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 male skier wears Dynastar skis and goes downhill on a mountain face while holding his poles.

Photo courtesy of Dynastar

How Do I Pick The Right Size Skis?

When standing next to skis and holding them upright, beginner skiers should choose skis that stand at or below chin height; intermediate skiers should aim for skis to line up between their chin and their nose; and advanced skiers should pick skis that fall between their nose and the top of their head. To calculate your ski length, simply subtract 20cm from your height if you are a beginner, 10cm from your height if you are intermediate, and choose skis at or just below your height if you are advanced.

Who Are You to Tell Me How to Size My Skis? Howdy! My name is Gunnar and I am a Ski Expert here on Curated. I have helped thousands of folks find their perfect skis, and have many five-star reviews to prove it! Before working at Curated, I spent a decade working in the ski industry and have taken on many professional roles during my time on snow. I have sold skis at retail shops, performed boot work as a boot fitter, taught skiers as a ski instructor, and made the mountain safer as a ski patroller. I love skiing and the industry around it so naturally, I found myself working for Curated! Now, on a daily basis, I help folks size skis and I thought it was time to put my personal formula into words. I hope this can help you find the right length of skis for you!

What Factors Determine Ski Sizing? Many factors come into play when determining the correct size ski, but the most important is finding what feels right for you. However, most skiers don’t get a chance to try 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. This is why I always suggest working with a Ski Expert here at Curated who can evaluate your experience, preferences, and goals as a skier, and will ultimately help you make the best choice of ski length. But, if you are doing some of your own research in hopes of determining the right ski length for yourself, I suggest starting with the basic sizing formula using your height and your ability level.

So, What Is My Ideal Ski Length?

A good rule of thumb for the recommended range for skis is that the tips should line up somewhere between your chin and the top of your head when holding the skis upright in front of you. Shorter skis are better for less skilled skiers and taller height skis are best for more advanced skiers. 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 ski sizing chart below is intended to give you a good sense of how a ski will fit in regard to your height and skill level. Narrowing down your correct ski size range based on your height and ability level and identifying the corresponding ski length is a great way to start with ski sizing.

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 usually not 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.

How Do I Determine My Ability Level?

A ski racer turning down a run.

Photo by Victoire Jonchera

As a general guideline mentioned above, beginner skis should be shorter and stand closer to your chin when held upright. This is because shorter skis are more maneuverable and easier to control at slower speeds. Expert-level 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 20 cm less than their height; more confident beginners can choose skis that are closer to 15 cm below their height; intermediate skiers should have skis around 10 cm less than their height; advanced skiers should be 5cm less; and expert skis can be the same height as the skier, or taller.

Am I a Beginner Skier?

To be labeled as a "beginner" means that you are in one of the widest ranges of users on the ski hill—congrats! A beginner skier can be someone who is learning how to step into their ski bindings for the very first time, all the way up to someone who is able to make higher-speed parallel turns down some of the steepest green runs on the mountain. If you are brand new to skiing or are most comfortable on green runs, then you are likely a beginner skier.

Generally speaking, you should choose beginner-length skis if you...

  • Are newer to skiing
  • Ski 1-4 days per year
  • Are getting back into skiing after many years
  • Like skiing more cautiously

For some, the progression through the stages of being a beginner skier is quick and natural while for others is long, arduous, and takes years. There is no shame in being labeled as a beginner, and in fact, choosing skis that align with your ability level usually equates to even more skillful skiing. Shorter skis for beginners equate to more confidence because they are more maneuverable and easier to control.

Am I an Intermediate Skier?

Intermediate skiers are generally comfortable keeping their skis in parallel to control their speed. Intermediates can be found on slopes of various degrees of difficulty, but generally are most comfortable on blue runs. Intermediates are able to keep their speed in control and employ the proper techniques when challenged. They also can comfortably hockey stop in more difficult terrain.

Typically, you are an intermediate skier if you...

  • Ski mostly on vacations
  • Find black diamond terrain to be challenging or intimidating
  • Are newly experimenting with off-piste or tree skiing
  • Feel most relaxed on blue runs.

Mid-length skis for intermediates help aid in progression as they maintain stability while still being maneuverable enough for the skier to keep in control.

Am I an Advanced Skier?

Advanced skiers are comfortable on most marked terrain on the ski hill. Advanced skiers can ski in parallel on most terrain and are happy to get on edge and carve when skiing black diamonds. Some advanced skiers also can comfortably ski off-piste and navigate through variable snow conditions and terrain. Advanced skiers are typically challenged only on harder black diamond or double black diamond runs.

You might be an advanced skier if you...

  • Frequent your local ski hill
  • Are comfortable and controlled in black diamond terrain
  • Rarely need to look at run grades when choosing a way down the mountain
  • Often ski at high speeds

Advanced skiers choose longer skis because they are more stable at high speeds and in steeper terrain.

Do Other Ski Attributes Affect Length?

As noted above, 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 change the length of a ski. Below are some common reasons that ski sizing is adjusted; 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!

How Does Ski Profile Affect Ski Sizing?

A ski profile diagram that breaks down traditional camber, reverse camber, and camber with tip and tail rocker.

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 (or early rise) into their designs—where the tips or tails of the skis bend 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

Full camber skis have a longer distance between contact points with the ground and thus feel longer than their counterparts with rocker. Because of this, they also have a much longer effective edge. Generally speaking, full camber skis are sized down to add some maneuverability.

Benefits

  • Offers the best edge grip out of all of the ski profiles
  • Least chatter due to the most ski contact with the snow
  • The flex of a full camber ski adds power to your carve
  • The camber can also add pop out of turns or off of jumps

Be Aware

  • Least maneuverable of the ski profiles
  • Often only used in carving or park skis
  • Not as effective in fresh or variable snow

Tip Rocker

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. Most skis that offer any amount of all-mountain performance offer at least some amount of tip rocker. By raising the ski off of the snow earlier, the ski will perform better off-piste. Skis with tip rocker can have as little as 5% tip rocker, and as much as 30% tip rocker depending on the intended use. They are occasionally sized up to make up for the shorter effective edge.

Benefits

  • Offers floatation in soft or variable snow
  • Adds some maneuverability to the ski by shortening the effective edge
  • Can have quicker turn initiation
  • Maintains edge grip and a strong finish to the carve

Be Aware

  • The tip can chatter depending on the ski material
  • Not as easy to release the tails in a turn
  • Usually requires a more traditional forward-leaning skier stance

Tip and Tail Rocker

Skis with tip and tail rocker have the shortest effective edge and, as a result, feel the smallest. Skis that incorporate tail rocker are made to offer more release in the turns and can more easily pivot in tighter terrain. By raising the tail of the ski off of the snow, the skier doesn't have as much effective edge at the tail of the ski. Tail rocker is often incorporated into skis made to be more forgiving or for more off-piste-focused skiing. They are often skied longer due to having the shortest effective edge.

Benefits

  • Easily transitions from a carving turn to a sliding turn
  • Maneuverable in tight terrain due to the shorter effective edge
  • Allows for more tail and thus a more balanced and centered ski feel
  • Can be skied switch in powder if desired

Be Aware

  • Lacks a powerful finish to carving turns
  • Hard to control for newer skiers
  • Shorter effective edge is less stable at high speeds

Full Rocker (Reverse Camber)

Skis with no camber and only one point of contact are called full rocker skis. By removing camber completely from the ski, it becomes highly manuverable and able to pivot on its single point of contact. Often only used in powder skis or specialized all mountain skis, this style of ski can be skied longer if desired as there is no effective edge.

Benefits

  • Easily pivots in tight terrain
  • Maximum floatation is soft or variable snow
  • Much more efficient at skiing down the fall line

Be Aware

  • Lacks significant edge contact and is hard to control in firm snow
  • Not great at carving turns on piste
  • Needs to be flexed further to load

In summary, it is best to also evaluate the ski profile when choosing a ski length to determine if you would be a better fit on a longer ski or a shorter ski. The various ski profiles above and their associated effective edges can change the way a ski feels on snow, and are often sized accordingly.

How Does Ski Width Affect Ski Sizing?

Ski waist width can play a large part in a ski's overall feel. Narrow waist widths are often more maneuverable and can be skied at a longer size. Wider waist widths are often more unruly and are helpful to be sized shorter. So ski dimensions can make a difference in sizing. Tip width and tail width can also change the way a ski is sized. Directional skis with less tail are typically mounted further back and can be skied shorter with the same results. Centered skis with wider and longer tails need to be sized longer to better balance the ski tip and tail.

How Does Core Material Affect Ski Sizing?

Skis along a wall in a ski shop.

The 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.

How Does Turn Radius Affect Ski Sizing?

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. Short-turn-radius skis with a deep sidecut 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.

Some skis focus more on turn initiation and make longer skis easier to turn. In some ways, this makes it easier for less skilled skiers to control longer skis, but skis that turn quicker at the beginning of the turn can also be more demanding and require advanced levels skiers to control.

Does Terrain Choice and Ski Category Affect Sizing?

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, snow conditions, and the type of ski. Different types of skis are sized according to their intended use and the snow 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.

How Do I Size All-Mountain Skis?

All-mountain skis are best for the majority of skiers and are capable of skiing in 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.

How Do I Size Powder Skis?

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 if you're a skier who spends the majority of your time in powder stashes. A rockered ski more easily displaces the snow and makes turning easier based on having a single main contact point and the ability to pivot the ski.

How Do I Size Carving and Groomer Skis?

If you are a skier who does the majority of your skiing at the resort, and you prefer edge grip and carving on smoother marked runs, then a groomer-specific ski may be best for you! Groomer skis generally have a cambered profile and narrower widths. The narrower waist widths 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.

How Do I Size Park Skis?

Generally speaking, park skis—also known as twin tip skis or 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.

How Do I Size Racing Skis?

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.

How Do I Size Mogul Skis?

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

How Do I Size Backcountry Skis?

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 or touring for a long distance.

How Do I Size Freeride Skis?

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 and are best for advanced riders. 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.

How Do I Size 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.

How Do I Size 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.

How Do I Size Ski Blades?

Lol.

How Do I Choose My Ski Length Based on My Other Personal Characteristics?

A skier turning down a run.

Photo by Volker Meyer

Other personal characteristics are also a consideration when choosing ski size. Differences in age, gender, disability, weight, strength, and bodily proportions should also be taken into account when determining the right size ski for you. Below are some of the most common personal characteristics that can affect ski sizing.

How Do I Choose Ski Length as a Woman?

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.

How Do I Choose Ski Length as an Older Skier?

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.

How Do I Choose Ski Length for Children?

Kids’ skis are usually sized a bit shorter than adult's skis. Depending on the child's age and ability level, it is best to size kids on skis with a length that lines up somewhere from their chest to the middle of their face when holding the skis upright.

How Do I Choose Ski Length Based on My 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. It is also best to pick skis with appropriate flex for the skier's weight. Generally speaking, skis should be lengthened or shortened by 5cm for every 50 lbs (23 kg) weight difference away from the 50th percentile for your height. 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.

What Ski Length Should I Choose After All?

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 on Curated so they can help you determine the right size ski for your use.

Ski Expert Gunnar O
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Gunnar O
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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...

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