(Last Updated On: March 6, 2014)
Several weeks ago, Frank and I participated in the “On-Snow” at SIA, were we spent a day demoing some of next year’s line up of skis. While it’s difficult to tell the true nature of a ski in just one or two runs and limited resort conditions (bumps, hard-pack, and a little bit of chop), there are certain characteristics of skis that can be felt immediately. So, here’s my take on the skis I had the opportunity to test out that day.
For the sake of comparison, am a 5’3″ skier, weighing 125 lbs.
1) Dynastar Cham 107, Women’s, 175 length|
After speaking with the rep the day before, I had high hopes for this ski. That’s largely why I tried it first. Designed with a rockered tip but flat pintail, I tried this ski with the backcountry in mind. I found it to be snappy, yet somewhat damp when it needed to be. To my surprise, it actually skied okay in the bumps, while also carving fairly well on ice. But, I still couldn’t ever let loose on this ski. The tail was undeniably hooky and it wasn’t due to a bad tuning job. Dynastar prides themselves in the stiff tail they’ve designed as part of the Cham ski. But, in my opinion, this stiff of a tail makes the ski unbalanced. The stiffness of the tail seemed to throw me back-seat and it seemed as though was was continually throwing myself forward to drive the next turn.
The Cham line-up for next year includes the original Cham as well as a Cham HM, which is a 25% lighter Paulownia wood core version, intended more for backcountry use. What turned me on to this ski, was that the women’s version is not a less stiff, less beefy version of the men’s. Frankly, I’m sick of that. Instead, they used the same basic construction and sidecut as the HM, but changed the center of the ski just a bit to adjust for a women’s lower center of gravity. But the biggest thing differentiating this women’s ski from the HM is the graphic. The women’s Cham will come in 4 widths: 107, 97 and 87. The 107 will come in lengths of 157, 166, 175, and 184.
2) Rossignol Soul 7, 172
Being an S7 owner and lover, I was quick to try something in Rossi’s new “7” line-up. Similar to the S7, this ski has both a rocker tip and tail, with considerably less rocker to the tail than the S7. The Soul 7 is also made of a different, lighter core, constructed from Paulawnia wood. To also drop some weight but keep some of the stiffness, Rossignol added Air Tip technology, where the tip of the ski is constructed with a honeycomb design filled with air. This is intended to help the notorious tip flap of the S7’s. Because of this design, the Soul skied like a lighter version of the S7, which showed as it seemed quick to respond in the bumps. But bear in mind, the Soul is not a light ski. But, I don’t consider that to be a bad thing. Though the Soul 7 seemed to carve fairly well, it’s carving capabilities are noticeably less than the S7, probably due to less sidecut in the design. Still, the Soul 7 is a good all-round ski. Dropping some of the excessive weight that is inherent in the original S7 will open this new line of skis up to more skiers and more uses, particularly in the backcountry.
Rossi has totally redesigned their free-ride series and the S7 is no longer in the mix. Admittedly, I’m sad to see the S7 go. I asked one of the Rossi reps why Rossi decided to stop production of a ski that was both extremely popular and totally revolutionized the ski industry after only 5 years of production. Here was his response: “The original S7 was introduced in 08/09 and ran through this current 12/13 season for a 5 year run total. Obviously it and the Super 7 (which included metal and a 195cm option) have been a huge success during this time. Building off of this success, the new 7 Series is just the next progression, featuring new athlete-driven innovation and design. Adding the new Soul 7 (106mm underfoot) helps address what we see as a fusion of backcountry, freeride and freestyle categories and features a waist width we haven’t had in the line in the past. Great success at 98mm (S3) and 115mm (S7) but nothing in between those previously. We have the new Super 7 (116mm underfoot) which will still be the more powder-centric ski and has very similar dimensions as the S7 and previous Super 7.”
But note to S7 fanatics: Not only is the S7 ski no more, but so is any ski with those dimensions. Both the Super 7 and the Soul 7 have less sidecut. The S7 dimensions are 145-115-123, compared to the Soul’s 140-116-130, and Super’s 136-106-126. I desperately wanted to try next year’s Super 7, but they had nothing remotely close in my size. Still, I think Rossi has produced a good line-up and I think they are moving in a positive direction.
Rossi also has a women’s specific line-up. Similar to Dynastar, they decided to abandon the idea of a lighter, wimpier ski for the ladies. (Finally, somebody listened!). Instead, it’s all the beef, but with more beautiful graphics. The Star 7 and the Savory 7 are the women’s versions of the respective Super 7 and Soul 7. The women’s specific models also come in different, slightly smaller, sizing options than the men’s.
|Black Diamond Amperage, 175
I decided to test this ski because it’s dimensions and rockered shape are very similar to my beloved S7’s. Yet, it was considerably lighter. BD delivered, and this was by far my favorite ski that I tried all day long. Similar to the S7, the Amperage pivots on a dime, but can still arc a huge turn on hard pack and ice. The rockered shape of the Amperage also allows it to float easily over crud – I hardly noticed it was there. Being a lighter ski compared to the S7, I thought that this ski might not hold well at high speeds. I was wrong. The Amperage holds it’s own in all conditions. Before testing this ski, I envisioned the Amperage as a good choice in the backcountry. Not only do I think it would make a great backcountry ski, but it skis great at the resort as well!
The Amperage sizing options are as follows:
The BD line-up isn’t changing a whole lot, but a major change has happened in the construction. BD’s skis have traditionally been made using cap construction. But, the 2013-14 line-up features vertical sidewall construction. This makes their skis more torsionally stiff. In addition, BD has stiffened the tail on the Amperage to give the ski more power.
|Black Diamond Element, 175
The Element is the women’s version of the Amperage. The ski is a little lighter and less stiff than the men’s. To me, it felt equally playful as the Amperage and even quicker to respond in bumps, but the decreased stiffness made the ski a bit less damp through cruddy conditions. However, it held up surprisingly well at high speeds and held a great carve through the hard-pack. Overall, however, I preferred the Amperage.
|La Sportiva High 5, 178
After hearing fantastic reviews of this La Sportiva ski, I’ve been wanting to test the High 5 for well over a year. This ski features an early rise rockered tip with flat tails, and skin attachments on both ends of the ski, making this ski a perfect fit for the backcountry. The High 5 has traditional camber underfoot and a fairly large side-cut. It is noticeably light, which tends to scare me away. I gravitate toward heavier skis that can plow through choppy conditions and hold a solid edge on ice. But the High 5 showed me that a light ski indeed can be a crud-crusher and ice-carver too. I also noticed that this ski liked turns to be initiated from the toe, whereas many newer rockered skis seem to like turns to drive from near the middle of the foot. The High 5 did not perform well in zipper-line bumps, but these kinds of bumps shouldn’t be present in the backcountry, for which this ski is intended. For a fairly light backcountry set up, the High 5 is a win-win.
The High 5 comes in three sizes – 168, 178, 188. The radius of the ski changes with the length as each ski has fixed dimensions of 135/105/125.
|DPS Yvette 112, 168
DPS has a good reputation and they have done a lot for the ski industry as a small manufacturer. Still, I can’t help but notice that everyone I know who owns DPS skis tends to ski in the “backseat” on these skis. Get these same people back on some other non-DPS skis and they don’t tend to be in the backseat anymore. All the same, I tried to like these women’s skis the best that I could. With a rockered tip and tail, but traditional sidecut underfoot, the specs of the Yvette look like something I would love. But, the only thing I liked about them was their pink color. They don’t carve very well, instead they like to slide. The Yvette’s are hard to maneuver in bumps and are not damp enough to feel good in the chop. Furthermore, turns seem to initiate from the rear of the ski (very similar to the Cham), and – who would have thought – they threw me in the backseat. It’s possible that some of what I was feeling was the result of the ski being much shorter than I prefer. However, a longer testing size was not available.
The Yvette comes in two sizes- 168 and 178. The dimensions are 138/112/126.