Gear Guy

How do you know what length skis to get?

I would like to buy shaped skis. I currently ski on straight 160s and 5-foot, 2-inches tall. I've gotten so many different opinions on how long my shaped skis should be. Help! Jacklyn Meriden, Connecticut

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Help is here, Jacklyn.

I made the switch to shaped skis just recently. Volant metal skis. I must say, they’re mah-velous. Turning has become almost an exercise in telepathy, and they’ve also made me a better mogul-masher. Which is to say I’m still pretty lousy, but definitely a little less lousy. The only downside is that on fast, straight runs they tend to be a little twitchier than straight skis, or at least than my six-year-old Salomon GS skis, which were best suited for big turns and high-speed descents.

Basically, your shaped skis need to be shorter than your straight ones. Alas, how much shorter will depend a bit on the type of skiing you do. But for the sake of discussion, I’ll say you’re a mid- to high-intermediate skier who skis most all the mountain at a pretty brisk pace, but shows some caution when it’s icy or super steep. For you, an all-mountain ski would be the right choice, something like Rossignol’s Bandit XL ($550), a ski designed just for women. Normally, I’d suggest you go ten centimeters shorter than your current setup. But that is one short ski -— you can’t even get most skis shorter than 160. Thing is, there is no one formula for figuring ski length, which is why there’s so much conflicting information. What’s pretty widely accepted today is that a shaped ski should be as long as your are tall, or slightly shorter. On old-style skis like the ones you have now, most knowledgeable people would have said you should be on 170s. So, using that logic, 160s would be just about right. That’s what I’d recommend, in any event. I think you’ll be happy with that length, and will love shaped skis.

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