First of all, thanks to Chris Shalbot of evo and Matt Sterbenz & crew from 4FRNT for putting on a super cool demo day up at Stevens Pass yesterday. It was pretty nifty. And I am pretty tired!
Unlike the usual march up to a tent thing for a quick couple laps on a ski, this was more of an intimate demo "event". 4FRNT hauled up a ton of skis - Renegades, YLEs, CRJs, EHPs, and others. Stevens provided a staging room/area. Someone provided lots of Red Vines, Cliff Bars and Red Bull... Our guide for the day was Chris, who is a seriously ripping skier, all around great guy, and knows every nook and cranny of Stevens Pass about as well as anyone.
We gathered and picked skis in the morning, skied as a group until lunch, swapped skis at lunch and then skied until closing. We skied everything from groomer laps to lift served off piste to some hike-to terrain. Sadly, snow quality had deteriorated rather badly since last week. Still, we found a couple good turns among the chunkier cutup and hard stuff. Conditions certainly lent the demo experience some credibility -- no "free rides" for any of the skis (micro reviews below).
For some reason, my camera did not do the world's best job yesterday ( blame the gear... ), but here are a few shots anyway:
evo is running a bunch of these with different manufacturers at Stevens Pass in the next couple weeks. If yesterday is any indication, I expect they will all be worthy. If you are interested in freeride or all-mountain skis from any of these manufacturers, you may want to see if space is still available: Surface, Atomic, K2, Moment, Line, Salomon, Head, Rossignol and Armada. Complete info & registration link is: http://culture.evo.com/2011/03/evos-super-ultimate-ski-demo-days/
These are advertised as geared toward strong skiers. You don't need to be super skier - but based on yesterday, being comfortable on and off-piste and with doing some hiking is a good idea. I'd put myself at the lower end of skill/stamina spectrum for comfort & fun. If in doubt, check in with them. Beacon and pack are "recommended".
FWIW, I skied 3 skis I've been interested in but never used before (me = 210 pounds, enthusiastic but middle of the road off piste skier)
186 Renegade: Full reverse camber w/ sidecut. A pretty serious charging all mountain ski. I liked it. But I found it demanding. Consistent with some reviews at TGR, I found you need to be on top of it & trust it. It probably took longer than it should have for that to sink in. The couple untracked turns I managed to find were smooth and stable. It was shockingly carve-able on groomers. Very pivotable. Not a "laid back" sort of ski. Matt Sterbenz of 4FRNT rocked a pair & made it clear they were killers in chop on the feet of a strong skier.
188 CRJ: Hybrid camber with a "5 point" sidecut profile. It was not love at first turn. I found the transition from smearing to carving a challenge. Even a hint of getting in the backseat & it let you know… I found the tips were very deflected in heavy cutup snow. OTOH, when I got on it "right" there were a few rewarding turns. So, even though I did not feel right at home on it, I would not dismiss it. Several folks who knew the ski indicated it was one of those skis with a bit of a learning curve. I believe it. The CRJ was definitely friendlier in soft snow & downright fun on soft granular groomers.
186 EHP: A quick swap near the end of the day got me one ride on the EHPs. Glad I did it. Based on one run, I'm ready to declare this a pretty awesome ski. They were confidence inspiring from the first turn. I did some decent sized hard pack bumps, cutup off piste chunky snow, and both firm and soft granular groomer sections. The EHPs went where I wanted to go. Stable and sure footed. Despite a big radius, the EHP was easy to get on edge. So while it clearly is not a short radius carving fiend, it was happy to ride big arcs on groomers - more so than I'd have expected. Just based on specs, I've been a shade skeptical of these as an all-around ski due to the huge radius specification. Not anymore - when you can't bend them as tight as you want, they smear just as smooth as could be. Much easier to ski than I expected. I saw just tons of these in Whistler when I was up there a month or so ago & now I know why…
And cloudpeak got out on some...
177 YLE: Low camber hybrid rocker. Pretty symmetrical twin. I did not ski them, but cloudpeak took a pair of these out. Without wanting to put words in her mouth, I think she was surprised at how much she liked these as an all-mountain ski. Think of a Hellbent that went on a waist reduction, firming and rocker smoothing regimen (with a hint of camber added). Based on what I saw & she said, this could be a bit of a sleeper in the category - sure footed and applicable to more terrain and snow than you'd think given its design center.
Edited by spindrift - 3/22/11 at 3:38pm