By Adam Vognild

For a guy who loves the outdoors and who geeks out on gear, I’m on the slow side when it comes to pulling the trigger and getting the latest-greatest.

Since the mid-90’s skis have been getting wider and wider.  Most of the time when describing the width of skis, it’s common to describe the narrowest part of the ski– the waist or underfoot dimensions. When I got my first ‘wide’ skis 15 years ago, they were 90mm underfoot.  It was a game changer — they floated more and required less work to turn.  I could ski them inbounds, but noticed they were much slower edge to edge and it was work to get them to turn quickly.  Up until last year, 96mm was my widest ski, and it was a great all around ski.  Recently, I picked up a pair of 120mm Voile Drifters from a friend.  I was hesitant, yet others had convinced me it was time to fatten up.  I’ve put about 30 days on these skis now and have these comments for others who are thinking about adding some girth to the midline.

  • Great float in as little as 3 inches of snow! The flotation also depends on the density of the snow, but because fat skis ride higher in the snow, skiing thin snowpacks (like our foothills in winter) is much safer.
  • Fat skis rise above and stay out of funky snows, making life much safer and easier when conditions are mushy, manky or breakable.
  • Breaking trail on the deepest days requires much less effort with the added float of added width.  This is a huge plus for the fatties.
  • On the descent, skiing deep snow, it’s so much easier! This means more fun and longer runs without stopping.
  • Speed.  I’ve always skied slowly down powder slopes to maximize my time enjoying soft snow conditions. However, there are times (like when a slough or an avalanche starts behind you) when speed can get you out of harm’s way. With fat skis I can safely control much more speed. I don’t have to ski fast, but I can if I need to.
  • Extra fat also means extra weight.  These aren’t the skis I take deep into the backcountry, but the ones I use on slopes relatively close to the car.
  • I use wall-to-wall carpet on these babies, and that is a lot of skin to have underfoot when you are dragging your skis uphill all day.  I definitely notice an increase in the effort required to climb.  This has forced me to learn more about skins –I’ve acquired a pair that glides better and have cut them a little differently. Those fat skins also cost more.
  • Whether you’re climbing or descending icy slopes, it’s much harder to apply power to the edges of fat skis. This gives such skis less grip, which definitely increases their pucker factor if there are hazards below you. More than once I have opted to boot up or down an icy slope that scared me.
  • You are not as “deep” in the snow on deep powder days.  All that float keeps you up and out of the fluff.  This is a con for me because there are few things in life that bring me as much joy as getting hit in the face with snow flying off my skis.
  • Newly created skin tracks never seem wide enough.  I was complaining to a split boarder about this and he told me, “welcome to my world”.  This is a big deal, due to the fact that we spend about 90% of our time going uphill.  Your skis are forced together, and then they drag and overlap. This is frustrating and an energy suck.  The key is to communicate and ask everyone in a group to set a wider track when it’s their turn to break trail.
As a guy who loves to search for fresh snow during the darkest days of winter, I’m happy to have joined my fat-ski friends.  Now I’m one of those guys who asks the slim set, “What are you waiting for?”  Just because you get fat in winter doesn’t mean you can’t get skinny again in the spring.
This post was originally published on 11/20/19.
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