Are Powder Skis Worth it??

December 24, 2021 by SKI Profiles

Powder Skis

So you’re thinking about making the jump to a new set of powder skis. Before you spend your hard earned cash, let’s cover a few things to help you make an informed decision.

Are they worth it?

The answer to this question isn’t a concrete yes or no, a better response would be – it depends.

Things to consider: experience level of skiing, location (think East vs. West), the annual conditions of where you are skiing, performance, followed by price points.

If you live in an area that has heavier annual snowfall or frequently ski in these conditions when you travel on a ski trip, then a set of powder skis begin to make a bit more sense. The reality is, most true powder skis perform better in lighter, deeper snow than their counterpart for skiers, and although you can ski powder on, say, a thinner pair of skis, it won’t necessarily provide you with the experience that a good powder ski will.

You will likely sink deeper into the snow and more often than not lose momentum on the downhill. So yes powder skis will serve you well under the right conditions and can be a lot of fun as well as you get comfortable with them.

Some Pros:

Better overall performance in powder conditions. The larger surface area underfoot allows you to rise and float more on the surface of softer snow.

 

Ski touring continues to grow in popularity across the industry. Powder skis are a great option to take out touring if you are looking to access terrain outside of resort boundaries – terrain that hasn’t been tracked out by swaths of skiers.

If you have skied powder before, you know the feeling, if not, it feels like floating at times and offers a unique experience for skiers looking for something new.

Some Cons:

Most powder skis lose their edge, maneuverability and control on harder packed snow. Snow that you would find skiing groomed runs on resort days. If you are skiing on, say, a 118 mm underfoot deeper powder ski, you will notice your skis will begin to wobble a bit on hard snow. The wider the ski, the more float you will get on deep powder however, your ability to carve tends to decrease in other conditions.

Price. Powder skis, without all the fixings like: bindings, skins, avalanche safety gear and other backcountry essentials, are quite expensive on their own relative to other skis. A proper touring setup can put you back around $1500 or higher, so, like any big purchase, there are some factors that should be considered if you are a price conscious skier seeking a good powder ski. If you live in an area that has easy access to backcountry and consistent precipitation throughout the winter, spending in that ballpark will be the norm. A good way to circumvent higher price points are end of season deals if you are willing to wait a few months.

If you are only skiing powder one or two days a year, a true powder ski makes much less sense in your arsenal than an all mountain option.

Even with advancements in ski materials, usually, the wider you go, the heavier the ski will become and maneuverability will be diminished. You will also be carrying more weight on the uphill portion of a backcountry day. Even if you are in the best shape of your life, the more weight you carry moving uphill, the more energy you will exhaust. It is important to find a sweet spot that works for you between say a

110 mm underfoot and a 120 mm underfoot if you are purchasing a powder ski. The difference could save you a couple pounds for longer days in the mountains.

All Mountain or Powder Ski:

The All Mountain range tends to be around a 92 to a 106 mm underfoot. Underfoot width numbers refer to the width under the midsection of your skis where your bindings are typically mounted. The wider surface area in this range provides a bit more weight distribution across the surface of snow, which will allow you to rise and float above more on powder. The all mountain underfoot width range also allows you to carve relatively well on a hard pack.

It’s in the name really, they are referred to as All Mountain because they are the optimal option for those that frequently ski different terrain and snow conditions. This way, you won’t have to lug an extra pair of powder skis to switch into if you decide to do a bit of backcountry skiing for the day. They are a great option for most intermediate to advanced skiers – that being said, if you are preparing to ski in deep powder, then we start to get into the 106mm to 120mm underfoot range. The skis widen to match the conditions of the snow.

Final Thoughts:

Before jumping right into a true powder ski, consider an all mountain ski. Test them in a safe area where the snow conditions resemble a powder day and see how they perform and, more importantly, assess how you perform on them as well. If you find all mountain skis are not serving you as well in even deeper snow, then it would be good to consider a wider powder ski for those deeper days and conditions.

A great combo to have, if you can afford it, would be a solid all mountain pair of skis for resort days of any condition and a set of powder skis if you are serious about skiing powder. Being able to switch between the two is definitely a luxury, however, being able to make a decision based on the conditions will provide you with a bit more comfort and peace of mind.

The number of skiers that are opting for a day in the backcountry continues on an upward trend. Additionally, the industry has seen a pretty substantial influx in the sale of touring bindings, powder skis, and avalanche safety gear. People are going to great lengths (and prices) to ski untouched lines and great snow conditions.

Remember, if you are venturing into the backcountry to try out your new powder skis, or even if you are skiing powder inbounds at resorts, an avalanche safety course is highly recommended – recommended for all experienced skiers really. They will teach you how to properly assess avalanche conditions, terrain, and how to effectively use avalanche safety gear such as your beacon, probe and shovel. These courses will ultimately help you make better decisions in the backcountry, so that everyone can return home safe after a good day in the mountains. Skier safety cannot be understated.


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Pros and cons of powder skis, Should you Buy powder skis


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