For expert and elite-level skiers looking for unsinkable flotation in the deepest powder. These are niche skis with massive waist-widths (105-plus mm), so they're meant for backside powder days, out of bounds and heli/catskiing.
From the vaults: “Brain Floss”—Shane McConkey’s original ponderings on powder-ski design
We were digging through old catalogs the other day, doing background research for a January feature on powder skis when we came across this. “Brain Floss” is the late, great Shane McConkey’s musings on what makes a great powder ski. It was released in December of 2002, when the first few models of his innovative Machete Spatula were rolling out of the Volant factory in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Obviously, a ski as radical as the Spatula—reverse sidecut, reverse camber, and just plain huge, at 125 mm in the waist—needed to be explained.
Rocker. You’re tired of reading about it, but it is the movement in fat skis this year. Many companies experimented with rockering only the tip, but Völkl chose a long, gradual reverse bend from tip to tail instead. Judging from its hard-snow scores, it worked. But the Kiku was by far the easiest and most fun in soft snow—which is, of course, where you should take a ski this wide. Effortless to float and carve, it’s a steady ride everywhere. “Like coming home to comfort food,” said Stokes.
The men’s version, the S7, is reputed to be the most stolen ski at Snowbird, which tells you a lot about this cult favorite. The Pro BC has the same sidecut and construction—rockered at the tip and tail, traditional camber underfoot—but at a (slightly) saner width. The rocker makes it one of the easiest to smear through pow, but costs it edge-bite on hard snow. Powder chargers will love this ski. Just lock your ski rack. “I knew there were bumps underneath, but I just didn’t care,” said Loring.
The Pandora gorges on crud and pow, then begs for more. It takes ripping chicks seriously, boasting one of the widest women-specific waists out there—which accounts for its astonishing float. No rocker here, but an early-rise tip levitates the ski out of powder instead of plowing through it. A wood core gives it tank-like assurance when the hill’s tracked out. Gluttonous, yes, but picky, too: It won’t touch the groomed. “Stand up and point ’em: This ski breeds confidence,” said Beekman.
Heaven, because of the way it made 12 inches feel bottomless, and Hell because, well, it’s wicked fun. The category’s narrowest and most agile ski skimmed through fluff and bounced through tight trees. It’s a rockered ski, but, remarkably, it earned the category-high score for hard-snow versatility, thanks to a flat tail that powers turns on groomed. A powder ski without the snobbery, this ski will perform wherever you want to go. “It’s comfortable,” said Stokes. “You don’t have to overthink it.”
You can center-mount the Gotama and ski backwards all day, if that’s your thing. But testers love the all-around skiability of Völkl’s original backcountry jib ski. The turned-up tail and the absence of metal make it forgiving and skiddable. It lacks the crud-crushing stability of, say, the flat-tailed Mantra (see Powder: Wide), and there are livelier skis in the group, but testers gave it high marks in all criteria. “Floats well and is quite maneuverable, despite the beefy feel,” said Sabanosh.