2013 Blizzard Gunsmoke video review (in all-mountain conditions)
2013 Blizzard Gunsmoke Video Review: 186cm
Ski Tested: the new 2013 Blizzard Gunsmoke, 186cm, mounted with Griffon Demo bindings
114 at the waist, tall rocker tip and tail, no metal underfoot, has a longer camber section
Tested more as an all-mountain ski, due to lack of substantial new snow.
Skier info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, 34 y/o, ski 25-50 days a year (orange jacket); 6 foot 1, 195lbs, 29 y/o, ski 30-50 days/year (blue jacket)
Skill level: solid, can ski most anything on the mountain relatively well. Prefer off-piste terrain: bumps, steeps, trees, good snow (orange jacket). Same for blue jacket guy, although better in bumps, grew up on East Coast
Time used: 3 runs, 6500 vertical feet
About this ski: 186cm, 114 at the waist, tall rocker tip and tail, no metal underfoot, has a longer camber section, than some skis. Stiffer than, say, a JJ. Not a 5-point design like the Cham, although pretty similar in application.
Conditions: a bit of everything. Not much fresh, but there was lightly skied out 3-4” of good snow on top of set up hardpack. Groomers were firm, borderline icy, as it has been warm the day before. Crud was in good shape. Bumps were soft to icy. Found some fresh in 1 run on the backside, but it was only a few inches deep.
Finally got a few turns in on the Gunsmoke. According to the rep, this ski isn't designed as an every-day ski: it is a pow ski, for fresh turns. If you want a typical big-mountain ski that is more versatile for bumps, groomers, and packed out soft snow, look at the Cochise. There is no metal in this ski, but it is pretty stiff. Think “Nordica Hell n' Back” and you get the idea of how it flexes and feels.
This is a dual review: I am speaking for the both of us here. Where our opinions differ, I will note in the review. Mostly, we had similar opinions of this ski.
Review conditions consist more of everyday, little of everything conditions, rather than deep snow, which is what this ski was designed for. Our comments reflect that. I will update when I get them in a good storm.
Similar skis tried recently: Dynastar Cham 107, Rossignol Squad
Comparison skis video:
Off-piste crud, trees, and skied out hardpack: This was first run. The ski was workable here, not optimal. It was lacking a bit of edge grip on the skied out firm snow underneath, and more sliding rather than biting, as either of us would have preferred. Still, it got the job done, and was predictalbe once we got used to the slow engagement onto edge. It was easy to get it absorbing the bumps on the backside of snow piles, and getting it released in the opposite direction. I would describe it as more work than a narrower, more responsive ski would have been, but certainly skiable. No edge loading pop release at the bottom of the turn. You can ski Kevin skiing less aggressively than I was on the narrower skis (Kastle FX94) in the comparison clip; release isn't as down the hill, and skiing is more tentative. Not really a slam against this ski; it wasn't designed as an all-mountain, do everything ski. FWIW, we found the best skis in these conditions to be in the 80-100mm range, with more edge running surface.
Off-piste crud in big, open turns: the ski was more predictable here. Not quite as stable as the beefier, narrower skis were were skiing with metal in them (Kastle MX88 comes to mind), but solid. It did have a bit of an aggressive edge: I found myself getting taken for a ride when I caught an edge more than once. I just had to ski it nice and relaxed, and let the ski absorb the terrain and do the work. Not too active with the feet: just sit in the middle, relax at the end of the turn, and tip it over. The ski does the rest. Not a super high speed limit, as the Gunsmoke did not absorb chop all that well: the video shows we are skiing the same pitch at a slower speed than in the comparison clip (FX104) It doesn't have a super long functional running length in this width. A ski with metal is usually better suited to absorb choppy snow, as a rule. The Gunsmoke also felt “clangy” in bumps: it just doesn't suck them up, as you can see in that bump section on the film. Not a real supple ski. Again, not really a big deal. The Cochise is designed much more for that type of skied out terrain and is much better with respect to absorbing bumps.
Groomers: I don't know why I am listing groomer performance here. It must be because everyone asks me “how is it on groomers”? My answer is “who cares?” I have no idea why anyone would buy a wide ski with tons of rocker for groomers, as it won't hold a candle to a ski more designed for hard snow. With that said, it was a pleasant surprise here. I would rather ski it on groomers than either the Cham 107 or Squad; it felt a little more solid, predictable when it broke loose. Edge hookup was easy and solid, and it held well through out the turn. Turn finish was also predicable, and it didn't have the weird on/off feel that many big rockered skis have. Not a ski I would want to really lay over on edge for hard snow at speed, and it had no energy, nor much ability to be worked tip to tail, but it was serviceable, and definitely above average for a wide ski. In the video, you can see how conservatively I am skiing it. With time, I may have felt more comfortable on it for groomers. With that said, I am sliding more than carving: it doesn't give you confidence to really hook it up. You can see in the video that we are skiing it without too many issues; the snow was a little soft over bulletproof, so it did hold quite well. No worries if you have to ski a groomer to get back to the lift, and if it is a soft snow day, you might even find it is pretty decent.
New snow: this is where the ski comes into it's own. Even though we only had a few inches, it showed it's potential. I wouldn't say it was better than the other skis we tried (just not enough snow to make a difference, as 4” of new over hardpack isn't going to challenge a ski of any width) but you could tell how surfy it was, and easy to ski once the tip and tail got engaged into the deeper snow. It was very, very quick, floaty, and easy to smear around trees. Just stay in the middle of the ski, and you can do anything you want. I could see it being a great tree ski, especially in tight trees, provided you have a good amount of new snow to work with. It has just enough stiffness and punch to be a very fun ski. In comparison to a JJ, it is undoubtedly more ski; a little heavier on the snow, more stable, less loose and smeary feeling. I got backseat a couple of times (due to the stiffness of the ski) and it wasn't all that forgiving. It feels more direct, as one would expect from an Austrian designed ski, and will be a great ski for a good skier. For those just looking for an easygoing powder ski, super chill feel; this may not be the best choice, as does have a bit of an attitude about it. It was more ski than the ON3P Vicik in the same length I skied recently, although the feel of the ski, and damping was similar. Gunsmoke was definitely stiffer. The Blizzard wants to be skied with at least a fair amount of driver input. Again, I don't think this is the best ski for a skier who gets stuck in the backseat: it will be pretty punishing compared to a softer ski, but also more rewarding. I could load it up and get slung out of the turn, or I could stay centered and let the ski do the work. Either method of skiing is OK. What it didn't like was getting countered, and trying to shove the ski around. It is fairly forgiving, for what it is, but certainly leans toward good skiers.
Conclusion: I am really looking forward to getting a pair of these myself. This might be my new snow day ski going forward, although I am not sure how much I will use it. A Cochise is more versatile, and although this is a surfier ski than the Cochise, I am not sure sure the float trade-off would be worth having to work quite a bit harder in crud once things get tracked up. Definitely, if money weren't an issue, I would own a pair, even though I might only ski them a few days a year (or zero days a year, such as this year. I don't think I have skied more than 8” of new snow all year). If the snow is heavy or funky, then this will be a superior tool. Also quick in the trees; even quicker than the Cochise, as quick as any wide ski (provided you have new snow to use it with). It will also be a lot of fun in spring corn. If you were looking at Blizzard, you could easily make the case that a Magnum 8.5ti, Bonafide, and Gunsmoke wouuld be the perfect 3-ski quiver. If you were only looking at 2 skis, the Magnum 8.5ti and Cochise might be the better bet. Keeping it in perspective as far as a new snow ski goes, this is as good (and as versatile) as anything I have skied. Really looking for a proper test in some deeper snow this spring.
Comparisons to Cham 107 and Squad:
Groomers; as I mentioned above, the Gunsmoke is a little more predictable, and has a bit longer running length in terms of feel. The Cham has a more aggressive slalom carver feel, without the energy. It is fun when you are on it, but leaves little room for error at speed, and can a be a bit demanding. Squad is stiffer, somewhere in between; with metal, but very mellow and loose on groomers.
Crud: The Cham is probably best here. It has metal and sucks up terrain and bumps better. Squad isn't bad, but sure is a bit loose in bumps, and quite a bit of work. The Gunsmoke skis more like a lighter, snappier version of the Squad here.
Tighter trees: again, the Cham would my pick. It has metal, bites, and is more confident exiting the old turn, so I could keep it more in the fall line. The Gunsmoke would be 2nd, followed by the Squad, which just didn't seem to like shorter turns. It wanted to run, and is a fair amount of ski.
New snow: The Squad and Gunsmoke will have more float, and a bit bigger, more straight ahead feel than the Cham. Cham is super forgiving, has a softer tail, and is easy to ski in tight spaces. The other 2 are easy enough, but like a bit more space to play, and are a touch more demanding. The Cham is more like a wide all-mountain ski in this regard, with the Gunsmoke and Squad being big-mountain, go pretty fast boards for good skiers.