Without a doubt, fat skis are the hottest category out there right now, and for good reason: When the snow is soft, the flotation and stability they provide fundamentally alter what can be done on a pair of skis. On these pages is a rough breakdown of what skis are available and how they might be used. Not all models are included (there are just too many these days), and we've already covered the ridiculously fat boards-those with waist widths greater than 100 mm (see "The Specialists," October 2004). Nor is anything under 75 mm included, since those aren't what anyone considers fat anymore. Some are twin-tips, some aren't. There are those who insist a turned-up tail allows a ski to release more easily at the end of a turn, and there are those who are merely annoyed by the blinding rooster tail a twin-tip leaves behind on a groomed slope. It's a matter of preference. If you haven't at least tried a fat ski by now, do so soon. It'll transform forever the way you ski powder.
Powder-Day Only (90 mm and up)
Some swear by these big boys as their everyday skis, though most skiers find they're just too wide to be any fun on groomers, let alone bumps, and would consider them to be strictly a quiver ski. When the powder's deep enough, however, there's no better tool. With their ample waists, they're indispensable for skimming the surface and laying down GS arcs at speeds once unthinkable in powder. They've changed the way big mountains can be skied.
1 Rossignol Scratch BC 122-90-115, 176-188 cm, $729
2 Salomon Pocket Rocket 122-90-115, 165-185 cm, $795
3 Stöckli StormRider Scot Schmidt 123-91-111, 186-194 cm, $900
4 Blizzard Titan XXL 126-92-112, 181-188 cm, $850
5 Nordica The Beast 124-92-116, 166-188 cm, $865
6 Rossignol B3 122-94-112, 168-195 cm, $869
7 Völkl Explosiv 120-95-112, 165-190 cm, $725
8 Line Mothership Titanium 127-97-117 (at 182 cm), 172-192 cm, $800
9 K2 Apache Chief 126-98-116, 167-188 cm, $700
10 Atomic Sugar Daddy 125-99-117 (at 183 cm), 153-183 cm, $799
Everyday Fun/East (75-80 mm)
While it's easy to be seduced by the trend toward megafat, Easterners need to temper their enthusiasm with reality. Anything over 80 mm won't be very versatile in typical conditions. These rides have significant girth, can carve a turn when they have to, and will be plenty of fun in the woods and on powder days.
11 Völkl 7/24 Pro 115-77-104, 156-191 cm, $725
12 K2 Apache Recon 115-78-105, 160-181 cm, $875
13 Dynastar Legend 8000 116-79-102, 158-184 cm, $875
14 Fischer Big Stix 8.0 112-80-104, 170-180 cm, $650
15 Salomon Scream Limited 114-80-108, 160-180 cm, $695
16 Volant Genesis M Silver 113-80-106, 175 cm, $780
Everyday Fun/West (81-89 mm)
If your home hill is Squaw or Snowbird, and you don't see a lot of hardpack, join the club of hardcore skiers who are making these boards their everyday ride. Not as quick as a midfat, they're still fun in any type of soft snow. In the East, they'd be a blast on powder days or in spring mush.
17 Atomic M:ex 120-84-113 (at 185 cm), 165-185 cm, $799
18 Head i.M 85 122-85-110, 172-193 cm, $800
19 Fischer Big Stix 8.6 120-86-107, 170-190 cm, $750
20 Elan M777 117-87-107, 176-192 cm, $850
21 Dynastar Legend 8800 117-89-110, 158-188 cm, $925
On hardpack, employ a little patience: a wider ski just isn't as quick to edge. And keep them well tuned, or edge-grip suffers. In Powder, they can do no wrong, but be ready for a faster ride than usual.