Length Tested: 185(ish)
Dimensions/Turn Radius: ca. 25m
Camber (select one, delete the rest): Early Rise Tip w/camber,
Mount point: Suggested (boot center)
Environment & Conditions:
Location of Test: Squaw/Alpine
Number of Runs: full day
Snow Conditions: hardback, no new snow in sight, some sun-softened now off-piste
Demo or Own: Demo
Ski Days/Season: 50
Years Skiing: 30+
Aggressiveness: (select one, delete the rest): Aggressive(Driver)
Current Quiver: 187 Bonafide + 190 DPS112
Home Area: Squaw
Preferred Terrain (select one/all, delete the rest): off-piste
The Vagabond is a member of the Nordica's freeride-oriented Hell&Back line, which I guess names this ski a "Helen Vagabond", but I digress. Physically it is 107 underfoot ski with decent amount of rocker upfront, pretty short rise in the back, and good amount of traditional camber underfoot. Other distinct features of the ski is that it bucks the recent trend of "pintail" skis and the tip and tail width are balanced in a pretty conventional way. Unlike its stouter brother ElCapo, the Vagabond does not have metal. The ski felt medium stiffness with nice give in tip and tail and a stouter mid-body. Another nice thing was adult graphics (a novelty for Nordica), although the dark green scheme is rather boring.
Skiing impressions (see the end of the post for the POV footage of these conditions, at least you can see what the snow was):
Groomers: I am usually nervous to ski a metal-less ski in hard conditions, but Nordica managed to pull it off- the ski is surprisingly lively and solid on groomers with a nice pop out of the turn and very good edge hold (Nordica makes serious skis). The forebody engages just around the end of the rocker section. Since I use a rockered ski as a daily driver, there was no surprise there. The ski actually feels quicker than the dimensions and sidecut suggests, I attribute it to the metal-less construction. I did manage to find a speed limit on a wide-open groomer, but that was at a pretty ridiculous speed that I rarely hit, so I feel the Vagabond will have plenty of stability for any skier. For a metal-less ski it is a surprisingly confident ride. I generally disagree with Nordica skis- they have been very demanding in the past, but the Vagabond was pretty easy to ski. The very quick short turns are a bit more work than they are on the Bones, here is where 107 width gets taxing. On the end of the day I started feeling it on the knees too, but, granted, that was a hard snow day.
Bumps: it feels just about how a good 105-ish ski should- entirely manageable and a enjoyable, obviously not super-quick, about as quick as my Bonafides. The MX88 I tried a few weeks ago was quicker and definitely more enjoyable in the bumps, (but that ski is 20mm narrower!). The tails were hanging a little bit, but that was easy to adjust to.
Off-piste: It is a pretty capable ride off-piste, striking this elusive balance between stability and fun very well. It is imminently carveable off-piste. The only time I was not completely happy with the skis was on a refrozen far edge of the bowl in Sherwood, where I had to get through some insufficiently softened chunks. Bonafides punch through those with a very distinct feeling of a ski starting to deflect and then breaking through. The Vagabond deflected quite a bit more. The ski is damp enough and stiff enough to get back on track without much drama, but the feeling is a tiny bit disconcerting.
Off-topic: This ski is so good that it was promptly swiped from the rack of the Squawlpine shuttle by no one other than TheDad . A momentary confusion ensued, but we resolved it very quickly.
Overall- Vagabond is a fantastic compromise between width, stiffness, and weight, that results in a ski that works way better than construction and dimensions suggest. Perhaps as good of a one-ski quiver for Squaw as I have seen so far. That ski should give Cochise a good competition, Vagabond is less of a charger, but it has a lot wider envelope and traditional camber makes it more versatile in mixed conditions.
Will I buy it? Here is where it gets complicated... My 98mm is still better driver for the hard days, and my 110+ funshape has to be a superior soft snow tool. Vagabond will be superior a day after the storm to both of those, but as it stands it will be too much quiver overlap. It will be a very logical second ski for someone who is coming off a groomer carver, but to get the most of Vagabond you need skills that someone who is coming off a groomer does not usually have. The big problem is that the ideal target audience for Vagabond already has a 80-100 daily driver and a soft rockered powder ski for deep days, and they would need a very strong argument to slot another ski into that lineup.
Video. Unlike dawg, I don't have a cameraman, and my wife refuses to switch helmets (can't really blame her:-), so a POV footage will have to do. I angled the camera a bit down so you could see the tips of the skis and the snow.
Edited by alexzn - 3/26/13 at 12:41am