Pros: Easy to turn and skims the surface in powder
Cons: Not very stable, very poor on hardpack
The Volant Spatula has been reviewed many times, so I'll keep my comments brief.
This in the reverse camber & reverse sidecut ski designed my S. McConkey and built by Atomic soon after Atomic purchased the brand. They were only made one year.
I skied Steamboat springs today, 8 inches of fresh snow over a soft base.
The are a great powder ride. I found them easy to adapt to. Just remember not to carve and to side-slip and they become very easy to ski. The are ideal for untracked snow. I was able to ski and turn without using any tail-gunner skiing technique. I was able to ski on the balls of my feet and lean against the tongue of the boot without being concerned about tip-dive. Much more relaxed and easy-to-use in powder than other skis I've used under similar conditions.
The are especially great on soft but cut up snow with soft moguls underneath. Typical resort powder condition. They just iron out all the piled-up snow and soft moguls. Pretty easy to just ski the line you want without thinking about whats hidden under the snow. Just float and smear and ski fast without trying too hard.
They can be skied on firmer groomed runs. More boring that difficult. You just end up skiing like an intermediate sliding around all the time. Boring but not impossible unless the snow is rock hard.
The ski is not ideal for really aggressive skiing however. They are not very stable at insane speeds. I wanted to to just shuss down a run and preserve my speeds on the flats. I ended up using a wide legged stance to keep the ski on edge. This made faster skiing possible but its goofy.
I think a good conventional powder ski can deliver the same soft snow performance without the drawbacks. But as a big snow day either inbounds or in the back country the Spatula deserves its great reputation.
I'm going to Cat ski on Monday, I'll add some notes then;
I was able to cat ski with the Spatula's earlier this week. This is probably the best use of this very specialized ski. 80% of the vertical was tight aspen groves. the conditions were also bottomless powder and almost completely untracked.
The TR is here: http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=63698
All the limitations I discovered while using the Spats inbounds evaporated. The ski is unlike any conventional ski, wide or skinny. It skims the surface at any moderate speed. This allows the ski to accelerate like it was on hardpack. It is much faster over the flat sections and maintains it speed when others are pushing with their poles and walking.
It also scrubs speed very well. Just throw it sideways and tip into the hill, you will soon be standing on a platform of soft snow the size of a bathtub. Ever see a snowboarder stop in powder? If you have, you know how easy it is. The Spats can be stopped with the same pivot & bank technique. Slowing or stopping was never so quick or so easy.
The Spats were ideal in the trees. The ski will swivel and bank its way through any gap.
I really felt like i was on "cheaters", too easy to use, IMO. I was consistently one of the first to the pick-up point and finished the day feeling strong with little fatigue.
Anytime I am going to Cat or Heli ski, the Spatula will be with me.