Want to hear something funny? Not even ten years ago, skis that were around 90mm in the waist were considered powder skis. No, seriously, they were! I know it's hard to believe that these days as ski widths creep closer and closer to snowboards, but it's true! Powder skis have come a long way in the last decade. It used to be that powder skis were pretty much identical to all mountain skis, except they were a little fatter. Now, these skis have a range of other technologies that make up the perfect powder ski.
Types of Powder Skiers
The way we see it, there are three different types of powder skiers. First, you've got your casual skiers who dip off trail after it snows, hoping to make a few nice powder turns. Second, there's the powder skier who really gets after it. You'll find this type of skier poking around in the back bowls, trees, under the lift, or wherever else they can sniff out fresh snow, even if it's a week after a storm. Finally, there's the extreme powder skiers who pursue the backcountry and send it off of any cliff they see. While you have to consider the fact that everyone has different preferences in a ski, you can generally use these three categories as guidelines when deciphering powder skis.
Gettin' It While It's Good
The first category of powder skiers only really cares about powder right after a storm. After that, they'll return to the trails and enjoy the fact that the groomed runs are even softer than they were before. A skier in this category usually prefers a ski between 100mm and 110mm, mainly because they really aren't used to a ski any fatter. Skis in this range typically have rocker in the tips and tails, making it easier to float in the powder. These skis also handle the entire mountain well, as they aren't geared towards powder exclusively.
I Know There's A Stash Somewhere
The second type of powder skier actively pursues powder on the mountain, even if it means taking risky traverses and bumping off of a few trees. A skier like this has been after it for at least a little while now, and can handle a wider ski. Usually, skis between 110mm and 120mm wide are the target range, though some skiers may prefer something a bit wider. As far as flex, these skis will vary, but will almost never be so soft that they can't handle deep snow. Of course, these skis are also going to have rockered tips, allowing the skier to float, butter, and nollie off whatever they can. Remember, this skier is looking for the overlooked terrain, and needs a ski that can be as creative as they are.
Yeah, I Could Probably Send That
Finally, there's the type of powder skier who does it purely for the adrenaline rush. These skiers will almost always be hiking around the backcountry, and aren't afraid to jump off the biggest cliffs in sight. Skiers like this usually demand super fat skis, over 120mm wide, with a really stiff flex. Occasionally you'll see some soft skis in this category, but usually they'll be stiff to accompany the high-speed chutes and landing jumps.