Choosing Ski Width: What Factors to Consider

September 25, 2019 by Peter

choosing ski widthThere are lots of variables to consider when you choose a ski and choosing ski width is one of the more important ones.

Skis are carefully designed to perform a certain way, and the dimensions of the ski matter. The length of the ski will dictate how the ski acts, as does the rocker and camber. One of the most important feature of the ski, though, is the width.

The width of the ski affects the entire function and performance of the ski. You will want the right width for the terrain you are skiing on, as well as the type of skier you are.

Types of Terrain

Most skiers prefer certain terrains over others. Some skiers may like to carve long, arcing turns on groomed runs. Some may like to power down moguls, or float through deep powder in the bowls. Others may spend their whole day in the park. Many skiers like a combination of several of these types of terrain. The width of the ski will impact your performance in all of these parts of the mountain.

Powder

If you are a powder hound, you will want very wide skis. A standard range for powder skis is 100 mm – 130 mm in the waist (the waist is the width in the center of the ski, typically its narrowest part). All of that surface area will help float you through the fluff.

The drawback is that those wide skis will not carve very well on groomed runs. They also won’t be as nimble in their turning capability.

Carving Groomers

If you prefer big turns on fast groomed runs, you will want a ski with a narrow waist. Carving skis – which often fall under all-mountain or big-mountain categories – usually have a waist of around 80 mm- 99 mm. This is a very versatile width, and should have you powering turns all over the mountain.

This width will allow you to turn quickly and tightly through the trees and moguls. The higher end of this range will still work well on powder days, too.

Park

If you spend your day in the park, you will want a narrow ski. A typical park ski will have a waist between 85mm and 95mm with some a little wider.

The end result of a narrower ski will be more responsiveness on rails and jumps. In general, park skis are also light, so combining the narrow waist with minimal weight can make tricks easier to execute.

The tradeoff is that these very narrow skis won’t work very well on other terrains. They may be adequate on many runs across the mountain, but will perform poorly in deep snow. They will offer little flotation in powder, and are best suited for their intended purpose – the park. Park skis that are a little wider are more versatile and some park skiers prefer them also for the increased landing platform.

Backcountry

Some skiers prefer going out of bounds into the backcountry. Those skiers might look into purchasing alpine touring skis.

Depending on the terrain, there is a wide range of widths for backcountry skiing. The usual range of a backcountry ski is 80 mm- 120 mm. That is a large range, because the backcountry offers unlimited terrain possibilities. The narrower waist would work well for harder snow, while the wider ski would perform great in backcountry powder.

Skier Type

There are lots of factors that go into finding a ski with the correct width. The type of skier you are has a big influence on how wide you will want your ski.

All-Mountain Carving

If you like to charge down groomed runs and stay on the front side of the mountain, all-mountain (carving) or specialist carving skis are the right choice. All-mountain carving skis usually have a waist measuring under 90 mm. This width is best for groomed runs

All-Mountain Wide

Similar to the all-mountain ski, there is another category known as all-mountain wide. These skis are a bit wider than straight all-mountain: usually 90-99 mm wide.

That extra width really opens up more of the mountain. Skiers who choose all-mountain wide skis are typically high intermediate to expert skiers. They are able to bomb runs and carve drawn-out turns, but also like the added width for flotation in powder. Skis in this range are best fit for versatile skiers.

Powder Hounds

If you love powder, and don’t really care as much about the groomed stuff, you will want powder skis. These skis are very wide in the waist.

Beginners

Beginners tend to do best on narrow skis. Typical beginner skis should be between 70 mm – 80 mm. This narrow waist makes them nimble and quicker to turn.

Wider skis are more “smeary” and take a little more effort to make precise turns. The typical beginner range can change based on different factors, such as the size of the skier. Overall, though, beginner skiers will have the most success with lighter, narrower skis.

Related: >>Top 10 Men’s Beginner Skis

Related: >>Top 10 Women’s Beginner Skis

Moguls

There are many other types of skiers, each with different needs as far as their ski’s dimensions. Skiers who like to charge down moguls, for example, would benefit from a narrow ski. This helps them keep tight lines through the bumps, and the skier can pop quick, compact turns.

There are some other factors that will help determine the ski that you ultimately purchase. For instance, if you are into carving solid lines on groomed runs, you will want not only a narrow waist but also a deeper sidecut. A longer ski will supply more speed regardless of the width, while a shorter ski will help the ease of turns.

Conclusion

The width, or waist, of a ski is critical and when choosing ski width, it’s important to get it right and consider all the factors that make up your skiing experience.

Your skiing day will be greatly impacted by the ski itself. When looking at the width of your next ski, you should consider the type of terrain you will most likely be encountering.

In addition, you need to ask yourself what type of skier you are. Are you looking to be aggressive on groomed runs? Are you going to be in the park most of the time? Are you constantly searching for powder? What kind of turns are you going to be doing? Do you want one pair of skis to do it all or separate pairs of skis for different occassions? These are some of the factors you should consider when you choose the width of your next ski.


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