If you’re just skiing for the first few times or you’re considering purchasing your own equipment, your ski length is an important consideration. Many people wonder what the difference is between long skis and short skis.
Your choice in ski length will depend on your experience level, the conditions and terrain you will most likely encounter, and the type of skiing you want to do. There is no one size fits all for skiing. That is why many advanced skiers have a quiver of multiple skis for variable conditions and types of skiing days they want to have.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the differences between short vs long skis and discuss how ski length affects your skiing.
TLDR; Longer skis provide better contact with the snow, more stability at speed, and more float in powder. Short skis are better for quick turns, maneuverability, and tricks.
Different lengths have different strengths
When discussing ski length, it is important to know what type of skiing you will be doing. The choice between deciding between short vs long skis becomes more of a comparison of what ski length is best for your specific application. This depends on what type of conditions you’re looking to ski as well as your ability level. Here’s a quick breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of opting for one ski length over the other:
The advantages of longer skis
Longer skis give you more control and stability. When you are turning on a carve with your edges digging into the snow, this will make them more stable at higher speeds. That added ski length will also give longer skis better grip through variable conditions and a larger turning radius.
If you are charging through chopped-up powder that has been semi-skied out, longer skis will help you ride out the variability in the snow much more easily than shorter skis. This can make longer skis good for frequently skied resort runs on the mountain as well as variable snow in backcountry skiing conditions where snow can sometimes change from hard snow to ice to powder all in one run.
Longer skis also provide you with more float in powder than shorter skis because their length provides more surface area. The more the ski, the more the surface area, the more the float. Something longer will float better in deeper snow.
Someone with more height and weight would want to choose something longer as well, as these skis tend to be able to provide greater stability for those with more to throw around.
Because of their larger turning radius, longer skis also help people with increased confidence if they really want to charge. The larger radius allows people to feel more stable at higher speeds.
The turning radius for both types of skis will depend on its sidecut, but longer skis tend to be designed more for higher speeds and a larger turn radius.
The advantages of shorter skis
Shorter skis are great for ease of control. They are lightweight, more maneuverable, and feel more playful. Shorter skis are easier to turn than longer skis. Because of their reduced length, shorter skis have less contact with the snow, and so there is less friction when pushing through a turn.
Shorter skis also tend to have a smaller turn radius than longer skis as they are designed to be quick and playful.
Because they are often light and playful with a tight turn radius, short skis are easier to take through the trees, the moguls, or more technical terrain. In tight situations or glades, shorter skis tend to outperform longer skis.
Short skis are generally more fun than longer skis if you plan to work on tricks or just cruise around looking for fun little jumps and pops.
An often overlooked advantage of shorter skis is in trying to teach others how to ski. The shorter lengths will make them easier to control at slow speeds, which can make them a good choice for using to teach children or friends to ski.
What are the downsides of longer skis?
The downsides of longer skis can be that they are heavier and have a longer turning radius. Depending on what you like to ski, a longer ski might not always be the best choice.
If you’re someone that likes to ski terrain that requires quick turns and maneuverability like treed runs and moguls, longer skis might not be the best choice because of their longer turning radius. They are slower to turn and can be less fun in terrain that requires a lot of short, quick turns.
For steeper terrain, a longer ski is more difficult to turn and can be intimidating on navigating steep terrain where jump turns can be necessary. Depending on your ability level, a ski that is shorter might be best for steep skiing and be the better choice.
Depending on your height and weight, skis that are longer in length can be heavier and more difficult to turn. This is something to keep in mind when choosing what skis work for you. If you’re looking for skis for a child or an adult that is shorter and lightweight in size, this can be an important factor in determining if longer skis are the right choice.
These types of skis also might not be the best for someone learning to ski. For more information on what type of skis are best for beginners, read our section below on our recommendations.
What are the downsides of shorter skis?
The downsides of shorter skis are that they have less stability when you’re skiing at high speeds and they have less float in powder.
In deep snow, shorter skis have less float. Instead of floating over deep snow, skis that are shorter will sink in powder and get stuck. However, if you mainly ski inside the resort on runs that have been groomed or tracked out, it won’t be as important to have skis that float in powder.
Shorter skis have less stability when you’re traveling at high speed. At higher speeds, shorter skis will start to feel less stable and can feel wobbly. They can also feel less stable at variable snow. If you’re looking to ski aggressive and fast, a longer ski is a better choice because they are easier to control at high speeds.
What size skis are good for beginning skiers?
Choosing a ski based on your ability level is super important. Generally speaking, a shorter ski will be easier to maneuver and turn than longer skis. A shorter ski will be lighter and easier to control for new skiers.
When learning to ski, the focus is on learning to get used to the feel of skis, stay in control downhill, and learn to make turns down the mountain. Because of this, a ski shorter in size can be the better choice.
A ski that is shorter also tends to be more narrow in length. This means that you can have more control over the edge of your skis. Edge control can help beginner skiers learn to carve on groomers and gain more control over their skis as they learn to turn down the mountain.
For beginners, a shorter ski length can be the right choice because shorter skis have a smaller turning radius vs long skis. This means that they are easier to turn and also turn faster than longer skis. Short skis can help build confidence before progressing to longer skis.
What is the best ski length for the park?
In general, a ski that is light and easy to control can be a good option for park skiing. Medium and shorter-length skis tend to be a good choice for park skiing. This is because shorter skis are lighter and spin easier.
If you like to ski big jumps, a ski that is longer is a good choice because they are more stable at landing jumps. Cambered skis are good for high impact and high speeds.
For jibbing, a normal length twin tip ski can be lighter and easier to jib. Skis with a rockered tip and tail (meaning they have a reverse camber) can also be good for park skiing as well as skiing in powder.
Finding the best ski for the park can depend on your ability level and what type of park features you’re looking to ski.
What happens if your skis are too short?
If your skis are too short, you run the risk of losing speed and control.
If you’re skiing in powder or soft, sticky snow in the spring, you run the risk of sinking and getting stuck with something shorter. Choosing something longer can help you float better as well as move through softer snow without losing all of your speed.
If you’re skiing in variable snow conditions, you can lose control and stability with skis that are too short. Choosing something longer will help cut through different conditions.
However, if you’re looking to try out super-short skis, you might be interested in checking out ski blades, also known as snow blades. Ski blades can be great for a beginner as well as experienced skiers looking to perfect tricks or try something new. While these can be good for a new skier, keep in mind that you will be using a lot of leg and core strength on ski blades!
What is the best length for powder skis?
If you’re looking to enjoy powder and steep terrain, a longer ski will help you stay afloat in variable snow. It will also help keep more of your speed so that you can move through different conditions with less effort. Choosing a ski with a rockered tip and tail (meaning they have a reverse camber) is another great option for skiing in powder because it helps the tip stay up when coming out of turns and offers more control on tricky or bumpy snow. If you want to ski big features like pillows or pillow lines, consider choosing something that is wider as well as longer. This can help keep your speed while making turns and also give you more float when coming out of turns.
What is the best length for skiing trees?
If you’re looking to ski trees, a shorter length with a wider width will help you navigate through the tight turns and branches. It’s best to choose something that is at least 90mm underfoot as well as a directional or twin-tip shape. This will give you more control when navigating the trees. A longer ski with a smaller tail can also be great for tree skiing because it helps maneuver through tight spots. It’s best to go with a narrow waist so that it fits between the trunks of the small evergreens in your path better.
What is the best length for an all-mountain ski?
An all-mountain ski will be longer and wider than a park ski. Choosing something that is 110mm or larger underfoot can help you float better through powder snow while still maintaining some maneuverability in tight spots.
If you’re looking to get a ski with a rockered tip and tail (meaning they have a reverse camber), you might want to consider something that has at least a 95mm waist. This will help keep more speed when riding through different snow conditions while maintaining maneuverability in tight spots.
Choosing skis with a stiffer flex can help you maintain stability and control on groomers. This is good if you plan to ski the whole mountain or are trying to gain more confidence.
If your main goal is to ski powder, consider getting something with a softer flex that’s not only longer but also wider. This will help keep your speed while giving you more float when coming out of turns.
Choosing a directional or twin tip ski will help you get more out of the side cut and will also offer more control on turns. This is good if you plan to ski groomers but also need something that can maneuver in tight spots when necessary.
If you’re looking for a ski with a softer flex so it’s easier to turn, look for something with at least a 115mm waist. This will help you get more out of the sidecut while still maintaining some stability and control on groomers.
If you’re a beginner, looking to ski trees, or hit the park and do tricks, you’ll want shorter skis. The rough measurement is any ski that lines up to the chin and the top of the ski or shorter. If you’re a more advanced skier, you’ll want longer skis for better control at speed, stability, and float.