RealSkiers: Another Reason Why Fat isn’t Good For You
I’m not normally a crusader against fat, or any other form of self-indulgence for that matter. My bona fides as a bon vivant have been attested to by no less a luminary than John Fry, the finest editor ever to work the ski beat, along with a few hundred other skiers and revelers of my generation. I like butter in my cooking and marbling in my meat, but even I draw the line at deep-fried dairy products and skis that are too fat for the skier’s own good.
If you want to read up on the latest and greatest fat skis, you’ll find them reviewed at realskiers.com. If you want to hear why they may not be the best fit for your skills, read on.
The first fat skis, most of which now look hilariously thin, were created for one simple reason: skiing powder on long, skinny sticks is bloody hard; surfing powder on short, wide planks is easier than walking.
The point I hope you take away from this sepia-toned, historical snapshot is that extra width, then as now, is essentially a crutch meant to aid those lacking in technical skills. The cynical might even conjecture that fat skis were made so helicopter services could serve more customers more efficiently.
Films Are Prime Movers
No customers get better service from heli outfits than the top ski filmmakers. By putting extreme exploits in front of millions of eyeballs, ski movies have been the prime mover in driving us all onto ever-wider platforms.
So over the years we all added a little fat to our ski diet. What’s the big deal? Fatter skis are fun! They open up more terrain to less skilled skiers. They’re easy to balance on and aren’t as tippy as narrow-waisted skis with their elevated platforms. They’re so much fun, you feel like you’re practically not skiing at all!
Which is painfully close to the truth. Fatter skis make smearing, pivoting and foot-steering more rewarding than tipping and bending. That’s an instructor’s way of saying fat skis don’t and won’t improve your skiing skills.
The trend towards fatter and fatter ski waistlines fits with the American skier’s near global disinterest in technique. People take ski lessons for the minimum possible period; ideally, never. Fat skis allow us to maintain the illusion of competence as we swivel and skid pell-mell down the mountain.
Menace On The Move
I realize we all take great comfort in our illusions and as long as they do no harm, why kick up a fuss? Because skidding and fishtailing down an icy slope on skis is no less perilous a practice than driving down an interstate with the same skill set. If you are on a fat ski, you are less likely to ride on your edges and if you’re not edging, you’re not in control. You are, in essence, a menace on the move.
When the first lift-serviced skiing begins in a few weeks, we’ll all be sharing a very small slope together. Please do mankind a favor and leave your fat skis in the locker. Take advantage of the hard snow conditions and limited space to work on technique and slope etiquette. Rediscover the joys of carving a turn and controlling your trajectory.
Remember, fat skis were created for new snow and this remains their proper domain. They earned their popularity among elite skiers because there’s no substitute for flotation. They’ve won over a much larger population of skiers because they are a substitute for developing better all-terrain skills.
Before you opt to make a fatter ski your everyday ride, I strongly advise you first cultivate your technical – a.k.a. carving - skills or you may never know the happiness that comes with controlling your speed and direction.