Where: Stevens Pass
Conditions: spring skiing; firm groomers in the morning turning to cut up slush in the afternoon, soft moguls and cut up crud off-piste.
Ski tester: 5’ 10” in height, 145 lbs, a blend of aggressively finesse or finesse-ly aggressive. Part-time instructor. Likes bumps, steeps, off-piste. Working on improving on-piste technique so that L2 examiners will like me.
What I’m looking for in a demo ski: something that will do nicely on a powder day, but more importantly handle the cut up Cascade Concrete that’s left over after everyone has tracked up the goods. This was not the best day to test powder skis, but a good day to test “variable” conditions, which is often what you use a ski for more than what it’s supposedly intended.
Kartel 108 in 184cm
Billy Goat 116 in 179cm
Billy Goat 116 in 184cm
Wrenegade 108 in 179cm
Wrenegade 98 in 179cm
Wrenegade 88 in 179cm
All models were mounted with Tyrolia Aaattack 13 demo bindings.
Tactics: I chose the same route with each pair I tried: Skyline express chair to 7th heaven chair, Rock Garden (double black with medium to large bumps and mixed crud), take the Tye Mill chair to the backside, ski Corona Creek (narrow single black chute with medium-sized moguls) and finish the run at Lower Voltage (just the other side of the power lines from Borealis; cut up crud on a steeper single black slope, gets crusty freeze-thaw due to lower elevation and sun exposure, turns to mashed potatoes by mid-day). Ride the Jupiter express to get back to the front side, Roller Coaster to Gun Tower (tight, medium to massive moguls with cut up crud, lots of rollers and terrain variability) and traverse to the left side (ungroomed, cut up crud) of the last pitch of Skid Road. Finally, see how the skis glide on the long flat section of Promenade to return to the base. I had about an hour on each ski.
For comparison, after I was done demoing skis I did the same route on my own Head Rev 105‘s. I skied hard and fast where I felt comfortable, in fact I can’t think of a single run where I took it easy and relaxed, other than my last couple of runs at the end of the day. I wanted to see what these things can do, or rather what I can do with them.
I had previously never tried ON3P skis; however as they are made in Portland, OR they have a reputation for being good in the wide range of conditions we experience in the PNW. I will say this: they are really well-built skis. The topsheets appear very durable, the workmanship overall seems robust. Per their website they use 2.5mm x 2.5mm edges, 1.8mm 4001 Durasurf bases, which apparently exceed what is typical for skis. All their skis have bamboo cores with carbon fiber stringers (no metal on any model). They take pride in having flat bases and edges that are detuned at the factory, basically perfect out of the wrapper. I will say, all the skis I demoed appeared to be perfectly tuned and waxed. One thing I noticed was that all their skis, even the wider models, have full length sidewalls. As I was riding up the lifts I frequently hear the comment “those look like thick skis”. Nonetheless, they all tended to feel light and have an easy swing weight. All have significant rocker; one rep confirmed they use the same press for different widths in the Wrenegade line, for example.
First demo of the day was the Wrenegade 108. The Wrenegade is marketed as a big-mountain ski, last year they made it in a 102 as well as a 112. This year, they sized them 108, 98 and 88. A rep mentioned they were trying to differentiate the Wrenegades from the powder skis like the Billy Goat and the wider Kartels. I started taking a groomer warm up run down Skyline, found they had excellent edge grip for a 108 (really, I think many 108’s are where most 98’s where about 5 years ago). Very easy to get on edge, without having to pivot the tail. Carved nice arcs. Then I saw a friend ahead of me and I pointed them basically down the lift line (single black, somewhat bumped up) arcing big turns. These things haul ass. I was going faster than I normal would, no worries, totally feeling in control. The Wrenegades were very stable, no tip deflection, just going where I wanted them to go.
Back up Skyline to 7th Heaven. This time, double blacks bumps and mixed cut up crud. for a 184 that can flat out cruise, the Wrenegades are also quick; no problems in tight bumps, also no problems just riding over bumps. Very damp and stable, in spite of not having any metal, let lively when you want to dance. After taking Tye Mill to the backside, the tight bumps with no room to traverse or shop for turns on Corona Creek affirmed my quick impressions: haul ass when you want, make quick turns in moguls, carve in between everything else. I have to say, the frozen over coral reef cut up crud on Lower Voltage first thing in the morning was a challenge for me, ever with the Wrenegades, fortunately the lower backside softened up quickly and I was able to crud-test the rest of the day.
I could own these skis.
Next up: Kartel 108. The Kartel line is twin-tip jib ski with substantial tip and tail rocker. It was a little softer than the Wren. It will come in a bunch of widths, I think they are combining the Kartel line with the Jeffrey line for next year. I tried them in a 184 because they ski short with the tip and tail rocker. The rep moved the binding back a couple cm’s from the usual center-mounted position, since I wasn’t going to be skiing backwards.
Ok, I was surprised. I really liked these. I wasn’t expecting to. They are playful, very fun, have a light feeling, still hold a decent edge, great in soft snow and in moguls. Maybe it was the fact that the snow had softened up a bit; I suspect if the conditions were firmer I wouldn’t have liked them as much. Caveat on moguls, they are fine if you ski around the bumps but if you ride over they want to take off. In fact every bump or rise in the terrain I noticed the springy-ness; they aren’t going to absorb the terrain. I guess they’re perfect for jibbing or terrain parks, however that wasn’t what I want or need.
Since I tried the Kartel in 184, I next demoed the Billy Goat in 184 as well. The Billy Goat is a powder ski; it has an interesting shape ON3P calls “Reverse Elliptical Sidecut.” Reverse sidecut from tip to front of boot, elliptical sidecut from boot to tail. This ski will not accidentally catch a tip or get hooky; it is smooth, smooth, smooth on soft snow and crud. With the reverse part in front it was easy enough to engage a quick turn when I wanted to, pivot around and let the ski grip underfoot and finish a turn. While it is softer than the Wrenegade or Kartel, it still felt very stable at speed; this is no noodle. It hauls ass almost as much as the Wrenegade. Adequate edge hold for a wider ski, though not what I’d want to carve all day on groomers, whereas I could do that on the Wrenegade. Still it felt like a bit too much work for me in the crud.
Then I got on the 179 Billy Goat. Ka-ching!! Much quicker, easier in the bumps, more confident on edge, and even at a shorter length an awesome crud-buster. This ski danced for me. Too bad I didn’t have any powder to try them out on, but this is a wide ski I could spend all day on even if there wasn’t much new snow, and that is saying a lot for someone who spends a lot of time on a Head Rev 85.
I got lunch in there somewhere, and then was curious about the Wrenegade 88. Same layup at the 108, same rocker, which made it a curious-looking 88. It was much lighter, very quick, almost too quick and turny with the tip rocker, it took me half a run to adjust. Once I dialed back the rotary and edging inputs, it handled the same terrain as the wider Wrenegade, and was better at bumps and short-radius turns. This could be a good all-mountain ski, with a bias towards soft snow, or a bump ski. I don’t know how well it would hold on ice, but it had decent edge grip for what I was skiing and was very quick edge to edge, fun to carve. Stupid easy to do pivot slips and other PSIA-type drills. I kept thinking to myself: “would I teach a class with this ski? do a clinic? take an exam?” I’m not yet sure. I still kinda like my Rev 85's.
Lastly I tried the Wrenegade 98. Similar to the 88, without needing to make adjustments to inputs. Felt right at home on this one. Perfect one-quiver ski for the PNW, or as a middle ski in a quiver. I think I preferred it to the 88.
Final note: none of the ON3P felt “burly” yet they were all very stable and capable at speed, as well as compliant with slow speed turns. I would be happy owning most of the models I demoed. With the Wrenegade 88, one could build a nice quiver with ON3P skis. Given what I had as my focus for the day, if I were to choose today, I would have a hard time between the Wrenegade 108 and the Billy Goat, either in 179cm. I suspect the Billy Goat is the better powder ski and the Wrenegade more versatile overall, so if you’ve already got something in the 98-108 range, go for the Billy Goat; otherwise the Wrenegade 108.