As we know, all mountain-skis are meant to be suitable for both hard-snow and soft-snow usage. My idea of hard-snow usage seems to correspond, fairly well, with the typical view on Epic. But I’m starting to think that my idea of soft-snow usage may differ substantially from the general view here. On Epic, when most folks are discussing soft-snow capability, I gather they’re thinking about carrying speed and maintaining rhythm through variable, and sometimes challenging, snow – certainly a fun and worthwhile goal – as illustrated by these two examples, particularly the first one (I assume dawgcatching won’t mind my reposting one of his video reviews) (I added the second because I know tree skiing is often mentioned as well):
To my mind, this combination of conditions and style favors a longer (at least for the first video), wider, more stable ski, perhaps with some added rocker to provide quickness. Basically, you’re looking for a ski with good flotation that makes it easier to maintain balance and relaxation at speed in variable snow – a ski on which you won’t get knocked around by changing, 3D conditions.
However, while this all makes sense to me, the above videos don’t really capture the essence of what I most need in a ski’s soft-snow capability. But the disconnect didn’t crystallize for me until I saw this video, which reminded me of exactly the kind of soft-snow skiing I used to love to do, and would like to do again (now that I’ve recovered from my injuries):
Granted, the snow here is somewhat deeper – but that’s not the key to the difference; indeed, in a broad qualitative sense, the snow conditions are similar – in all the videos, the skiers can find the bottom – which is really all you need, at least as far as snow depth per se is concerned, in order for an all-mtn. ski to be suitable.
Rather, it seems the difference is that these conditions would favor a shorter, more maneuverable ski, with particularly solid edge hold (since it’s quite steep and there may be ice or refrozen snow under that powder). This suggests perhaps a narrower ski as well. What I want out of a ski for these conditions is one that gives me the confidence that, wherever I am, and whatever the conditions are, I’ll be able to make that next turn. I suspect this largely explains why I liked my 62 mm 160 cm Atomic Beta Race 9.16 slalom skis for off-piste use (as I mentioned in an earlier thread, I'm on them in the chute shown in my profile pic; I finally broke them at the end of last season, so they're now retired). [For those of you that remember, last season I started two other threads on all-mountain skis; sorry if it seems like I'm revisiting old ground here, but this felt like a useful refinement of my thinking.]
Interestingly, given these criteria, a ski that works well in these types of soft snow conditions might require less compromise in frontside performance (as compared with the earlier example).
Your thoughts? I’d of course also be interested to hear suggestions on which all-mountain skis might lean more in this direction. I can’t tell exactly what’s being used in the last video, but its graphics are similar to those of the 2009 Dynastar Legend Riders. It also appears to be close to binding width at the midpoint (?).
[I just picked up two very nice pairs of used skis: 168 cm 2013 Kastle MX88s and 170 cm 2012/13 Stockli Laser SCs (5'7"/148#). I've never been on either of these, so it will be interesting for me to find how they work in these sorts of conditions.]
Edited by chemist - 10/5/13 at 7:50pm