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Think back to the start of the 2002–2003 ski season. The Sopranos was the latest hit TV show, the start of the Iraq War was months away, and the fattest ski you could buy was Atomic’s Big Daddy, a full 107 mm at the waist.
In December came news from Wheat Ridge, Colo.—home of Volant skis—about a crazy new kind of powder ski: reverse sidecut, reverse camber, 125 mm at the waist. It was called the Machete Spatula, and it came with a lengthy manifesto from its creator, Shane McConkey, who told us to throw out everything we knew about powder skiing. At the time, McConkey’s radical screed could have been dismissed as the ravings of a man who’d spent too much time at altitude. Today, it just seems brilliant and ahead of its time.
The Spatula wouldn’t appear in the Volant collection till 2003–2004, and by then the company was in its death throes. Nevertheless, McConkey had fomented a revolution—one that would outlive both him and the brand. For proof, check out the skis on this page, all even wider than the original Spatula.
So, seven years post-Spatula, where do we stand with regard to powder-ski design? For starters, there appears to be no limit to how wide skis can get. The indy brands are leading the way. Examples: the Liberty Skis Genome (141 mm at the waist) and the Fat-ypus A-Lotta (140 mm). In fact, Line, whose Prophet 130 is rockered in the shovel and 130 mm wide, has parlayed fat-ski leadership into a legit slice of market share. Among mainstream brands, Nordica leads the way with the monstrous Jah Love (140 mm).
Rocker is also here to stay—if in different flavors, from full-length, as in the Völkl Kuro, to just tip and/or tail sections, as in the Salomon Rocker and the Atomic Atlas. On the other hand, reverse sidecut has been embraced less fully. Armada makes something pretty close in the ARG. It’s virtually straight—135-133-134—with reverse sidecut in the shovel and the tail.
McConkey’s design lives on in the K2 Pontoon, about which so much has been written. There’s even a version you can buy to help support the family he left behind following his BASE jumping death last spring. K2 tweaked the sidecut just enough so that you could survive on hardpack. For skiers looking for something a bit more versatile, there’s the new 128 mm Darkside, which is shovel-rockered but has traditional sidecut.