Ski Turn Radius Explained

Ski turn radius is an important thing to know if you want to understand how your skis will perform on the mountain before buying them. Radius is directly related to the sidecut of your skis, and their shape will impact how they ride. 

My name is Christine, and I’m a lifelong skier. I’ve witnessed the progression of ski technology over the last few decades and am familiar with many design and construction elements of modern skis. 

This post will dive into the details of ski turn radius. I’ll explain what the term means and how this affects your skis, and ultimately, your skiing. It’s good information for any serious skier to understand. 

Let’s dive in. 

Shaped Skis and Sidecut

Virtually every modern ski you’ll see on the mountain today has some degree of sidecut. You can think of sidecut in simple terms by picturing the difference between straight skis and shaped skis

The primary difference between straight skis and shaped skis is that shaped skis all have a sidecut. It’s what gives them the hourglass shape that we are all used to seeing, and it also enhances on-snow performance in several ways.

There would be no real way to measure turning radius without a sidecut. This is where the term comes from, and the size of the turn radius directly relates to the amount and shape of sidecut that any given pair of skis have. 

What is Ski Turn Radius? 

Ski turn radius is a measurement that helps to explain how skis will perform on the snow, specifically related to their turning abilities. It’s not the only performance metric, but it is an important one. 

Turn radius is also known as sidecut radius or turning radius. That’s good to know upfront, so you don’t get confused if you see different terms used to describe the same thing. 

The easiest way to understand turn radius is to take a visual approach. Lay one of your skis flat on the ground (or at least imagine it). If you follow the natural shape of the sidecut in both directions, it will end up creating a pretty large circle. 

From the center of this circle to the center of the side of your ski is how the turn radius is measured. Depending on how large of a circle is made, this will affect the final measurement of your turn radius. 

What Does Ski Turn Radius Do? 

Well, it basically helps you better understand how your skis will turn on the snow. 

Generally speaking, a shorter radius will lead to a ski that is quicker to turn. A shorter radius can also make a ski easier to control and a bit slower. 

That makes a shorter turn radius better for beginners or anyone who wants extra control or quick turning capabilities. Many skis designed for new skiers will have a short turn radius to provide increased turning abilities. 

A longer ski radius is helpful for more experienced skiers or anyone who wants to make wider turns on the mountains. This also leads to a faster ski, which is again better suited for more experienced skiers. 

These are just basic guidelines for how a ski will perform based on its turn radius. There are other factors to keep in mind that affect performance, such as shape, camber, and rocker. All of these work together to give a specific ski its on-snow characteristics. 

Knowing the turn radius is important because it can help inform how the ski will react based on your ability levels and preferences. It’s a good metric that can help you make a buying decision without actually using a particular ski beforehand. 

Turn Radius Measurements 

If you look at the specs of a set of skis, you’ll see a few important numbers. Most skiers pay attention to the tip, tail, and waist measurements because this can give you an idea of their shape. These measurements are almost always listed in millimeters. 

You can technically figure out the turn radius of those skis based on the tip, tail, and waist measurements. But for all of us who aren’t engineers or mathematicians, the turn radius is usually listed in meters. 

While a measurement in meters might seem huge compared to the millimeters and centimeters that other ski measurements come in, it makes sense if you again think about the imaginary circle I describe above. 

This circle will be pretty large, and to get to the center of it, you’ll end up using meters because of its size. Most turn radii will fall anywhere in between 10 to 20 meters. 

A small turn radius will be anywhere from 10 to 15 meters. You’ll rarely see anything under 10 unless it’s a kid’s model. Smaller measurements are suitable for beginners and some freestyle purposes. 

A medium turn radius would be anywhere from 15 to 20 meters. This is where most all-mountain skis and general-purpose skis fall. Nearly every intermediate skier can handle this turning radius. 

A long turn radius would be anything over 20 meters. These skis are best for more advanced skiers who know what they are looking for. If you aren’t an experienced skier, you won’t want a turning radius over 20m. 

Final Thoughts

Ski turn radius is an important thing to understand if you want to know how your skis will perform when it comes to turning. It’s not extremely complicated and derives from the sidecut of modern shaped skis. 

Now that you have a better idea of what a turning radius is and how it can impact your skis, pay attention to this number the next time you buy or rent to see if you notice a difference in performance.

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