We are seeing a trend in the way skis are built and produced, one that goes past pretty top sheets or consistent factory tunes (which, by the way, still needs to be addressed). This trend is about scaling constructions, shapes, and dimensions. "Scaling" a ski is just what it sounds like: each size is tweaked to convey the same on-snow experience. Granted, scaling is not new; it has been going on for some time in the industry, but not like we are seeing today, where almost every manufacturer is getting on board.

Over the years, we have watched size ranges shrink. Once upon a time, a ski model was offered in eight or nine lengths, from, say, 170 to 210 with breaks every 5 cm, and even 3 cm when stepping up from a 200 to a 203. Today, we might see as few as three sizes when using 10cm breaks; but in reality, most product runs boast four or five sizes in increments of 7 or 8 cm. The problem now is to get the bookend sizes (roughly 163 to 191 for the men and 149 to 170 for women) to ski like each other, and then for those to ski like the reference sizes in between.

Building a ski is not an inexpensive process. Molds are expensive, which is why some models share the same mold but use different constructions. What is also expensive is making a 177cm mold and a 170cm mold scaled differently. It costs much less to take a 133-98-123 dimension and just make it shorter or longer. But more often we are seeing that 98mm ski in a 177 become 132-97-120 in a 170 and 134-99-124 in a 184. This way, three sizes of skiers will get the same experience on the "same" ski.

The other method is to alter the construction of the ski. Let's say the 170 cm skier is 175 lb, the 177 cm skier is 190 lb, and the 184 cm skier is 210 lb: Even if all the skis are still 133-98-123, the proportionally scaled construction will give each skier a similar ability to bend it. Some of the more progressive manufacturers are doing both, scaling the dimensions and the construction.

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Looking at a particular waist width within a size range can be confusing and requires attention. Make sure you know on which length it is based. Personally, I would prefer the reference width to be based on one of the middle sizes, and as the ski gets longer, it would get a bit wider, and as it gets shorter, it would get a bit narrower. But in all too many cases, the reference size is based on the longest length, which can be misleading. For example, the previous generation of the Head women's Kore 93 line didn't even include a 93 mm ski. The longest length had a width of 91 mm. Also, the 153 was 87 mm underfoot, which was perplexing, because Head had another model, the Kore 87, of which none were actually 87 mm underfoot. A customer of mine walked away from a transaction because she had to have a ski 93 mm underfoot, and 91 would just not do. To Head’s credit, for the 2022 season, they minimizedsome of the confusion by renaming and renumbering the women’s Kore collection, the Kore 93 W is now the Kore 91 W with a model name more in line with the widths offered. I will also remind our readers that Head has been scaling sizes almost as long as anyone.

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Other brands are taking a different approach by proportionally adjusting the construction of the ski instead of the dimensions. Völkl is a good example with its Tailored Titanal Frame on the new M6 Mantra and Secret 96. In the past, you either fit into the Mantra’s wheelhouse or you didn’t. Its shortest length, 170, was overly stiff to the point of being disproportionate, but the 177 and 184 were well balanced, and even the 191 was very versatile for the bigger guy. Now, Völkl can scale the flexes while keeping the dimensions of the skis consistent. Doing so enabled the addition of a men's Mantra in a 163 length.

If neither the construction nor the dimensions are scaled, then what can be an excellent ski may feel mediocre or awkward in a bookend length. The Stöckli Laser AX, one of our readers' darlings, is such a ski. The core sizes are 167 and 175, two sizes that people rarely get on and say, “Eh, this ski is just not for me." But the longer 182? In more than one case, a skier that should be on that length has asked, “Where's the magic?” or said, “This is not what I expected.” The 182 just doesn’t ski like the rest of the collection.

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hese are but a few examples. Ski brands from Armada to Zai have different philosophies in their build processes, and all stand behind what they do. I will conclude that this isn’t as important for most average-sized skiers, but it is for those skiers on opposite ends of the size spectrum who need bookend sizes.

One thing we are always striving to do at SkiTalk is to get better and not just say, "Well, this is the way we always did it..." For 2022 we added a new line in our product pages called Size Scaling. Here, we will note if the ski has scaling done to the construction or dimensions, or even in some cases, both.