Originally Posted by cc1
You know it and it goes like this:
1. I live on the east coast.
2. A big snowstorm dumps anywhere from 6" to 2ft. Yeah, it's awesome.
3. I'm going skiing EARLY.
4. First tracks for the first hour, nice eastern pow to be had.
5. An hour later it's chewed up eastern pow and those wide skis are useless, no need for that float anymore.
6. Bumps start to form, those wide skis getting in the way.
7. After lunch and there's that ice between those bumps. Slide, powder bump, slide powder bump.
What's the ideal ski for this type of eastern "pow" day?
Many of us are familiar with exactly what you're describing here. Good job painting an accurate picture of a very common scenario. #7 is really the crux of it, right? Several Bears have pointed out over the years that a key difference between western and eastern conditions is not the snow that falls, but what the snow falls onto. Because of our high humidity (often unto rain), our incessant freeze-thaw cycles, and the predominance of skiing on a manmade base, the chances of soft snow falling onto an actual snow foundation rather than onto some form of boilerplate are very small. This makes skiing fresh snow a different experience in the east, much (but not all) of the time, for many (but not all) skiers. It tends to sluff off instantly, and even when it doesn't, there is a very abrupt transition between very soft and very hard. I was at Sunday River on a day exactly like this last year, in the wake of Nemo. It kind of sucked, honestly.
Personally I think that tactics play more of a role than gear in dealing with this. For instance, on that day at the River, eventually my buddy and I ended up camped out far skier right on White Heat, which is not a trail I'm generally interested in, and certainly not one I would gravitate toward on an ostensible "powder" day. But there on the margins, tucked improbably back behind some drop offs that no one likes, was some honest soft snow. It was totally cut up, sure, but it was consistently nice. It was NOT slide - bump - slide. We probably took six runs down there, making the best of an otherwise disappointing day.
Another tactic, harder to employ if you're not fortunate geographically, is to go to a different hill. As others have mentioned, the picture you paint above is not always the scenario. For example it does not always describe Saddleback on a powder day, assuming that there is some pre-existing cover on the natural snow trails. This is due to a combination of low skier traffic, high elevation, and northern latitude.
All that said, if we must talk about skis ... personally there are two kinds of skis I know I DON'T want in these conditions. 1) a short-ish narrow carver that tends to get bogged down in the piles. That kind of ski exacerbates the dreaded "stop-and-go" feeling that is such a challenge to fore-aft balance. 2) A soft, surfy, lively ski with a lot of rocker. I find it difficult to keep any significant length of edge engaged on the ice between piles with a ski like this, even one that is decent on groomers with a consistent surface. I think this leaves us with middle-ground skis of the type people are tossing around.
Originally Posted by bliz1978
This depends on where you are skiing. If you're in the Mid-Atlantic through Southern Vermont then just forget the wide skis. Something 88 underfoot with tip and tail rocker will be all you need here for "powder days". The hordes of people chew up any powder very quickly. On light powder days it just gets skied right into the hard pack or off the trail. On heavier days it quickly gets pushed into moguls.
If you're talking about northern Vermont, most of New Hampshire, Maine, or Quebec, then you can easily go with something in the 98 underfoot category. The only exceptions are probably Loon, Sunapee, Waterville Valley, and Sunday River which can ski a lot more like southern Vermont due to lower elevations and bigger crowds. The ubiquitous 98 mm ski will hold fine on the hard pack that develops on the groomers on powder days. Any day with at least 6" you will have no problem finding lots of soft snow if you get off the main groomers. I ski the Nordica Enforcer on these days.
Please recognize that there is no powder ski that loves the ice. I generally support a 3-ski quiver for bullet-proof (80 mm or less, two sheets of metal), mixed snow (around 88 mm), and new snow (98-108 mm) days.
Voice of experience.
Both the Brahma and the Rev 85 have been mentioned in this thread. I have not been on either one, but I'll just mention that I was in a shop this weekend and fondled both of these skis. The Brahma is WAY stiffer, based on hand-flexing. It also has significant early rise, where the Head does not.