By: Jackson Hogen
Published: November 26, 2019
Powder skis represent the triumph of optimism over the dictates of reason.
There’s only one reason to own a Powder ski, and it’s in the name. If you don’t anticipate catching a fresh snowfall of two feet or more, you don’t need a Powder model, which in Realskiers terms means a ski over 113mm wide underfoot.
Realistically, how many mega-dumps are you going to experience in a given winter? I realize you dream of having dozens of them, but when was the last time that happened?
While my own history isn’t necessarily relevant, it supports the central premise of this Revelation. I clearly recall bringing a pair of Völkl Shiros to Snowbird year after year after year and never once did they feel the cool touch of snow on their massively rockered bases. I felt like the protagonist in a Steven King tale, forever cursed to visit a powder Mecca but never truly allowed inside, its glistening, uncut slopes and pitches as inaccessible as the white dust inside a snow globe.
If only every run could be a powder run. Photo courtesy of Salomon.
So if you detect a scarred-for-life trauma permeating this text, you now know why. The angels charged with my personal oversight have deemed my ownership of a Powder ski to be an affront to their aesthetics, as they prefer to see more snow fly when they grant the privilege to sink into a bottomless caress.
Here’s the dirty little secret that lies at the core of the Powder family: they turn eighteen inches of pow into a dusting. Is that really what you want?
Let’s take a look at what Powder skis have that other genres don’t, and whom these qualities best serve.
Surface area is their indisputable advantage. If you are a giant among men, a Powder ski may be the only model big enough to float you off the bottom. If the slope is insanely steep and what lies gently upon it is mobile, you’ll need a Powder ski to out-run your slough to the next cliff band. If one of your nicknames isn’t Goliath and/or filmmakers aren’t offering you free heli-skiing, you may not need quite this much ski under you.
The science suggests that most skiers don’t complete a turn on a Powder ski the same they would on a slender ski on hard snow. The end of the turn tends to be a pivot, a sudden “J”-turn twist to get the behemoths across the fall line. This is the principal benefit of the extra-long rockers that are part of the Powder ski formula. Because the broad surface area already has the ski floating near the top of the snow, there’s very little resistance to twist. This is the main reason Powder skis take less energy to conduct downhill: their instinct is to drift instead of carve. Lower skill skiers don’t have to learn a new technique for fresh snow; the skis’ design allows them to take their limited game to places they otherwise wouldn’t last two turns.
Skiing deep snow on a skinny ski, particularly one with a deep sidecut, is a lot like work. The less you sink, the less you labor. Personally, I prefer to be a bit more in the snow than on it, which is why my favorite powder skis are Big Mountain models. But I also know how to use rhythm and finesse over brute force, so I don’t need a battleship to keep me upright. The less confident you are in powder, the more you’ll appreciate the forgiving qualities of a Powder model.
My favorite powder ski of 2020 isn’t even a member of the Powder fraternity; it’s Line’s latest version of the Sir Francis Bacon, seen here on the feet of its maker, Eric Pollard. Photo courtesy of Line.
The arrival of this Revelation means that all Realskiers’ short-form Powder ski reviews are now posted on our public site. Because there are more similarities among Powder models than there are differences – all Powder skis are equally good at being large – Realskiers.com doesn’t depend on test data to drive our results. The model descriptions of 14 Powder skis, sorted into 3 sub-genres, are largely dependent on my personal experience, so I’ve discarded the trappings of objectivity.
Despite the subjective nature of our Powder ski reviews, they still provide a window on each model’s behavior and some sense of where they fit in the big picture. Anecdotal though they may be, I hope you, Dear Reader, are still able to enjoy them and glean a bit of insight along the way.