The phenomenon of ever-increasing waistlines, doesn’t just refer to overeating Americans, it also speaks to the trend in fat skis. There are now many options in the over-100 cm waist category that are suitable for backcountry use. At some point in the search for the perfect ski, there will be diminished returns and we’ll settle on a good waist width that’s both versatile and floaty… is 112 mm the “perfect” width? Dunno. How about 120 mm? Not sure. But, we sure as heck won’t know until we try, right?
I equate the expanding ski waistlines to the evolution of mountain bike suspension designs. With bikes, everyone went big and heavy before realizing that even though the downhill was a blast, it wasn’t worth it pedaling a 45 lb. machine up 3000 vertical feet. Now we have 6 inch travel bikes weighing 30 lbs. In the same way, ski widths have increased with each passing season. And, until the “ultimate” ski waist width is determined, I’m just as stoked as the next guy to try them out and enjoy every minute of it–just as I did with big, heavy and squishy freeride bikes earlier this decade.
As I’ve perused the buyer’s guides and talked with other folks in the industry, I’ve got my eye on these three skis as lesser-known but definitely solid options for the backcountry and resorts where it piles up high and deep.
Black Diamond Zealot
Black Diamond is in our backyard here in Salt Lake City. With the introduction of the Black Diamond Havoc a few years ago, BD has been committed to the growing segment and demands of backcountry skiers. They are lucky enough to have the Wasatch Mountains as a backdrop and proving grounds for their new ski designs. In fact, the crew at BD is made up of some of the most die-hard dawn patrollers in the area. They are a hard-charging crew that skis more vertical between 5-9 am than many ski in an entire day.
The Black Diamond Zealot is now the big daddy of the BD ski lineup and is ready to tackle the deep fluff with the best of them. New this year is an all-wood core that will help keep the chatter to a minimum as you are mach-ing down a death-cookie coolie, or carving leftover ice at your local resort. BD definitely has their stuff together and without a doubt the Zealot represents the best of the latest fat ski technology at a reasonable price point. You can read my BD Zealot review or check out the following specs.
- Dimensions: 138/110/127 mm
- Lengths: 182 and 192 cm
- Weight: 9.2 lbs (182 cm)
- Core: Wood core
- Price: $639
- Visit Backcountry.com to purchase a pair of Black Diamond Zealot skis.
Faction is based in Verbier, Switzerland and hence has a strong presence in Europe where the backcountry is big and burly. I first heard about them a few years back, but have recently noticed their stuff and I like what I’m seeing. The new 2008 3.Zero comes in a single length (183cm) and boasts a chubby profile (142/112/132) and a good sidecut (25m radius).
The Faction 3.Zero ski look great. Love the dimensions and the vibe from these guys. Hopefully we’ll get on a pair this winter to get some first-hand feedback. They do have a limited distribution network currently in the States, but they are working hard to remedy that. Looks like Kohla Tirol has made a complete line of skins pre-fabricated for Faction skis. See them here. Here are some specs on the 3.Zero.
- Core: 100% Poplar Wood core
- Dimensions: 142/112/132 mm tip/waist/tail
- Lengths: 183 cm
- Weight: 8 lbs.
- Sidecut: 25 m radius
- Tip/Tail Height: 55/50 mm
- Mounting: 25mm setback for park or 70mm setback for all-mountain
- Warranty: 2 years – WOW!
- Edges: Double-width Rockwell
- Bases: P-tex 2000
- Price: $705
- Visit www.getboards.com to purchase Faction skis.
G3 El Hombre
G3 is one of those great Canadian companies run by cool people located in one of the most beautiful places on earth–Vancouver, British Columbia. With all that terrain to work with, the crew at G3 really cranks out awesome backcountry ski gear that’s both functional and durable. This year, they have joined the super-sized crowd with their own super fat twin tip ski, the El Hombre.
Just when you thought you could stop quoting Nacho Libre, this ski will remind you of all the great Jack Black lines as you trudge up the skintrack. Don’t worry about this ski being forbidden by Encarnacion, but do worry about the countless hours you just might spend on them in lieu of your real responsibilities to work, job and family. If the G3 El Hombre performs nearly as well as the Reverend and Ticket, this ski will pack legendary punch to the next untracked face you pile drive down. Here are some specs on the El Hombre.
- Dimensions: 136/105/124 mm
- Lengths: 170, 177, 185 and 192 cm
- Weight: 8.6 lb (177 cm)
- Core: Wood core with internal and external torsion box
- Base: Sintered
- Tail: Skin-friendly tail notch
- Price: $774.95
- Visit Backcountry.com to purchase a pair of G3 El Hombre skis.
I think I’m ready to watch Nacho Libre again following that little piece of El Hombre. I would be the bane of my touring partners if I was quoting lines from that movie while skinning.