By Dan Balkin
HoliMont Snowsports School
Is it possible? Indeed, it is. I have been secretly recording where some of the best skiers at HoliMont have been living. These sensational two plankers are veritably living anywhere from 65’ to 05’. When I saw Bruce Heine two weekends ago ripping turns down Exhibition, he was living in 72’ despite having spent all last year in 85’ – but today when I skied with him he went back to 85’. If you think this is impossible, read on. The amazingly smooth, technically brilliant former U.S. Ski Teamer, Cindy Goodin (nee Oak), has been living in 65’ all ski season, despite the fact that husband Barry is living in 88’. Cindy sounded a little bit embarrassed about living in 65’ because so many people are living in different zones. I assured her if I ever make a ski turn that vaguely resembles hers’, that I would gladly live in 42’. HoliMont skiing ace Chris Hunt is the most futuristic of this brazen bunch, he is living in 05’. Ward Wilson was committed to living in 85’ last year, but this year he went back to 72’ and has reportedly found something nifty there. Ski racer extraordinaire Joel Solly is perhaps the hardest to keep track of – last season I caught him living in the 60s’, 80s’, and 90s’ – amazing.
I swear on my underfunded retirement account that everything in the preceding paragraph is true. I am, after all, talking about what width these skiers are skiing underfoot. What? Yes, nearly everyone who does not live in an impenetrable portion of the Amazon River Basin has heard of shaped skis – but not everyone knows that the second revolution in modern skiing is how “wide” your skis are. As you know, ski lengths are measured in cm, but ski widths are measured in mm. Cindy Goodin could ski on toothpicks and make beautiful ski turns – that is why she can ski on skis that are essentially slalom cuts (the narrowest width underfoot) and still make gorgeous ski turns in any conditions. Mere skiing mortals, however, will generally find that wider skis are easier to ski on. I was a skeptic, however, so I made a cautious move this winter. I went from a ski that was 68mm underfoot to a ski that was 80mm underfoot. The verdict? As Mick would say, “It’s only rock and roll but I like it.” It took me a few days to become accustomed to my “wider” skis – but I think they are fantastic.
The knock against wider skis was that they could not hold on ice. Being former liberal arts major, I had to swear that I would never explain anything of a technical nature lest I cause an engineer to have a nervous breakdown. That said, the conventional wisdom is that more narrow wasted skis 64 – 68 mm underfoot will hold much better on ice. On steep, gnarly, incredibly firm World Cup race courses this is undoubtedly true – but Chris Hunt has no problem making his 105mm waisted skis hold on the steepest pitches locally. Different ski manufacturers use different benchmarks, but the following is a general rule of thumb: Skis that are “narrow” in the waist (64-70mm underfoot) are generally favored by racers or ex racers. Skis between 72 – 80mm are generally marketed as “frontside” carvers. Skis from 85 – 98 mm underfoot are generally billed as mixed-use skis that perform admirably both on groomed trails and the ungroomed “backside” at large resorts. Skis 100mm and over are often promoted as more suited to ungroomed snow or powder. Remember, these are only guidelines, and Chris Hunt is ripping turns on firm pitches on skis that are 105mm underfoot. This is where other factors come into play such as how stiff your ski is, whether it is “dampened” by one or two layers of metal within the ski, and how much sidecut the ski has. As for me, this year I’m going to be living in 80’. After all, that is the year that the Stones released the forgettable album “Emotional Rescue.” At least my skis can make 80’ shine.