How to Choose Skis

How to Choose Skis

With a massive selection of models and sizes available, figuring out how to choose skis can be intimidating, especially for first-time buyers. If you’ve never shopped for skis before, the first step is choosing a style of ski. All skis can be divided into two major categories: Nordic and Alpine. Of course, there are several subgroups within both. Alpine skis (a.k.a. downhill skis) are designed exclusively for skiing downhill and have a binding system that keeps the heel locked down. Nordic skis, which include cross-country, telemark and alpine touring skis, are compatible with bindings that allow free-heel techniques to be used. To keep things simple, we’ll be focusing on alpine skis in this article. For information on buying Nordic skis, check out How to Choose Nordic Skis.

How to Choose Alpine Skis

  1. First, narrow your selection to one of the following ski styles: 1) recreational (forgiving and ideal for beginners), 2) all-mountain (built for a mix of groomed and ungroomed terrain), 3) carving/racing (made for fast-paced carving on groomers, hardpack and moguls), 4) freestyle (twin-tip skis built for the terrain park) and 5) freeride/powder (designed for maximum flotation in powdery sidecountry and backcountry conditions).
  2. Next, choose between unisex skis and women-specific skis. Women’s skis are fine-tuned to provide a better fit and geometry for small to average-sized women. Men and taller women usually prefer unisex skis.
  3. Choose between integrated skis (which include bindings and a pre-installed mounting plate) or non-integrated skis (which don’t include bindings and a mounting plate). If you opt for non-integrated skis, you’ll have to buy bindings separately and have them mounted by a qualified ski technician.
  4. Finally, pick a ski size. The size you choose can be determined by body weight and ability level. Follow the steps below to choose alpine ski size.

How to Choose a Ski Size

1. Find the corresponding ski length for your weight.

Men's Ski Sizing Chart

Weight Approx. Ski Length
130-155 lbs. 160 cm
150-175 lbs. 167 cm
170-195 lbs. 174 cm
190-215 lbs. 181 cm
215 lbs. or more 182 cm

Women's Ski Sizing Chart

Weight Approx. Ski Length
100-125 lbs. 145 cm
120-140 lbs. 152 cm
135-155 lbs. 160 cm
150 lbs. or more 162 cm

Kids' Ski Sizing Chart

Weight Approx. Ski Length
30-40 lbs. 80 cm
40-50 lbs. 93 cm
50-60 lbs. 100 cm
60-70 lbs. 110 cm
70-85 lbs. 120 cm
90-115 lbs. 130 cm

2. Subtract length based on your skiing ability.

Ability Level Subtract from Ski Length
Beginner -20 cm
Intermediate -5 cm
Advanced -0 cm

3. Add length (if necessary) based on the terrain you will ski most often.

Snow Conditions Add to Ski Length
Groomed runs and hardpack 0+ cm
Off-piste, soft snow, powder +5 cm

Note: The ski sizing charts above are intended to be used as a general guideline only. Some skiers may want to choose a slightly shorter or longer ski based on personal preference.

Want to learn more about alpine skis, bindings, boots and more? Check out our comprehensive Alpine Ski Guide for information and tips.