The Sweet Spot Gets Sweeter: Which underfoot width is best for everything?

One tester tries out his ski’s versatility. [Photo] Matt Kiedaisch

Not that long ago, a mid-fat ski meant something in the realm of 85 mm underfoot. Over the last decade, that measurement has swelled as eccentric and experimental skis of exponential girth hit the market. While 85 mm may never again be average, the sweet spot in skis is becoming codified.

In the 2019 Backcountry Gear Guide, skis range from 86 to 124 mm underfoot; the average width is 102 mm; and roughly half of all skis fall within 5 mm of that number. That spread reflects the entire range we tested at Powder Mountain, a close representation of the offerings available on the North American market. All that points to skis measuring from the high 90s to low 100s as the ideal waist for wide-ranging all-conditions functionality.

“Skis with a 100-ish waist seem to be the sweet spot for most riders,” says tester Jeremy Bailey. “Much more and you sacrifice versatility in firm/mixed snow. Much less and flotation suffers.”

For tester Alex Paul, from Telluride, Colo., that moderate waist width means heightened versatility capable of handling most conditions. “With design and technology arguably approaching apex levels,” he says, “there are a lot more skis out there that can do everything well, thus eliminating the need for a large, expensive quiver.”

And while versatility is also incumbent on qualities like rocker, camber and construction—and each person’s take on “conventional” conditions varies widely—a waist width around 100 mm is the right place to start when considering a quiver of one. —TC

ARMADA TRACER 108

$825 – armadaskis.com | SIZES (cm): 164, 172, 180, 188 | DIMENSIONS (mm):134/108/126 | WEIGHT/PAIR: 8.2 lbs. (180)

ATOMIC BACKLAND 107

$850 – atomic.com | SIZES (cm): 175, 182, 189 | DIMENSIONS (mm): 137/107/125 | WEIGHT/PAIR: 7 lbs. (182)

FISCHER RANGER 102 FR

$700 – fischersports.com | SIZES (cm): 170, 177, 184 | DIMENSIONS (mm):136/102/126 | WEIGHT/PAIR: 8.8 lbs. (177)

VÖLKL MANTRA V-WERKS

$1,350 – voelkl.com | SIZES (cm): 170, 178, 186 | DIMENSIONS (mm): 135/99/117 | WEIGHT/PAIR: 7.5 lbs. (178)

MOVEMENT ALP TRACKS 106 LTD

$1,000 – movementskis.com | SIZES (cm): 177, 185 | DIMENSIONS (mm): 138/106/126 | WEIGHT/PAIR: 5.8 lbs. (177)

BLACK CROWS CAMOX FREEBIRD

$720 – black-crows.com | SIZES (cm): 160.2, 166.2, 172.2, 178.2, 183.3, 188.3 | DIMENSIONS (mm): 133/96/114 | WEIGHT/PAIR: 6.1 lbs. (178.2)

Grab your copy of the 2019 Gear Guide here.

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