As in any other field involving all kinds of people, measures, applications and materials, establishing a single general rule that covers all variables in skiing is really difficult. However, we’ve been using a simple, short rule of thumb to choose the ski’s size. This well-established general rule has evolved through the years.
More than twenty years ago, the general rule in the pre-carving era could be summarized as follows: +5cm for the newcomer, +10cm for the medium skilled skier and +15 and beyond for the expert skier. Remember those SL (special slalom) skis with their shortest size and entry point at 185cm. If that pretended general rule had some rough edges because the height of the skier and its ability have never been the only determining factors, today’s modern version of that rule is even less correct than before. The new one is just a “lower” adaptation from the first.
As it can be clearly seen in our Ski Size Chart, we must forget about that general rule we’ve been using lately. That’s those -5 or -10cm. we’re told these days. If we take another reference such as a particular discipline, the skier’s technical abilities or his physical characteristics, we’ll see how easy is to break that rule, in the higher zone and in the lower. To understand this, let’s put an example:
It doesn’t make any sense starting in GS with a too short ski. That’s utterly prepostreus. When modern carving appeared, oversizing the skis meant that you had the same square surface with a shorter length. This allowed manufacturers to reduce the heights and maneuverability was increased from two design elements: the exaggeration of the sidecut (that modern carving) and the gain that a shorter tool provides.
However, speed has always required skis with larger surface and enough length. This increases the adaptation to the terrain and makes the ski to slide faster in a safe manner. If we add this modern carving factor, it’s easier not to reduce the speed while turning because of a cleaner drive and therefore the average speed increases. Here begins the need for a longer size despite the new designs.
This way, choosing a short GS model is a big mistake, specially in economic terms. Only less experienced skiers (medium skilled), low physical preparation and smaller in size than our proposed “average individual” can go lower than the 180cm or 175cm. Going beyond that doesn’t make any sense unless we are 155-160cm tall. Only then, a 170cm model fits. Anyone can check this out by going into a GS set trail with a short ski. Sooner than later, you will discover how much a short and inadequate ski (low radius) can vibrate and shake, and how difficult is to stay safe and comfortable inside the path.
Some argue that low sizes reduce the penalization in the short turns. Luckily, the cheating GS skis are enough narrow and adaptable to slide and pivot in the short turns letting us to have not only a dignified control and comfort but an easy turning and an extraordinary multi role aspect.
Once we’ve seen the example, if we go back to the Ski Size Chart and read the footnotes carefully, we will discover the conditional factors that limit the election. The skier’s physical conditions, his abilities, the terrain, the chosen discipline as well as the personal taste are the main conditionals, not what the general rule states.
That rule makes some sense in low and mid levels, or when renting equipment of that range. Recommending to a newcomer to take skis between 5 and 10cm less than his height is right. It is lighter gear and easy to maneuver. Anyone who jumps in a pair of skis 15-20cm shorter than him will find the difference immediately.
A medium skilled skier can be interested in a pair of skis as tall as him or even taller (+3cm) when his skills are enough to develop a higher speed and he has already experimented with easy and not steep, non groomed terrain. Although he will like to continue using smaller sizes if he prefers the short turns.
Skiing in the Austrian Alps is not the same as skiing on the deep powder of the Rockies or in Northern Scotland. Usually the more snow quantity the more chances it is softer and so we must choose a longer size.
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