This past season a crew of Jackson skiers tested a number of do-everything skis for the month of March. The result is the Earlyups Test Sessions, a ski test unlike any other out there… Updated – All skis have been posted. Links and summaries inside.
Earlyups Test Sessions
A real world ski test. For skiers. By Skiers.
It’s that time a year. Nights are getting colder, days getting shorter and the thought of new winter gear titillating the nether regions.
This past March, we tested the latest crop of one ski quivers (skis intended to do everything well). You won’t find any groomer specific skis in this test just like you won’t find any powder specific skis in this test. Instead, we focused on a smaller niche and made sure we covered it comprehensively. In the end, this is the “one ski to do it all” battle royal. A test session that utilized a gaggle of Jackson rippers to beat the hell out of skis that were designed to thrive no matter the conditions one may find in a ski area out West.
Ski tests are an interesting beast. There are so many variables involved, from the snow conditions to the tester’s personal tastes to the number of adult beverages consumed the night prior. It’s hardly a science; it’s a subjective look at something absolutely objective.
Earlyups Test Sessions was born out of frustration with majority of the ski reviews out there. Flogging a ski for 2 runs does not constitute much of a test. On the contrary, one guy’s rambling 3,000 mega essay laden with buzzwords isn’t much more helpful either. Both may influence your buying decisions but really, should they?
The ski test was exclusive (only 13 skis in the test), varied (multiple looks at each ski) and allotted each ski enough time on snow to get a real feel for it. Moving mount points, changing the factory tune, mixing up test location were not just allowed but encouraged. We wanted each tester to ski the ski as if it was his own. After the month was up, we aggregated the thoughts and feedback into these reviews. We’ve done our best to boil down the thoughts to just what you need to know. Borrowing a line from the New York Times “All the [gear review information] that’s fit to print”. You’ll find just what you need to know.
We asked our testers to rate the ski on a 1 (shitty) to 5 (unicorn) scale and answer the most important question of all: would you buy this ski? From there we took the feedback and put it into something digestible – complete with ski specs and a bit of technical background for those inclined.
March was a highly varied month in the Tetons. From big snows to full on corn skiing and everything in between, rest assured these skis were run through the proverbial gauntlet throughout the month.
We’ll be doling those reviews out over the next month. Stay tuned…
Skis in test: (click the link for the full review)
- Armada Invictus – Waist Width: 108 – Rating: 4 Stars – A big mountain competition style ski with very good stability at speed in variable conditions with enough agility to not punish the skier. For a place like Jackson its a hair too skinny to be a perfect do-everything ski though a place that receives less snow it could be ideal. If you have a number of skis, the Invictus is an awesome centerpiece to a quiver. If you are at all jibby/park oriented look elsewhere.
- Atomic Automatic 109 – Waist Width: 109 – Rating 3 Stars – Light weight and easy going, unnerving at high speed but a great option for progressing intermediate skiers or lighter weight skiers looking for something to use as both a touring & inbounds ski. Look elsewhere if you often ski fast in variable conditions.
- DPS Wailer 105 – Waist Width 105 – Rating 3 Stars – A damp, race-room style ski for the ex-racer who stays on top of his/her ski. Another great ski for chalky, variable, skied out conditions. Look elsewhere if you are looking for something easy going, surfy or your mountain gets north of 300″ of snow a year and this is your only ski. Not an overly playful ski.
- DPS Wailer 112 RPC – Waist Widt 115 – Rating 3 Stars – A light, versatile ski. Though it can take some attention at high speed, it is a great option for the precise & technical skier who often tours. Though playful, if you spend much time in the park, look elsewhere.
- 4Frnt Hoji – Waist – 112 – Rating 4 Stars – A rally car of a ski. Though it may lack in conventional groomer performance it excelled elsewhere and allowed the pilot to make any turn shape at any time while retaining a fair amount of stability. This was a stand out ski of the test though reverse camber is not for everyone.
- Volkl 1 – Waist – 116 – Rating 3.5 Stars – Another reverse camber ski, the One proved easy going, surfy and playful in all but the firmest of conditions. An awesome one-ski-quiver for a place that sees north of 350″ a year under the guidance of a more playful pilot. Though it does have a top speed, don’t judge a book by its cover, even those that were not “jibby” or “ex park guys” enjoyed this ski so long as speed was kept this side of “11”.
- Moment Governor – Waist 116 – Rating 4 Stars – A stiff, neutral, no frills flat tailed charger with enough waist to float. A great one ski to do it all if a flat tail is something you prize and you fit theh 186 or 196 size. Look elsewhere if you want the easiest going ski or you aren’t a fan of pintailed skis.
- Nordica Helldorado – Waist 113 – Rating 4.5 Stars – A balanced, damp, playful ski. Enough float for the deep days, enough agility for the harder days. Just beware, the ski is anything but light. A stand out ski in the test.
- Salomon Q-Lab – Waist 109 – Raiting 4.5 Stars – A very versatile ski for a place like Jackson. A great blend of edge hold, stability, float and stompability. Though not the best in any one category it did fit our test very well in that it most certainly is a quiver killer. Look elsewhere if you are jibby or spend any time skiing backwards.
- Line Supernatural 108 – Waist 108 – Rating 3.5 Stars – A playful, neutral, damp, well balanced ski. If your mountain gets less than 350″ a year, and you don’t need anything more than a 185 its a killer ski. If your mountain sees more snow and/or you like longer skis look to the ski’s bigger brother, the Supernatural 115.
- Kastle MX 104 – Waist 104 – Rating 3.5 Stars -A traditionalists ski. A bit too conventional and narrow to be considered a do-everything ski in a place like Jackson. That said, it is excellent in harder conditions and for the skier who prefers to be in the snow utilizing a more old school technique, this could be a great too.
- Blizzard Cochise – Waist 108- Rating 4 stars – A ski that comes alive at speed and comfortable in any environment what seperates this ski from the rest is the ease in which one can release the edge. While a number of “charger” skis remain stable at high speed few can boast the ease in which a skier can shut down/scrub speed like the cochise. Though a bit narrow for a one ski quiver at a place like Jackson, its just big enough to be considered as such. A stand out ski.
- K2 Annex 118 – Waist 118 – Rating 3.5 Stars – For some, the Annex 118 may be a bit on the cumbersome side in harder conditions. A ski that asks the skier be quiet, centered and strong. In deep, the ski crushes. After all, this is the exact ski Seth calls his own…it should come of no surprise it handles soft conditions with ease. Just stay on em.