It is safe to say that the Rossignol S7 has taken the world of powder skis by storm over the last two years. This is the model that has been the highest in demand and shortest in supply during that time. It is also safe to say that the S7 started out in the market a little slowly. There was not much marketing behind the S7 at first, Rossi didn’t have a real high “cool factor” at the time, and it also looked very different than most of the other powder skis available at the time. The current huge demand for the S7 came about slowly at first and it was mostly word of mouth. Later, the S7 received a #1 ranking in a magazine review. After that, it was the ski that everyone wanted but after early December (or so) nobody could get. So, One might wonder……what is all that about?
At the time the S7 came out, there were not very many innovative designs available in the world of powder skis. For sure, there were a few groundbreaking designs already on the mainstream market and some interesting stuff in the independent ski world but there were not all that many readily available choices. When Rossi quietly introduced the S7, it was a nearly unique blend of powder technologies at least from the major suppliers. The S7 took rocker and reverse sidecut (the major components of powder ski design) and carefully blended them without taking any of those technologies to the extreme. The S7 starts with a section in the middle of the ski comprising roughly 50% of the skis length that has conventional sidecut and camber. Moving fore and aft from that starting point, the tip and tail are substantially rockered and the tip and tail are also tapered. This may or may not have been the very first iteration of this combo but it was certainly the first from a major supplier.
I got my first pair of S7s in the early winter of ’09 before it had really caught on. I honestly bought it so that I could put some extended time on it to figure out if this was a good direction in ski design for my personal use. I had previously owned a K2 Pontoon and while it was magical in deep snow it was really not my cuppa anywhere else. At the time that I got the S7, my powder ski Du Jour was a 115mm twin tip ski with low, conventional camber. For the early part of that season, I had gotten got out on the S7 maybe 5-6 times and found that I really liked the blend of characteristics. When the snow was not very deep, the longer conventional section of the S7 felt grippier and more stable than my Pontoons had. Another bonus was that the tip was nowhere near as big and bulky and so the S7 felt more nimble than either the old Pontoon or my current conventional powder skis. I also noticed that in consolidated and or chopped up snow, the tips of the S7 deflected less than the Pontoon did. I didn’t hit a major dump early on and so, while I really liked the S7 better than the Pontoon, I didn’t find it dramatically better than the conventional powder ski I had.
Then came “Big Wednesday”……………………….
On a cold, windy day in February, I hit the day the S7 was made for. It had snowed pretty continuously since late Monday and by Wednesday there was over 3 feet of accumulation, not much skier traffic and some closed roads to boot. I drove up to Sugar Bowl from Truckee that morning figuring there would be less traffic than going to Squaw or Alpine. Sure enough, the factors contributed to deep snow and not many skiers. Skiing into the main area I noticed that Mt. Lincoln was not yet open so I bypassed it and headed for Disney. Disney had been skied a bit but there was no problem finding untracked lines and that is where I discovered what the S7 was made for. The S7 floated the deep snow with a fairly even fore-aft bias and the low resistance from the tapered tip and tail made the ski feel more nimble and turny than anything I had ever been on. The S7 skis very short and for most average sized men the 188 is the minimum length to really consider. Skiing down the nose of Disney, I dropped into a shallow gully where the snow was chest deep and the next four or five turns were nearly blind as the snow billowed past my head. I skied up out of that gully thinking to myself……….SOLD!! The rest of the day was spent exploring all over the area as additional terrain became available and in the tighter spots like in the trees etc. the nimbleness of the S7 really shows up. This type of design allows the skier to slide the skis practically sideways while submerged in the snow. This maneuver can be adopted as a general technique if you choose to or saved as an emergency avoidance or “whoa down” maneuver. Either way, the S7 can be skied in a conventional “powder carve” technique or in this newer “slarve” technique very well. The S7 has decisively proven that a properly designed powder ski does not need to be enormously wide in order to be effective.
The payoff of the balanced design and nimbleness of the S7 is that these factors make it one of the most versatile of the powder specialty skis. Literally anyone from a solid intermediate skier and up can take advantage of the S7. For all its popularity and versatility though, the S7 is not without its weaknesses. The nimble feel of the high tip rise and its taper can cause the S7 to get knocked around a fair bit when the snow gets heavy or heavily tracked out. The soft narrow tail can cause the ski to wheelie out from under the skier if he gets tossed into the back seat a little due to the terrain or conditions. Finally, while the underfoot section of the S7 grips well on firmer snow, the tip and tail can display some significant flappage on firm or rough snow. While these paybacks are valid enough questions for some skiers, the fact remains that most all powder specialty skis display the same things to one level or another and the S7 minimizes these perceived weaknesses better than most other similar skis.