Ski Shapes Explained | The Ski Workshop

We explain how the shape of a ski affects its characteristics

Looking for that perfect set of skis can take hours of research and consideration. Whether you are shopping online or checking them out in person at your local ski shop one of the first things to notice is the shape of the skis. 

There are four basic terms to consider when looking at or talking about ski shapes. These are the width, length, sidecut and profile.


Let’s take a look at the width element first. This headline figure is normally the width in mm at the waist of the ski, though you should consider the width at various points to get a true picture. This width component is often a key factor to how a ski is categorised. Piste skis tend to be the skinniest, all-mountain slightly wider with freeride and powder skis coming in with the most girth. 

Wider skis create more surface area, for increased flotation in soft snow, while narrower skis are able to offer direct power towards the edges for increased grip on firm snow.


The second aspect of the ski shape is the length of the ski. Traditionally skis would be towering overhead with lengths of two meters plus being the norm. Thankfully we no longer are burdened with such behemoths and more progressive shorter lengths are accessible to all abilities.

How to choose what length of ski to buy will be dependent on a few factors such as your weight, ability and style of skiing. The general range of ski length within a model will be set relevant to each category.

Piste skis tend to have a wide general range depending on the turning radius or style, all mountain skis tend to run in slightly longer lengths whereas freeride and powder skis will be at the longer end of the spectrum for skiing in deeper snow and at faster speeds. 

The Line Sakana is a great example of how the shape influences a skis characteristics


The third aspect to consider is the sidecut radius of the ski. Imagine the ski laying on its edge and gliding in a full circle. The radius of the track equals the radius of the ski. Normally this will be listed as a length in meters. Within each ski category you will find a plethora of ski radii.

Just because you have a skinny piste ski doesn’t mean it will be a shorter radius than, say, a fat freeride ski. The turn radius is what gives the ski a large part of its character. A small radius will feel fast edge to edge, easy to initiate the turn and fun to ski in a smaller corridor. At the other end of the spectrum, a larger radius will feel more stable at speed and enjoyable for longer turns across the piste or mountain. 


The fourth aspect of ski shapes to look at is the profile of the ski. Imagine looking at a ski resting on the floor, the profile is the shape the skis make against the floor, how far the tips and tails lift up, where the contact points are and how high the mid section rests.

Traditionally skis would be cambered, this means the waist will rest off the floor and the contact points will be at the tip and tail. Modern shapes will apply a variety of designs such as early rise, also known as rocker, flat profiles and in some cases true reverse camber.


Ready to buy? Check out the latest skis at Surfdome.


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