Ski dimensions can seem like a foreign language if you are new to the sport or don’t understand ski construction. Luckily, it’s not that difficult to figure out, and once you learn, you’ll have this knowledge in your wheelhouse forever.
I’ve been skiing for nearly my entire life, and I love everything about the sport. I have plenty of experience with ski dimensions, and I know what the numbers mean – both practically and how this plays out on the mountain.
This post will explain everything about ski dimensions. I’ll help you form a better understanding of the numbers, so you can use them to figure out what set of skis might work best to match your needs and preferences as a skier.
Let’s get after it.
What are Ski Dimensions?
Ok, if you’re a complete beginner and don’t even know what ski dimensions are, don’t worry. We all need to start somewhere.
At a basic level, ski dimensions are simply the measurements of your skis.
There are a few different measurements within overall dimensions that you need to know. I’ll break these down in the sections below but for now, just know that ski dimensions are made up of total length, waist width, tip width, tail width, and sometimes effective edge.
When you understand these dimensions, you can see them listed on a piece of paper or website and have a general idea of how the skis might perform when you get them on the snow.
Ski Dimension #1: Total Length
The total length of your skis is a measurement made from the tip to tail or top to bottom, depending on how you want to think about it. This measurement is almost always made in centimeters and lets you know just how long a given set of skis is.
Skis can come in many different lengths, but the most common adult models will range from 150cm to 200cm. It’s hard to find a ski much longer than that these days and unless you’re really short or a child, you probably won’t go under 150cm.
Beginner skiers typically do better with shorter skis, while experienced skiers will want longer models. Shorter skis are easier to control and maneuver, while longer skis are more aggressive and can go faster.
Ski Dimension #2: Waist Width
The waist width is a measurement made at the very middle of your skis at their narrowest point. This measurement is made in millimeters and will vary based on the type of ski and overall width.
While knowing the waist width can give you an idea of how wide the skis are and what they might be good for, you need to know the other dimensions to really get a feel for any possible performance traits.
Ski Dimension #3: Tip Width
The tip width is a measurement made at the widest section of the tip, which is usually right where the rocker profile shape of modern skis begins to lift from the snow. This measurement is also made in millimeters.
Ski Dimension #4: Tail Width
The tail width is a measurement made at the widest part of the tail at the point where the ski starts to lift off the snow again. This measurement is also made in millimeters and isn’t always the same as the tip width measurement.
Ski Dimension #5: Effective Edge
While your skis have an edge all the way around them, this entire length doesn’t stay in contact with the snow at all times. Instead, a measurement is made to provide you with the length of the effective edge.
The effective edge is the edge sections between the tip and tail before those ends lift off the snow. You can think of this as the working edge of the ski, and that’s why the effective edge isn’t the same as the total length.
Putting it All Together
Ok, now that you have a better idea of what ski dimensions are and what measurements are included in this, we can break down a few examples of skis to help you put it all together.
When you look at ski specs on a website or magazine, you’ll see the dimensions listed in a format similar to this:
In this example, the first number is the length – 182cm. The other numbers are the tail, waist, and tip. So these skis have a 144mm tail, 109mm waist, and 131mm tip.
Let’s try one more example, in a somewhat different format to see if you can figure it out:
Did you figure it out? My guess is you probably did. In this example, the tail, waist, and tip widths are labeled first and then the length. Keep in mind that the first three measurements are in millimeters.
Less Common Dimensions
The dimensions I listed above are the most common measurements you’ll see, but there are a few others you might want to know about.
The weight of skis is sometimes listed and measured in grams. This might be good to know if you are looking for a touring setup.
Profile shapes can also be listed in the specs or dimensions. You might see something like this:
- Tip Rocker: 31cm
- Camber: 5mm
- Tail Rocker 21cm
These measurements help describe the profile shape or the shape of the ski if you look at it from the side. It’s a little more technical, and the average skier doesn’t always need to pay attention to this information.
Also Read: Rocker vs Camber
Now that you have a better understanding of ski dimensions, you can use them to your advantage the next time you buy a new set of skis.
Note these dimensions every time you like or dislike a pair, and it will help you figure out your personal preferences when it comes to length, width, profile, and any other considerations.