How to Choose the Right 'Waist' Width. First, determine the snow conditions you typically ski.




How to Choose the Right 'Waist' Width. First, determine the snow conditions you typically ski.

The Ski Waist

In skiing, the "waist" refers to the narrowest part of the ski, located between the tip and the tail. The ski waist is a crucial dimension that affects the ski's handling, versatility, and performance in different types of terrain and snow conditions. 

Choosing the Right Ski Waist Width

When you're picking out skis, you’ve got a huge range of widths to choose from, like 60-millimeter racing skis to 130-millimeter big-mountain beasts. Even though the market has settled a bit recently, the 2023-2024 models are miles ahead of what we had 15 years ago. Here’s what you need to know about ski waist width, the new tech making wide skis versatile, and why location and skill level matter.

Skiing Style and Terrain: your skiing style and the type of terrain you prefer will influence the optimal waist width. For example, aggressive skiers on groomed slopes may prefer narrower waists, while those who enjoy off-piste adventures in deep powder will benefit from wider waists.

Ski Width Measurement

Modern skis have that distinct hourglass shape, which means they have three key width measurements: the tip (front), the waist (middle), and the tail (back). When you see numbers like 128-98-118mm, that's the tip-waist-tail width in millimeters. 

Type of Ski and Performance

Narrow 'Carving' Skis (60-80mm): are great for carving and for quick and precise turns (edge to edge transitions), ideal for racing or hard pack snow on groomed runs. Beginners might find these easier to handle but they can sink in powder.

Wide Free-Ride Powder Skis (100mm+): these float well in deep powder due to their larger surface area but can be harder to turn and control on groomed runs, and less agile on hard-packed or icy surfaces.

All-Mountain Skis (80-100mm): these skis offer versatility and can handle both groomed runs and some off-piste conditions. They provide a good balance of edge control and flotation in variable snow conditions.

New Technology

Ski manufacturers have been making wide skis more versatile by improving edge control and carving ability. Lightweight materials like carbon fiber and graphene have made skis lighter and more maneuverable. 

Edge Control and Rocker/Camber Profiles

The development of rocker (raised tips and tails) and camber (raised middle) profiles has made wide skis better on groomed runs. Rocker helps with flotation in powder, while camber provides edge control. Many modern all-mountain skis have a mix of both, making them an excellent choice.


Where you ski plays a huge role in choosing the right ski width:

East Coast USA: expect more hard pack and fewer powder days. Go for narrower skis (80-90mm).

West Coast USA/Mountain Resorts: you’ll want wider skis (100mm+) because you can expect a lot of powder.

Mt. Baker, Washington

Ideally, we'd all have multiple pairs of skis for different conditions, but realistically we need one all around pair. Finding the right waist width is key to getting the best performance throughout the season based on where and how you ski.

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