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Review: Blizzard Samba / Kabookie - Neutral is Nice

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Ski: Blizzard Samba 173cm; sidecut: 131-98-116 nominal radius: 20m
Test location: Big Sky, MT, March 28, 2013
Me: 5' 7", age 50, 135lb., level 8, east coaster, beer leaguer, prefer old-school areas with natural snow bumps and trees
Comparison skis during the week: Armada TST 174cm, Blizzard Magnum 8.5 Ti 167cm
Executive Summary: Neutral, well-balanced, lightly damped ski that handles speed well and is reassuring in difficult 3D snow. Not my pick for tight quarters or hard surfaces. The Samba mostly doesn't call attention to itself, which is a good thing in my book.
Details: Spent a whole day on this ski at the Gathering, courtesy of Philpug. According to those in the know, this is the same ski as the Blizzard Kabookie, with a topsheet oriented toward female buyers.
First couple of runs in the morning were on very firm, crispy corduroy on wide groomers on the Andesite side. Took me a little while to find the engagement point and start dialing in some (rather large) arcs. I guess that's normal on first encounter with any early rise ski on hardpack. Edge grip was adequate. Ski felt very solid torsionally, so probably with super-fresh edge work the grip would have been fine. Basic ski behavior was very predictable, so presumably a sound underlying Start Haus tune. The notable lack of dampness in this ski was very pronounced in these particular conditions, and it bugged me. Felt like my fillings were going to fall out. In fairness, probably only a very heavily damped race ski would have felt really comfortable on the brittle, chattery surface we started with.
The group headed directly up to the tram after this, so no time to test the waters under mixed conditions before throwing the baby into the pool. As a result, my very first off-piste run on this ski was on the Yeti Traverse -> Gully 1 -> Crons route that RicB took us down. Exposure level and pitch were both pretty high by my tame eastern standards. Snow was thick, friendly duff with small embedded chunks of crusty stuff. The Samba was very reassuring here, when the pressure was on. It's a testament to the neutral nature of this ski that I was able to concentrate on skiing round speed-control turns here while looking into the belly of the beast, and was not at all distracted by being on an unfamiliar set of boards. 
Next we got into some steep bumps and easy trees off of the Challenger lift. The Sambas took a bit more getting used to in bumps, since they're a bit more ski in terms of running length, flex, and tip size than I'm used to. For some reason the tips felt fat and clunky to me in the moguls compared with my TSTs, which also have wide shovels, but are shaped very differently. Using a wider stance helped. On balance, with my size and style of skiing, I would have prefered something just slightly shorter and / or slightly softer in these conditions, but the skis were solid. Note that as a contrast with another no-metal 98mm ski, I vastly preferred the Sambas in bumps to the 169cm Hell & Backs I skied for a day last year; those skis were just way too stiff and boardy for me.
After lunch we followed Bob Barnes and crew down a couple of blistering groomer runs. By now the crunch of the morning had softened a bit, and the carving chops of these skis began to be more apparent as they were no longer overshadowed by vibration issues. The skis were perfectly stable for me at speed, and I had no trouble  getting some clean arcs out of them, and even a bit of pop out of the end of the turn. Predictably, they were not quick edge-to-edge, nor was it easy to get them to come around into a super-tight turn. Given the vast amounts of elbow room on the trails in question, though, this was a non-issue. I would not find them particularly rewarding to ski on groomers on a small hill.
The Sambas were at their best later in the afternoon as the temperature rocketed and we hit some difficult, thick, lightly-skied glop on the south-facing Shedhorn area. I was able to plow through this stuff at a good clip in a way that most skis - including my Armadas - would definitely have balked at. They made me look better than I deserved to look in that snow. Finally we got back into some bumps, where my initial impressions of these as mogul skis was confirmed: perfectly okay, but not quite suited to my tastes. 
post #2 of 3

Nice review. Confirms my sense that brands have a continuing character to them - don't know if the marketing guys or the engineers decide - and Blizzard's has become lightly damped, stabile at serious speed, an unorthodox flex curve that's unusually stiff in front, and of course, flip-cored. May explain why although we see significant numbers of Cochises, Sambas, and even a few Bonafides outside the 180 cm length on the spring sale racks back here. And weird numbers of pre-flipcore Magnums (but also decent numbers of 8.0's) out on the slopes. Not convinced the basic design over 88 mm is working for below average weight of either sex, or for tighter mountains with lotsa bumps and trees and ice. So they sell, but don't leap off the racks like out west. th_dunno-1[1].gif (Not just a wide ski issue, because loads of competitors in the 88+ arena can be seen, Lines, K2's, Nordicas, and Volkls are particularly popular. For a while thought the wood versions would be softer and suppler, but apparently just lighter. Will have to demo the Scout, may buck the trend. 


Spoken, BTW, as someone who owns Cochises, 2 different length G-Powers, a pair of Ones, just picked up a pair of Bushwackers, and am contemplating deals on various Magnums. Still my second favorite brand, after Kastle. eek.gif

Edited by beyond - 4/2/13 at 11:53am
post #3 of 3

Thanks for pointing me back to this review. I have been skiing the Black Pearls in a 159 for 2 seasons now, and love them, but have outgrown them and found that they weren't enough for me in heavy chop and crud. Phil directed me to the Sambas and your review confirms that these should handle similarly to the Pearls (took me a couple runs to find their sweet spot) but they will plow through the chop and crud better. I bought them in a 166. Am very anxious to get out on them!


I avoid moguls like the plague, but if I decide I want to try them again, I'll use the BP's for that ;)

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