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Which skis for super heavy powder?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Tahoe got a dump of heavy (i.e. high water content) powder in the last 36 hours. I wasn't able to ski yesterday when it was fresh but went out today. I took my Line Prophet 115 skis -- I think they are the first year model and are generally considered to be more "big mountain" skis than powder skis because they are on the stiffer side, traditional sidecut shape and not a lot of rocker. I figured these would be appropriate for the heavy snow because they plow through stuff well. However, I did not perform on them as well as I had hoped.

 

I also have the Line Sir Francis Bacon from a few years ago -- 115mm waist, pretty soft, quite a bit of tip and tail rocker. I did not take them today because I thought they would get pushed around too much with the heavy snow. However, now I am wondering if they might have been better because perhaps they would have kept me closer to the surface and not let me get bogged down deep in the heavy stuff.

 

Would appreciate thoughts from those who have skied really heavy powder with different types of "powder" skis.

post #2 of 21

Two main considerations jump to mind. How firmly entrenched in a particular style of skiing are you? How much time do you need to spend on groomers or used up snow?

 

If your focus is purely deep heavy fresh snow,  wind buff, deep layered snow, etc  - good luck doing better than a full reverse/reverse ski - namely a Praxis Powder Board or DPS Lotus 138 (the 138 is r/r for all practical purposes...). Not just because you can drive them all surfy slarvy style - but because the shape makes them way more manageable in those kinds of snow. You'll cruise along and scratch your head about why so many people are having so much trouble. Takes a little different style though.

 

These days there are a decent number of hybrid type alternatives for almost-as-good deep heavy snow performance - but increased versatility when on groomers, scrubbed ridges, etc. They are available from a number of the major manufacturers as well as from some top tier indies like Praxis, DPS, ON3P, etc. My choice if I have to deal with cutup, long groomer runouts, or lots of less than optimal snow getting to or from is the Praxis Protest (same choice for the other 3 regular skier in my house). 

 

Assorted reviews can be found at Blister Gear, here, TGR, etc. You might search for other similar threads as well.

post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post

If your focus is purely deep heavy fresh snow,  wind buff, deep layered snow, etc  - good luck doing better than a full reverse/reverse ski - namely a Praxis Powder Board or DPS Lotus 138 (the 138 is r/r for all practical purposes...). Not just because you can drive them all surfy slarvy style - but because the shape makes them way more manageable in those kinds of snow. You'll cruise along and scratch your head about why so many people are having so much trouble. Takes a little different style though.

 

Yeah, I was kicking myself today for not bringing the Bacons with me to see how they would perform in those conditions. I am not actually in the market for a new ski and it is pretty rare that I ski in conditions like I had today, but since I didn't get to try the Bacons in the heavy stuff I was curious to hear from those who have tried both a soft r/r ski like the Bacons and a stiffer "big mountain" ski like the P115s.

post #4 of 21

I skied at Sierra at Tahoe on Wednesday (the storm day), Thursday, and will ski today. I do not know what the snow was like at the north end of the lake but at the south end it was anything but typical.

 

Wednesday it rained at lake level but was snowing at Sierra. Between 9-10 am the snow was heavy but skiable at upper elevations. After 10 it seemed to warm up and the Sierra Cement set up. The set up came up the mountain vertically, that is run after run the cement affected more runs until 11:30 the lower mountain was just about unskiable. I was told Grand View chair was closed early because of that.

 

The snow was very wet and the warm temps caused skis to make trenches that were difficult to turn in. All those I skied with that day were locals who have lived/skied here over 20 years. No one had ever skied in Sierra Cement like that. It was "leg breaking" snow. We were not on our all out powder skis although I did break out my Ski Logik Depth Hoars 143mm under foot and they helped but were not enough to salvage the day. I had been on Ski Logik Bomb Squads 124mm under foot.

 

Thursday the off piste skiing was similar to Wednesday although we did find good spots, again anything but typical.
 

post #5 of 21

I have skied my Icelantic Keepers (119 mm waist and 5-point sidecut) on several occasions in seriously wet heavy snow and loved them.  I think it is due in large part to the fact they have early rise tip and tail and some pretty good camber (as opposed to high rise rocker), and a real back end instead of a pintail. They give an amazingly solid ride in collapsible manky and rain soaked slush.  A bulldozer with some finesse.  I bought them as powder skis and was pleasantly suprised how they excell in heavy snow.

post #6 of 21

^^^^ Not disbelieving you, but here's what's weird: 1) Wetter snow has greater density, which means you'll get significantly more float at any width or speed. And 2) I've never before heard of someone on a 143 ski having issues with float. So I can only conclude that you are a very heavy guy, and were skiing super slow. biggrin.gif

 

But yeah, been in snow like that at Tahoe - go back lot further than 20 years - and the best solution is to hit a bar. Ideally not still wearing skis.

 

Back to the OP: IMO wrong idea to worry about width per se. It's all about the tip. You want serious splay at both ends. And some beef to handle the clumps. The ON3P Caylor or Billy Goat come to mind, or yeah, Praxis makes several. The current Squad 7 for sure. Suspect the Atomic Automatic would handle stuff like this pretty well, too. 

post #7 of 21

"Powder"<>"Heavy".  Let me know if you have any other nits that need picking there.  As for heavy slop or crud or concrete goes, any ski you get stuck skiing in that on will take a lot more time to react to any desired change of direction.  The more you try to force things, the worse results you will get.  I suspect full rockers work best in that stuff since tipping and waiting seems to be the most useful strategy to get around in it.

post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

"Powder"<>"Heavy".  Let me know if you have any other nits that need picking there.  As for heavy slop or crud or concrete goes, any ski you get stuck skiing in that on will take a lot more time to react to any desired change of direction.  The more you try to force things, the worse results you will get.  I suspect full rockers work best in that stuff since tipping and waiting seems to be the most useful strategy to get around in it.

I'm not so sure full rockers skis work best in heavy snow.  Too much rocker or pintail makes the ski want to keep climbing on top of the snow as you gain speed and that can lead to loss of control.  For me there is nothing worse than having to keep fighting to get the ski back down in the snow to gain control.  ON3P is a PNW company that makes several skis that work very well in thicker snow, and I agree that the Atomic Automatic could also be a good choice.  It is similar to the Keeper but with a little more rocker.

post #9 of 21

^^^Good to know. I only visualized the notion of using a water ski technique on fat rockers.   I don't own any rockers and do my best to avoid ungroomed HEAVY WET stuff.  I can survive it when necessary though, just by not trying to fight against it when negotiating it. 

post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post

I'm not so sure full rockers skis work best in heavy snow.  Too much rocker or pintail makes the ski want to keep climbing on top of the snow as you gain speed and that can lead to loss of control. ..

 

 

 

Yeah,they do.

 

Don't confuse total rise of rocker or pintailing with "full rocker". Or think that alone defines handling (absent things like taper profile, ratio of taper to rise, etc). Or that rising a bit in the snowpack implies loss of control (unless you consider dragging your shins through the snow as enhancing control).

 

The current generation Praxis Powder Boards have a relatively modest total rise - but are full reverse. They certainly are not "pintailed". They would absolutely be my personal choice for the conditions described.  And I say thatI having spent the past half decade almost exclusively on various flavors of rockered skis - including many days in heavy coastal snow. For all the reasons outlined in McConkey's theory of operation piece, but amplified by that moisture content - a spat style fatter underfoot ski is going to crush it, relatively speaking,  in the kind of snow under discussion. For that matter, so will a well designed fully rockered pintail like the original Pontoon wink.gif

 

To the OP's point - I infer you are on original shape SFBs? If so, I'd expect them to play better under the conditions you describe than Prophets. I have not really used them, but one of my "kids" skied the original giraffe topsheet ones and liked them quite a lot for off piste skiing in the Cascades (fwiw - he now skis Praxis Protests as a OSQ).

post #11 of 21

Contrarian position; I want a light ski in the goop. There is plenty of weight and viscosity in the snow to stabilize the ski. If it is truly soft, your skis will be "locked in". Normal turns will require patience and planning. But those unusual situations arise which require step turns or jump turns - that will be much easier on a light ski. In extremely gooey snow, jump turns might be all that work.

 

In light powder, the ski characteristics push the snow. On packed snow, the ski interface with the snow is edge driven. Sierra cement can be the right consistency so that the snow will displace to envelop the ski. Rocker, shape and even stiffness are hidden by the gross factors of ski area on the snow (length and width). Too wide and too long makes a ski unweildy with too much edge on too big of a lever arm that locks into the heavy snow. Too narrow and short lets the ski dig in too deep - again locking you into the snow. I do personally prefer a bit wider ski when it's really heavy but the couple of times on the goop on really wide skis have been uncomfortable.

 

As a serious waterskier, Sierra cement doesn't feel much like waterskiing to me. The dynamic responses are so dampened by the heavy snow to make the feel and techniques completely different. Light powder and Gs in turns have some crossover feel - but ugly Sierra cement is just survival.

 

I'm not a wax freak but good wax in Sierra cement really helps. Poling down West Face with sticky skis has had me wishing for a recent wax job.

 

Sierra cement that has been skied out can be really fun (until it freezes hard). Follow the crowds on a wet heavy snow day.

 

Eric

post #12 of 21

FWIW, one of the funnest days I had last year was the dream pow day that ended up getting steadily rained on a hour before opening bell, and kept getting rained on. I skied the shit out of heavy wet untracked glop and had a blast on the ON3P Caylor while everyone else was sinking in the glop and getting stuck.

 

I stopped skiing the Caylor is favor of the more directional Billygoat. The standard ON3P layup is meant for a heavy snowpack.

post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by eleeski View Post

... Rocker, shape and even stiffness are hidden by the gross factors of ski area on the snow (length and width). Too wide and too long makes a ski unweildy with too much edge on too big of a lever arm that locks into the heavy snow. ...

 

I'm curious, how much time have you spent on full reverse/reverse (or close) skis? Or how much have you really looked at them from a design point of view?

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "too long". But compared to *any* width or length conventionally cambered/sidecut ski, skis like Powder Boards, Lotus 138s, ARGs, etc.- even at 185 or 195 -  are crazy nimble and predictable in deep heavy snow. Same for many similar slightly hybridized designs.Because of the taper in the design, and the proportionally large surface area underfoot (& near the center), these things are way less inclined to hang up. Not saying everyone has to love 'em - but they are simply, due to the design point, "easier" in heavy deep snow. This is a case where, without a doubt, you can buy a turn.

post #14 of 21

Spindrift, you're right. I don't have much time in horrribly heavy glop on fancy new skis. I do have too much time in horribly heavy glop. The skis haven't mattered too much when it gets really adverse. Note: with the way the snow has been this year, I don't have much time on my new Praxis Backcountrys (but I've enjoyed them!) and I've missed the recent slush storms.

 

Normal heavy Sierra snow will respond to ski design. I certainly didn't mean to say design was irrelevant. And I want a ski that rocks the top half of KT even if the bottom is waterlogged leg breaker snow. Sorry if I misunderstood the OPs question - I was focusing on the awful glop more than heavy Sierra fun stuff. Skiing on 8" of heavy powder with a serious rain finish on top, I'll stand by my preferences for a light, not superfat, shorter and properly waxed ski to get me to safety.

 

Of course, I like a light nimble ski (and maybe on the short side for my weight) for the good stuff too. But that's just my warped view.

 

Eric

post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by eleeski View Post

Contrarian position; I want a light ski in the goop... Rocker, shape and even stiffness are hidden by the gross factors of ski area on the snow (length and width). Too wide and too long makes a ski unweildy with too much edge on too big of a lever arm that locks into the heavy snow. Too narrow and short lets the ski dig in too deep - again locking you into the snow. I do personally prefer a bit wider ski when it's really heavy but the couple of times on the goop on really wide skis have been uncomfortable.

 

Not sure I can agree about bolded. My own experience is that rocker design makes a big difference in heavy snow. The last thing you want is to submarine. Keep in mind that float can be defined as the point when a ski's lift equals its drag and weight, and lift not determined by surface area alone, but by this:

 

             L = .5 * Cl * r * V^2 * A where coefficient of lift (Cl) = 2 * pi * angle (in radians). Note that area (A) has no more or less impact than r (density of the medium) or Cl, which here is essentially the attack angle created by the tip. Eg, rocker has just as much impact as area. Actually, speed is the big deal since it's squared. 

 

So the ideal heavy snow ski would be light, have a big splay, a big surface area, and be skied mach schnell. But if you factor in maneuverability and resistance to getting knocked around going mach snell - eg, inertia - not too big or too light. This may be why ON3P skis work well in the snow for which they were designed. Not super light, but fairly deep sidecuts, wide, with lots of rocker. 

post #16 of 21

I guess my definitions of "super heavy powder" are different. I was thinking about the unskiable stuff one can get stuck in at the lower parts of a run or if I choose badly.

 

Agreed Beyond et all, skis do make a huge difference and personal preference is important when you are skiing - especially heavy powder. And despite my phobia about fast skiing, I agree that speed helps the heavier the snow gets. So many of the new skis are really fun in powder, even somewhat heavy stuff, that I am unqualified to give specific recommendations. They all are worthwhile.

 

But for survival snow - that really gooey leg breaking stuff - I struggle equally on about everything. Maybe I should try some different skis for that nasty snow - but honestly, I'll hit the packed slopes or wait for a better day.

 

Eric

post #17 of 21

Rockered narrow tailed ski, most likely a directional ski.  You want float, and a tail that can break free of the heavy snow.  Don't think your need to go super wide though, 100mm+ is plenty.

post #18 of 21

Based on everything I've heard, the latest Tahoe snow was as heavy as it gets.  You won't want to get skis targeted for those conditions.  I wouldn't spend much time (or money) worrying about it.

post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by huhh View Post

Rockered narrow tailed ski, most likely a directional ski.  You want float, and a tail that can break free of the heavy snow.  Don't think your need to go super wide though, 100mm+ is plenty.


My Lhasa Pows were great in heavy Sierra Cement.  Pretty sure my Atomic Automatics (similar outline) will work well too.  Wax is everything.  Use the warmest wax you can find.

post #20 of 21

Yesterday I took my Goode 74s out. Mogul hill (or is it now labeled spring bowl?) was at the rain snow line with a couple interesting bump lines left between the rocks. The snow was the awful rained on, not skied much and ultra heavy cement snow. It sucked. Once the moguls and steepness played out, it was close to impossible to turn. Quite an unpleasant run.

 

Today I went out on my Praxis Backcountrys. Exactly the same conditions on Mogul hill. All the advice that a nice powder ski would help suckered me to try it again. There was no difference in the comfort level, how I could attack the hill or how I looked. Yuck!

 

I stand by my claim that in CERTAIN heavy snow conditions the skis don't matter.

 

I did really enjoy the Praxis's on the heavy but skiable snow up higher on the mountain - the ski choice mattered a lot there. And my wife enjoyed her first days on her new Bent Chettlers (thanks Philpug and Starthaus). For the day, the Sierra cement made our ski choices relevant. For that one small part on Mogul hill, nothing would have helped.

 

Eric

post #21 of 21

FWIW, I have skied tracked and untracked rain soaked and super slushy (to the point of being collapsible) spring snow on my Icelantic Keepers with a 119 mm waist, shark nose 150 mm tips, sidecut, and wide tails with a little rise and loved them. I could not wait to go back for more.  IMO the weirder the snow the more your ski choice of makes a difference. In forgiving powder almost any ski will work, but when the going gets weird you skis' characteristics can become amplified suddenly making them much better or worse.  Heavy snow immediately punishes any movement that is contrary to what your ski wants to be doing, so unrockered skis suddenly become very unidirectional.

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