Stockli Laser SC 170cm: the ski everyone should own (or something similar)
Review: Stockli Laser SC 170cm, mounted with Attack 13 demo bindings Gives me a bit of lift. Mounted on the line. Tune is factory, 1/1.
Shameless plug: these are on closeout for $650 flat (163/170), but I love them even at full retail! Call for details, as they are special order items.
The ski: Stockli's Laser SC is a do-it-all frontside tool and carver. SC stands for “slalom carver” it is 72mm underfoot, 14.9m radius. The ski has a very interesting flex pattern: quite soft at the tip and tail, quite soft laterally at the tip as well (no stiffer than the Stormrider 95), and fairly stiff underfoot. On snow, this gives the skier a very progressive loading feel, predictable release, and energy on demand, without a mind of it's own.
Conditions: skied over 4 days. ½ groomers, ¼ bumps, ¼ buttery windpack and choppy snow off-piste. Groomers ranged from “hero” to soft granular with ice underneath.
Tune: out of the box. Very flat ski, tips and tails were detuned past the contact point from the factory. If anything, the edges weren't super sharp out of the wrapper, but they were good enough for this test: I didn't touch anything aside from waxing them well.
Construction: full laminate race-room layup. Typical Stockli: beautiful grind, perfectly flat out the wrapper. The ski has 2 sheets of metal, perforated; it skis light and doesn't feel stiff whatsoever. A very approachable ski, easily the most forgiving “carver” I have had the pleasure of owning.
On groomers, the SC is simply stellar. If I am buying one “frontside” ski that is going to see a lot of groomer duty, this is the one. Even though the 170cm is somewhat short, there is not even a hint of speed limit. I can crank out SL radius turns on it, or open it up and let it drift into GS arcs. I can do drills and releases from a dead stop. I can outrun anyone on the hill. There is not a ski out there with more speed range than the SC. Very impressive. I found that this ski has “positive feedback”. It will tell me when I screwed up (technically speaking) but not punish me; it is great tool for working to improve. For example, the first couple of days I skied the SC, something was off in my skiing (has been all year). I eventually realized I wasn't aggressive enough in down-unweighting at the end of the turn and pulling my feet back to absorb energy. The ski let me know that something was “off”, but never took me for a ride. After an afternoon of some slower speed skiing and skill building, I was loading and releasing the ski much more cleanly, flowing down the hill from turn to turn, loading the tip properly, moving my feet, and I was then getting feedback from the ski that I was really setting up the new turn much better. The ski rewards good skiing, but doesn't punish bad skiing. It will push you to make better turns. The more edge angle you can generate, the more fun you will have; at low edge angles, it is a great ski too. I actually had a guy stop me today and say “man, you are ripping, so fluid. I ski a lot here, what is your name? Never seen you before on the hill....” I told him it is because I hardly get time to ski anymore!
Bumps: not too stout. The tip handles brushed turns easily. It will swivel from edge to opposite edge if you are skiing steep competition-style bumps. The SC is one of the softer carvers I have taken into a bump run: it was quite pleasing here. The tail isn't all that soft; keep absorbing those bumps, get long after compressing, drive the feet forward, and the ski will love you for it. In the instances I did get back on the tail, I found forgiveness to be moderate, probably rate it a 6/10 here. Definitely acceptable as a bump ski and much better than a full race carver.
Off-piste: in 3-4 inches of windblown new snow, cream cheese snow, and cut-up cream cheese, this ski absolutely is the tool for the job. It is fairly narrow, so you need to let the ski drop though the new snow a bit, time the unweight release when the ski is bottoming, and boom, you have a fully weightless moment as you drive those tips back down and get long to start loading the ski again. It feels like you are a dolphin, arcing through the air, fully weightless, until you dive down again. Amazing. This ski has a fair amount of energy in it, but is so forgiving for a “carver” that you wouldn't know it is a carver without looking at the ski or the dimensions. Easily could be a do-everything frontside ride. I really got it loaded at speed, fairly big angles, and the release and flow from turn to turn was unreal. It is the kind of ski that you need to use the big energy it builds to release, to flow and set up the new turn. If you do that, the SC rewards you with superhero sensations, like you can do no wrong.
In relation to my title: here is why you should own this ski (or a ski that is very similar): it will make you a better skier. I had been skiing my Motive 95's most of this year, and I love that ski. But it does mask mistakes. I can get away with a bit of a “push off to release” in junk snow that won't fly on the SC. I don't need to move my feet as actively on the 95: in crud and new snow, I can stay more static and it will ski fine You may ask “Scott, why would I want a ski that makes me ski cleaner; why not just the easiest ski I can find for the conditions?”. That is a valid point: I won't be taking the SC into a foot of heavy cement either, too much work. With that said, in the 3-4” conditions I described, the SC will reward you in a way the 95 won't. That “push-off” move? It is a defensive move, and doesn't provide me with the clean release at the end of the turn, that “flow” that is the hallmark of dynamic skiing. Likewise, the fore-aft foot position can be static on the 95, whereas feet need to be active on the SC. The reward is more weightless float and better setup of the new turn with active feet. All good skiers use that move, but the 95 allows a skier (me) to cheat in a way that gets me through the turn, but in a non-dynamic way that doesn't take advantage of the forces developed in releasing out of the old turn. In short, I end up “fighting” the mountain, whereas I would rather dance with what it provides me. We have all seen people who “fight” the mountain with poor backseat skiing and defensive techniques: often people choose skis based on the fact that they can get away with skiing poorly on that ski. I don't want to fight the mountain: it is far less fun than executing the perfect “flow” that all true experts seem to possess, which is the holy grail of skiing. Also, resorting to “cheating” techniques won't help you when things get steep and sketchy, or you encounter a steep bump run. Clean, fluid skiing is the best way to tackle expert terrain. While I wouldn't recommend skiing an SC on really steep, gnarly terrain with funky snow, I do believe that skiing a ski such as the SC in moderately challenging snow builds technical skills, rewards dynamic and fluid skiing, keeps the skier honest about not developing “crutch” moves, provides relevant feedback, and provides more rewarding turns when a turn is executed properly. It's very hard to describe until you have felt that perfect turn unweighting, unloading, a weightless and balanced feel with energy redirected down the fall line, as you get onto the new edges, perfectly set up for the upcoming turn. It's like skippering a planing sailboat: otherworldly, like you are defying gravity. Developing those movement patterns is much harder on a wider ski that has lots of rocker and a huge sweet spot built into it; those that grew up in a race program probably will never develop those bad habits, no matter what ski they are on. For the rest of us, myself at least; I am keeping a narrower versatile ski in my quiver from now on. I am a better skier because of it.
Edited by dawgcatching - 3/6/16 at 10:44pm