Labor Day marks the beginning of ski season in America.  This wall at Bobo’s displays a profusion of carryover, 2022 models. An equal allotment of new models overflow a small armada of ski racks elsewhere under the tent.  

At the top of most ski reviews you’ll find a suite of statistics that almost no one pays attention to. This oft-ignored bundle of data usually consists of:

  • Sidecut, measured at tip, waist and tail
  • Sidecut radius for a given length
  • Sizes available
  • Weight
  • Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

Sounds as dry as unbuttered toast, but this quintet contains seams of valuable knowledge well worth mining. Let’s take it from the top.

Sidecut Dimensions

Sidecut measurements are taken at the widest points at tip and tail and the narrowest point in the middle, as in 135/105/125. The waist measurement is so indicative of the ski’s optimal use that at I use it to define the boundaries of the seven Alpine ski categories. In addition to its value as a stand-alone indicator, waist width also reveals a great deal about the ski when it’s compared to its tip and tail widths.

To extract the sidecut’s secrets, first compare the tip width to the waist measurement:  the bigger the number, the more the ski forebody is going to take over the top of the turn. An extra-wide tip (any drop between tip and waist over 45mm) is made to carve on hard snow and will fight you every turn in deep snow as the narrow waist behind it sinks like a stone. Reduce this differential to roughly 30mm and the tip and waist will cooperate more fully in all conditions.

Also compare the maximum width in the tip with the widest part of the tail, neither of which is necessarily found at the very ends. Tip taper, the term of art for moving the widest point of the forebody down the ski, away from the shovel, has become the de facto norm among the all-terrain skis that dominate the market. Skis also have a full-length taper angle, determined by the widest points at the extremities. A high taper angle means the tail is substantially narrower than the tip, which encourages the edge to release as the ski crosses the fall line. While the average taper angle varies by category, consider 10-20mm to be normal.

One point to remember about taper angle: a ski with 10mm or less will release the edge naturally towards the end of a turn, while a steeper angle will tend to hang onto the edge.  One way that Big Mountain and Powder skis buy a little extra surface area is by minimizing tip-to-tail taper.

One other curiosity related to taper angle: because narrower tails release the edge more readily, some forces on the knee associated with ACL injury are effectively mitigated.  This is why we occasionally see a women’s model with high taper angle.

Sidecut Radius

First, let’s correct a common misconception: sidecut radius is not the same thing as turn radius. Sidecut radius is math; turn radius is math in motion.  One can own a 13m-radius slalom race ski and never make a short turn, much less one measuring only 13m. What sidecut radius tells you is what the ski is capable of when edged and pressured by a skilled practitioner. The smaller the number, the tighter the turn the ski can execute. Note: no ski turns itself, although some are definitely better at seeming effortless.

Remember, the easiest way to acquire a naturally shorter turn radius is to buy a shorter ski. Because length has such a dramatic impact on sidecut radius calculation, the sidecut radius statistic should always reference the specific length to which it applies.

Size Run

Ski models normally come in 4 to 5 sizes, meant to cover the spectrum of adult men or women. A narrower range indicates a ski with a more focused mission, down to a single size, for models made for the upper echelons of freeride athletes.  To be clear, if a ski comes in only one size, it probably wasn’t made for you, unless it has your name on it.

Size runs that span six or more options are broadcasting their suitability for all skiers, regardless of gender or skill set. The most common length differential between sizes is 7cm, enough to create some significant behavioral differences across a 5-model range. Now more than ever, size matters.


In an era when skiers are taking a wide swath of Alpine ski varieties into the backcountry, weight becomes a more relevant criterion. While lighter weight hasn’t always worked in the skier’s favor on hard snow, it’s advantages in powder can’t be denied, particularly when the ski is of ginormous dimensions.


For the past 20 years or so, the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) has been a high-water mark few retailers have stretched to reach, settling instead to sell for Minimum Advertised Price (MAP), which could be $100 – $150 less. While some brands will continue with this convention in 2023, several have eliminated the MAP alternative while bringing their MSRP down. So actual selling price this season will be a bit confusing to decipher, but the bottom line is, top of the line skis will go out the door for $50 more this year.

What More is There to Know?

In a word, plenty. At, I provide – in addition to the stats cited above – a baseline profile indicating if and where the ski is rockered.  Skis that are heavily rockered have a looser grip that allows the ski to smear over terrain rather than bite into it. also separates its Recommended reviews into two distinct camps, Power and Finesse, and ranks the two behavioral bundles separately. members (only $24.95/season!) also see our testers’ average scores for ten performance criteria, and most importantly, a more detailed narrative that gets into nuances of behavior no amount of numbers can adequately describe.

As an added benefit for my legion of senior supporters, I’ve created a Silver Skier Selection to designate models that are easily steered by a light touch. I don’t adhere to any particular formula to determine my Silver Skier Selections; they’re entirely based on my personal assessment.

For all my Dear Readers who gorge on data in the hopes that a thorough analysis will reveal the Truth, please understand that numbers will never tell the whole story. Data is useful, but it’s always anecdotal in the ski realm, just as it is in wine tasting.  The best guide to understanding a ski’s potential is found in the narrative, wherein language can impart subtleties mere numbers can’t communicate.

 If you take away one nugget from today’s lesson, remember that no single stat or design element exists independently from the matrix of which it is but a part. For example, the remarkably effective 3D Radius sidecut Völkl applies to its best all-mountain models wouldn’t be able to switch turn shape with a dab of edge angle if it weren’t for its double-rockered baseline. At the end of the day, everything that goes into a ski matters.