Wednesday, I took my new “3D” Praxis Powderboards out for a spin. These have a “3D” base - so they take the game from reverse/reverse to what I’d call reverse/reverse/reverse. While the shaping is subtle, the base is reminiscent of a modern play kayak hull. This is the standard build for the '16 Powderboard.
From the Praxis Website:
From my viewpoint:
Initial reaction based on one day: Big fun in soft snow. These are the far end of the soft snow end of a quiver. They are a one trick pony. But they do that trick really, really well. They have a unique personality - sort of reverse/reverse on steroids. Build quality looks to be typical Praxis - excellent. Light for their size as well. They are fun, predictable, and confident in soft snow. You do not want to spend a ton of time on groomers.
These join a small but interesting group of skis with hull type bases. Of that group, I’ve previously skied Garywaynes and the Elan Boomerang TBT (a ski that got neither the marketing nor the market appreciation it deserved IMO). I have not skied the newer generation Bent Cheaters or the DPS spoons. My experience with the Garywaynes and Boomerang TBTs convinced me that having a full length 3D base on a Praxis Powderboard would be pretty sweet (I promised Keith in advance I’d be a customer…). They did not disappoint.
I’ve owned every generation of Powderboard, so I know the genetic stock pretty well. Before I took these out, Keith at Praxis offered some comments based on his experience with the ski. Obviously he thinks they ski well in Powder or he would not be making them. He noted two other things. First, that the skis can behave sort of like a drift car on firmer snow. The second was that they are slow on groomers - noticeably so. He also suggested not going from powder onto groomers too fast . So I had a reasonable enough idea of what to expect.
Conditions at Stevens were 6-10” of heavy-ish new snow. There were a decent number of bumps and terrain features lurking underneath. Not surprisingly, these skis are definitely soft snow specialists. And it showed over the course of the day.
Not surprisingly, these skis are way at home in soft snow. They come into their own when it is a bit deeper than the old non-3D base model needed. But as soon as you get into more then a few inches, they are even easier to ski than the old ones.
Where you might have to patient with another ski or where an edge might have caught or dragged on underlying ice or layering, these were smooth and quick as could be. They were incredibly nimble. For as small as that base beveling looks, it loosened the skis up an amazing amount. And the original design was already pretty loose and slarvy.
Even compared to a “regular” reverse/reverse ski, it felt like skiing on controllable ball bearings through “powder” covered bumps, trees, or small terrain features. This is clearly not a technical description - but subjectively it seemed as though the beveling loosens the ski up enough that you can let them slide side to side under you - so you can sort of engage a turn instantly by sliding the ski from one set of “edges” under you to the other set of “edges” - without having to be as deliberate about releasing the prior turn as you’d normally have to be. Of course you really don’t ski the edges, and this is just a subjective description - not trying for literal mechanics here… but the reality is they are super loose and that allows for crazy fast and easy direction shifts. Once I got comfortable with them, I was willing to duck in and out of trees and rocky areas much tighter than I’d normally ski. The fact that there is a ton of surface area underfoot and the hull shape extends underfoot is clearly a big part of what makes the ski able to do what it does.
They behave exactly as advertised in terms of limitations. While not impossible to ski on groomers, they were demanding. And drifty in terms of turning. Sometimes drifty was fun. Sometimes not so much… For all the folks here who complain about people on fat skis making skidded turns on groomers - welcome to your worst post apocalyptic ski nightmare . That said, they are manageable enough to get from point A to point B in control on a vanilla groomer if you are just a bit thoughtful about skiing them. If you get them angled enough (I hesitate to say on edge), it is almost like throwing a bit of a grappling hook out as the edges actually grab a bit - fun actually. They are indeed slow on groomers. I was usually first to the groomer and always last to the lift. We'll see what happens if I ever need to take them out on icy groomers.
Two unexpected things jumped out at me. First, the aforementioned slidy, slinky ability. It was truly dramatic. And fun. I was amazed at how they’d just snake though things. Second, they were incredibly unfazed by soft chop. I was expecting to be thrown around a bit in places where the soft snow was cutup - the usual sort of late morning packed inconsistent cotton candy stuff. These things just did not care. They transitioned from one turn to the next without any hassle. And were happy to slide sideways or scrub speed smoothly as well. I’m pretty mediocre and I comfortably skied in control through spots where lots of folks were frantically dumping speed or catching edges.
The 3D bottom means you have almost no base contact when you put them base to base. So they don’t exactly sit tight together. Be sure to bring a Voille strap… And good luck using your usual tuning stuff - OTOH, hopefully lots of tuning is not on the menu for these.