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Is it possible to overrate
versatility? When it comes to skis, probably not. Consider the midfat. With a waist of, say, 75 mm, you get enough flotation to have fun in soft snow and powder, but today’s sidecuts and constructions still allow you to arc it up on all but the hardest snow. Very cool. Still, in certain situations even a midfat founders, and only a specialist will suffice. Every manufacturer’s catalog includes skis that are undeniably one-dimensional. They don’t sell in great numbers, but for their intended uses, they’re almost indispensable. Here’s a look at ultra-fat powder skis (waists over 100 mm) and specialty mogul skis. Does one-or both-belong in your collection?
Here’s irony for you: Fat skis, once dismissed as training wheels for out-of-shape, heliskiing millionaires, have become status symbols for young, hardcore big-mountain skiers-the very people who once so roundly scorned them. Look around at resorts known for radical terrain and snowfall. “It’s like people of a certain age are embarrassed to be seen in a Squaw liftline on anything narrower than a 90-mm waist,” says Fischer product manager Chris Clapp, whose company has seen growing demand for its portliest production model, the Big Stix 10.6.
Others in the industry agree, though they’re reluctant to go on record dissing their customers. “It’s image more than anything else,” says one product manager. “The locals are going wider and wider, but then you get people coming up for the weekend and they want to be cool too, so they go from a 76 waist to a 96, and maybe they can’t handle it.”
Remember, there’s a trade-off that comes with increased width. Some powder connoisseurs are coming around to the idea that a little less flotation is sometimes a good thing, and they’re choosing skis that aren’t quite so wide. They love a good face shot, and if getting down the hill takes a little longer and requires extra turns, it’s just more of a good thing.
Still, for certain applications, nothing but the fatso will do. When the canyon road is closed and there’s waist-deep fluff to be gorged upon, a 100-mm waist gives you the buoyancy to skim the surface of all that powder, rather than wallow in it. Or maybe you won’t rest until you’ve mastered the high-speed GS arc in deep powder, à la Jeremy Nobis: You’re going to need some girth for that.
Twin-tips continue to creep into the super-fat category-partly because it’s an image thing (like, you just might drop that 30-footer fakie one of these days), but also because a turned-up tail is more skidable in tight spots, even in deep powder. Sidecuts are moderate, because skis flex deeply in powder, and wide tips and tails only make them too turny. Vertical sidewalls are in, but not essential.
If you’re lucky enough to live in Park City or Tahoe, then a superfat might indeed be your everyday ski. The rest of us, though, are better off employing them on special occasions.
If bump skis are making a modest comeback, blame Jonny Moseley. The consensus is that the 1998 Olympic gold medalist got screwed at Salt Lake. The judges there didn’t know what to make of him, and cautiously relegated him to fourth place. The problem was Moseley’s “dinner roll” aerial. It wasn’t quite inverted, or it would have broken the rules. But because he didn’t spin neatly around either the horizontal or vertical axis, it looked messy to judges with no experience of such a move. But Moseley forced the FIS’ hand. Beginning last year, “inverts” were not only legal, but almost mandatory for anyone wishing to contend. A new breed of winner emerged: guys like Jeremy Bloom and Travis Cabral-former park rats who, thanks to the endless jib sessions of their youths, were comfortable getting upside down. The excitement is reinvigorating the discipline. And that, coupled with the demand of diehard recreational mogulists, might finally revive the category.
For years, mogul skis remaiined unchanged-and unshaped. Wide tips and tails would be unwieldy. And in bumps, carving was the last thing anyone was thinking about. As a result, the skis stayed straight and true: perfect for zipper lines, but dreadful anywhere else.
That’s changing. The basics of bump-ski construction remain the same: narrow at the waist for quickness, soft in the forebody to absorb impact, stiffer in the tail for control and durable because they take a beating. But sidecut has crept into the picture. Bumpers are finding that being able to carve, if only for an instant in each turn, yields better control and increased speed. With this year’s crop, sidecut radii-long stuck around 40 meters-have fallen into the mid-20s. Today’s mogul skis are still straight and skinny enough that owning a pair will likely make you a better bumper, but this much is certain: They’re a lot more fun on the groomers.
FAT SKIS (100-mm-plus waists)
<1> Atomic Big Daddy
133-107-123; 193 cm; $799
<2> Fischer Big Stix 10.6
135-106-123; 170-190 cm; $795
<3> Head Monster i.M 103 Pro
125-102-117; 183, 193 cm; $945
<4> K2 Made’n AK
137-108-127; 179, 189 cm; $750
<5> Völkl Gotama
130-105-122; 168-190 cm; $725 <6> Völkl Sanouk
130-110-120; 193 cm; $1,000
<7> Dynastar Twister
98-66-85; 168-182 cm; $650
<8> Fischer Lunar
90-62-78; 171, 181 cm; $595
<9> Head Mad_Trix Mogul
89-60-80; 171, 181 cm; $595
<10> K2 CaBrawler
92-66-82; 159-179 cm; $575
<11> Rossignol Scratch Mogul
99-66-87; 168, 178 cm; $499
<12> Salomon Teneighty Mogul
95-66-82; 170, 180 cm; $695