SKIING 101: Safer Skiing – The Case For Fatter, Rockered Skis

First option: Ski very fast. You’ll need to ski fast enough to get the tips to plane above the snow (just as a water skier needs enough speed to get up out of the water). The problem is that a tool like this (skinny skis) that only works when it is skied really fast should only be used by advanced or expert skiers who are skilled enough and confident enough to shred terrain at mach-looney speeds.

The irony, however, is that most of the skiers who are good enough to pull this off have already embraced wider, rockered skis that are easier to ski, while many intermediate and beginner skiers are still struggling on their narrow, outdated setups, unaware that their skis are making the sport exceedingly difficult for them.

SKIING 101: Safer Skiing – The Case For Fatter, Rockered Skis, BLISTER
Jason Hutchins is good enough to ski skinnies, he just typically prefers not to. (Here, he's on the tip and tail rockered 4FRNT YLE.)

Second option: Get in the backseat. If you lack the confidence or the experience to ski fast, the only way to make it down the mountain in relatively deep snow is to lean back on your heels and weight the tails of your skis. This will prevent your tips from diving under the snow and catapulting you over the front of your skis—fun as that sounds.

Of course, the problem here is that leaning back makes it very difficult to turn, since skis are designed to turn by applying forward pressure to the front edges of the ski. Even worse, weighting the tails of the ski forces the skis to rocket out from beneath you, pushing you even farther into the backseat and causing you to go even faster. (Super fun!) So now you are leaning way back, picking up more and more speed, and becoming less and less able to turn. (Gaining speed while losing control = Good times for sure!)

It should be obvious that there is nothing especially fun or safe about the above scenario.

Wider skis provide the additional surface area to keep you from getting bogged down in deeper or heavier snow, allowing you to ski – and turn – at speeds within your comfort range.

Rockered skis – skis with shovels, tips, and sometimes tails that begin to rise up earlier than traditional skis (picture the legs of a rocking chair) – also diminish the likelihood of tip dive, allowing you to ski in a more centered or slightly forward position, still weighting the front of your skis and maintaining your ability to turn.

Rockered skis tend to get their tips caught or “hooked” less by grabby snow, further increasing your ability to turn when you want, and not when you don’t – no more sudden crashes or face plants due to “catching an edge.” (This is all starting to sound pretty good, no?)

But what about those times when it hasn’t snowed in forever?

In hardpack conditions, skinny will generally work better than fat. But these things are relative, and ski manufacturers have been increasingly dialing the hardpack performance of many fat skis.

Not too long ago, a 98mm waisted ski was about as fat as you could buy. Today, a 98mm is what we call a “mid-fat” or all mountain ski, and there are a number of skis in the 95-115mm width range that carve quite well (e.g., Rossignol Experience 98; Nordica Girish; DPS Wailer 112RP), and a number of 120+mm skis that carve well enough; you won’t mistake them for a 68mm race ski, but you can definitely have fun on them as you make your way on groomers back to the chairlift (e.g., the Armada AK JJ or the Black Diamond Megawatt).

SKIING 101: Safer Skiing – The Case For Fatter, Rockered Skis, BLISTER
Robin Abeles, skiing nasty boilerplate death ice in the Wasatch in July, on the 112mm underfoot DPS Wailer 112RPs.

If you have been a bit puzzled or intimidated by wider, rockered skis, don’t be. These ski shapes are not just some passing trend, they are key design improvements that have taken ski engineering to the next level. If you like to ski, you owe it to yourself to try some out. Snow conditions that you previously struggled through will become much less tricky. You will be able to ski faster and turn quicker, with more control and more confidence. And this is when skiing really gets fun.

Safer, easier, more fun. What more could you want?


In our next article in the GEAR 101 series, ROCKER 101, Marshal Olson is going to take the next step and explain all the relevant terms you need to know: rocker, early rise, camber, reverse camber, etc.

16 comments on “SKIING 101: Safer Skiing – The Case For Fatter, Rockered Skis”

  1. lovely website: very nice on the eyes (font, structure, pics)…hope it goes your way.

    question: what powder ski would you suggest for my skiing style…need one to add to my quiver; considering the atomic automatic (but their min size is 180 and i’m only 168 tall/5’6″), blizzard conchise or gunsmoke.

    currently i have kastle mx78 for groomers, and just at the end of last season purchased the nordica steadfast (90mm waist) for snowier days…i ski mostly cypress mtn here in vancouver bc and whistler…getting more into powder/ungroomed this yr (hope to get out 35-50x again)…

    my style is neither finesse nor aggressive strictly; it varies on how i’m feeling that day….i have been rated an advanced intermediate skier… some ski in the 110-120mm waist range, perhaps, is what i’;m seeking: that is versatile: can handle crud, deeper pow and even ok on groomers.

    thoughts, kindly?

    • Thanks for the kind words about the site, Canali. I think the Cochise or the Automatic would be great choices for you, and I love both skis. The Cochise will be better in firm conditions and at high speed in chop than the Automatic, but the Automatic is definitely better in pow, and handles chop well if you aren’t trying to rage down the mountain. I also wouldn’t worry about the 179cm length in the Automatic – it is an easy, intuitive ski, and I doubt it will be too much for you.

      I’d encourage you to go back and read our reviews of both of those skis, and pull the trigger on whichever sounds most appealing. And let us know how it works out for you!

      • thanks for your help…if i can come across last yr’s K2 Obsethed I just might splurge for model and save some cash….have read good things on that model as well.

  2. Another great article, Jonathan! I am also a huge fan of your site – it’s awesome! Having owned the 78mm mogul skis you refer to in this article (the Dynastar Troublemakers, I believe?) and used them for EVERYTHING for the last 7 years, I just pulled the trigger on a pair of 182cm Belafontes (a ski I’d never heard of by a company I’d never heard of until I read 4 articles about them on your site) and can’t wait to see how that goes (I debated hard with myself about the Bibby Pro too but thought the Belafonte might be a BIT more versatile – we’ll see how long it takes me to convince myself I need it though).

    My wife (who has a very technical style and will ski anything that can hold snow) is considering making a similar jump from traditional skis (Dynastar Intuitiv Big) to something rockered / fatter and is having a similar debate as the one I had. She`s looking at the Moment Bellas (a slimmed-down Bibby Pro) but is somewhat torn between those and the Aramada TSTw (strongly recommended for its versatility by a nearby ski shop that also carries the Bella). Wondering if you guys have a view here or if there are any other skis (women specific or otherwise) that you could recommend – any help you can provide would be much appreciated!

    Thanks and keep the excellent reviews and articles coming!


    • Many thanks, Andrew. And that’s a hell of a jump: from Troublemakers to Belafontes! I’ll be very curious to hear what you think. Bibbys are definitely more fun in deep snow than the Belafontes, but on firm, and in chop and crud, I love the Belafontes…which I guess you already know.

      Now, as for your wife: 1st, it sounds like you married well! 2nd, none of us have skied the damn TST or the TSTw, and that needs to change. Our guys want to ski it, our girls want to ski it…it needs to happen. We’ve heard good things, but can’t confirm or deny. You’ve already read our 2 reviews of the Bella, but the only other ski I’ll throw in the mix are the Line Pandora and the DPS Yvette (exact same as the DPS Wailer 112RP). Hopefully, we’ll have a TSTw review up if we get more snow soon, but I think the Pandora, 112RP, or Bella will likely be a hit, should your better half choose to go one of those directions.

      • So, having now tried-out the 182 Belafonte (I’m 6’2″ and 200lbs but sized down) in mostly firm conditions at Whistler/Blackcomb over the last couple of weeks, I can say that I’m nothing but pleased. Awesome. I can only compare to the Troublemakers but the ‘fonte is excellent (stable and very supportive) at speed on hard pack and in steep cut-up (and sometimes icy) chutes, in bumps of all kinds (they were getting pretty big by the end of our stay), tight trees… yep, pretty much everything. Compared to the Troublemakers, I found it really easy to throw them on edge and scrub speed whenever I wanted and just cruise through [whatever] the rest of the time. My only beef is that the top sheets chip away / get ratched-up pretty easily (but the skis rule so whatever). I never noticed the additional 30mm (per ski) of width underfoot. We did find some soft snow and they were very good in that but I can’t really speak to their powder performance just yet. Once I’ve had some days in deeper snow, I’ll be able to say definitively if I find myself wanting an extra 5cm of ski from a 187; thing is that the 182 does everything else so well that I doubt I would size-up (I`d probably just go get a more powder oriented ski for those days).

        My wife thought the 172 Bella turned very well and she loved how light it was when we were searching for powder stashes; unfortunately, it wasn’t really the right ski for the conditions we had (she was often wanting a stiffer ski, especially in stiffer and sun-affected chop). We both think she’ll like them a lot more in fresh pow (we’re back to looking for a daily driver for her in any event).

          • Hi Jonathan –

            Setting my love of the 182cm Belafontes aside for a “Moment”, I’m very seriously considering adding a pair of Bibby Pros to my quiver to hopefully address the obsession I’ve developed with this ski since starting to read your website (thanks for that, by the way). I’m pretty sure 190cm is the way to go but given how much I like the 182cm Belafontes, I wanted to get your thoughts on whether I should be on the 184cm Bibby Pros instead. I know you’ve covered this ground before, more or less, and don’t want to get in the way of a busy (and excellent) review season so your response doesn’t need to be long or thoughtful (“Go for the 190s.” would be more than adequate), but any thoughts you have here would be appreciated.

            Still hunting for another ski for the missus (expect another posted question on that in the relatively near future!)

            Thanks again,


  3. Hi, really interesting read.
    I ski in the alps and as such dont get as many good snow days. I will be in the trees and deeper snow whenever its there to be skied but I am worried that going for a wider ski will substantially compromise performance on groomers. At the moment I’m thinking of going for skis that are around 100mm waist like the line blend or the moment PB&J.
    Do you think this is the right area to be looking?


    • Hi, Tom. Tip rockered (only) skis that blow my mind on groomers are the Rossignol Experience 98 and the Volkl Mantra – also 98 underfoot. Both are stiff and have plenty of metal, and are effectively fatter race skis. They aren’t super-playful skis, but if you ski very, very hard and fast, they are phenomenal on piste.

      The tip & tail rockered ski that I am most impressed with to date is the Rossignol Scimitar (98 underfoot). I haven’t skied the Volkl Bridge, but the Bridge & Scimitar are very similar, and you might see our reviews of both skis. The Bridge & Scimitar won’t provide the massive rebound of the Mantra / Experience 98, but they are far more playful, pivoty skis.

      I love the PB&J, and can’t speak to the LINE Blend. The PB&J is good on groomers, but not in the class of the other skis I’ve mentioned. Where I think the PB&J shines is in cut up chop, and up to 16″ of pow – whether light or heavy. Hope that helps.

  4. Nice article, but I dont completely agree on the going faster part on traditional skies.
    I ski with Blizzard Titans (pretty skinny, traditional camber, no rocker, but twintip) and you definitely do need a decent amount of speed to make them float! This speed is actually perfect for the short rythmic turns in powder (2 to 5 meters between turns) But a one point when you’re really beginning to go fast in powder (making less turns), the tips start to drag/sink again, and I really need to go in the backseat to prevent me being catapulted 10 meters.
    I don’t know if its my technique???, but I cinsider myself as a expert skier since the ESF (french ski school, one of the best reputations in the world) has asked me to become a teacher for them..
    I just think its one of the properties of the ski, at a certain speed the drag forces become to big and pulls the ski into the snow?

    Anyways my new skies, Rossignol Squad 7 (FKS180 B130), which I bought thanks to the 2 great reviews on this great website, just arrived! :)

    • I don’t disagree, Kevin. I was approaching the issue more from the angle of the beginner / intermediate skier struggling at slow speeds in pow. You’re right that at a certain point, skinny skis will tank – it’s one of the reasons why you didn’t see a whole lot of straightlining back in the days before fat skis.

      And I hope you enjoy those Squad 7s! Be sure to let us know what you think.

  5. Hi Jonathan I am reader from Grece quite far from all you guys. I envy the places you have and are jealous of you for the mountains you have. I have been mostly skiing groomed tracks and trying to get as good,as possible in carving. I’d like to try some powder but I would really be a beginner there. I am quite have 93kg and 190cm. From what I read from your excellent site I was considering of line influence 115. Dps wailer 112, skilogik powderball and atomic automatic I have a ski I use for groomed a. Volkl tigershark 10ft. What would you suggest for me?

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