A few years back we ran a piece by Chrigl’s father – Peter Luthy – on the joys of not skiing powder. Not only was it beautifully written (“We used to ski powder on 210 Kastle RXs, stiff from tip to tail, skinny and only prepared to turn under orders. Today, everyone has fat, rockered skis that float on crust. This has opened the backcountry to every badger-gasser and shoe clerk who can afford a lift pass”), but it snapshotted an attitude we like to call Just Go Skiing.
Recreation is our most valuable time – it HAS to deliver. What this too rarely ties in with is the snow gods turning up to play on the same week. Ski enough and you hit the bullseyes. Ski according to the schedules of life and you get what you’re given. Or you can always ski when no-one else does.
For years the family trip was at Easter. The children were wee and bleated less in warmer temperatures – and there are always good deals. We never went high – it’s a bit bleak up in the treeless regions for me – but we did always aim for places that were great at keeping snow through to the end of the season. This generally meant afternoons were like a summer glacier; soggy, chopped up and devoid of other skiers. Who hasn’t always dreamed of having a private resort? Now imagine getting a massive one you didn’t have to buy. All you have to do is enjoy the conditions.
So, for slush it’s a well-known trope that mid-fat, easy-bending skis give flex and float and let you surf the soft stuff. Every wavelet of grainy snow becomes a point for popping off. The impacts are forgiving, the skis are forgiving. The runs take way more effort than wafting down a groomer, but there’s a lot more going on. Snow flies, you pivot and skid and smear your way down. Steep slopes have grip and controllable slip, shallow angles are endless waves to ride. The whole mountain comes into play because every pile of snow is freshly softened. Mogul fields become forgiving training grounds rather than knee-to-chin workouts.
Even mistakes slip away. Get pummelled into the back seat after a series of bigger than expected bounces? Put in a big skid and feel the pace wash away. Hit a larger than expected lump? It’s softer than expected, too. I could do this all day.
But to get to the slush, you have to ski re-frozen hardpack in the morning. Without edge bite you’re heading sideways at pace. Skiing the sides rattles like a Land Rover. Dodging ice chunks is a chilly session of space invaders with baddies that actually hurt. Soft skis make this harder, so we want skis that suit hard piste. These need edges and bite and grip. If you want to pack up at lunchtime, you’ll not be wanting anything other than a decent piste ski and some carving refreshers. There’s nothing that says you can’t ski slush on piste skis but they are a touch more likely to sink, trip and tip you over. And the tails are generally shorter, more powerful and less easy to skid without powering up. Those groovy backseat rides need a lot more leg.
Maybe we settle somewhere in the middle. We need some width underfoot to pivot on and maybe some rocker to make everything a little easier. This way we can carve the piste, dodge the bullets, clatter the hardpack and settle into the surf without having to swap skis three times a day. The industry pop these into the All-Mountain category and include what we’d class as piste models within it. At Fall Line we tend to define AM as starting at 80mm through to 95mm underfoot. And you know what, I’d pick the winners and change the name to All Snow.
Dickie has surfed, slid and occasionally carved his sweet-flexing Blizzard Bushwhackers (88mm) for the past five seasons and having just read the Gear Guide has ordered a pair of Black Crows Mirus Cor (87mm).
Said piece by Chrigl’s father – Peter Luthy – on the joys of not skiing powder: