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What makes a modern ski a "powder ski"?

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  • What makes a modern ski a "powder ski"?

    Powder skis were once just "fat" ...

    So, modern "powder" skis have all sort of things going on:

    1. Width
    2. Tip rise
    3. Reverse Camber
    4. etc etc

    In order, which would make for the best surfy ski for "soft powder days" for lift served?

    Or should I just mount a pair of regular skis with the bindings really far back ...

    Can I get away with less fat and more early tip rise etc etc?

    Lift served? Hey I had to work to pay for that lift ticket - definitely turns that were earned!

    The early rise/reverse camber thingies I see look like they would be a lot of fun in the right conditions?


  • #2
    I don't ski Eldora but will assume the "powder" there gets wind affected because this makes a difference. The reason there are so many different powder skis is because there are so many opinions on your question. My resort oriented powder skis are 105 and 114 width. The 105 pair is for 8 inches or less or steeper terrain and soft bumps, and tighter spaces. They are Liberty Helixes and are twin tip with subtle tip rocker. For bigger days especially at places like Loveland where it gets real wind affected with deeper drifts or more variable snow I ski some Moment Bibby Pros. They have tip and tail rocker but some camber. They are 114 waist and I weigh 190 pounds. I don't like skis with no camber or reverse camber at the resort because they suck moving around the mountain on less deep snow.

    You can can get a more narrow ski with more rocker for deeper snow but the extra rocker will make the ski ski shorter and more turny. The extra rocker also can flop around on groomers. I tried to like a ski like this in the DPS Wailer 99 but I really disliked them.

    At first I did not like skis with tail rocker because most of them had to much rocker and tended to be to soft with a short radius. There are quite few skis out now with less tail rocker that I really like. The DPS Wailer 112 RPC are missiles that like speed, heavy snow and crud and have tail rocker. As far as tip rocker I like a ski to have a fair amount say 30 cm but I would prefer the skis had less splay.

    So for around here a ski with tip and some tail rocker that is mid stiff or stiffer with camber and around a 22 meter side cut is best for me. For deeper snow that is steeper or in tight trees like in Canada or sometimes Siilverton I prefer a skis that is a bit softer with an 18 meter turning radius. One would think I would want more rocker but in my experience I almost always prefer the same amount of tip and tail rocker on all my powder skis. If you look at a ski like the 112RPC or the BD Convert these are the type of tip and tail rocker I prefer. A early rise twin tip ski like the Helix is still fun in all around snow and would make a good one quiver ski but the other skis mentioned are better in deeper more variable snow.
    Last edited by James; 1 May 2014, 08:57 AM.


    • #3
      A modern powder ski is likely to be fat, rockered, and often will have a pin tail. Flex is typically softer than an all-mountain ski and camber will be flat or reversed.

      I prefer a more versatile ski for the ski area for the same reasons James mentioned. I find an all-mountain ski is great in powder and all the other conditions we see too.


      • #4
        For me, what's best and what I would prefer depends first on how the skis are rigged. Tele, AT Tech or Alpine fixed heel. Then I would consider the type of snow that I would see most often at the resort on a typical powder day. I don't resort ski tele anymore but when I did just a few years ago I skied BD Verdicts and K2 Anti Pistes. Both similar dims at 103 underfoot and the Verdicts a lot stiffer and better for wind driven and heavier snow. This size was not that surfy unless there was a nice base and not too deep.

        Now, what I think works at least for me on resort powder days here around Tahoe where the snow is typicall heavy and wind driven is actually two skis. My go to ski when there is around 6-10" on a day where there is going to be a crowd and the snow gets punched out fast is some K2 Side Stashes, a 108 underfoot, tip rocker and flat tail. Ski is heavy and damp and rips chowder. When the snow is over 10", stormy and hard core I ride Liberty Genomes, this ski is super fun and big like 140 underfoot tip rise and rocker and tail rise and rocker too. A little under foot camber. This ski is amazing by how easy it is to ski and how it hammers crust, wind berms, anything not typical. Agile as well. so if you make a bad decision like I have and brought the ski and the snow is way lesser than what they claim or groomed and skied out, ski is still doable. WTBS, For tele I think the Side Stashe is a great resort ski, the Genome may not work tele as it is just huge..

        Anyway, pick the ski for the conditions you have not what you would like them to be.
        Last edited by Quadzilla; 1 May 2014, 09:56 AM.
        "Just say no to groomed snow"


        • #5
          If you need a special ski to ski powder then you're not doing it right...


          • #6
            A ski with softer longitudinal flex will ski powder better than a stiffer ski.

            A ski with rocker in the tip will ski powder better than a ski with conventional camber.

            A ski with reverse camber will be easier to ski in powder than a ski with conventional camber but do not make the mistake of thinking that a reverse camber ski is a powder only ride. Stiffness and splay and dimensions count for a lot. Try the Volkl Gotama and its siblings if you doubt me.

            A ski with more width under foot will ski powder better than a narrower waisted ski.

            A ski with a waxless pattern sucks because of drag.

            These are all just design parameters that describe parts of the overall design of a ski.

            And the point of rocker is that it gives you precise speed and turn shape control in deep snow.
            Last edited by cesare; 1 May 2014, 10:31 AM.


            • #7
              All good informative answers! I like a fair amount of tip rocker but minimal tail rocker as I don't like skidding out of turns. Doesn't really matter in all blower conditions but so often it's 5 or 6 powder turns and then you're on top of variable wind buff for a few. When on a groomer at the area watch what happens when skiers on heavily rockered skis encounter firmer conditions, the tips and tails are just flapping in the wind. Overall I think an all mountain ski is best unless you're lucky enough to have lots of pure deep powder days.


              • #8
                !ski, since you primarily ski at Eldora, I would add weight as a factor. Find the heaviest skis you can to keep from being blown to Nebraska when the wind picks up!


                • #9
                  My Zealots are super heavy! I love to ski them at the area but they would be tough to tour on.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BillyFromTheHills View Post
                    If you need a special ski to ski powder then you're not doing it right...
                    Quoted because this ^^^ can't be stated often enough.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BillyFromTheHills View Post
                      If you need a special ski to ski powder then you're not doing it right...
                      Originally posted by NoPin View Post
                      Quoted because this ^^^ can't be stated often enough.
                      While you can't argue this in principle, it's not the question that was asked by the OP. He's not questioning if he can ski powder on a conventional ski, but he's asking....
                      What makes a modern ski a "powder ski"?
                      I think people have pretty well explained the principles of a modern powder ski - fat, rocker (of varying amounts), camber or not, and certain longitudinal forgiveness.

                      For me, the key to the OP's question is that he is looking for a resort-based powder ski. To me, this means a great powder day that will still offering varying and tracked conditions as the day progresses AND will inevitably incur a certain amount of cat tracks and groomed terrain to get to/from said powder.

                      My happy place for a ski meeting that characteristic is:

                      1. Medium tip rocker
                      2. 2-3mm camber underfoot
                      3. Low tail rocker
                      4. Reasonably stiff from underfoot and progressively through to the tail; soft(er) but not flappy in the shovel
                      5. Around 18m turn radius (noting you will have a much wider effective radius in power as you are not flattening the ski in these conditions)
                      6. Around 115ish in the waist

                      So many good skis out there today that meet this characteristic, as it's become a bit of default formula for good attentive ski manufacturers.

                      But I'd happily ski powder on any 'ol ski if it means I'm out skiing powder!


                      • #12
                        Good one BillyOTH!

                        A special ski not only has to ski powder well, but it also has to skin and break trail through deep powder. Weight is critical. Soft tips, some width. Slightly or moderately rockered tips and tails really make for a sweeter ride and as a all-mountain ski. Don't be fooled to think more rocker is better, as there are some spatulas out there that are over kill.


                        • #13
                          The best skis for powder are wider, softer, have less (or no or reverse) sidecut, have rocker. With good design, some of those qualities can be sacrificed for non-powder skiability, and they'll still do powder well. The worst skis for powder are particularly stiff traditional cambered skis (like my old GS racers that I continue to be fond of).

                          Just about anything "skis powder", though. Really, there are a bunch of snow conditions that are far less forgiving of being on the wrong kind of ski than powder is.

                          Here I am, backcountry powder, 53mm underfoot (the saving grace of these skis is that they're soft and decamber in a nice round arc), and yeah, it was a memorably fun day:

                          One of my best ever powder days (10+ feet of fresh and reasonably light snow, continuing to accumulate, nearly empty resort), I was on Piste Stinx, which are hardly twigs, but at 70mm waist they're not powder skis either. Now, if I was skiing with someone of my skill level who was using fat rockered skis (which didn't exist yet), one, I wouldn't have been able to keep up, at all, and two, that other person would have fallen a lot less than I was. But in terms of fun? I was pretty well maxing out the fun-meter on the gear I had.

                          The main differences using a modern powder ski are:
                          - Floation: You aren't going as deep, so you aren't going to stall out and/or tumble if your weighting isn't just right;
                          - Speed: Standard traditional skis become unstable as you go faster in powder; it takes very little to suddenly go into an over-turn.
                          (As has been noted, nearly all current all-mountain skis are designed to do great in powder, so my comparison is more between traditional and modern than between categorizations of current skis.)

                          So, bottom line, if you want to run with the pack (or stay ahead of the pack) on a powder day, get on some rockered fatties. Yes, it's fun. And if you want to go fluff-diving on other gear, that's fun too.


                          • #14
                            Powder Skis? They have to be Red.

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                            • #15
                              What's powder?

                              I learned to 'ski' on these:

                              Click image for larger version

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