What is a powder ski?
A powder ski is simply a wider ski. Generally speaking a ski over 105 millimeters in the waist is considered a powder ski. The purpose of these kinds of skis is to provide floatation in deep snow, making it easier to maneuver in unprepared terrain. Materials och production quality have made skis take a quantum leap the last couple of years. A powder ski these days can weight around 1500 grams and feel quite nimble under your feet, as well perform decently in pistes and crud.
To be a little more specific what features a powder ski holds we have to talk about rocker profiles. (Sometimes called reversed camber). The rockered ski came to life about a decade ago. A rockered ski means that the ski profile has extended tips and/or tails. With a slight bend initiated some 20 centimeters before the original tip of the ski, floatation is heavily increased. Even maneuverability is greater. Examples of rocker profiles are - Full rocker, tip rocker, rocker-camber-rocker, and reverse camber (sometimes called negative camber).
Different producers choose differently the amount of rocker, the length of the rocker and the materials within the tip or tails of the skis. All these tools provide a different feel and characteristics.
Examples of powder skis
There have been a bunch of legendary powder skis. Some years ago all producers had a 140 millimeter-waisted-ski. True powder monsters. But in recent years few producers build a ski over 118 in waist width. These are some of the most legendary skis ever produced. K2 Pontoon, Rossignol B3, Dynastar Legend, Armada JJ, Salomon Pocket Rocket, Nordica Jah Love, Line Bent Chetler, Line Opus, Salomon QST 118, and K2 Hell Bent.
Construction of an all-mountain ski
The construction of a powder ski isn’t much different from all other skis. There are some factors though that isn’t quite a necessity, more a technology most manufacturers tend to lean on. With last year’s realization that a lighter ski offers more maneuverability as well as nicer to carry on and off the slope. New materials have surfaced and new ways of producing lighter skis also. Since the rockered parts of the ski (see above) isn’t in contact with the snow as much as the center, many producers have chosen to have less wood in these parts and fill the rest with lightweight plastic and sometimes cork.
Before I go on I must urge the matter that all skis are different and this explaining text is a generalization. With that said let’s go on. Other features built in to skis are vibration/dampening and stabilization. These features are created by putting rubber along the edges for vibration-dampening effect or strengthening the ski with Titanal or carbon fiber..
Titanal (shortened Ti) reinforcements. Carbon fiber reinforcements. These materials can of course vary and different manufacturers have different solutions. Some use Flax, some use more wood stringers, some reinforce more, some less and the list goes on. But the effect is the same with a different feel. Harder materials put in one or multiple layers provide a stiffer ski with a heavier torque. These skis desire more speed and power and will also give you the same in return.
Of course, powder skis are as different as a mule and a cat. Some are meant to cruise down wide smooth powder fields where some are designed to crush the Bec de Rosses in 150 km/h. Others are made to jump in the powder and land backward.
How to buy the right powder ski
Buying the right powder ski can sometimes be hard. Why? Well, the main reason is powder snow is scarce which makes it harder to try out skis in the right condition. Luckily enough for you, powder skis of today are all really really good. If your old skis are more than 5 years old, its close to a guarantee your next pair of powder skis you buy will be twice as good as your last pair. If it is your first pair, you will be stoked.
A little tip I use myself when looking to buy powder skis is to remember how much pow you actually ride. Meaning that even though you WANT to ride waist-deep powder 7 days a week. The conditions do not always allow for that. What I look for in a powder ski is a wide ski with good floatation (off course) that also performs descent in the other conditions. I don’t want to feel too paralyzed to turn by my equipment when I head for the lift, the last stretch of the run in crud or piste. I still want to turn and have fun with my wide skis.
Powder ski mounting points
Unless you are gonna jump big booters and take off switch (backward). There is no big reason to mess with the factory provided mounting points. The further forward you mount your bindings, the less floatation you get. What you achieve by mounting it forward is a bit quicker turn and easier taking off or landing switch.
Important to think about before buying a powder ski
Before you buy powder skis. Think of this.