2010 Bluehouse Maestro
Environment of Conditions:
*Location of review: Tahoe (Squaw)
*Runs Taken: 5 days
*Snow Conditions: Powder, cut-up powder
*Demo or Purchase: Purchase
First some background, Bluehouse is known for cheap skis sold directly to consumers through the web, and also has developed a reputaton as a "dirtbag ski bum" brand. I don't know much details about their skis but looks like the ski has bamboo core with carbon fiber stringers thrown in to shape the flex. The skis certainly felt like that, they are a simple sanwich construction, fairly light, definitely no metal in them, make a distinct "wooden" sound when they bump into each other. Compared to the major brands, in the beginning of the season Bluehouse skis were sold at about 1/2 price, and a bit less discount relative to most indies. The internet feedback tells of many intial quality problems with delamination, poor flex, and fragile topsheets, but it looks like those problems were confined to the first couple of years. BH powder skis also have a hearsay reputation of being soft (not necessarily true).
I was looking for a way to get some substantial experience with the rocker technology, so I jumped on the opportunity to buy a 189 Bluehouse Maestro. This is their "backcountry rocker" model, but in reality it is a 5 point sidedly design with very pronounced early rise early taper tip and tail, some camber underfoot (21m radius). The ski has a 117 mm underfoot, and a fairly symmetric tip/tail width, so a thoroughly modern "funshape" ski. The first surprise when I got the skis was that they were not soft noodles, in fact they are fairly substantial underfoot with relatively soft tip and tail sections. The topsheets are simple, the graphics is polarizing, I think it is quite hideous, but some people told me that they like it.
By now i have about 5 full days on these skis. Keep in mind that I am reviewing a ski that is different from what you get from Bluehouse. My skis came with a poorly ground bases, and edge angles that looked like 0/0, so I had to get a base grind and set the edges to 2/1. The skis are mounted on the BH recommended line.
The softer the snow gets, the better this ski feels. i am completely sold on the tip rocker by now. Skiing untracked powder on those boards is phenomenal, this probably the first time when I can forget about everything and just charge. Last weekend, I managed to get the first tram up at Squaw, and my first run down a relatively untracked Silverado was all effortless turns at high speed- pure bliss. In powder the skis feel like the ski in powder as opposed to skimming on top of it, but the rocker reliably pushes the tips up so you can all but forget about the tip dive. The initiation and turn finish is quick and effortless but not skittish.
I am also surprised how well the low slung tapered tip works in cut up cruddy snow- the tips almost never get deflected and they tend to slice through the crud and whenever the tip hits the pile, it deflects gently and controllably. The combination of light weight, and tip and tail rocker makesfor a very nimble ski, it is very comfortable in narrow chutes, at 189 it is much easier to ski the chutes than on my 180 Mojo 94, and certainly much quicker than my 184 LPR.
The ski is definitely targeted to a skilled skier, if you drive the ski from the front, the ski quiets down and gives you quick and reliable turns. Backseat skiing on them is a bit uncomfortable, you feel like you are riding on the tails and with a rocketed tail it is not a pleasant feeling.
Another revelation for me was the how well the rocker shape works for airs and runouts. I am a sketchy jumper at best, but the landings on Maestros were somehow super-reliable, it almost feels like the skis automatically center you. Last Sunday on the way down at the end of the day I decided to hop off a small cornice, grossly misjudged the speed, flew something that felt about 8-10 feet across the slope and landed into a 2-day old cruddy snow on a popular run, and all that on dead tired legs. No problem. The runout was the same story, the tips and tails flapped quite bit on the bumpy surface, but they absorbed the knocks, and as long as I stayed on my feet I never felt in any danger. That was the same story for a few other bailouts. On my regular ski I would have been in significant danger of catching a tip or being knocked out of balance on any of those.
Groomers- this skin can carve, but the feeling is weird, it is almost like skiing on rather short skis with not a lot of sidecut. If I drive them aggressively, I can make them bang out short turns, but that's work. I also don't have this locked on edge feeling that you get from a good carving ski, more about it in a moment.
Bumps: very good for a 118mm ski, the soft and rockered tip and tail definitely make ski feel shorter and more agile. the soft tips also protect you from stuffing the nose into the bump. I am not the best bump skier, but soft bumps are definitely workable on those boards. Icy bumps would be more problematic because of the edgehold deficiencies, but then I would probably not be on the Maestros.
Things I do not like. First, the bamboo carbon fiber construction may be light, but without metal in the ski the damping is very limited. The more cut-up the snow becomes, the harsher ride you get. It is not that the ski gets deflected all that much, the shape takes care of that; but you feel every bump in the snow, and that gets uncomfortable in no time. I have not skied it on ice, but I feel that would be pretty horrible; on the other hand I have other skis for that. Second, I don't feel that the ski has enough torsional stiffness, that also contributes the a vague carving feeling. I thought that it was the result of poorly set edges, but a tune did not improve carving much. So there you have a what is effectively a 165 cm ski that is 117mm underfoot, 21m sidecut and torsionally weak- not a great carver indeed. The nearly symmetric geometry also contributes to a poor/weird carving feeling.
I am still uncertain on the tail rocker issue. I'd like the extra security and snap you get from the flat tail, in the other hand, I am impressed how the tip/tail rocker works on landings, so maybe some small amount of the tail rise is beneficial.
Compared to my regular powder ski, 1st generation Dynastar Huge Trouble. Keep in mind that I am comparing a fairly cheap rockered ski with perhaps the greatest conventional geometry fat ski of all times. In anything new there no contest, I would take the Maestros, the shape is vastly superior. I hopped onto the Huge after a couple of days on the Maestro and I promptly buried a tip on a simple runout, from being too much in front for that ski. The quality damp metal construction of the Huge does have a big edge in very cut-up snow and it feel much more secure on the steeps. So, I would like to find a ski that has the Maestro geometry but is made like a Huge Trouble. Ideally I would start a powder day on the Maestros and finish it on the Huge or a ski like the Huge but with tip rocker.
Other considerations, durability so far has not been a problem, the top sheet has a few chips, but that is normal (the Nordica Blowers that I used to have got a much worse topsheet chip after only one fall). The skis were run over in the lift like by someone who looked like Matt Reardon on new Shiros (Most likely it was Matt Reardon) and the top sheet survived. The few rocks I hit also didn't do any damage. They are certainly not as durable as many metal top sheet skis, but certainly in line with other similarly constructed skis.
Bottom line: A fun ski that is certainly a deal at the list price of $375. The shape is very effective in all kinds of soft snow and the ski is stiff enough to handle real resort powder day skiing. The simple metal-less construction does show up in a jarring bumpy ride in crud, and lack of torsional stiffness and straight sidecut (for a rockered ski) results in just average carving performance. As of now the Maestro is sold out on the Bluehouse site.
Finally, a short video of me on the Maestros skiing Headwall face at Squaw. Wind-buffed soft snow on the top section, transitioning into the bumps on he bottom part. I wish I had the same dedicated cameramen like dawgcatching has, I only got this clip on that day, and of course no videos during the mad powder rush at Silverado. This is Squaw for you...
Height/Weight: 6ft, 189lb
Average days on snow: 0-10, 11-25, 30+
Years Skiing: 0-5, 6-15, 15+
Aggressiveness: Conservative / Moderate / Aggressive / Competitor (pick one)
Edited by alexzn - 3/1/11 at 2:28pm