One problem with the B5 and how I learned to love short shaped skis.
First the complaint: There is one big problem with the Metron B5 and Atomic binding combo: When hiking up to get an off piste line they are really heavy on the shoulder. On most skis this could be excusable, as the little voice inside says "eh the snow is probably bad off piste, its not worth it" but with the B5 the voice says "who cares, even if its wind blown bullet proof under an inch of soft, the skis will just glide over and hold an edge." So with the B5 you find yourself doing an aweful lot of hiking.
Now the conversion story, In all seriousness I am a new convert to the world of short fat skis and the Metron B5 in specific. I have enjoyed the posts here and and would like to add my account of 5 days at Alta Utah and 3 in the Sierras demoing lots of skis. This poste is long, but I figure anyone that hasn't gotten to ski in a few weeks will enjoy hearing about someone elses skiing and my first encounters with the metron might recharge your memories of your own fond meeting. So here goes:
First the relevant facts to interpret my demo reports:
I am 5'11'', 240lbs, 31 years old, skiing for 27 years.
Before the Metron my preference was steeps and fast cruising, post metron my preference is steeps, fast cruising and tight trees.
After living in VT, working at a ski shop and being very knowledgeable about the ski industry I spent nearly 10 years ignorant of technology changes, living in upstate NY away from moutains and then in California with frequent trips to Squaw Valley and Alpine meadows, My only connection with changes in the industry for most of this time was the observation that my 208cm Rossi GS skis kept looking more out of place. As the long boards lost more and more camber, and the binding floated on the boundary of idemnification, I found myself demoing more and more. But I would always begin the day in disagreement with the ski shop employee that told me that I only needed 160's, and I would end the day not quite sold on the ability of short skis to feel stable at speed--but they were good in the bumps. There was a nice day with a pair of Rossi Bandit X's a few years back when I had fresh powder all day, and I vaguely recall some orangish Atomic Beta's that heald a nice edge, but no ski made me willing to lay down the credit card.
This year I committed to buying skis and set out to demo intelligently. Two weeks ago, work afforded 3 days at lake Tahoe: 2 days at Alpine Meadows and 1 at Squaw.
Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley (no new snow to speak of, groomers in the morning and some non groomed corn runs in the afternoon):
Ski 1: Volkl p60 GX, (size 178 or close to it), These were the best shaped short skis I had used thus far. The day was primarily spent on hardpack groomers with a little afternoon corn and a few runs in the steeps. Ski was a blast at speed, not the most forgiving of any mistaken laziness that put you back a bit. If I were to own several skis this one would be fun, but not quite versatile enough for off piste and my quiver of 1.
Ski 2: Volkl Superspeed 178 (or close to it): A disappointment, felt too soft at speed compared to the p60, and didn't seem to have any advantage on crappy snow, in the bumps or for really tight turns.
A week goes by and I find myself at Alta, Utah for 5 days. Unfortunately its been a month since the last big dump but afternoons afford corn and there is trace of new snow in the mornings (more in the trees) --life is good. I arrive hoping to demo more GS skis, but find that at Alta they don't do crusisers. "Real men use all mountain skis" --ok, I'll try.
Ski 3: Nordica SUV (174 ish): Ugh, you can tell its a foam core ski on the 3rd turn. The ski feals dead and the chatter at speed on the hardpack does nothing for confidence. Next please
Ski 4: K2 Crossfire (174). Ok, this ski has promise. It is lively and seems to revel in quick turns. The ski rewards aggresive skiing and provides lots of confidence. Stability at speed is very good. Its also fine for tight jump turns. The only potential weakness is that Edge hold on the hardpack steeps is not perfect, but maybe its just me or the conditions. Certainly a nice ski, can I buy it? --Sorry sir we have none left and are not selling the demos.
Ski 5: Atomic skiercross b5 (182): Oh yeah I found a board longer than 180, its like I'm 12 again. The ski is nice at speed for the big GS turns, but on the steeps quicker short radius turns lack edge hold. I could get over the association with the x-games but the ski doesn't quite do it for me. I do like the stability though, and try to find the next size down thinking that may have better short turn properties. Sorry the 174's are out.
Ski 5: Blizzard X cross (182 ish): The ski feels like a softened version of the Atomic skiercross, nice but doesn't seem excellent in any dimension.
Ski 6: Volkl 724 exp (174 ish): This is a hot looking ski, nice texture, bright yellow, seems very popular here at Alta. I liked the P60 in California, so I have high hopes, just like the p60 on the groomers but better off -piste? NOT even close. The ski feels very soft, This is the first ski since the Nordica SUV that really bounced around at speed (still on the groomers but its afternoon so there is some degradation of the the smoothness). I try two fast runs, hoping that by varying my technique I will find the sweet spot. No luck.
Ski 7: Atomic Metron B5 (172): I return asking for the shorter Atomic skiercross (a bit embarrased to admit the 182 might be too long), to find it its out. Nice gentleman says try this Metron ski. Ok got it in 175 ish? Nope it maxes at 172 and this is the only one left. I am bewildered by Atomics unwillingness to make the model longer than 172. Isn't this the company that backs Bode and the Hermaneiter... Ok, I'll try. I ride up the lift in awe of the width of the shovel. I'd love to own a powder ski, but I live back east and only want one pair of skis-- this can't be the right ski. First run, Ski just feels weird for the first few hundred feet of lazy turns on top. I find myself on a short steep bumpy section. Snow is slick hardpack. Wow this thing really holds an edge. Finish the bump section and get onto groomed blue. After 5 big turns, I have an ego high, as the speed builds on long GS turns everything is effortless, I see the imperfectons and small bumps expecting the short ski to chatter like crazy ---nothing no shaking, no loss of edge contact. Its like gliding on rails. Run ends with a big grin. Several more runs like this. These skis are more stable than 208 GS skis ever were, But then there is the tight turn. Once dialed into the technique I can't pole plant fast enough to keep up with super tight turns--oh well just keep the hands out front. But the true joy is fast big turns--this must be what surfing is like. Next run, I head to a short steep bump run. Hardbumps with a little soft on top. They are really quick and never mis an edge when you want them to hold. I want this ski, but after only 3 or 4 runs I am not quite ready to commit. Day ends with the demo center holding the ski for me to use again in the morning. I still have the K2 crossfires and must transit to the other base and return them, so I get one last run in with them. They are still a nice ski, but I notice a slight tendency to loose an edge where I think the B5 would have heald --but I didn't ski this particular run on the B5.
Next day, back on the B5 and yesterday wasn't a dream. These skis are incredible. A few inches of new snow, so I head for what looks like a nice steep and lonely line at Mineral Basin, Snowbird. After 2 turns I see why the locals aren't playing here. Steep Bullet proof windblown with weird bumpy balls covered by an inch or 2 of fresh snow. For the B5 this is not a bad deal, they hold edges, the are easy to initate the turn in no matter what the texture is and often enough they float on the small amount of soft cover. Dancing through the steep bumps, I am only constrained by cardiovascular fitness, not technique or ski.--Big confidnece builder. Afternoon comes and its back over to Alta, I find some soft snow in the woods, and am in heaven.
Ski 8: K2 Recon (174)
Meanwhile my wife falls in love with the K2 burnin loves and buys a new pair--the only pair for sale in Alta, or maybe Utah it would seem. Her first pair of skis --yeah. So I get to use her demo credit at the shop with K2's that just got in the Recons in, which I am told are very much like the metron b5's I have been talking up. I take 2 runs, and am even more appreciative of the b5. The recons look like they have simmilar sidecut and width properties, but at speed they are not competetive. I'm not sure if it lack of torsional stiffeness or dampining but where the b5 provides unbreakable hold and stability the recon lets you know that it is built for powder not hardpack. Conclusion If I were going to buy a K2 it would be the crossfire, and on purely asthetic grounds I like its traditional look, but I'm buying what is the best ski I have ever been on. Day ends with me the proud owner of a month and a half old pair of Metron B5's in 172cm with Atomic 412 bindings. Nice owner of the shop throws in poles (so I can cut down the old ones at home for tele) and gives me what I believe is a very nice price. Demo center does a little p-tex work--nothing serios or near the edges, and I notice a short section of edge that is imperfect --next belt and stone grinding will fix this.
Final ski day. My "new" skis and I do some hike runs and tree runs. I am euphoric, Each lift ride finds me staring at the marvel of engineering on my feet and each rund down finds me skiing better than I ever have.