Wide Skis vs. Narrow Skis: The Differences

So you’re looking for a new pair of skis. You go to your local ski shop or, I suppose, nowadays shop online and notice a massive difference in how wide skis are these days. You’re probably wondering, “What’s the difference?” Why would I prefer one ski over the other? How does one help me, and, more importantly, which one do I purchase? That is exactly what this article will cover.

Before I get into all the different categories of skis, you need to ask yourself a few questions. First, what type of skier are you? Depending on the type of skier (like beginner, advanced, or expert) your ski width will impact your experience on the mountain. Second, where do you ski, or what is the type of terrain you can ski? Is it cold? Is it icy or are you mostly on groomers? Do you live somewhere where there’s a lot of snow or where you can take in an all-terrain or an all-mountain experience? Once you figure those out, you can start figuring out how wide the ski should be.

Ski Width Categories

Following are the main ski width categories. But keep in mind that there are some skis that fall into the grey area. There are some types of skis that will cross certain categories.

Narrow (65 – 82mm)

Narrow skis are also called carving skis and they are great for beginners. These skis fall in between the measurements of 65 to 82 millimeters underfoot. If you are not familiar, underfoot means exactly what it is. It’s how wide this ski is under your foot when you are stepped into the bindings. The width is also mentioned in the name of the ski. For example, Rossignol Experience 78 Ca 125-78-111mm, where 125 is the tip, 78 is underfoot and 111 is the tail.

The narrower category is generally geared toward beginners or people who spend their days carving on icy groomers. This also includes mogul skiers who use fairly narrow skis. Beginners prefer narrower skis because it is much faster and easier to turn from one edge to the other. Furthermore, the way it is constructed gives it a slightly more pronounced hourglass shape. When you put the ski on edge, it will want to turn, and the turns will be much tighter. As a result, even if you are a beginner, you will be able to make turns with ease. Also, if you need to stop quickly, simply put it on edge and the ski will naturally want to turn, helping you in stopping.

If you are an advanced or expert skier, you can also use narrow skis when you just don’t do bumps and just want to stick to the groomers. In this case, narrower skis will be a lot quicker and the turns will be much snappier. At the same time, you will be able to ski a little bit faster with a lot more stability because the skis will be able to drive and bite into the ground, especially if it is icier out there.

All-Mountain (84 – 100mm)

All-mountain is sometimes known as the all-terrain category. Skis in this category generally fall in the widths between 84 to 100 millimeters underfoot. With all-mountain skis, you can ski trees, ski powder, do groomers, and so on. This category is kind of like the do-all category. If you’re on the lower end of the spectrum, say the 84 to 88mm, they will be a little bit more groomer-focused. However, you are also going to get a little bit more width underfoot compared to the previous category. So you will get a little bit more flotation if by chance you do get some fresh snow one morning.

Another thing to consider is how the skis are shaped underfoot. The narrower skis in this category will typically have a little more camber. They are designed more for groomers and as the skis get wider, you will notice a little less camber and a little more rocker at the tip and tail. This allows the tips to stay up in softer snow. As the skis become wider, you will notice that your turns become slightly larger and, depending on the overall construction of the skis, slightly more difficult to manage.

Wide (100mm+)

Skis in this category are 100mm and up and these are your powder skis. These skis are designed to give you the most optimal float in powder and soft snow conditions. They tend to have a lot more rocker at the tip and tail allowing your skis to give you a little bit more float and keep you on top of that soft snow. Many of them may not even have any camber underfoot at all. This makes them completely flat allowing you to pivot the skis a lot easier in softer conditions. However, they are not necessarily designed to handle groomers well due to the lack of camber underfoot, which reduces the amount of edge grip that you actually have.

If you’re someone who’s looking into these skis, I really do not recommend that this is your one and only ski. Generally, people have powder skis as a second ski for those days when you get a nice foot that falls overnight and you want the most optimal floating conditions.

Width Range65 – 82mm 84 – 100mm100mm+
Ability LevelBeginnerIntermediateAdvanced, Expert
Preferred TerrainWell-groomedAll-terrainPowder
ExampleRossignol Experience 78Nordica Enforcer 94Moment Wildcat Tour

Which one is right for you?

Choose narrower skis if you are a beginner. These skis are much faster and easy to turn. Also, if you are an experienced skier who likes to go faster on well-groomed terrain, narrower skis are a good option to consider. Skis with widths 65 to 82mm fall within the narrow category.

If you want to do more, such as wider and bigger turns, or if you just want to cruise and go fast, go for something a little wider. The way the skis are designed, your turns will generally be a little larger. If you’re buying a brand new set of skis and don’t have the money to buy multiple sets of skis, get something within the all-mountain category and it’ll be your go-to skis for all conditions. If you want something that does everything but doesn’t do everything quite well, a ski with 88 to 92mm underfoot would be a great choice for an all-terrain experience.

Choose wider skis if you are an experienced skier. These skis are designed for powder snow and soft snow conditions. They give you the most optimum floatation in powder and soft snow conditions. Keep in mind that it is harder to ski with wider skis. So only choose wider skis when you have at least some sort of skiing experience.