Shaped Skis vs Straight Skis: The Differences

Ski technology has come a long way in recent years, and nearly every type of ski you see on these mountains these days will be shaped. If you do happen to see straight skis, you’re probably wondering what the advantage or disadvantage of those might be. 

My name is Christine, I’m an avid skier who has been on the slopes nearly as long as I’ve been able to walk. When I first started skiing, I used straight skis, but now I use a variety of shaped models. I have experience with both and first-hand knowledge to share with other skiers. 

This article will explain the differences between shaped skis versus straight skis. This is good to know if you are a regular skier because it will help you understand ski design and technology as well as how far these both have come over the years. 

Let’s step in and get started. 

What are Straight Skis?

Straight skis can be thought of as the original type of ski. Humans have been skiing for thousands of years, and a straight piece of wood attached to the feet has been getting us around in the snow for a long, long time. 

Straight skis evolved from wooden planks into more complex designs made of modern materials in the mid 19th century. They remained the most common shape of ski you would see on the mountain into the 1980s before shaped skis started to take over. 

One thing many people don’t know about straight skis is that they actually aren’t entirely straight. Even straight skis have a slight sidecut that helps enhance performance. This might not be very visible to the human eye, but if you used a ruler, you’d see it on nearly every model. 

What are Shaped Skis? 

Shaped skis are the hourglass-shaped skis that nearly every skier uses these days. They are by far the most common type of ski you’ll see on the slopes, and there are many different subcategories of shaped skis. 

Shaped skis started to become popular in the 1980s and really became common in the 1990s. The dramatic sidecut of the skis increased performance and control dramatically, and skiers quickly recognized how great this innovation was. 

These days, there are different ways to think about the shape of a ski. In addition to the hourglass appearance when looking at the ski from the top, there are also different profile shapes that affect performance. You can see these when looking at the ski from the side. 

Shaped Skis vs Straight Skis: The Differences

Shaped SkisStraight Skis 
Sidecut Heavy Little to none 
Turning Ability Excellent Not great 
Length ShorterLonger 
Type of SkierEveryoneBasically no one 

The most significant difference between shaped skis and straight skis, you guessed it, is their shape. Straight skis look like sticks compared to the hourglass shape of shaped skis, and they often get that nickname as well. 

Aside from looks, the two types of skis perform a lot differently on the snow. The sidecut of shaped skis gives you much more control, stability, and ease of use. They also let you handle more types of terrain at a much higher level. 

If you have ever used straight skis, you know just how difficult they can be to control. They weigh more, are longer, and are just cumbersome in the snow. They work, but not nearly as well as shaped skis. 

One advantage that straight ski supporters (if there are any left) will tell you is that they are faster than shaped skis. This might have been true in the early days of shaped ski design, but I would challenge any straight ski to a race very confidently these days with my shaped skis. 

If you are having a tough time envisioning the difference between straight skis and shaped skis, just think about a regular long piece of lumbar. An 8-foot 2×4 is a good example to use here. That board is basically what a straight ski looks like. 

Now take that same board and carve away the middle section until it’s quite a bit thinner in the middle than the tip and tail. This results in the hourglass shape.

This cutout lets shaped skis perform better all over the mountain. They can be made wider to float on deep snow while still having great control in tight situations, so you can always stay in the driver’s seat. 

Should You Use Straight or Shaped Skis?

There is an easy answer to this question because you can barely even find straight skis anymore. You won’t find any reason to use straight skis unless you dress up for a retro ski party on the mountain or something similar. 

Modern shaped skis have so many advantages over straight skis that I would never consider using straight skis. I don’t even think any manufacturers still make straight skis that you can buy. 

It might be fun to take your grandpa’s old sticks out for a lap or two this winter, just so you can see how they perform. But I promise you’ll be ready for your shaped skis pretty quickly for all the benefits they have to offer.

Final Thoughts

The main differences between shaped skis and straight skis are how they look and perform on the snow. Shaped skis have an hourglass shape, while straight skis are pretty, well, straight. 

Shaped skis are really the only type of skis that anyone uses these days and straight skis are a thing of the past. There are far too many benefits of using shaped skis to even really consider using a straight pair these days.

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