis may be worth taking special consideration when sizing. Skis with a lot of camber or a lot of rocker should be sized down or up, accordingly.

Powder

Skis used in powder are generally longer because more surface area is required to float the skier in deep snow. This is why powder skis typically have wider waists and feature a reverse-camber profile. These skis have extra surface area but are easy to maneuver due to the rocker profile and shorter effective edge. A full rocker shape can add even better flotation in the powder and is even easier to control in these conditions. A rockered ski makes turning easier based on the ability to pivot the ski, due to the lack of contact points at the tip and tail of the ski.

Groomers

Groomer skis generally have a cambered profile and narrower widths. The narrower waists help the skier transfer from edge to edge quicker, allowing for a more precise carve and quick turns.

These skis are typically used on hard snow, where the narrow width of the ski is preferred because no floatation is required. They often feel longer than their intended length because of the longer effective edge. Carvers looking for a carving ski that can make quick turns should consider shorter skis, while carvers looking for high speeds should consider longer carving skis.

Park

Generally speaking, park skis—also known as freestyle skis—are sized a little differently depending on skier preference. These skis are purpose-made for hitting jumps in the terrain park or riding the pipe. A twin-tip ski is also usually center-mounted, with the bindings mounted at the middle of the ski. This makes for an even weight distribution when in the air, and provides the ability to ski or land backward, also known as “switch”. This can also play a factor in ski sizing because center-mounted skis are often mounted closer to the tips, so park skiers will often size up to compensate. Depending on personal preference, park riders either size down for maneuverability on rails and faster spins in the air; or size up for more stability when hitting jumps and rails.

Racing

Racing ski lengths are often determined by the skis' intended use. Slalom skis with a tight turn radius made for quicker turns and lower speeds are often sized much shorter. Giant Slalom skis are sized longer and are made for faster speeds and wider gates than slalom skis. Super G and downhill skis are designed for the highest speeds and widest turns and are sized the longest.

Moguls

Mogul skis are often the skinniest and designed to quickly pop from bump to bump. Some mogul skiers size their skis shorter for quicker maneuverability.

Backcountry

Backcountry skis can also vary by length. Some backcountry skiers choose to size down their alpine touring skis to help make kick turns in the skin track easier to navigate without catching tips. Other skiers decide to keep extra length to help them stay above softer snow when breaking trail.

Freeride

Freeride skis are often longer lengths to help maintain stability at high speeds and through chop. These skis allow for greater stability when skiing big-mountain terrain. Big mountain skis are also usually constructed with vibration damping materials that keep them stable despite the longer lengths. This allows freeride skiers to maintain control while skiing at fast speeds in heavy snow.

Cross-Country Skis

Cross-country skis are not sized based on the formula above, but rather, on the discipline: classic skiing, skate skiing, touring, or backcountry. Classic cross-country skis are sized longer: generally about 10-15cm longer than one is tall. For more in-depth sizing information, ask your Curated Ski Expert if they have cross-country experience or if they can direct you to an XC specialist.

Snowboards

Snowboards are also not sized based on the chart above, and instead are sized by a combination of rider height and weight. Also, shoe size plays a big role in snowboard sizing, because riders with larger feet don't want a narrower board. Large boots on narrower boards cause heels and toes to hang off of the edges and drag the snow when in a carve. For more info on snowboard sizing, talk to a Snowboard Expert here at Curated.

Ski Length Based on Personal Characteristics

A skier turning down a run.

Photo by Volker Meyer

Ski Length for Women

Women’s skis are typically sized somewhat similar to men’s skis. But as more ski manufacturers make skis specifically for the female skier, it is best to refer to the manufacturer’s sizing chart to determine how to best size their specific ski.

Women tend to have a lower center of gravity. This change of mass means that when skiing “unisex” skis, women often need to change their mounting positions slightly, or size skis differently, to get a better flex for their height.

Also, when determining a ski size based on the “chin to top of head” sizing above, it is helpful to note that on average, women’s face lengths—from the tip of the chin to the top of the head—are about 1-2cm smaller on average; therefore the range from beginner to advanced should be just a tad less.

When possible, women should consider women's specific skis, as this makes the biggest difference. Sizing is usually very similar to that of men’s and unisex skis.

Ski Length for Older Skiers

Age should also be considered when sizing skis. Older skiers may have more difficulty controlling their skis or may want skis that offer a more leisurely and pleasurable feel. In these cases, it is best to size the skis down a little to help with skiing comfort. But be wary of sizing too small, as this can make the skis feel uncontrollable as well as dangerous.

Ski Length for Children

Kids’ skis are usually sized a bit shorter than the chart suggests. It is best to size kids on skis from the child’s chest to the middle of their face. Youth skis are best sized smaller than adult skis for greater maneuverability, and because kids are more likely to spend time skiing in a snow plow.

Ski Length Based on Weight

Adding or subtracting ski length based on weight is another option to consider. More weight requires more floatation, so adding some width or length accordingly is a good choice. Generally speaking, skis should be lengthened or shortened based on 50lb increments. Otherwise, a few pounds here or there typically isn’t a huge consideration when picking the right size pair of skis, but nevertheless, weight should be a consideration.

Summary

Remember, choosing the right ski length requires a lot of factors to be brought into consideration. Yes, it ultimately comes down to personal preference, but when buying a new pair of skis, it is best to consult someone who can help you weigh all of your factors and guide you to the right choice. You shouldn’t have to use gear that isn’t the right size for you. The perfect ski exists for everyone, but the correct size isn’t the same for every skier. If you are ready to get your perfect pair of skis, message your Ski Expert here at Curated so they can help you determine the right size ski for your use.

Like this article?
Share it with your network

Written By
My name is Gunnar and I live and ride in Washington 🏔🌲. I'm primarily a skier ⛷ but you can occasionally find me on a snowboard 🏂. I love deep days 🌨 and finding new ways to ride terrain 🧑‍🎨. It doesn't matter if I am getting first tracks right under the chair 🚠 or hanging off a tree branch t...

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

Read Next

New and Noteworthy