Me: 5' 11" tall / 170 pounds / 34 years old. Moderately aggressive skier, 25 - 35 days per season.
Size: 186cm - 142 / 116 / 126
Boots: Tecnica Cochise Pro 130 in 25.5
Bindings: Salomon Guardian 16, mounted on the line
Where: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Northstar
Conditions: Powder (from a few inches to a foot deep), crud, groomers
Cross-posting my review from http://www.powfix.com/2014/03/review-2013-2014-on3p-billy-goat/
I feel like many ski reviews would be better (or more useful to the reader) with a proper back story, so I apologize in advance if I ramble on a bit, but ultimately it’s because I want to do my best to validate the views I’m about to put forth.
I came across the ON3P Billy Goat on what feels to be the late side. Despite recent growth and accolades, ON3P is still a very small indie brand in the grand scheme of the industry, and while over-looked thus far in ski shops across the country it can be difficult to decipher through the indie brand hype that you’ve likely already read online if you’re reading this review. Skiers often take a shot on a smaller label because it’s cool and then psych themselves into loving a ski no matter how it actually performs so long as the performance is at least acceptable.
The truth is, there are so many really good, well-constructed skis out there today it can be tough for a design to show any true identity and many of them can feel shockingly similar. Then you find out they were produced in the same factory or have the same parent company (or both) and it makes perfect sense.
Like most ski addicts, I started the season with a quiver of skis for different conditions. My powder ski was the same as last year – a Salomon Rocker2 115 in 188cm. They’re really great skis and I have nothing bad to say about them. Last season I took them out on some of the very few powder days we had around Tahoe and they were amazing. But this year, unlike last year, some of the realities of skiing in California began to set in, namely in the form of heavy Sierra Cement. When the snow was light my Rocker2′s were an absolute blast and I felt like a superhero, but when it was heavy – which is common in Tahoe and nearly all that we’ve seen this season – I found I was getting my ass kicked. We haven’t been blessed with a lot of snow in recent years, so getting your ass kicked when it finally does snow is simply not an option.
Meanwhile, at the end of last season I picked up a pair of ON3P Jeffrey based on a brief demo I had on them. They’re a bit narrower (110mm underfoot) and twin-tipped – what I would describe as an all-mountain jib ski with a strong preference towards softer snow. I was immediately blown away by their combination of being able to charge hard through cut-up snow while also retaining that pop out of each turn that you get from a less stiff ski. I have no idea if it’s the bamboo or the carbon stringers or what, but whatever they’re doing in that factory up in Portland is working. Having owned some super hard-charging Blizzard Cochise for the previous two seasons, the only way I could describe the Jeffrey was like a Cochise that was playful without sacrificing its backbone. A little camber may have something to do with that, but I suspect the bamboo plays a role as well. I’m also comparing a twin-tip to a ski that has a relatively flat tail, which is impressive.
Anyway, that positive experience with ON3P naturally brought me back to them, so in looking to replace my Rocker2′s going with the Billy Goat made a lot of sense. The dimensions (142 – 116 – 126 in 186cm) are very similar and I wanted a directional powder ski that was playful during first tracks but still capable after the snow gets chopped up, which at Squaw or Alpine Meadows happens quickly.
When the skis arrived I hand-flexed them and they didn’t feel much stiffer, so I was a bit concerned, but as soon as I got them into some heavy snow it was a different story. On a day when many on the mountain were struggling and I heard the word “mank” mentioned a few times, the Billy Goats carved through the foot of heavy fresh like it was blower powder.
They’re just as happy blasting through cut-up piles of snow as they are surfing clean lines and provide an extremely stable platform. Much like the Jeffrey, the Billy Goats display an amazing balance between being playful and fun yet solid when you need them. This stability translates to the air as well, as they are very capable when it comes to stomping landings.
As for the much-talked-about RES (Reverse Elliptical Sidecut), described by ON3P as a large, convex elliptical arc that runs from boot center to tip taper, eliminating traditional sidecut in the tips, it seems to do the trick. They’re quite comfortable making turn shapes of any size (perfect for skiing trees) and when thrown sideways at high speeds I didn’t experience even a hint of hookiness.
So why do the Billy Goats feel so different than the Rocker2 115′s (this season known as the Quest 115) if they have similar specs and seem to have a similar flex? I believe it comes down to torsional stiffness. When trying to ski through denser snow, the less that a ski twists from edge to edge, the more stable it’s going to feel.
I would imagine that maintaining a progressive lateral flex to make the ski feel poppy and playful while simultaneously providing a stiffer torsional flex is not an easy feat to accomplish, which is why some of the very best crud-busting skis also feel like lifeless wooden planks in deep powder. At least to my personal tastes, ON3P seems to have found the perfect balance between the two.
As for hard-pack performance, the Billy Goats behave about as well as you might expect from a ski 116mm underfoot. They get by well enough, although on some of the really packed down sticky snow near the lifts they could get a bit squirrely at times. To be fair, this snow was so sticky that people were losing poles behind them. At higher elevations on cat tracks and groomers I didn’t observe the same problem, so it was likely just a result of the conditions more than anything else.