Any ski works well in the lightest, untracked powder, but when deep snow is dense and cut up¿a condition called “chowder”¿some skis clearly outperform others.
Conventional skis, especially slalom skis, are the worst because they’re too narrow to float the skier’s weight. The widest powder models, called “fats,” are the best for novices because they rise to the surface and floatlike snowboards (A and B), making themeasy to turn. Here, Junior skis on the Atomic Fat Boy, but many other manufacturers offer fat skis, too.
Experienced powder skiers who like to push their feet down in the snow, compressing it beneath the ski bases (C and D), often choose off-road models called “mid-fats.” These are shaped skis with relatively wide waists. Examples of mid-fats include Rossignol’s Bandit series, the Salomon X-Scream Series (Steve is using them here), the Völkl Vertigo G30, Volant Chubs and K2’s X-14 and X-15 models, to name just some of the Gold Medal winners.
Characteristics to look for in a mid-fat platform: The tip should be round and wide for better flotation. The ski’s waist¿its narrowest point located underfoot¿should be 67-74 mm wide. This width feels stable, but provides the ski enough shape to be turny in deep snow. The ski’s flex pattern should be even and round. If the flex is biased toward the tail (the tail is stiffer), the tip tends to dive beneath the surface, making it hard to maintain speed.
Most powder experts like to have their boot soles as close to the platform as possible. That means little or no lift in the binding. Riser plates that enhance a ski’s performance on hardpack make it tricky to manage in deep snow. Stay down on the deck.