Get shorty -- it's skiing's new mantra. In the past several years, ski lengths have been shrinking at an alarming rate. In the 2001 preview of this year's skis by Skiing Trade News, an industry publication, only one in 10 models listed even came in lengths exceeding 195 centimeters. That's a big change from just two years ago, when more than half of all models on the list came in at 200 or up.
What gives? The rapid evolution of deep sidecuts and improved production methods in the use of structural materials mean more performance can be built into a smaller package. Through sidecut and structural integrity, skiers can "put more effective edge on the snow," explains Dynastar product manager Tait Wardlaw. That means being able to use almost the entire edge, from tip to tail, throughout a turn. On old-school straight-sidecut skis, only a small part of the edge is actively engaged during a turn. So the new short skis are not only more maneuverable, they can have just as much grip as their longer predecessors.
Our ski tests reflect the less-is-more trend. In the Carving Expert category, for example, just one model for male testers this year was as long as 185 centimeters. Two years ago, just one model was under 190. For the most part, our testers liked going short. Even testers with World Cup pedigrees complained that a 181-cm women's ski was "too darn long." Of course, at our Freeride Superhero test, where the snow was downright nasty and our superhero testers were dropping airs and Maching through avalanche debris, the longer, fat boards were still preferred. "In wide-open spaces like Alaska, I do prefer a longer ski," says tester Kristen Ulmer, "but at a resort, with chutes, trees, and moguls, shorter is better. A long ski is just too much work."