Ski Stiffness Explained – What matters, what doesn’t

Posted by Cyrus Schenck on

Of all the ski characteristics to evaluate, stiffness is the toughest to quantify. A ski’s flex pattern can vary greatly from tip-to-tail, and even small intricacies will make a huge difference in ski behavior. 

The reality is that you don't need to know what “the tip is a little stiffer” or the “tail is soft” actually means. Any decent ski is well balanced, and a ski engineer knows how to keep people feeling good.

Why does stiffness matter?

The most important thing you need to know is this: a stiffer ski needs more energy to bend and will reward you for that extra effort in turns and control. On the flipside, a softer ski will be easier to bend, but it won’t give quite the same energy back. What you give is what you get.

How do you know if your skis are too soft or too stiff?

Chances are they won’t be. Most skis fall within the middle range – not too soft, not too stiff. Only a ski that is significantly softer or stiffer will be noticed by a tester and only then will they call it out. 

When we prototype skis, we dial in flex by changing the core thickness by less than 0.5mm – about as thick as a grain of sand. That little bit will be the difference between an ok ski and a great ski.

So how do I choose stiffness?

Like I said, it’s hard to gauge stiffness from ski to ski, company to company, but here are some north stars that can help direct you.

A soft ski is usually better if you are:

  • Short 
  • Light for your height
  • A beginner
  • A freestyle skier, meaning you like to mess around on rails and jumps

A medium-stiff to stiff ski is usually better if you are:

  • Tall
  • Heavier-set
  • An intermediate to advanced skier
  • An all mountain skier, hitting everything on and off the groomed trails
  • A racer

Need help finding a ski? We got you.

When buying skis, there’s a whole lot of variables to consider and marketing speak to wade through. To cut through the BS, we have a whole series that helps you figure out what matters and what doesn’t. Check out How to Pick the Right Ski.

And when in doubt, drop us a line. With so many options out there, we'll help you find the right one. Us. Real Humans. No robots. 🤖