Tag Archives: Rockered skis

blizzard13

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.”

pollard_slash

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:

S7_1

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.

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The new 2012 Volkl RTM 84

Click Here to see the updated Volkl RTM 84 Review

The entirely new Volkl RTM 84 is the successor to the long running line of AC 4/AC 40/AC 50 skis that date back several years.  Those past models were pretty stiff at the start and got continually stiffer as the years passed.  Recent skis like the AC 50 may have been dubbed “All Conditions” but they were not much good outside of firm, packed slopes.  The RTM 84 changes all that and does so in a big way, this is not just an incremental change to an existing model.  At first glance, the raised shoulders and top deck geography look fairly similar to past skis of the AC group but when you pick one up and flex it, it feels very different.  The flex of the RTM 84 is still pretty firm but it is much more balanced and somewhat softer than in the past.  In addition, the RTM 84 uses Volkls’ ELP full length rocker.  This is a continuous tip to tail rocker profile and is one of the very few skis in the narrower widths that uses rocker like this.

I first skied the RTM 84 at Winter Park on very hard snow.  Given the past history of the AC 50, I had placed the RTM into the hard snow biased group for testing.  The first few turns on the flat part of the trail were a little disconcerting.  At lower speeds and with low edge angles, the lack of a cambered section made the RTM feel a little indecisive.  It didn’t really turn out to be detrimental, it just felt odd at first.  As speeds picked up, so did the edge angles and the more angle that was applied the more stable the ski felt and the more positive the engagement became.  As the trail dropped lower, the pitch got steeper and the snow got harder.  The RTM displayed plenty of grip and tended to blend turn shapes very well.  In the transition between turns, the ski released very easily with a modicum of energy.  The older AC models were favorites of some skiers but personally, I always found them to a little too stiff and a bit too much work for my own liking.  At the bottom of the test run at Winter Park, I reflected that I personally liked this new ski far better than I had the older versions.

Later in the season, when the Demo events moved west, I had the chance to try the RTM again.  Here, the ski was thrown in with some mostly softer, mixed snow skis models in similar widths.  While the RTM 84 was not as good in bumps and softer snow as the more soft snow biased skis, it was manageable, stable and predictable.  Probably most important of all it did not require a lot of energy from the skier to get the ski to flex.  The RTM 84 did its best in crud at medium or higher speeds where the firmer flex allowed it to push through choppy conditions with ease.  The Volkl RTM 84 is still a ski with a slight bias toward hard snow but it is vastly better at a wide range of mixed conditions than the older models that it is replacing.

Blizzi

Experience the Blizzard Bonafide

The Blizzard Bonafide comes in at 98mm at the waist and features the “Flipcore” construction of the Freemountain line.  The Bonafide has conventional camber in the center section of the ski with modest tip and tail rise and 2 ½ sheets of metal.  This construction with layered metal laminates allows Blizzard to build a ski with a thin profile.  This thin profile along with a lightweight center stringer in the core allows the Bonafide to be much lighter than expected for a ski with this much metal.

My first experience on the Bonafide was at Squaw Valley in early January on very hard snow.  The layered metal gave the Bonafide near ice-pick grip in the conventional cambered section and the ski was remarkably damp on the near bulletproof conditions.  Rolling in and out of varied turn shapes, it was easy to see that that the Bonafide changed turn shapes easily and would finish turns smoothly regardless of the radius.  The even flex blends the rockered sections into the overall construction so well that even on the hardest snow conditions, the tip feels  connected and the tail felt grippy and basically conventional.

I was so impressed by the Bonafide that I ordered a pair in 180cm for the rest of the season and spent much of the remainder of this heavy snow year on it.  The Bonafide handles soft crud or heavy crud remarkably well and deep powder exceptionally well for a 98mm ski.  In one instance at Mammoth, I got the Bonafide into some chalky refrozen crud that had a little skiff of chalky windblown snow over the top of it.  The Bonafide initiated easily in this very rough snow and released without getting hung up on the coral heads.  I even tried the 187 length in those conditions and found that it felt very nimble and maneuverable considering the length.  The Bonafide grips as well in the cambered section as any conventionally cambered ski in this width range and yet rolls in and out of crud, junk and powder with the ease that you’d expect from a ski with tip and tail rocker.  The fact that the Blizzard Bonafide does all these somewhat contradictory things so well is a tribute to the effectiveness of the “Flipcore” design.  This truly remarkable blend of characteristics makes the Bonafide one of the most versatile skis that I have ever skied on and makes it a huge winner in the very competitive 98mm width range.

See the 2013 Blizzard Bonafide Review

Shiro_Wide

Introducing the 2012 Volkl Shiro

This 2011 season turned into one of the most powder filled seasons in the history of skiing.  The “Season of Powder” continued long into June, with local skiers still getting face-shots on the 6th of June.   Needless to say, the Volkl Shiro was the perfect tool to for those insanely deep days we had Squaw and across the country this year.

My first day on the Shiro was in February during one of the biggest storms of the season.  To put this into perspective I’m 6’5” and the snow was above my chest.  Although the Shiro is not the widest powder ski on the market it provided an unrecognizable amount of float.  The tips of these skis are nearly impossible to burry!   This ultimately is due to the tech that Volkl has associated with the Shiro.  Volkl has brought together the best tech within powder skis to build the Shiro.  So let’s brake this down the Shiro has fully rockered construction, giving you maximum float without feeling “planky”.  From there Volkl knows that taper in a ski like this is key.  The taper of the Shiro is what allows it to provide more float than almost any other ski within the category.  This allows the skis to feel extremely “surfy” in even the deepest of snow.  Top it off with some additional carbon fiber and a sensor wood core and you have one of the raddest powder skis……ever.  However most importantly I left Squaw Valley that day with a smirk on my face that lasted for days to come.

Later in the season I had the opportunity to go cat skiing with the local Volkl crew and the Pacific Crest Cats.  That day led to the coining of the term “Shiro’ing” (the distinct act of shredding powder on the Volkl Shiro), a name that is very well deserved.  I cannot imagine a better ski to take on a trip like this; we had tight trees, wide open faces, steep spines and endless amounts of fresh powder.  The performance of the Shiro was phenomenal.  It smears a turn when you tell it to, it has the performance to rip big turns on open faces and the ability to stomp any cliff you may drop.  This ski has the potential of becoming one of the most sought after powder skis within the industry.  The Shiro makes skiing powder effortless.  Whether you are looking for your first ski to venture into the deep stuff with or you are ripping spines in Alaska, the Shiro should be part of your quiver.

K2

2012 K2 Pon2oon Review

The Pon2oon is the second generation of the venerable Pontoon model; the brain child of the late Shane McConkey.  This is the first major redesign of the ski that arguably popularized the trend toward big, rockered skis for powder.  While there is no doubt that the Pontoon set the trend, the original design has become a bit dated.  Newer designs have brought some serious competition to the genre and the new Pon2oon addresses the market very well.  The Pon2oon has a much longer conventional section in the center of the ski along with lower rocker at both tip and tail.  The result is a ski that retains most of the near magical powder performance of the original, but with dramatically improved stability when the snow is not waist deep.

I first skied the original Pontoon some years back on a day when it had rained over an 18” storm, not your ideal powder day.  The Pontoon handled the thick heavy snow with ease and it really showed me what the concept was all about.  In the years since then, the Pontoon was right at the top of the heap of powder specialty skis but getting to and from the powder or skiing in just a few inches of snow was not a great experience for my tastes.  This year with the new upgrade I was eager to test the new design but it took much of the year for me to hit the right day when I had deep snow and a new Pon2oon available all at the same time.  Finally it happened and it was worth the wait.

The capabilities of this new ski in deep snow are not dramatically different than the old version, but its non-powder characteristics are remarkably better.  The new Pon2oon is notably more stable and predictable in shallow snow, crud and is even reasonable on hard packed snow.  This can be directly correlated with the fact that K2 has stiffened the Pon2oon throughout the entire ski.  Previously the Pontoon was a relatively soft ski, and although that made for a superior powder tool it made for a difficult ride on hard pack or broken snow.   The new Pon2oon is a great upgrade.  This upgrade has not only increased hard snow performance, but also deep snow performance.  The ability to stick landings and let the ski run out at higher speeds has dramatically increased.  The effortless floatation that the Pon2oon provides is as good as it gets, no questions asked.  For the tastes of most, this will remain to be a powder specialty ski, but for the majority this will be far more versatile than the original Pontoon.   The Pon2oon does not ski as short as the old one, but the 189 is still the best size for average to heavy male skiers.

flipcore

Blizzard Flipcore Explained

When Blizzard built the new Freemountain series for 2012, they really threw out the rule book on ski construction. Most skis have their camber and especially their rocker shaped via heat and pressure in the molding process. This creates the shape, but it also creates stress in the core which translates to uneven pressure distribution when the ski flexes. The Blizzard “Flipcore” skis take the opposite approach by using a core that is basically built upside down. The molding process then does not have to place stress into the core when the rocker is shaped. The effect is a more even pressure distribution from tip to tail. The result of the Flipcore technology is a group of skis with remarkably even flex characteristics and a flex pattern that marries perfectly with the sidecut and the rocker profiles. The Flipcore models from Blizzard were the skis most universally accepted by our staff as personal favorites. When we select our personal winners each season, it is seldom that there are several models from the same brand and even more seldom that the appeal is so universal.