Dry Powder and Tracked Crud
73 mm: Like all Volants, the T3 Power ($799, lengths 165190 cm) is made of stainless steel with some titanium thrown in to save weight. Steel, though heavy, is great for bashing through difficult snow, and the T3 (dimensions 106-73-96) comes into its own in the nasty stuff. It can make anyone a hero in that chopped-up crud common in Western bowls in March, but it works equally well all winter long in gloppy Washington State powder. A fast graphite base keeps you gliding in sticky spring conditions, while the 14-mm sidecutfairly conservative by today's standardsis ideal for arcing big sweeping turns in corn. New this year: Volant has incorporated a "vapor-deposition process" that increases the steel's surface hardness by 40 percent for added ding resistance. The tip is also lower and lighter, to reduce flutter when you're moving fast on hard snow en route to the powder.
THE BINDING: Mounted with a Salomon S912ti Pe2 binding with a built-in lifter ($345), the almost-too-damp Volant gets a needed shot of precision.
74 mm:Rossignol's Bandit XX ($719, lengths 160191cm) has been around for five winters, but this year the designers widened the tip and tail by about four millimeters in an effort to give the ski more float and enhanced alacrity diving into turns. It workedthe sidecut depth of 15.5 mm (dimensions 110-74-100) is right in the heart of the modern comfort zone.
Most powder skis have soft-flexing tails for a forgiving feel at the end of the turn. Rossignol instead uses a tapered sheet of aluminum to soften the tail torsionallyletting it twist slightly, releasing the edge from the snow. Rossignol figures the XX is ideal for skiers who spend half their vacations on groomed snow and half off-piste, and it was our weapon of choice on a day spent searching for powder stashes at Snowbird.
THE BINDING: Rossignol mates the XX with its high-performance Axial 120 T-Plate binding ($310), which withstands hard, ungraceful skiing without prereleasing.
Big Air and Bottomless Powder
80 mm: Strong skiers once scoffed at skis as fat as the Dynastar Intuitiv Big ($700, lengths 178194 cm). No more. Whether you're dicing your way through a BC pine forest on a pair of 178's or screeching down a 55-degree face above Valdez on a pair of 194's, the Bigs let you ski faster with less fatiguewhich, lest we forget, is the point. Sure they're bulky, but despite their size and robust wood/acrylic/titanium GS construction, they're easy to ski because they float so well. On a storm day at Alyeska, the Bigs were without equal when moving from windswept hardpack to hip-deep cement. The shorter lengths feature a 112-80-102-mm profile, giving the ski a smart 13.5 mm sidecut depth (a tad outside the 14-18 mm range, it's true, but straighter skis hold better on serious steeps because more of the edge makes contact). Not fat enough? The 194factory rider Jeremy Nobis calls it the Rhino Chasergets an 85-mm waist.
THE BINDING: The Look P12 Spacer binding ($260) is one of our favorites for steep terrain where walking out of your binding can result in a long tumble over the rocks.
90 mm: Some of Salomon's more twisted athletes wanted to turn the backcountry into a new-school venuehucking front flips off cornices, getting inverted over cliffs, landing 50-footers switchbut their park-andpipe skis were too narrow for deep powder and their big-mountain skis were too clumsy for aerial acrobatics. No problem: Salomon devised the Pocket Rocket ($775, lengths 165185 cm), a twin-tip powder ski with the binding mounted a little forward for predictable tracking going backward (or "switch," but you knew that). Because the twin tips stole away some running surface, Salomon beefed up the center of the ski (dimensions 122-90-115 mm, sidecut depth 14 mm) making it even wider than their famed AK Rocket. Sure it works for the grommets, you say, but will it do the job for the rest of us? Yes. We've never been on a ski this wide that still managed to hold an edge on hardpack and didn't squirrel around at high speed. It's the only ski to date that can handle groomers, parks, and big mountains.
THE BINDING: Mount up the lightweight Salomon S912ti (titanium) binding ($290)fat skis tend to be a little heavy in the air.
WHERE TO FIND IT:
Atomic Ski, 800-258-5020, www.atomic ski.com;Fischer Skis, 800-844-7810, www.fischerskis.com; K2 Skis, 800-972-4063, www.k2skis.com; Rossignol, 802-863-2511,www.rossignol.com; Salomon North America, 800-225-6850. www.salomonsports.com; Skis Dynastar, 800-992-3962, www.dynastar.com; Volant Sports, 303-420-3900, www.volantsports.com; Völkl Sport America, 800-264-4579, www.volkl.com
Dry Powder and Tracked Crud