Tag Archives: alpine meadows

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Race Ski Testing 101

Spring is the time of the season that we begin testing skis and boots for the following season. Here are some key reasons why we stress testing now opposed to the summer time:

Snow: When testing products you should test it on a condition that is most similar to what you will be racing on during the season.  This all revolves around the feel of the ski or boot.  Depending on the condition you will find that there can be differences that will/can eventually add up to a time difference in the course and that can be the separation between you winning or losing.

Tune:  Having the ability to test multiple different brands of products with the exact same Start Haus tune.  This will result in you being eliminate the tune as being a variable in the test and making it easier for you to feel exactly how the ski feels.

Product:  Ultimately you are testing skis or boots to see if you are faster than other brands.  When you have the ability to test multiple different skis or boots in one day you are easily able to determine the differences between brands.  This is easy because the snow conditions are the same, tune is the same and now the only differences will be product.

These three key elements are all necessary components to an effective test and deciding which brand is the best performing ski or boot for the athlete.

Ski camps will be taking place over the next few weekends through the Squaw Valley Race Program and Sugar Bow Ski Team; both camps will be open to all other programs as well. If you have any inquiries regarding these camps please contact Start Haus at 530.582.5781 or comment here and we will be happy to assist you the best we can.

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Catch Up: with Keely Kelleher

 

(Photo Credit: Marcus Caston)

By Lesley LeMasurier

Former World Cup Skier, National Champion, and Rahlves’ Banzai Stop Winner.

Only two athletes hold these multi-titles, one male and one female.  Funny thing is, the latter looked up to the former when she was a kid.

Montana Girl

For Keely Kelleher, skier Daron Rahlves is the man.  “I loved going off jumps pretending to be him when I was a kid,” she reflects.  “I tell all the kids I coach now, Just Daron It!

Just Daron It! is something Kelleher has been doing her entire career.  As a young ski racer, Kelleher was on the smaller side of the field.  “All my coaches called me birdlegs.  I could create these outrageous angles, but I was not fast. I developed so much later than most the girls I was racing against,” Kelleher reflects.

Her first year of FIS racing, Kelleher was a mere 95 lbs and pushing her birdlegs to compete against fully developed phenoms, like fellow 1984’s Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn. Kelleher’s road to the World Cup would require unmatched patience and persistence.

Fortunately for Kelleher, she grew up in Big Sky, Montana, where there was no daycare, but the great outdoors.  Her adventures in alternative babysitting took her down steep chutes, long groomers, and eventually, to the junior ski racing circuit. “I was not a J3 standout as far as speed; however, I had a really solid technique built up from freeskiing so much,” Kelleher recalls.

This freeskiing base—acquired on the open mountain, as well as on the Montana waters, where Kelleher excelled as a freestyle kayaker—shaped a solid and daring technique that would eventually take Kelleher to the top of her game.

Just Birdleg It!

In 2003, Kelleher pushed her small frame down foreign mountains, and hit her stride on the speed tracks of the Europa Cup Circuit.  She quickly earned her spot on the USST, proving her worth on some of the toughest, gnarliest speed tracks around, taking several top results across Austria and Italy.

During her first season with the US Ski Team, Kelleher broke one of her birdlegs.  A wing down, Kelleher was grounded for nearly two seasons, and took another few seasons to fully launch again.  In 2009, she scored her first World Cup points.  In 2010, she earned the US National SG Title.

Kelleher retired from the US Ski Team in 2010, unable to bear the chronic pain caused by the injury.  “I was honestly burnt out on managing the pain all the time on hard ice.  My last season I would take 2 runs while all the other girls were taking 10,” she recalls.

The competitive hunger struck during the first season of the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour in 2011.

“I wasn’t ready to be done with competing when ski racing ended so I continue to push myself in skiing. I want to ski terrain that is just as difficult or more difficult than a world cup downhill course,” she says.

Kelleher won her first entry in the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour, taking the Kirkwood stop in 2011.

2012?

Since retiring, Kelleher has set her sights on the Banzai Tour, school at Westminster College, and coaching.  In the summer of 2011, she founded ‘Keely’s Ski Camp for Girls’.  With a group of 22 junior girls ages 12 – 16 and a staff stacked with all-female former Olympians and World Cup athletes, the girls turned Government Camp into Girl’s Camp.

(Coaching Staff: Jess Kelley, Libby Ludlow, Keely Kelleher, Katie Hitchcock, and Tara Hines. Photo: Marcus Caston)

“The aim is to empower girls through ski racing and skiing. The camp motto is ‘Conquering the mountain one girl at a time.’ I see two meanings in it: I want the girls to come away from the camp feeling like they improved—or ‘conquered’—an aspect of their skiing. But the deeper meaning is ‘conquering’ the challenges that ski racing and life throw at them,” says Kelleher.

In addition to her Mt. Hood camp, this spring Kelleher will host a big mountain free ski camp for girls at Snowbird, Utah. The camp will be the first ever of its kind: all mountain, all girls, all time.

Be sure to catch up with Keely Kelleher when the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour kicks off in 2012 at Kirkwood Resort!

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Build it Upside Down

Several years ago, a couple reps, company execs, and sponsored skiers were sitting around a dinner table celebrating the success of a new prototype that would revolutionize the way they made skis. The idea was born out of a frustration with rocker technology, which makes skis playful, but also instable and nervous. Ever the tinkering skier, Arne Backstrom proposed a solution that was simple, yet so profound, it should be written down in the ski book of Zen: Build the ski upside down.

Blizzard-Tecnica unveiled their upcoming 2012/2013 lineup for the first time in California and Nevada before an audience of Tahoe skiers and ski industry leaders at a launch party in Squaw Valley. Like last year’s line of Blizzard skis, next year’s models all embrace Flip Core technology, which was inspired by Backstrom and flips the ski’s wood core upside down so it naturally takes on a rocker shape. Incorporated in the Cochise to the Bodacious to an entire new line of woman’s big mountain skis and beyond — thirteen models in total for 2013 — the genius of Backstrom’s idea is that it can be applied to an entire line of skis, not just one pair. And on Tuesday night, there were many converts in the crowd who now believe in Flip Core.

“If I’m going to sell a product to a friend, I have to believe in it,” said Robb Gaffney, who first skied the Cochise prototype three years ago at Kirkwood, and now skis them nearly every time he goes out. “The first run, I believed it. The second run, I believed it more … He [Backstrom] knew what he was talking about.”

Ski writer Jackson Hogen noted that Blizzard isn’t just on the map, it’s leading the charge with its new technology. “They made it [Blizzard] the most important brand in skiing now, because it’s the reference brand,” Hogan said. “It’s all deserved because it’s product … These things aren’t pixie dust. There’s math involved.” Not just math, there was a curious person who was in tune with his equipment.

“A lot of it came down to this drive to understand how things worked,” said Ralph Backstrom, Arne’s younger brother.

Arne Backstrom was at the top of his skiing career when this idea came forward. And at that dinner table on that fortuitous night, the Blizzard-Tecnica crew was not only celebrating the success of the prototype, but also Backstrom’s skiing career. He had just won the first McConkey Cup and was filming with Matchstick and Warren Miller. It was that night that Stefano Mantegazza, Blizzard-Tecnica product director, proposed that the Bodacious become Backstrom’s signature pro model ski.

“It’s not a tribute,” said Clem Smith, sales rep for Blizzard-Tecnica, about the Bodacious. “This was always his deal. It wasn’t an afterthought.”

Backstrom passed away just as the first line of Flip Core skis went into production. Right before he left for Peru to ski the Cordillera Blanca, Backstrom signed his name five times — a true perfectionist — on a piece of paper that he left with Smith. That signature is now on every pair of Bodacious skis.

“Arne was a man of few words,” Smith said. “But when he spoke, everyone listened.”

New this year from Blizzard is a women’s big mountain line of Flip Core skis, including the aggressive Blizzard Dakota ski, which is the female version of the Cochise. Tecnica is also coming forward with another line of boots inspired by Backstrom’s infamous Frankenboot. The 2012/13 free mountain boots feature interchangeable soles, a walk mode, and can be skied aggressively in bounds or in the backcountry.

“It’s rare to see an athlete have this much inspiration in a global brand,” said Dana Greenwood, sales rep for Blizzard-Tecnica. “It’s got Squaw DNA … [Backstrom] knew it was a good idea, but he never would believe the impact worldwide that he would have.”

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Three easy tips to improve your pow skiing

Nothing is better than waking up and seeing 2 feet of fresh at lake level or the valley floor; especially this season! We’re all pretty comfortable with the light and fluffy stuff but sometimes when the “Pineapple Express” hits, the fresh snow can be dense and heavy. How do you approach these types of conditions? Here are three tips to help make your day more enjoyable if its not as light as you hoped:

1. Allow your skis to plane out of the snow, you may need to aim straight down the hill or at a diagonal to get some speed built up. It will help keep your skis on the surface.

2. Steer your feet and legs progressively, spend just a little more time in the fall line than what your instinct directs you to do. Big, aggressive twisting moves will bog you down and throw you off balance.

3. Shrink your turns to go slower and stretch out your turns to go faster, read the terrain and scope out your line, so you know where you will need to make adjustments to maintain fluidity and control.

And don’t forget to check out our selection of powder skis, all designed to make powder skiing easier and more fun with wide widths, rockered shapes and easier flex patterns: Shop Powder Skis

 

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Looking for hard snow edge grip???

Dynastar has been a major player in the race world with many Olympic and World Championship medals as well as World Cup titles in their long history. This racing pedigree really shows in the Dynastar Speed Course TI. The Course TI wears race graphics, carries a racing binding plate, and shares the wood/metal construction characteristics of the World Cup skis. Despite this, it is in fact a pretty different animal than a pure race ski.  A wider waist width and rounded tail are the first visual clues that this is not just another race ski. The Course TI has a tight 15m turn radius in the 171 size and it is available in sizes as short as a 159 and as long as 183. This is a very good dual event race ski for non-FIS level competitors and also makes a great “cheater” GS ski for Masters racers. The Speed Course TI is even more than this though. This is a very good ski for someone that doesn’t race at all and is looking for a hard snow biased ski for everyday use.

The first runs I took on the Dynastar Course TI was at Winter Park during the annual SIA intro. The main test run there is an FIS homologated GS trail and has very hard snow most of the time. The upper part of the run is relatively narrow and has a moderate pitch. I used this part of the trail to vary turn shapes between short medium and long radius and then back again. The tapered tail released much more easily than the grippy, squared off tails that you find on real race skis these days. Through this exercise the Course felt amazingly comfortable and compliant through changing turn shapes and the turn release was energetic but manageable. As the trail got steeper it also gets wider and in this section of the trail, I opened up the turn radius and picked up the speeds. While the Course TI is easy enough at slower speeds, it really stands out when skied aggressively. The grip was like a razor even on the spots that were scraped off and shiny and the dampening was on par with a World Cup GS ski. The tighter turn radius kept the ski from running out at the turn finish the way a GS race ski would and when I took it out to the edges of the trail it managed the soft crud very well. For the skier or instructor/coach looking for a hard snow specialty ski, it doesn’t get much better or more versatile than the Speed Course Ti.

Skiing at the Sugar Bowl ski resort near Truckee, CA on February 15, 2010.

Using the Ankle as a Hinge

It is important to maintain a centered stance over your skis to work the skis effectively.  While standing on your skis on flat terrain, try moving your body forward and backward over the skis by using the ankle joint as hinge.  This is how we want to re-center our center of mass over the skis.  The goal is to maintain a perpendicular relationship of body to the skis.  When approaching steep pitches it is natural to move your weight back because you are hesitant and maybe a little nervous.  Unfortunately when this happens, you lose the ability to direct and work the ski effectively.  You may find that you are suddenly going faster than you want and may be heading out of control.  When skiing steeper pitches, concentrate on keeping your body perpendicular to the hill by hinging the body forward through the ankle joint, especially at the start of the turn.  This will help to apply pressure on the front of your boots with your shins.  The pressure on the front of your boots is conveyed to the tips or your skis and will allow you to control your skis with more precision.  Skis are designed to perform best when strong forward pressure is applied to start the turn.  It is amazingly easy to adjust the radius of your turns if your weight is centered over the skis.  Don’t hesitate when you hit the steeps – be assertive, move your body down the hill and have fun.

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You can be an even better athlete this winter!

By: Chris Fellows

As director of the North American Ski Training Center and father of three active kids, I don’t have large chunks of time to spend in the gym.  However my skiing performance and fitness is important to me. I’m guessing that’s the way you feel as a passionate skier too?

By staying healthy and fit throughout the season, I can provide my clients with solid skiing instruction and demonstrations and I can keep the wheels from coming off the cart mid-season due to overuse injuries, bad alignment, or illness due to lack of recovery time. Don’t forget well-fit boots and the right skis in your quiver complete the perfect relationship: good fitness, good equipment, and good technique = lots of fun, excellent skiing and reduced risk of injury.  Thanks in advance for reading.

The following tips keep me moving athletically throughout the ski season and help prevent injury.

  1. Exercise fads come and go. Make a commitment to keep fit and make exercise a part of your daily routine.
  2. Posture, good or bad, can effect your athleticism. Pay attention to your sitting, standing, walking and exercising posture.  Poor posture will result in poor performance; good posture will help you perform like a top athlete.
  3. Focus on a strong core for stability and flexible hips for skiing mobility.  Limited range of movement and weak core muscles can over-stress connective tissue.  This will limit your performance and body durability.
  4. In the winter, cold weather tells your body to pack on fat for survival.  Don’t let it go too far. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits and don’t overdo the high carb foods. Diabetes runs in my family and I’ve seen the damaging effects of the disease.  From a young age I have tried to eat healthy and exercise regularly.
  5. The biggest technological breakthroughs in sports in the next decade will include advancements in human performance through food.  This will come in the form of body enhancement foods or super foods.  Like the tobacco industry 15 years ago, the food industry will be under the microscope over the next 20 years and will be expected to clean up its act. Athletes are ahead of the game and are adjusting their diets to exclude starches, sugars, industrial additives, pesticides and dyes.  Athletes’ diets are rich in nutrients and proteins, like raw locally grown fruits and vegetables, nut, whole grains, yogurt and smaller portions of meat.
  6. Change up your work out intensity.  Mix up your high intensity days with low intensity days and don’t skimp on sleep for total body recovery.
  7. Ski athletes focus on total body work outs. The best weight training program for ski athletes is NOT the muscle specific routines of bodybuilders, but instead sessions that work out the whole body.
  8. Keep your aerobic engine active throughout the winter.  You aerobic levels will slowly dwindle if you forget to get a run in, go for a cross-country ski or backcountry climb regularly.  Your aerobic fitness is the furnace that fires your athletic abilities, without it you are running on fumes.
  9. When crunched for time, up the intensity of your work out. Skip rope fast for ten minutes or do 100 split squats for a personal best time. High intensity workouts will force the issue and teach your body to adjust to high power output.  Skiing is high power output.
  10. Energize yourself with the youth!  Work out with people younger than you.  My kids force me out of my comfort zone.  “Daddy try this trick on the tramp”, or “Dad, race me to that pole and shimmy to the top, let’s see who wins”.  Younger partners will make you rise to a higher level of performance.

Most importantly, remember to have fun with your workouts. This is the single largest indicator that you will continue them regularly throughout the ski season and off-season.

The USST women training downhill with 2 wm from the Spanish Team at Portillo, Chile September 18, 2007.©J.Selkowitz/SelkoPhoto

Transferring from Tahoe League to Far West or The first time Far West racer

You have spent a couple of seasons racing Tahoe League and are ready to make the transition to Far West/USSA races. Or, you are a first time Far West racer this season.
Here are six items to help you get started.

  1. 1.        You will need a USSA and Far West membership, required to participate in a Far West race.
    1. Go to the USSA website, www.ussa.org .
    2. Find the drop down menu on the right hand side of the screen, “membership tools” and then choose “become a member.” You can choose to do an online registration (the fastest way to complete a membership) or you can download an application, fill it out and mail it in.
    3. Please note that after October 15th any returning Far West and USSA membership is assessed a late fee. The first time you become a member there is no late involved.
    4. 2.        Far West Skiing website, www.fwskiing.org. This is our local division’s website and is where you will find all of the information you need regarding race schedules, scholarships, upcoming events and articles. Please become familiar with this location, and cruise the site for a bit. You will want to locate the ‘competition’ tab so that you can go to ‘schedules’ and then click on your age class schedules page. (You will see the age class breakdown below)

Junior Racing

Age Classification is based on your age as of December 31, 2010

            MID      20 and older (born 1991 and earlier) **                J3         13, 14 (born 1997-8)

            J1         17, 18, 19 (born 1992-94)                                   J4         11, 12 (born 1999-2000)

            J2         15, 16 (born 1995-96)                                         J5         10 & younger (born 2001 or later)

 

  1. 3.       Sign up for your Age Class Email Hotline! This is the best way to receive an email regarding information for your age class racing group. You can subscribe to this email by clicking on your age class on the homepage of the Far West website. The Far West Office throws out emails for upcoming deadlines, scholarships, important announcements, etc.
  2. 4.       Signing up for a race. This is different from Tahoe League as you will now sign yourself up for each race, unless otherwise noted by your program. You can do this through the online process or via a faxed in or mailed in entry. For a detail of how to sign up please see below.  There are late fees assessed for registering late, so please take a look at the race announcement early!
    Online registration via www.alpinereg.org
    1. Download the race announcement and waiver from the race schedules page on the Far West website. Read the announcement for date and registration details. The waiver must be faxed in and should be provided to your coach to take to the team captain’s meeting, too.
    2. Go to www.alpinereg.com
    3. Click on California Nevada
    4. Choose the host mountain or club from the drop down menu.
    5. Click on the “register now’ button.
    6. Enter your athletes USSA number, beginning with the F (which stands for Far West)
    7. If this is the correct athlete then please click ‘continue to register’, if not go back and retype
    in the number.
    8. Click on the state on the right hand side.
    9. Click on the club/mountain – if that club or mountain does not show up then they are not
    accepting online registration and you will need to follow the registration directions on the
    race announcement.
    10. Choose a race by adding it to the cart.
    11. Complete steps 7-10 until you have added all race days to your cart. Follow directions
    to check out.
    12. FAX IN THE WAIVER TO THE RACE ORGANIZER AND PROVIDE IT TO THE COACHES
    TO TAKE TO THE TEAM CAPTAIN’S MEETING JUST IN CASE.


Faxed/mailed in entries:

1. Download the race announcement and waiver from the race schedules page on the Far West website. Read the announcement for date and registration details. The waiver must be faxed in and should be provided to your coach to take to the team captain’s meeting, too.
2. Download an alpine entry card at the top of the schedules page.
3. Fill out the information on the alpine entry card.
4. To pay for the race you can either create your own credit card authorization form, or place
it on the ‘date paid’ line, or send in a check. Please write legibly.
5. Fill out the waiver for this event location.
6. Fax/mail in the waiver, payment and the alpine entry card to the race organizer.

  1. 5.       Confirm with the coaches! The most important thing that you as a parent and athlete can do is communicate with your coaches regarding your race and training schedules!
  2. 6.       The Far West Office is always available for help. Have any questions? Call Lucy Schram, Far West Divisional Manager,  in the Far West Office at 530.559.4130 or send an email to lucy@fwskiing.org

Enjoy and have a wonderful season!

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Introducing the LINE Influence

Influence 115:

The Influence 115 for 2012 is a modified version of last year’s Prophet 115. The new version comes with a slightly softer flex and a bit more pronounced rise in the tip rocker section. These are important changes as the Prophet was a little too stiff to really shine in light, deep snow and it was a little too wide for the preferences of many big mountain skiers for a daily driver ski. The changes have clearly benefitted the new Influence 115 and made it a much better powder than it was last year.

I tested an Influence 115 on two different occasions during March of 2011 when Tahoe was getting heavily pounded by big storms. Both times I noted that the 115 floated well and turned readily enough when in the deeper snow but it just wasn’t as nimble or maneuverable as softer double rise skis. On the other hand, when I skied out of the deep stuff and into shallower crud or back onto the groomers, the Influence was one of the most solid feeling skis in this width category. The Influence 115 illustrates the conundrum that ski makers have to face when building skis in this width range. The question is whether to build a little stiffer ski with less rocker so it excels in crud and heavy snow, or do they add more rocker and taper and make it softer and more nimble in the deep stuff. Of course the consumer expects both things but that isn’t reality. Everything is a compromise the Influence 115 is a blend of powder float and big mountain stability. If a skier wanted a ski inb this width range for everyday use, the Influence 115 is one of the best choices.

Influence 105:

The influence 105 is a new model for Line this year and this ski fills a position in the lineup that Line did not really have in the past. The “big mountain” ski as we define it is basically a large economy size all mountain ski. By that, we mean a ski that has a mix of all mountain ski characteristics but in a width (approx 102-108mm) that is close to powder ski territory. The Line Influence 105 fits right into that mold. The 105 is of course, 105mm wide at the waist and uses Lines Metal Matrix topsheet. This gives the ski a medium-firm flex that helps it to power crud and grip well on the groomers. The Influence 105 has a fairly low rise to its rockered tip so that it lifts a little better in softer snow without detracting much from the feel on harder snow.

I got the chance to test the Influence 105 at Sugar Bowl on a Wednesday in March 2011 at the Sugar Bowl ski resort. It had snowed Monday night and part of Tuesday but then had cleared up and the powder was pretty well skied out. It was very cold Tuesday night and the wind blew so the snow had blown around and filled in, but had also compacted some. By Wednesday, the conditions were vastly different on different aspects of the resort. This is the type of day when you sorta want your powder skis for the deep spots and you sorta want your all mountain skis for the crud, wind pack and groomers. That is the catalog description for the “big mountain” ski as it is the blend of both those two categories. There are a few truly great skis in this category and the Influence 105 is one of the best. Skiing into the main area from a fringe parking lot, you have a couple of lift rides and some groomers to deal with and the Influence 105 feels solid, stable and relatively grippy in GS turns. When I got to the top of the Disney lift I cut right through the trees to get to the east face bowl where the wind had filled in yesterdays tracks. The snow was about mid calf and had some substance to it because of the wind compaction. The Influence 105 sliced this stuff with ease and the early rise kept the tip from hooking when I hit a patch that was little heavier than the surrounding snow. Down lower, I dropped into a gully where the snow had collected but was not compacted much. This was pretty deep stuff and the influence skied through it with ease but certainly not with the float that you’d get if you had on a wider and softer ski.  Later in the day on the Lincoln lift, I got into a steep pitch that was heavily skied out. Here, the 105 made short radius turns quickly enough but the nimble feel of some narrower all mountain skis was lacking. This test day really explains the category of “big mountain” skis very well. While it lacks the flotation of the pure powder ski, and the nimbleness of the all mountain ski, the Influence 105 blends those two characteristics very well. It is certainly no accident that many big mountain competitors choose skis in this range as their competition ski and also as their daily driver.

Check out the Line Influence product pages and order on our website:

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Its baaaacccckkkkkk, the Rossignol S7!!!

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.