24December 2020

Q&A: Are bigger skis the way of the future?

As the freeride mindset and passion for the backcountry has grown in skiing, a trend has been growing along with it: more people choosing to ride bigger skis. Fatter skis.

We see more and more folks in the Kicking Horse line-up holding some seriously FAT sticks.

Do they know something you don’t? Are bigger skis the way to go?

Fat skis serve a specific purpose. When the powder is bottomless, like the deep turns in the backcountry (like when you go heli-skiing) you want the width of the skis to create a platform of resistance beneath you. It gives you something to push against, since you’re not finding a hard surface underneath.

It makes it easier to find your balance as you charge through the deep stuff.

(You can ski pow in skinnier skis, for sure, it’s just a tougher task. Ask Rudi.)

heli skier poised at the pitch and ready to drop

But when you AREN’T in those kind of conditions, fat skis can become a liability, or at least a hindrance to good performance.

The physics don’t lie:

When you’re on really wide skis on hardpack, you have to put a lot of lateral torque on your knees to get the ski on its edge. The bigger the platform, the harder it is to engage and the bigger the possibility for injury if you drift then suddenly hook up. That’s why ski racers don’t use width for stability – they count on length.


Here’s Jeff’s take:

“The truth is, even on deeper days at the resort, something up to a 110 underfoot is going to do the trick just fine almost every time. Anything much bigger than that you’re going to be sacrificing performance, missing out on faceshots, probably getting dragged around a bit in the backseat, and putting unnecessary torque on your knees.

There’s so few days inbounds where you need the kind of float that a true fat ski is designed to give.

I’m seeing more people coming back from the widest ski they’ve tried, settling into a more traditional range, as they see how pow skis really don’t behave well unless they’re in the kind of conditions they were made for.

Me, I like getting into the white room. I need a big enough ski, sure, but I really don’t want something that keeps me only skimming the surface. Bring on the faceshots.

I think we’ve hit a tipping point, where we’ve gone as big as skis need to be. The next innovation in ski technology won’t be wider widths.”

To sum it up

A longer ski is better if you want to go really fast.

A bigger ski is better if you’re a bigger person.

A fatter ski is better when there won’t be a solid platform underneath you.

Other than that, avoid extremes.

As in so many things, it’s about having the right tool for the job, and ‘right’ certainly doesn’t always mean ‘bigger’.



Wondering what kind of skis you’d need for those truly unreal, deep heli-skiing days? Check out our Gear Guide for Deep Powder.






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