Length Tested: 180cm
Dimensions/Turn Radius: 17m
Binding: Griffon Demo
Mount point: Suggested (boot center)
Environment & Conditions:
Location of Test: Sugarloaf, Maine
Number of Runs: All day
Snow Conditions: Spring - buttered corn/soft ice/hard pack
Ski Days/Season: 20+/-
Years Skiing: 50
Current Quiver: Active: Kastle MX98/78, Hart Phoenix/ Pulse, Blizzard Titan Cronus
Preferred Terrain: Wherever the snow is the best
I really wanted all season to try these skis. And I resisted just as long. I finally demoed a pair on April 28th, the last day of the season for me.
I certainly had nothing against the ski going into it. It is just that every morning as I walk to my car I stare at my box 'o skis. Big ones. Little ones. Fat ones. Skinny ones. I am sure that I had a great reason for inviting each of them into my life. But when I pick one out of the quiver, more often than not, I just do not remember why. Giving myself the benefit of the doubt, I am sure there was some rationale. There must have been some niche to fill. Some perceived gap. But I confess, for some, they were skis in search of a reason. Or curiosity, like my VIST DEMO skis that were built in the same place as the Hart Phoenix and have the exact same dimensions. I call that a "science experiment."
As I move down the trail of life, the idea of simplifying seems to gain more traction. But buying yet another pair of skis moves me off that trajectory. I think I am not alone, and the ski companies know it. After selling us on the idea of specialty skis, like a bag of golf clubs, we are seeing the roll-out of more and more skis promoted as one ski quivers.To be sure there is a formula dictated by physics. Not even the best ski designer can make a svelt 66mm carver float in white gold dust. Rather we are presented with "plus sized" skis that are supposed to flitter about like prepubescent waifs. Forgive my skepticism. But it is more than a bit difficult for the mere mortal ski consumer, like me, to discern what is hype and what is real
It was in this spirit of healthy disbelief if that I set out on this demo day. I would, to the best of my ability, determine if if these skis are truly a spork or not. I am usually kind, even differential to skis on such a day. But not today. There would be no byes, no handicap, no mercy. Truly, I wanted these skis to fail. And I wanted to go home gloating. The day ended differently. I fought the ski and the ski won.
In late April, the spring sun beats down high and hot. It warms the air, softens the snow and the souls of those who have survived the Maine winter. It is a celebration of life and sport like no other. I even brought my pet Lizard out for what I dubbed "ski with your reptile day."
By late in the afternoon, it was getting even a bit hot for my cold blooded friend.
So it was with literally a spring in my step tempered by a strong dose of skepticism that I collected the Souls and headed out.
First off, these skis are deceivingly light. For someone who spends most of his time on metal-infused Kastles and Harts, it was a bit of a shocked to feel how little actual mass this ski has despite a fair amount of real estate given the dimensions. To me, they are quite handsome. The black matte has a very fine flat finish that hides scratches very nicely. The finish actually reminds me of the 60's vintage Rossignol Stratos that I lusted after as a kid. And the yellow tips and tails provide a unique two tone look that is as far from comic book as you can get. If the Bauhaus designed a pair of skis, I think they would look very much like the Souls.
Off the lift and down for the first run - a blue groomer covered in a carpet of fine white gems stones. Solid, straight-tracking if not just a bit squirrely. First turns put an end to that. I like to carve (thanks to Rick Schellman aka Fastman). I am addicted, I admit, to the sensation and use that kind of turn probably more than I should. But if we are going to live together, the Souls would have to carve. And do they ever, Lay then over and the tentativeness gives way to a full locked-in sensation. You feel the full length of this 180cm ski. Long GS tuns gobbled up real estate without hesitation or complaint. They felt solid and damp much like my Kastle MX78's which are full of metal. The way they track true, you would be forgiven if you thought you were on a flat tail ski.
While no carver, edge to edge transitions were swift, predicable and precise - like a well-executed sail tack. I discovered that these skis do not like to run flat and fast, probably because there is considerably less real estate in contact with the snow given the tip and tail rocker. This dynamic would undoubtedly change in 3D snow.
So a long-ish wide ski could make long GS turns well. Not much of a surprise there. But what about short turns in tight terrain.
I like the "moderate/finesse" category. I think that describes how I approach the hill - deliberately, if you will. I am not a fast skier and I do not yearn for speed. Rather, I prefer a moderate pace controlling speed through turn shape. At my best, I am a skiing metronome making moving back and forth down the side of the trail. To do this well, a ski for me has to be able to respond quickly and precisely. The fact is that I sometimes get in trouble because I end up trying to carve a turn when I should be sliding or dumping speed in a non-directional way. If I am on a ski with too strong a tail, I find that I can lose my line and have to traverse more than I want to because I can not break the tail away quickly enough. Is that a technique flaw? To be sure. But that is how I ski, and I am working on it. In the meantime, I want to be on a ski that has no other agenda than mine. And that describes the Soul.
For some of the morning, I made short carved turns within a 10-12' corridor. And I did it without having to break my line because the Soul has just a wonderful tooshie. While it locks in on those long GS turns, it instantly breaks away on shorter ones. And when it does, that 180cm ski feels like one much shorter. And when there was too much speed, that soft tail dumped speed like a brake. I felt like I was dancing with the stars.
Because there was no lift service to the summit, and there were fresh lines to be had, I slung the Souls over my shoulder and did a 20 minute boot up. The skis felt feather-weight. It would have been a lot more work shlepping my Kastles with the VIST plate bindings.
Later in the day, the conditions became more mixed. All that lovely corn snow was getting even deeper but pushed around as well. What was a level carpet of frozen white velvet in the morning had become more mottled and mixed in the afternoon. Mounds of snow gave way to soft moguls, or smaller piles surrounded by grey soft ice. It was as good a test of the tip resilience as I could imagine. Many have wondered whether the light honeycomb would be deflected by crud or other irregularities. To be a one ski quiver, it would have to be able to track true in these conditions. And it did under very challenging circumstances. Again, I would pick a line on the side of the trail and stick to it no matter the surface - smooth, mounds or soft ice. The ski handled the transitions admirably. What it did not surf over, it went through with little fanfare - not as well as my Kastles might, but they have a narrower metal tip. The grip on ice was the most surprising revelation. Ice - what ice? Put them on edge and the Souls held true as well as any of my metal skis. Again, this was not boilerplate, but softening hard. That being said, I was never deflected from my chosen line because of the snow surface. Naturally, if I were on ice, or was headed towards a deepish mound, I would put the ski on edge and drive it through.
I pretty much suck at moguls. I know how to do it, theoretically. I have probably read every thread in the instruction forum and could wax rhapsodic or deliver a lecture on the topic. I just can not seem to put it consistently into practice. Usually it is because of excessive speed. I will make a few decent turns, miss one, and find myself doing the rag doll death traverse unit I finally come to a stop at the other side of the trail pointed in the direction of shame. I did much better on the Souls - again because of that lovely tail. When I can, as is my foible, I like to carve around moguls, and the short turn radius worked splendidly. But when that was not possible, I did the absorb - over then top - extend. And on the extension I was able to break the tails away perfectly to slarve or scrub speed with a short traverse. It was a moment of competence I have experienced only one other time. It was at Powder Mtn this February on a pair of DPS Wailer 112 in pure. And I loved them for the same reason. Utter flexibility in the bumps. And flexibility equals control. Score another one for the Souls.
As the day wore on, this sun mover higher in the sky melting the cold carpet. And at the same time, the Souls were slowing melting my skepticism. They handled splendidly in every condition. Hard, soft, flat, mogul. Utterly unflappable. No agenda except to do my bidding. The size seemed perfect as did the mount. While I gave the rental shop my cell number in the event the 172's came back, I never bothered to check my phone. And by the end of the day, the Souls rewarded me with lazy easy turns, the kind you make when the mind is willing but the legs are screaming for mercy. Like being at a buffet where the food is so delectable that you want to eat long after your tummy is full. Turns out that on this ski buffet day, crow was being served and I ate it with a spork.
The only two skis of this ilk that I have ever been on are the Souls and the Wailers. While someone will do a tip to tip on the same day in the same conditions, it will not be me. I skied the pures in conditions that bore little resemblance to my day at the Loaf on the Souls. In Utah, I was in ankle to knee powder. And on the Souls I was in snow on the opposite end of the spectrum. While the snow was different, the impression after a day on each was the same. These are serious skis that work with you to do what you want. And that creates a sense of freedom and confidence to press your boundaries, whether in tight Utah trees or big soft Maine moguls. To my mind, that is the true definition of a one ski quiver. One ski that allows you to be the skier you want to be no matter the condition. One ski for a quiver of conditions. I think the Souls may be that ski for me.
I caught a bit of air
The only conditions where the Souls did not rock