The guides at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing tested the best of this year’s powder ski lineup
Before 1980 most surfboards were created equal. Yes, they came in different lengths and shapes, but most professional surfers were riding boards with a single fin. Then along came Simon Anderson, an Australian with a vision, whose new boards all sported three fins. People did what they do when faced with something out of the ordinary, something they had never seen before—they laughed. In fact, they kept laughing, right up until Simon smoked them in the water. It didn’t take long for his competitors to catch on, and since 1984 every world champion has been on Anderson’s three-fin “Thruster” design.
So what does this have to do with skiing? We’re at a magical time in powder skiing, a time that calls for open-mindedness, a desire to try new things and the courage to open your wallet for what might be the best purchase of your skiing career. Today’s powder skis are not the wide, straight, one-trick ponies of old. They have sidecut, great flex patterns, exciting designs and, best of all, they do what they were designed for—they make people ski better. In my years as a Mike Wiegele guide I’ve watched many people have the best ski days of their lives, just by having the right tools on their feet.
One of the differences between the Big White Ski Canada Test and this Powder Test is logistics. Where normally testers have one run to judge a ski’s personality and performance and no second chance that might cause the testers’ abilities to compensate for a ski’s shortcomings, the heli-ski guides can’t logistically swap skis each run. Instead, they spent a full day on each ski, testing it in every condition and situation possible. They got up to speed on glaciers and down and dirty in the trees. They skied in perfect powder and some, uh, not-so-perfect powder, all in the name of objectivity.
The test team was made up of some of the most experienced powder skiers on the planet, male and female, young and young at heart. Even Erich “Powder Daddy” Schadinger joined the ranks. Schadinger, in his quarter-century career, has skied more than 60-million vertical feet. Talk about a job with its ups and downs!
Each of the skis in this category brought something special to the feast. They all make skiing powder seem less like work and a lot more like fun. So what are you waiting for? Get a pair, head off-piste and find your own line.
TOP POWDER SKI MODELS
FISCHER Watea 101
172, 182, 192
A favourite among the test team, the Watea was put through its paces in just about every condition and came out shining. Testers felt that this ski had an even flex pattern that worked well in a variety of turn shapes. They also agreed that the Watea would perform well in resort skiing, both on- and off-piste. Lighter skiers will love the energy of this ski.
LIBERTY Double Helix
LENGTHS AVAILABLE: 182, 190
Liberty is a company with a conscience. Not only does it make high-quality, riderinspired skis, it does it with wind power and attention to sourcing renewable products, like its bamboo wood cores. The Double Helix is designed for someone looking to drop big lines and big hits. Testers enjoyed the predictability and even flex of this ski. A couple of them thought the centred stance put them too far forward, but that was only the old guys, and what do they know?
LENGTHS AVAILABLE: 167, 175, 183
The Doughboy is a powder ski that does it all. The 107-mm waist and generous sidecut would keep most skiers entertained on the groomed, but when you call in sick on a powder day, the soft, even flex and great float will keep you smiling all the way to the pogey line. Our women testers on the 175-cm length said that this ski is exactly what female skiers need to build confidence in the backcountry.
LENGTHS AVAILABLE: 178, 186, 194
The Gotama is a big-mountain twintip ski with rocker and wood-core construction. Testers gave big numbers for this ski, and thought it was exceptionally stable and that the amount of rocker and sidecut would make it a great all-round ski. Some testers felt the ski needed to be skied fast to excel, but all testers agreed that the ski was surprisingly agile and versatile.
Additional skis tested:
- Atomic Atlas
- Head Jimi
- K2 Coomback
- K2 Gotback
- Rossignol S7
- Rossignol Voodoo BC 110
- Salomon Czar
- Volkl Kiku