ONE SKI TO RULE THEM ALL?
In ski advice and buyer’s guides, the conditions you will be skiing in is one of two major factors in what ski to choose. The type of skier that you are is the other factor, but that’s for another time. ‘The conditions you will be skiing’ poses some problems, though. Or rather, trade-offs.
Different skis for different conditions and skiers
Every ski has certain things it does well and things it does not so well, or not at all. Even though skis generally have become more all-round and polyvalent, there are still trade-offs in ski behavior. A full-camber racing ski hardly has any float. So skiing them in deep powder may be sub-optimal. It can be done, of course. Certainly, good skiers will need a few turns to adjust, but they will be able to get down a powder slope and enjoy it too.
Having said that, a ski with better soft snow performance (float, a less hooky tip and tail maybe) would serve them even better. Not that those good skiers need more soft snow oriented skis per se, but it might get even bigger smiles on their faces. For less skilled skiers, that wider and less hooky ski may actually help them get down that same powder slope much easier. It makes skiing powder accessible.
On that powder slope, this all works pretty well. But who has the luxury of skiing only powder slopes all day long? Even on a powder day in a resort, things get skied-off pretty soon. And you just have to get from slope to slope over groomed runs. And that is where the biggest powder skis don’t really shine. I have often been wanting to switch out skis at lunchtime. The real powder is gone; just bumps, messy groomers, and scraped-off slopes remain.
To avoid major trade-offs (i.e. having to ski powder on racing skis all week, or only boilerplate and icy groomers on 120 mm powder skis) many skiers have one ski that can do it all. Some skiers have several pairs of skis – a so-called ‘quiver’ – to ski different conditions. But even if you have one ski that can do everything, I have yet to find the ski that does everything well. And that’s alright.
You know it will be sub-optimal in certain conditions. When you go off-piste into really deep powder on your eighty-something all-mountain skis, you may wish you had something wider. And on (re)frozen corduroy early in the morning, you would probably have wanted some super grippy cheater GS skis. On everything else, you will be quite happy with what you’ve got.
So, how does that work for those fortunate skiers who think they’ve got it all covered with their multi-pair quiver of skis? Well, they have to compromise also. I, too, have a few pairs of skis that cover pretty much all the conditions I could possibly encounter. But I have to choose which I will bring on my ski trip. I have to drive for a day or so, and with all the luggage and other people I am taking as well, space is limited. 2 pairs of skis is what I bring for a week trip. 3 pairs if I go longer. So before I choose, I have a look at the current conditions and the forecast (and the people I am going to ski with, and the resort – it all factors in). If a big dump hits when I am there and my 90 mm all-mountain skis are the widest thing I brought – so be it. I made my choice and I accept it. That’s all mindset.
Live with it
And then, in the morning, I have to decide which of the skis I brought are going up the mountain with me. And yes, it has happened that I put on my freeride skis, and that the snow was so shitty wind-affected that I cursed myself. It was terrible, actually. Luckily, we stayed in a ski-in/ski-out apartment. So I quickly went back for another pair for the day. But that is rare, that I can go back and switch-out skis. Very rare indeed.
So my point is: whether you have one ski or many, there are always choices to be made and trade-offs to be had. In a perfect world, skis can be perfectly matched to conditions. But we don’t live or ski in a perfect world. Conditions change, sometimes rapidly. Hey, skiers sometimes change throughout the day, just because they get tired, for instance. So be as sensible and analytical as you can when it comes to ski choice. But be prepared for the trade-offs too, and live with it. Enjoy the day, you’re in the mountains skiing!