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Longer vs Shorter Skis – Which Is Better For Beginners?

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Longer vs Shorter Skis – Which Is Better For Beginners?

You only need to look around the lift queue to see that there are many different types of skis. They have different shapes, lengths, and designs, so, as a beginner skier, you may be wondering what skis are best for you.

In this post, we will go into which is better for beginners, longer or shorter skis? We will also look at the other aspects of skis that you should be looking at as a beginner skier.

Why You Need To Use The Correct Skis For Your Ability And Style

Skiing is a challenging sport to master, which can be made more difficult with the wrong equipment. If your skis are not suitable for you, you will have less fun on the mountain, and it could put you off the sport altogether.

By using the correct skis, you will pick up the basics much more quickly. This will lead to having fun on the slopes much sooner, allowing you to progress, enhancing your mountain experience.

If you buy the wrong skis for you, you will end up wasting your money, and skiing is expensive enough without mistakes.

Longer vs Shorter Skis

One of the first considerations you should be looking at as a beginner skier is the skis’ length. This goes for whether you are buying some skis or renting them from a ski shop.

However, a good ski tech or shop assistant will be able to give you appropriate advice. If they seem to not know what they are talking about, go to another shop.

Generally, the length of your skis will be determined by your height, skiing ability, and what your goals are.

When it comes to beginner skiers, your skis should not come past the top of your chest when you hold them upright. Shorter skis are much easier to control, so turning them is more manageable.

In addition to this, shorter skis don’t pick up speed as quickly as longer skis. Therefore, they are not as intimidating when you point them down the mountain.

Your skis’ length and width affect how much surface area is in contact with the snow. Longer and wider skis have more float in soft snow and are much faster due to your weight being distributed across the larger surface area.

The problem with these larger skis for beginners is that they are more difficult to control. Therefore, you should choose shorter and more responsive skis that you can turn more easily.

Know Your Ski Shapes

There was a time when the length of your skis was the only thing you needed to think about. These days, ski manufacturers provide us with a whole host of ski shapes to play with.

These developments in technology are great, but it does give us more to think about. The combinations available are almost infinite, so there is something for everyone’s style, ability, and the terrain they ski on.

With all this in mind, here are the basic profile shapes you need to know about:

Rocker

If you were to place a rocker ski on a flat surface, the tip and tail would curve upwards away from the ground. The shape helps you to lift the ski out of deep snow.

A ski with a pronounced rocker profile is much easier to ski on than one with a lower rise. This is because the skier’s weight is in the middle of the ski, making it easy to change direction.

Camber

Camber gives a ski a slight upward curve under the binding, so if it is placed on a flat surface, the ski’s center is raised off the ground. When the skier stands on the ski, their weight pushes the cambered part into the snow.

As you ski with cambered skis, they spring back to their natural profile when you unweight them. This causes them to propel you into the next turn.

Cambered skis provide you with lots of precision on groomed slopes and hard-packed snow. These skis are also used by freestyle skiers due to the extra pop they give you on jumps.

You will notice that there are many different types of camber suited to various skiing styles.

The characteristics of cambered skis give you lots of stability and edge grip. Their longer effective edge gives you more control, making them an excellent choice for blasting around the resort.

Flat

Flat skis are as simple as they come. These have no curves in their profile, so the whole ski’s base is in contact with the snow at all times.

These skis are not as popular as the other profile shapes. However, they do work very well on ice due to the increased surface area.

There are several combinations of all these ski profile shapes. As a beginner, you would benefit from skis that blend the rocker and camber profiles.

Skis with a rocker/camber mix make initiating turns easier, but they also provide stability in varying snow conditions.

Be Aware Of The Ski’s Sidecut

The sidecut of a ski makes a massive difference to how it turns. You can see the sidecut when you look along the edge of the ski. This is what gives it its curvy shape.

A ski’s sidecut radius is measured in meters and determines how tight it will allow you to turn. Skis with deeper sidecuts turn much more tightly than ones with more shallow sidecuts.

The thing you need to know about skis with deep sidecuts is that they are great for short, fast turns. However, they are not very stable when you are skiing at high speed.

Skis with shallow sidecuts turn in long arcs while having lots of float in soft snow.

As a beginner, you will probably want skis with a relatively deep sidecut but not too aggressive. These will strike a good balance between easy turn initiation and progressing to the next level.

Pay Attention To How Stiff The Skis Are

As a beginner, you should avoid skis with a stiff flex rating. Stiff skis are less forgiving than softer flexing ones, as you will find them challenging to use.

Stiffer skis are more stable at speed and work well on hardpacked snow. The stability comes from the skis chattering less, keeping more of the edges in contact with the snow.

However, skis that are too stiff for you will tire out your legs and require you to overemphasize all of your inputs.

With this in mind, at this early stage, you should stick to softer flexing skis.

Think About What Type Of Skier You Want To Be

When you choose a pair of skis, you need to think about what kind of skier you want to be. The reason for this is that there are several subcategories of skis suitable for different styles.

Depending on their purpose, these different ski types vary in length, shape, weight, and rigidity. Here are the different styles of ski you need to be aware of:

Alpine Skis

Skiers that prefer to stay on the groomed slopes mainly use alpine skis, which are also called downhill skis. These skis give you the performance and accuracy you need for high-speed carving wherever you go.

Alpine skis tend to have a reasonably short sidecut radius for sharp turns. They are also relatively short, so they are responsive and make it easy to initiate turns.

Once you get past the beginner stage, you will want stiffer alpine skis to give you more stability when skiing fast. However, as a beginner, make sure your alpine skis are light and flexible until your skills develop.

All-Mountain Skis

All-mountain skis are great for beginners who are still finding their feet. As the name suggests, all-mountain skis allow you to ski anywhere on the mountain.

If this sounds like you, your all-mountain skis should have an average sidecut radius. They should also have large tips to give you more float for when you are good enough to experience powder snow.

When it comes to their size, your all-mountain skis should be of average length. This will allow you to experiment with the different styles of skiing and terrain without too much compromise.

If you ensure that your all-mountain skis hit the mid-point of stiffness, length, and weight, they will be very versatile. They will also allow you to ski happily on different types of snow all winter through to spring.

Most people start out on all-mountain skis, as they hit the sweet spot for most conditions. But they rarely excel at any particular discipline of skiing.

Freeride Skis

As a beginner, you should not be looking at buying freeride skis yet. But, you should be aware of them, as you may want to take your skiing in this direction in the future.

Freeride skis are used by skiers that love to ski in untouched powder in the backcountry away from the resort. Therefore, they need to have lots of float to stay on top of the snow.

To achieve this float, manufacturers make their freeride skis very wide. The skis are usually mid-length, and the stiffness will depend on your ability and weight.

Stiff cambered freeride skis with flat tails will provide you with lots of speed and stability. However, rockered flexible skis will be more playful and work well in for freestyle too.

Freestyle Skis

You can buy freestyle skis as a beginner, as they are very forgiving due to their softer flexibility rating. Manufacturers make freestyle skis suitable for jumps and jib tricks, but they also make skis that can do both.

Skis that allow you to explore all aspects of freestyle are shorter, as they make spinning easier. However, longer skis provide more stability on landing, so you need to determine which suits your preferences best.

How stiff your freestyle skis are is also determined by your preference. If you want skis that perform well on boxes, rails, and jumps, you will need skis with a moderate flex rating. These skis will be forgiving but stable on big landings.

When it comes to freestyle ski shapes, you may want to go for skis with a hybrid rocker profile. The rocker makes it easy to initiate turns and reduces the chance of catching the tips on rails and other features in the snow park.

The camber part of the profile gives you lots of pop and carving ability. This helps with hitting jumps and spinning as you take off.

Boots

Your skis are just one piece of equipment you need for shredding the mountain. To connect your feet to them, you need a pair of ski boots.

When choosing ski boots, there are a few things to consider, but the most crucial element is their flex. You know how flexible ski boots are by their flex rating, which is indicated in numbers.

Softer ski boots have lower flex ratings than stiff ones. Stiff ski boots allow you to put more power into each turn and are more suited to advanced skiers.

Just like skis, boots with a softer flex rating are ideal for less experienced skiers. However, there are degrees of progression to suit your ability and style.

Soft Ski Boots

You would wear soft ski boots if you are a true beginner or just getting to grips with the basics. Generally, beginner men should look for ski boots with a flex rating of less than 80, while women should go for less than 70.

The softer flex of these ski boots allows the upper and lower parts of the boot to move more freely. This unrestricted movement means that you don’t have to put as much force into your turns. The downside of softer flexing boots is that you get a weaker rebound force.

Ski boots with a softer flex are also great for freestyle skiers. In addition to this, they benefit lighter skiers due to their reduced leverage when turning.

Soft ski boots are more forgiving and comfortable than stiffer ones. However, your control at high speeds is compromised by the lack of rigidity.

At this point, it is worth pointing out that very soft boots tend to be of poor quality unless you are lucky. These low-end ski boots have substandard liners, plastics, and buckles.

Many people outgrow their soft ski boots quickly as their skills develop. When this happens, their boots hinder their progress if they don’t upgrade them. Many good ski boot shops hold back on the number of soft ski boots they stock, as there is less demand for them.

If you are pretty sporty and pick things up quickly, you may want to skip soft ski boots entirely. Medium-flexing boots will last you longer, as your skills will require something stiffer pretty soon after starting your skiing career.

Medium Flex Ski Boots

If you are an advanced beginner, intermediate, or advanced skier, you may want medium flex boots. These have ratings between 85 and 105 for men and 70 to 80 for women.

Medium flex ski boots work well for skiers with a good amount of experience. Beginner skiers and advanced skiers benefit from the increased responsiveness of medium flex boots.

If you can comfortably ski groomed slopes, including greens, reds, blues, and lower-level blacks, medium flex ski boots will suit you. They will also give you sufficient support if you want to take on steeper slopes, moguls, and powder.

You will notice that medium flex ski boots are made from higher-quality materials than their softer counterparts. Often they will also have customizable features, so you can tweak the fit and comfort.

If you are an advanced beginner, you may want to go for some at the lower end of the medium flex scale. The advantage of wearing medium flex ski boots for advanced beginners is the improved power delivery. You also get extra stability when holding an edge.

Stiff Ski Boots

Stiff ski boots are used by expert skiers with lots of experience. These ski boots come in flex rating from 110 for men and 85 for women.

The increased stiffness allows for more aggressive skiing. The reason for this is that the skier can transfer their energy much more efficiently.

Stiff ski boots deliver the ultimate in responsiveness, allowing the skier to go as fast as possible.

Ski boot manufacturers achieve extra stiffness with liners that are made from materials that are harder and more dense. In addition to this, they use tougher buckles, plastics, and straps, increasing the price of the boots.

If you are an experienced skier that skis hard and often, you will want a pair of stiff boots. They will be more durable, of higher quality, and help you ski better.

Stiff ski boots are ideal for skiers that can and like to ski everywhere on the mountain.

You may also benefit from wearing stiff ski boots if you are tall, heavy, or strong. The extra stiffness will be able to cope with the increased leverage you will be putting into them.

Generally, as a beginner, you would avoid stiff ski boots. However, if you need extra ankle support or have restricted movement, a stiff flex may be a better option than a soft one.

Know Your Ski Bindings

Your ski boots need to attach to your skis; therefore, you need to choose some bindings. The bindings you choose will depend on the type of skiing you plan on doing. There are two main types of ski bindings you need to know about:

Track Mounted Bindings

Track-mounted bindings utilize a track fitted to your skis. The bindings allow you to slide your bindings along the track, so you can position them perfectly to fit your ski boot.

The advantage of these bindings is that the track plate allows your ski to flex naturally. Therefore, the force from your input is evenly distributed when you perform turns.

An additional benefit of track-mounted bindings is that they provide versatility. When it comes to selling your skis, the bindings can easily be adjusted to fit the new owner’s ski boots.

They also give you the opportunity of sharing skis or lending them to a friend. This is why ski rental shops use track-mounted bindings on their rental fleet.

Track-mounted bindings are sufficient for most skiers. These bindings are used by skiers of all levels, but expert skiers may want to go for drill-mounted bindings.

Drill-Mounted Bindings

Drill-mounted bindings are fixed by drilling and gluing them to the top of the skis. The process makes them permanently attached and means you cannot move them.

If you choose drill-mounted bindings, you need to get them drilled and glued by a specialist. Most good ski shops will do this for you, so you don’t have to worry about getting it wrong yourself.

Drill-mounted bindings are regarded by some skiers to give you more control than track-mounted bindings. The reason for this is that they bring your foot as close to the ski as possible.

Another advantage of drill-mounted bindings is that as they don’t use a track and are more minimalist, they are more lightweight. These bindings are used by more advanced skiers that ski often.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to take in here, but there are some things you need to pay attention to as a beginner skier.

The main thing is that shorter and more flexible skis are better for beginner skiers. However, you probably won’t want to buy skis like this.

It would be better to rent beginner skis until your skills have outgrown them. Once you get to this level, you will have a good idea of which direction you want to go in.

Most people who only ski a few days every year will choose all-mountain skis and medium flex boots. These often provide casual skiers with everything they need.

On the other hand, people who ski more often may accumulate a collection of skis to suit the conditions or their mood. For example, when there has been a recent snowfall, they will break out the freeride skis. Alternatively, they may take out their alpine skis for a high-speed blast on the groomers.

Images from Shutterstock

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Longer vs Shorter Skis - Which Is Better For Beginners

Author: Peter SalisburyPete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.

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