Many brands, shops, review sites view the width of a ski as a main determinator for its category. Narrow skis (< 80 mm underfoot) are for hard snow only, 80-95 is front side all mountain, 95-110 is backside all mountain and > 110 is for deep powder. This article, however, has one single purpose: to make the point of width being only one factor in what the ski does best. And that width alone can never place the ski in a specific category, but its strengths and weaknesses will.
Three skis compared
To illustrate my point, I will be comparing three skis with the same 84 mm waist width: the Salomon S/Force Bold, K2 iKonic 84 TI, and Rossignol Experience 84 AI. All are 84 mm wide, but in my opinion, they all fall in different categories. The Salomon is a purely hard snow ripping ski. The K2 is a Jack of all trades. The Rossignol is a soft snow ski in an 84 mm disguise.
When looking at the construction of these skis, we can see a few hints as to their respective strong suits. The Salomon has a race plate (!) and Edge Amplifier technology that increases edge grip. No wonder these are pure hardpack carving machines. Yes, they have a slightly tapered tip. But that doesn’t save you in the bumps or in soft snow. The torsional stiffness of this ski is relentless and lets the ski bite into anything and everything.That’s what it’s built for.
The K2 also has a double Titanal laminate. But no extra grippy edge technique, nor a race plate-like binding interface. More rounded and more rockered tips and tails make this ski much more easy to maneuver in 3D snow than the Salomon. It doesn’t have the aggressive bite either, but more than enough to cater any skier on piste in all conditions.
The Rossignol has no metal in it. ABS sidewalls (like the K2 and Salomon), but it also has ABS inserts in the wood core. This makes the ski a lot lighter and a bit less damp than a ski with full metal laminates. The lighter construction extends to the tips and tails as well. More rocker than the other two skis, too. Out of these three skis, the Rossignol has by far the best float and is easiest to ski in tight bumps and soft 3D snow. And I would be happy to ski it on piste as well.
Width is just a number
Even though ski width does influence the potential float, edge grip, ease of use of a ski – it is just one of many factors. The shape of the ski, the rocker profile, the materials used: they all have an equally big impact on the characteristics of the ski. Perhaps even bigger than that width underfoot.
Here at Gigiski, we place the ski in a particular category because of its characteristics and where it has the most value. That also reflects our approach to matching a ski to a skier: the skier preferences are the starting point for that proces. You’re most probably looking at a ski ‘that is a great carver on hard groomers’, for example. You’re not looking for an 84 mm ski. That would mean that you have translated being able to carve precision turns on hard slopes to a specific waist width. I hope I have just made the point that that is not always the case.