Machete FBs -- thumbs up!I think jlb's review is pretty accurate.
I purchased a pair of 175-cm FBs (03/04 model, I believe) from SportMart (Gart) here in Minneapolis last fall and got out the door with them and a set of inexpensive Salomon bindings mounted with the modified brake that clears the FBs 94-mm waist for about $250 including tax. Since we never get much powder (and there ain't no vertical) here in the midwest, the FBs were just collecting dust at the store, and they were happy to see them go.
I'm about 6'1", 180 pounds, skiing since 1974 when I grew up in Alaska. I'd say I'm a solid advanced skier who can still get his butt kicked by some double blacks, but will pretty much ski anywhere on the mountain. I just traded in my old straight planks last year for this new-fangled shaped craze. For you younger folks, that just means I'm an old geezer.
I primarily ski maybe a half dozen to ten times a year in Colorado or back in Alaska at Alyeska, and I bought the FatBoys exclusively for powder days when my regular skis, Rossi RPM 17's, just don't have enough float. I went with the shorter length figuring that the FBs are so wide that I'd still have plenty of surface area, but they'd be easier to manage. Interestingly, the 175-cm FBs stand taller than my 177-cm Rossi's when you place them both on end, side-by-side. Maybe one of you gear nuts can scoffingly tell me why this is, but I'll just note it as an interesting aside.
Mostly I was worried about them being too aggressive of a ski for me, but I got a chance to use them after a 10" dump early in '05 at Beaver Creek. They didn't disappoint. Yeah, they're heavy like steel I-beams, but the float is amazing. You can really feel them lifting you up to the top of the powder, and though heavy, they didn't present a handling problem for me and never really felt heavy in the powder. I had no problem with the nose diving, and the bindings are mounted in the recommended location.
I've been an okay powder skier until using these skis, and now I'd say I'm good. A clear case of equipment increasing my ability.
The stability is fantastic. I rode up the lift with a Beaver Creek ski instructor who noted that they had just opened the "Harrier" run, which, by the time I had gotten there, had about a half-dozen sets of snowboard tracks down it, a couple of gassed snowboarders resting about 2/3 of the way down, and one other set of ski tracks. Time to let 'er rip. At one point I was heading toward a certain wipeout, had unweighted one of the skis, and was actually doing what must have looked kind of a like Nancy Kerrigan-esque skating move with one ski in the air and the other planted. The amazing thing is that the planted ski kept running straight and true, allowing me to regain my balance before yard saling the moment I regained control. If I hadn't been amazed how long I could run uni-ski, I probably would have recovered for the highlight reel. I was impressed.
As the day progressed and the powder got chopped, the FBs were still great. They simply blast through anything in their path.
I kept them on for a couple hours after the powder was gone and after I re-joined the group of intermediate skiers I was with. This is where for me, and my 40-year-old legs, the FBs became a hindrance. Nothing horrible, in fact it slowed me down to the point where I think the rest in my group were happier. However, they're not very forgiving as you get tired, so I put them away in the early afternoon.
Unfortunately, I can't speak to how well they compare against alternaitves like the Pocket Rocket (which would still have cost more than my FBs and RPMs COMBINED), or those Atomic powder skis with the 100-mm+ waists.
All I can say is that I wanted a dedicated powder ski, the price was right, I could make use of the ski even though I'll admit I'm only scratching the surface of their potential, and I can live with them for a few hours of non-powder time.
If you find a screaming deal like I did, you want powder float, and you have a different set of "regular" skis, I think you'll be happy. If you want the best ski available for powder at any cost, go to the demo. tent and try the alternatives. But I think you'd be happy with the Volant Machete Fat Boy and the extra beer you could buy with the difference.