Fat skis at the 2020 Gear Test Week lighten the load

Tester Betsy Manero tests out her ski’s flotation on Day Two of 2020 Gear Test Week. [Photo] Matt Kiedaisch

Adding weight in the gym may be a point of pride, but on the skintrack every gram counts. For a long time, this meant powder planks were relegated to deep, lift-serve days and those who couldn’t give up the freeride ghost. But advancements in core technology have recently created new space on the skintrack for wider backcountry PFDs.

Poplar, paulownia, carbon and space-aged non-Newtonian polymers are replacing heavier materials like beech, ash and maple with the intention of making girthy planks just as graceful on the up as they are on the down. And at 2020 Gear Test Week, people have taken notice. Here are a few tester thoughts on this year’s lightweight, powder slaying lineup.

“This year, even the lightweight skis are shredding like a heavier ski,” says tester Betsy Manero of this year’s fat-ski selection. “It’s a game changer to have a stable ski in the backcountry that you’re not sacrificing weight on. I think having a wider, stable platform is going to progress the sport because you’re going to bring in more people who like that lift-served feel but who also want to get farther out and explore.”

Tester Alex Paul gets the fresh in the Powder Mountain, Utah sidecountry. [Photo] Matt Kiedaisch

“I never thought that I would own a 116 mm underfoot touring ski, but the Black Diamond Helio 116 is big enough for the deepest days in the backcountry and it rips for a lightweight ski,” tester Alex Paul says of the growing versatility of his wider plank favorite. And about the full 2020 selection, he notes, “Some of these skis are surprisingly powerful and don’t get bucked around like the gram-shaving skis of old.”

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