Originally Posted by unionbowler
... and thirded.
I don't know if Explosivs are the
absolute best ski out there for wet snow, but for many years, they have served many people *really* well in heavy, cut-up slop, particularly if you are on the upper end of the spectrum w.r.t. weight and ability.
The original poster asked, "what qualities comprise a good wet snow ski". IMHO, smooth wet snow, just like untracked powder is no problem for most half-way decent skis and skiers. However, when the surface gets cut up, this separates good wet snow skis from lesser ones. This is the situation I will address. Here's a few beneficial design choices that come immediately to mind:
1) Width - You need enough float so that you (ie, at your weight and normal speed) are riding over, not through most of the irregularities in the snow. You are subjected to less fore-aft and up-down pitching & bobbing this way. Since wet snow is so dense, it certainly doesn't take a super-wide (ie, over 100 mm) ski to do this, even for big guys.
BTW, you will still hear some old timers say that the opposite it true - you need a narrow ski that will "cut through the crud". All I can say is that I learned to ski soft snow 35 years ago on skinny sticks and I, as well as many other people, couldn't be paid to go back to skinny skis in wet crud. It can be done, and I will do it in a pinch, but IMHO, it's far from optimal.
2) Flex - If you are skiing at any speed over cut-up wet crud, you will be rapidly transitioning between spots where the center of your ski is being supported by a pile of slop, and other spots where it is almost unsupported. If the ski is too soft, this will mean that it's degree of flex will be changing dramatically from moment to moment. This isn't too bad if you are going in a straight line, but if you are in the middle of an arc and this happens, your turning radius will be varying all over the place. This twitchiness doesn't feel good at all.
OTOH, overly stiff skis (for your weight) will make you feel like you are skiing on rails that won't ever let you make a turn, at least without a big, energy expending unweighting move. Thus, you need some
flex. IMHO, the solution to these conflicting demands is a strongly progressive flex. In other words, the skis goes into moderate reverse camber without too much hesitation, but then stiffens up dramatically so that it takes a lot to get it to flex more. The Spatula (apparently a good slop ski) goes to the extreme in this in that it starts in reverse camber, stays there and never gets much further flexed.
3) Swing weight (ie, polar moment of inertia) - More is better (at least up to a point that would surprise many skiers). Skis with a higher swing weight can plow their way through piles of wet slop without transmitting as much of the random deflecting torques back to the skier.
4) Length - Although some people will probably disagree with me, my personal opinion is that going short is a very reasonable choice for anything except skiing really fast in big, open, above treeline terrain. To calibrate my opinion, you should know that I own both 165 and 190 Explosivs and have skied a lot on both lengths. The advantage of the shorter length is that if you provide foot-twisting input to the shorter ski while it is immersed in heavy slop, it actually has some effect on direction, whereas on a longer length down in the slop, it won't do anything. In the latter case, you either have to unweight and come up to the surface, or be patient and ride out the turn.
I find that if I know that my skis will be able to turn immediately when asked to do so, I am more confident and will actually tend to ski at higher speeds than if I am worried that turning the skis in thick slop will be like turning a supertanker. OTOH, the longer length is verrrrry smooth, a beautiful sensation, especially at high speeds.
5) Sidecut - Less (ie, over 25 meter sidecut radius) is better (especially at longer lengths) because your tips don't get deflected as much by the irregularities in the snow. However, it seems like one can get away with more sidecut at shorter lengths (eg, the 162 Metron b5), because the tip isn't way out on a long lever, torquing your foot, and wildly changing the flex radius from moment to moment.
6) Skegs - ..................................... just joking.
Anyway, those are my $0.02 on the subject.
Tom / PM