Picking the right size skis depends on skier age, size, and weight; gender; ability; type of ski, and terrain.

Rule of thumb: The right size ski for you will probably come up at least to your chin, but no higher than your forehead. All ski manufacturers have size charts; but they are just a starting point. Try before you buy, and experiment with different lengths.

Younger people use shorter, lighter skis. They don't have the muscles to handle longer ones.

Taller people and heavier people use longer skis.

Most companies make skis specifically for women, a little lighter and more flexible, with the ski waist a little more forward, and bindings mounted a little ahead of the balance point of the ski.

Beginners use shorter skis, because they are easier to control. Expert skiers use longer skis because they are more stable at speed.

Skis used for racing tend to be longer, again because longer skis are more stable at higher speed.

Slalom skis are an exception, as shorter skis turn more quickly, and slalom racing requires quick turns.

Freestylers often choose twintips that are a few centimeters shorter than they would use outside the terrain park or halfpipe, again because the shorter skis are more nimble.

A revolution in ski shape took place in the early 1990s. Engineers at Elan developed skis with wider tips and tails, and narrower waists, that were stable and easy to turn.

Elan used European  racers to test the new skis, and found they were faster and livelier than traditional skis. Seth Masia's history of the evolution of ski shape recounts that in 1991, in local races in Europe, eight of the top 10 finishes went to skiers on the experimental Elan SCX (Side Cut Extreme) skis.

A consumer model from Elan hit the market for the winter of 1993-94, and overnight changed the face of skiing around the world. All ski companies began producing similar models.

Before the introduction of these parabolic or radical-sidecut skis, skis were longer and narrower. The new skis are shorter , but put the same surface area in contact with snow as older, longer skis.

Older skiers who were using skis 203 cm in length or longer faced a difficult mental transition. Going down to a 166cm, 173 cm, or 188 cm ski was a bitter pill to swallow for skiers whose identities were tied to ski length. Most who did were surprised and quite pleased.

Racers quickly took to the new technology because it worked so well.

Beginners did not have the problem of overcoming years of experience. The radical sidecut made learning faster and skiing easier.

Question: What size skis?

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