This past week, Stephen wrote in to ask a question that some of you might be wondering about, too:
Q: Curious if you guys ride different lengths of skis depending on whether they’re centered or traditionally mounted? I typically ride 184 cm Volkl Katanas and picked up a 14/15 Line Sir Francis Bacon, 184 cm (I wanted a very playful ski at the other end of the spectrum from the Katana). But as soon as I stepped into the bindings, the 5″ shorter nose threw me off. Even though they ride as I wanted, I can’t shake the feeling I’m going to fold the noses up on a landing and cartwheel down the hill.
Jonathan Ellsworth’s reply:
Hi, Stephen, good question. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend checking out our Skiing 101 article, How to Think about Ski Length, for some more general guidelines on length.
But to your specific question, the answer is: it depends.
Let’s stick to your two examples, because they are good ones: the 184 cm Volkl Katana vs. the 184 cm Line SFB — two very different skis that are, as you say, on opposite ends of the spectrum.
From a review point of view, we would typically not size up.
Our job is to think about who a particular ski is for, and how that ski is intended to be skied. The Katana is a stiff, metal ski with a super traditional, set back mount point. There is zero question that it is designed for directional skiers who like to drive the shovels of their skis. So the Katana is pretty straightforward. It wants to be skied in a pretty singular style, so the question is really only what length will suit a particular skier best.
(Ok, well, in the case of the Katana, this is made slightly more complicated by the fact that the 191 and 198 cm Katanas were made with a stiffer flex pattern than the shorter lengths. So that flex pattern would need to be taken into consideration, too…)
But if you aren’t talking about reviewing a ski and instead simply enjoying a ski, then that begs a different question. Namely, how willing and / or interested are you in switching your skiing style when you go from your 184 cm Katana to the SFB?
If your answer is, “Not that willing or able or interested,” – i.e., you want a “very playful ski” … but you aren’t willing to give up much of the stability of your Katana, or adopt a much more neutral, centered stance (especially on landings)… then you’d be wise to size up and go with the 190 cm Sir Francis Bacon, or possibly find a different ski altogether — a ski that still has a playful side to it (though not as much as a SFB), but has a more traditional mount point and can still be skied hard and with a more traditional stance that will allow you to land tip-heavy, like the Line Supernatural 108, 186 cm.
Final Thoughts / Recommendations
I still maintain that if you (or anyone) is not planning to trick your skis—and in particular, spin them—then there is rarely a good overall reason to mount your skis any closer than 4 cm behind true center. Yes, the more centered you are the quicker the ski will be, but the more susceptible to tip dive the ski will be in pow, and the less stable the ski will feel in crud and chop.
And for many skiers (especially if your current ski / favorite skis have all had pretty traditional mount positions) then you are probably going to be happiest around 6-8 cm behind true center. But again (and as a gross generalization here) I’d say that once you start moving forward of 6 cm behind true center, you’ll need to be operating from a more neutral stance, or else you’re just mismatching your style and the mount point / intended design of the ski, and you’d be better off looking at a different ski.