How to Fit Atomic Race Skis

FasterSkierOctober 12, 20106

Rick Halling is the Nordic Director for Atomic USA

Two things are going on when a ski shop measures the flex of a race ski for a customer.   One, they are looking at the stiffness of the ski and making sure it is the right flex for the weight and ability of that customer.  Two, the shop is making a final “quality control” inspection to make sure the customer is getting a ski of the highest quality.  It doesn’t matter if the shop is using the traditional paper test or if the shop has a very sophisticated high tech flex tester, they are looking for fit and quality.  Last year Atomic spent over $400,000 on a new flex testing machine to help our dealers with this process.

This machine slides up and down the ski. No need for feeler gauges!!

We have two goals with this new equipment.  The first is to make sure that every ski sent to dealers worldwide has a flawless flex pattern.  We want to make sure that Atomic race skis at any given dealer are of the same quality as the skis that Billy Demong used to win Olympic Gold.  The second goal is to make it as easy as possible for ski shops to provide a perfect fit for their customers.  We have come up with a new sticker (pictured below) we place on the Worldcup skis that provides all the flex information a consumer would need for a perfect fit.  We provide formulas dealers can use to take the data on the sticker and use them for fitting the customer.   With minimal training, any authorized Atomic dealer should be able to provide a perfect fit.

The sticker

All Worldcup Skate and Classic skis will come with the sticker pictured above.  This particular sticker is for a 206 Classic Cold Medium.  The first thing we do is place 35 kilos of weight on the Load Point of the ski which is 2cm behind the balance point.  We place different amounts of weight on different lengths of skis.  The amount of weight we put on the ski is referred to as “Kilo Force” and this particular ski has a Kilo Force of 35 kilos.  We use different weights for different lengths and our shorter length skis can be as low as 25 kilos.  You will notice the first number to the left and below the picture of the ski is -35.0 with L1 under it.  This means that with 35 kilos of weight on the ski, it is a distance of exactly 35.0cm from the balance point to the point at the front of the ski that is .2mm above the surface.    The second number to the right is 30.0 with L2 under it.  This means you will go backward exactly 30.0cm from the balance point on this ski until you reach a point behind the balance point that is .2mm above the surface.  We do this for two reasons.  One, this makes sure that both skis within a given pair are perfectly matched.  And two, we have established distances fore and aft from the balance point that we want each model and each length of ski to meet when it comes to being .2mm above the surface.  This is a very effective way to measure quality control and to make sure the skis have the desired flex.

You will notice the next row of numbers begins with 40.0kg over MF.  The MF stands for Mid Flex.  This means at 40.0 kilos of weight this particular ski is .2mm from bottoming out.  The formulas described below use this number for determining the right skier weight for each individual skier.   We use this measurement as the primary basis for fitting skiers and we also use it to make sure that both skis within a given pair have identical flexes.

The next number to the right, in this case 24.00mm, is the VSP height and it refers to how high the ski is when unweighted.  This might seem unnecessary, but it is actually a very good measure of quality control.  Any variations of more than five one hundredths of a millimeter within a pair are considered unacceptable.

The bottom number on the right is the L3.  This tells us how far you have to go from the balance point to reach the highest point of the ski.  We have set standards on how far in front of the balance point every ski, ranging from 172cm skate skis to 206 classic skis, should go.

The final number in the lower right hand corner is how high the ski rests  above the surface with that length’s Kilo Force of pressure.  This amount of pressure is changed for each length of ski.  This gives you an idea of how high the ski should be above the surface at half body weight.  This is an important flex number for assuring quality control and for observing how this ski makes the transition for glide to kick zone.

Now you know what these numbers mean.  We will now give you formulas for skier weight to determine what these numbers should read for individual athletes.  Before we do that, here is a general guide to determine what length you should have to begin with:

1.  MEN FROM UPPER 140’s (pounds) TO UPPER 160’s: This is probably the single most common body type of racers out there.   These guys should be on 190 Softs for Skating.  If you have a fairly senior customer in this weight range who is much over 60 years old and does not seem especially athletic, then you may want to drop him down a size to a 184 Hard.  For Classic, most of these guys will prefer 201 Softs for Hard Wax, 201 Mediums for Universal, and 201 Hards for Klister.

2.  WOMEN FROM 140 (pounds) TO THE UPPER 150’s: These women should be on 184 Hards.  Try to discourage these customers from going with 178 Hards.  Even though men who are in the 150’s prefer 190 Softs, it seems almost all women in the 150’s prefer 184 hards.  Women who are much over 160 pounds and getting close to  6 ft. in height do prefer the 190 Softs.  Keep in mind that fairly senior women who are much over 60 years old, or less athletic women in this weigh range, prefer dropping down a size, so they may prefer a 178 Hard.  Most women in this weight range like 196 Mediums, or if they are fairly tall, 201 Softs for universal to hard wax Classic skis.  Depending on height and ability they will prefer 196 Hards or 201 Mediums for Klister conditions.

3.  MEN OVER 170 POUNDS: These guys should be on 190 Hards.   This is one of the most interesting developments we had this past year after extensive testing.  An athlete who is 230 – 240 pounds should not be on a ski that is any stiffer than what works for a guy in the mid 170’s. A stiff skating ski has diminishing returns.  A ski can reach a maximum stiffness, and then it is no longer beneficial to be any stiffer.   This is because a ski is flexing and riding on snow, not pavement or a hard wood floor.  A ski reaches a maximum stiffness for snow (and this includes very hard packed conditions) and the performance decreases if it is too stiff regardless of the weight of the skier.  Classic is easy for these guys.  A 206 Soft will be purely a hard wax ski for them, a 206 Medium can be a good universal flex and a 206 Hard makes for a good Klister flex.  Really big guys will need 206 Hards for all conditions.

4.  WOMEN FROM MID 120’S UP TO 140 (pounds): Women in this weight range ski best with 184 Softs.  However, women in this weight range who are much under 5’4” will sometimes prefer a very stiff 178 Hard.   The choice of a 178 Hard vs. 184 Soft for shorter women at the lower end of this weight range usually depends on experience and ability, more advance women prefer the 184 Softs.  Men or boys in this weight range are also best on 184 Softs.  These women should go with 191 or 196 Classic skis depending on their ability, height and where they fall in the weight range.  Entry level women at the bottom of this weight range should go with 191 Mediums for hard wax and universal, 191 Hards for Klister.  Advance women at the bottom of this range and women at the top of this range should look at 196 Softs for hard wax, 196 Mediums for Universal and 196 Hards for Klister.  Advance women who are close to 140 pounds may choose 201 Softs for hard wax and 201 Mediums for Klister.

5.  SKIERS FROM LOW TEENS TO MID 120’S (pounds): Virtually all skiers in this range prefer the 178 hards for skating.  The best classic choice for these skiers are 191 Softs for hard wax, 191 Mediums for Klister.

5.  SKIERS FROM 105 (pounds) TO MID TEENS: Place these skiers regardless of gendre on 178 Softs.  You may want to put them on 172 Hards if they are much under 5’2”.  For classic these skiers should be on 191 Softs for hard wax and universal, they should be on soft flexing Hards for klister.

6.  SKIERS FROM THE LOW 90’s TO ABOUT 105: These skiers are best on 172 Hards.  These skiers can be on either 185 Junior Classics or Soft 191’s.

7.  SKIERS FROM ABOUT 80 TO LOW 90’s (pounds): I recommend 172 Softs for this range of skier.  This size skier can use adult skating skis in 172, but they should be on 185 or 175 Junior Classic skis.

Those are the basic parameters in fitting skating skis.  You can always drop down a size if the customer seems like he or she is not very athletic and will never ski very aggressively.  It is best to go with a “Hard” and not a “Soft” in any length when you drop down one size.


Take the skier’s weight in Kilos and divide it in half.  Add 25 and the number on the piece of tape should be within 5 below that number and 5 above that number for 190’s and 184’s.  For the shorter lengths, 172’s and 178’s, you should add 15 to the skiers weight in Kilos after divided in half.  The number on the piece of tape should be within 5 above and 5 below for a universal flex.  The number on the piece of tape should be 5 – 10 below this number for a very soft track only flex.  The number on the piece of tape should be 5 – 10 above this number for a hard track only flex.


KLISTER:  Take the skier’s weight in Kilos and divide it in half.  Add 10 and the number on the piece of tape should be within 5 below that number and 5 above that number  for all lengths of classic skis.

HARD WAX:  Take the skier’s weight in Kilos and divide it in half.  Add 5 and the number on the piece of tape should be within 5 below that number and 5 above that number for all lengths of classic skis.


150 POUND MASTER SKIER LOOKING FOR UNIVERSAL SKATE SKI:  Divide 150 by 2.22 and that gives the skier’s weight in Kilos, this comes to 67.56 and we will round it off to 68.  Now we divide 68 in half which comes to 34.  Add 25 to 34 and you get 59.  This athlete should be on a 190 with the MF number between 54 and 64.

130 POUND COLLEGE ATHLETE LOOKING FOR HARD WAX CLASSIC SKI:  Divide 130 by 2.22 and that gives the skier’s weight in Kilos, this comes to 58.55 and we will round it off to 59.  Now we divide 59 in half which comes to 24.5 and we will round off to 25.  Add 5 to 25 and you get 30.  This athlete should be on a ski with the MF number between 25 and 35.

The new flex tester helped Billy Demong win Gold at the Olympics. The same tester and the same formulas are used to put fast skis on every consumer.


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  • D. Diehl

    October 12, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Hats off to Atomic for investing close to half million dollars in a flex tester to bring flawless ski testing to the masses. It rubs me the wrong way when skis are advertised as race stock picked at the factory and sold for just under $1000. Since skis are very expensive to begin with why aren’t we geting the best product for general retail MSRP. I like the transparency of putting a sticker on a ski which gives it’s exact charateristics. I’m sure many readers here have purchased a race ski for full retail like myself and got burned. Atomic thankfully takes the eliteism, price gouging, and overblown hype out of getting properly flexed skis. Way to go Atomic!

  • JimGalanes

    October 12, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Really $400,000? Must be more to this testing system than the article and the suggests.

  • RonBott

    October 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Nice job Atomic. I guess I now know what I’ll be buying this season.

  • highstream

    October 13, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    For what it’s worth to accurate ski fitting, the conversion factor for kg to lbs is 2.205, not 2.22. I always wondered where I picked up the wrong figure about 10 years ago, and Rick’s post makes me suspect it was from Atomic’s fitting manual for shops.


    October 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    So if you know what numbers are right for you, does Atomic have a tracking system to tell you what nearby retailer has them in stock?

    I also really like the specificity in the testing, (exactly 35.0 cm and 0.2 mm) then the unspecificity in the fit (divide weight in half, then have a 10kg range that will work OK.)

    What skiers really need is a way to test drive $500 skis like we would a bike, or even a car. Instead, we buy them cold and cross our fingers. It’s easy to spend $400K on an engineering solution that is incredibly accurate. It’s hard to figure out a way to accurately match skiers to skis. But I applaud Atomic for trying, and at least moving things forward.

  • Dusha

    October 15, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I’m confused by the general length matching advise for skating skis given in the article above…

    Rick is advising to use 190soft skate for all skiers in the range betwen 140 to upper 160 pounds!

    In all service/dealer guides from Atomic 190Soft are advised for 154-187 pounds and 184 soft/hard skis are much more suitable for the specified weight (132-158 for 184soft and 150-176 for 184hard)

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