The old idea of judging the correct length for new skis—that is, by stretching your arm over your head to see if the skis reach from the floor to the center of your palm—is absolutely wrong. This method of selection started in the Scandinavian countries where skis were used mainly for transportation. Practically all Americans, however, pick their skis for downhill running; and by selecting according to their own height, they almost invariably end up with a ski that is too long and too heavy.
The longer a ski is, the harder it is to handle, not only in turns but also in straight downhill runs. In turns, the extra length and weight of long skis force you to work harder in order to swing them around. In a downhill run the long ski gives the snow much more leverage on your foot. Hence, when a ski gets out of line, it is jerked out from under you much more strongly, whereas a short ski can sometimes be forced back into the proper line by pressure from the leg muscles.
For these reasons the length of new skis should be judged not in relation to the height of the skier, but according to his weight. A girl who is just a beginner, if she weighs less than 125 pounds, should buy skis 6 feet 3 inches long. An intermediate girl weighing less than 125 pounds should have a ski no longer than 6 feet 6 inches. For a man in the beginning stage, weighing under 145, 6 feet 6 inches is long enough. Men 145 to 160 pounds can use 6 feet 9 inches. Men 160 pounds and over may take 7-foot skis. But no one who is not a really accomplished skier should buy 7-foot 3-inch skis.
There are two other factors to consider. The camber, or space between the skis when they are held bottom-to-bottom, should be no less than two fingers and no more than three. And the index of flexibility, sometimes marked on the ski in pounds, should be as follows: for a 125-pound skier, 26 pounds; 150-28 pounds; 160-30 pounds; 170-32 pounds; over 170-34 pounds.