So, if you will excuse the long preamble (three cups of coffee prose coming at you!), here's what got me really thinking about this:
Though it is often argued that no one needs a specific tree ski unique to East Coast season long expert glade skiing (and certainly not a fat, rockered, early-rised, etc ski)-my experience has thus far been in line with that of a few, very- vocal, notable posters: That is, to really get the most out of the often unique demands of East Coast Expert glade skiing, there are some unique design features that make a bigger difference in this terrain than in any other. And I am not talking about wider tourist glades that turn into well-packed, easy mogul runs with a few trees (ala the 'Okemo' experience).
On Saturday at my local, small hill in Western, Massachusetts (yep, Massachusetts-trust me, Berkshire east houses some of the best, if shorter, 'locals-glades' in southern New England, those who know, know.), I spent almost all of my runs in the Trees. It had rained fairly steadily the day before, but the daytime temp (sunny temps) ran near 50, and there is 18-24 inches of dense, heavy, super-soft, higher water content (rain absorbed) unconsolidated snow all throughout the forested sections of the ski area.
Joining me was my long time friend, the guy who introduced me to skiing and taught me how to make my first turn some 14 years ago. He is a way, way better skier than I. He was an instructor for years at Heavenly, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Taos and two season in Courchivel, France. But, on Saturday, in these glades he struggled. His equipment was much narrower, un-rockered, a little stiff, flat tailed, and made this sort of skiing a real chore. Meanwhile, I skied, what is probably not the ideal tree ski, but a pretty good option-The Ski logik Howitzer (186cm). It's combination of float (due to width), early rise, rounded tail, touch o' camber and relatively lighter weight made skiing deep, warm, heavy, damp, unconsolidated snow in tight and tricky conditions not only easier but extremely enjoyable and much safer, to boot.
This day just confirmed what I've experienced before: Skills come first, of course, but real expert tree skiing in the East, with deep or funky snow in the tightest of spaces works best with a specific ski. And with the right ski, you'll seek out and find these conditions way more than the average person thinks they are available. You'll find yourself actively seeking the lines and snow surfaces others, even talented others, avoid on less appropriate equipment (anyone who tried to ski this on a slalom carver would have been putting limb-if not life-in jeopardy).
Bottom line, if you had put my buddy on my skis that day, he'd of left me in the dust, and been happier (when we skied moguls late in the day, he reasserted it expert status over me with slithery aplomb). Bushwacker Matta has said for years that he is able to out ski people who are better skiers than he in those conditions/terrain because of appropriate ski choice. My experience (though I am not near the level skier he is or many others here) is similar. And, I have never, ever seen anyone on lesser gear 'kill it' in those conditions.
Anyway, I like the Howitzer (a lot), but I suspect there are way better tools for this trade, if the snow is more consolidated or not as deep, I have found the Icelantic Shaman to be near unbeatable in this terrain (but it does not track as cleanly or securely as a ski like the Howitzer in deeper, softer less consistent snow). So, if you were buying or looking for a ski, specifically to rule Expert East Coast glades from Jay to Stowe to Saddleback/Sugarloaf to Cannon to Berkshire East-and not just when it's perfect, but even when finding 'soft' lines takes work, confidence, and truculence, what would you get? What's your experience?
Josh's review of the Patron sound pretty close to perfect, and I am very interested to hear how an even narrower ski like the Soulrider might fare?
Going ever further: What characteristics matter most? If you built your own East Coast Tree ski, what would it look like and what would be it's characteristics? I know you true New England Woodchuck tree hounds are out there-so share the wealth.