HAVE YOU EVER BROKEN a pair of skis? Not a scratch, or a hole, but properly trashed? I ’ve busted a few in the bumps, actually bent them the wrong way. Now, if I had matched two broken skis together, and had a quick blast in the powder it might have been a real eureka moment. Why? Well, go into any ski shop this coming season, and you may well be spending some serious money on skis bent ‘the wrong way’. Deep-powder skis have been changing over the last few years, and now some of the weirder stuff is becoming mainstream. In this issue I’m going to look at those changes and show you how it can improve your skiing.
Placement of bindings
With these new ideas on cambers, and more skiers taking freestyle moves into the backcountry, the mounting point of
the binding can be set nearer the centre of the ski.
Twin tips for big-mountain skis are getting more popular. I t’s very rare now to see the tail having a traditional
Traditionally the shovel of the ski tends to be softer than the tail. Now more skis are coming onto the market with equal flex distribution in the tip and tail. What difference does it make? None whatsoever, it’s all just a gimmick. Only kidding! But how many times do you hear this from skiers? Take it from me, every year they get better. Here are the main differences it will make to your skiing:
With normal ‘fat’ skis in deep conditions you are always playing with the fore/aft balance to keep the skis flowing through the snow. Invariably, it’s more of the ‘back’ than the ‘forward’ that’s needed. When you do this, it blocks your movement and it becomes more of an effort.Now all that has changed. Because of the ‘rocker’ through the front of the ski, it is always riding comfortably over the surface. This allows you to relax, stand over the middle of your feet (which is where you should always be) and be free to move. Also, because the flex of the ski is more equal through tip and tail, when it sinks, the natural
balance point is through your feet.
This is the biggest change you’ll notice. Normally, once you’re up and running in powder, with good speed and linking arcs, everything feels fantastic. The downside is that when you need to slow down, compared with the piste, it takes a while to haul the skis up to the end of the curve and slow down.
Now, it’s completely different. These skis are amazingly easy to pivot in deep snow: this means that you can twist and scrape instantly. Simply swivel the skis across your line of direction, and let them scrape against the snow, while firing out an impressive plume of snow. So, if you need to slow down, or quickly change direction, you can make it happen instantly. Imagine the freedom that gives when you’re skiing fast in powder.
Riding backwards can easily be mastered on the piste, but in powder…well, it’s harder. Again, with these new designs, particularly with full reverse camber, it’s much easier to be centred, and the ski will flow very easily. The tail will ride up on the surface giving you the float you need.
Very often when attempting to get some air in deep powder, you need to get back, use your body to take the impact, and allow yourself to ski out of it. The worst scenario is to land too far forwards and go straight over the handlebars!
Now, if you land while being balanced over your feet, the ski is softer on impact, and is much quicker to move forwards out of the landing zone. This means you can be more relaxed on how you land, with the ski giving you more room for error. Moving on from there, it’s also much easier to land switch in deep snow, for the same reasons.
Are there any benefits of the classic fat?
So far this might sound like you need to ditch your old fat skis immediately, and get a taxi to the nearest
Snow+Rock! But, if that’s the case, why are there still normal-camber, distributed-flex, fat skis coming onto the market? Because they still have some advantages over the ‘new school’. And this is where it comes down to finding a ski to suit your own individual style. If possible, always try before you buy. Here are some of the advantages that the normal fat skis have: More stability at high speeds. It’s probably a battle that will eventually be won by the reverse-camber brigade - but not yet.
At very high speeds, a ‘normal’ fat ski will have more stability. Easier to stay fast. Believe it or not, some skiers want to stay fast, whatever happens. Normal fats are harder to slow down, which in a strange way can be a good thing. Better on piste. Full ski/snow contact, matched with a traditional sidecut, makes a huge difference: when you tilt, the ski turns. Normal fat skis are miles better on the groomers, and will carve when ridden on the edge. This is one of the biggest differences between both camps. If you buy a full-length reverse-camber ski, just think about the pistes as being transport to the powder! Better for touring. Do you really want to skin up, without full ski/snow contact? No, I didn’t think so. If you do a lot of touring to get to your favourite powder stashes, you need that full length contact from the ski for the skins to work effectively.
Changes in technology do make a difference. It’s easier! That’s the whole point. Grab new ideas with open arms and use them to make it easier to get better. Are you playing tennis with wooden rackets? Are you skiing on straight skis? Don’t be one of the ‘it’s only a gimmick’ group. If you get the chance, try them out - go for it!
Courtesy of Ski and Board Magazine www.skiclub.co.uk | Photos by Mark Junak www.snowimages.co.uk