The Best Skis Make it Easier
"I straight-lined through 35-degree trees for about 2-300 meters..."
With the ski department of my local sporting goods shop featuring as many shapes and sizes as the bikini department, I had to find out what a ski guide thinks about all the recent ski innovations. Dave Gauley, the assistant manager of CMH Cariboos is an outspoken proponent of all things ski. He started Steep Weeks at CMH and was selected one of the Top 50 skiers in North America by Powder Magazine - although if you ask him he'll likely tell you there were only 50 skiers back then. In case you believe his humilty, here's a YouTube clip of Dave going sick near Mt. Waddington in the BC Coast Range.
In between shifts stocking the lodge with enough firewood to keep a winter’s worth of heli-skiers cozy and warm, Dave found the time to share this perspective with us and compared ski design evolution to the technology in rock climbing that opened up new frontiers of mountain sport for everyone, not just the cutting-edge athletes.
Topher Donahue: I’ve noticed a lot of guides don’t wear the super fat skis, and I haven’t seen any guides on the reverse camber designs. Why is that?
Dave Gauley: Well, I’m happy to give you my take on skis, but it might not be what you're looking for.
TD: Fair enough. What’s your take?
DG: The problem with straight rocker reverse sidecut designs, like the Spatula and Pontoon, is that they give you no degree of control on harder snow or not-so-deep powder with a firm surface underneath. Even here we don’t always have bottomless powder.
TD: It seems like every year there is a new big thing in ski design. Are these new skis really helpful or just a marketing strategy?
DG: Ski design has gone through radical changes in the last decade. The last 2 or 3 years have been some of the most interesting - with the evolution of rockered, reverse sidecut designs. Now, skis like Rossignol's S7 and the K2's Obsethed are leading the way by incorporating rocker, reverse sidecut at the tip and tail, with traditional camber and sidecut underfoot. The result is a super versatile ski that excels in any snow condition. Last year I skied exclusively on the Rossi S7 (Outside Magazine S7 review.), and the K2 Obsethed (EpicSki review.) and now I look at the mountain with a totally different set of eyes.
TD: You’ve looked at a lot of mountains, so that’s a pretty dramatic statement. How do you look at the mountains differently with these skis and do you think other people will feel the same?
DG: These designs are a little wild, and people will be reluctant to try these skis. I must admit the first time I had them (The Rossignol S7) on my feet I thought they looked ridiculous. But my first run I was sold. I straight-lined through 35-degree trees for about 2-300 meters then was able to throw my skis sideways to dump some speed, and fully be in control. So you can just go straight through tight or tough tree or terrain sections and be confident that you will be able to get it together when the terrain opens up. Not so with conventional skis. Whatever speed you reach on conventional skis you have to be able to deal with. Not a problem when the snow is super deep and slow, but when the going gets fast...
TD: That's kind of a quantum leap if you ask me. So why will other people be reluctant?
DG: I think a lot of people, guides included, are reluctant to ski on innovative skis because of the stigma. They feel that fat or radically shaped skis are weak and for bad skiers. But the same thing was the case when the first fat skis came out. I don't see anybody skiing on skinny 205 GS skis any more. Some people need more time to wrap their heads around it. I am all for making mountain sports easier. For example, in climbing I don't try to climb a 5.13 in my mountain boots. I choose a weapon for the task. (TD: In this case tight fitting, goofy-looking slippers.)
TD: You mentioned the problem of the pontoon-style rockered skis on firm snow. Did you notice any problem with this new, shall we say, hybrid design?
DG: There is NO disadvantage with these new ski designs whether it be for the expert, or not-so-expert skier. They make skiing easier, just as cams and sticky rubber shoes for climbing - which in my opinion makes it better because it opens up more possibilities.
Dave Gauley will be leading the next CMH Steep Week in CMH Cariboos during April of 2010.