Short! The very word conjures images of dating hell (as in, "I'm sorry-you're a little short"). But shorter has truly become better for many skiers; manufacturers have fit amazing performance into small packages. The benefit to you: Skis can now handle big speeds and rough snow but remain nimble enough to get you out of a jam. Skiers over 6 feet tall may find their perfect, full-bore, big-mountain expert ski is a 188-cm shortie.
First-timers will find skis that carve turns with only a hint of pressure. But here's an unintended consequence: the shorter the ski, the more it may vary in character from length to length. The K2 Mach S, for example, hugs the snow and works almost like a quick-turning GS race ski at 174 cm, while the 167 cm Mach S is more interested in the back-and-forth slalom rhythm one might expect from a ski that only reaches an average man's chin. And don't get us started about the 160 cm version. Jalapeño peppers! The upshot: More than ever, picking the right length in the right model is key. Try before you buy, and assume the right length really is at least 15-20 cm shorter than your old straight skis.