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AK No Ka Oi

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
The ski:

180cm long (it also comes in 170 and 193)
117/78/107 (slightly different dims for the 193)
mounted with Tyrolia LD12 Railflex
Boots: Nordica Hot Rod

I stumbled upon this ski last season during my second year of demoing and trying to find an alternative to the K2 Recon.

I was impressed by the customer service of AK, who kindly offered me a free demo. The only catch is that the only place you can demo is Kirkwood. Not too bad of a catch, but I'm predominantly a North Shore rider (cabin in Truckee). At any rate I convinced my pops to accompany me on a South Shore weekend riding at Heavenly and KW. His buddy, an old instructor, joined us at KW. This was in late March of last season.

I got the skis and took 'em out on the hill for the day. They handled fairly well on the groomers and in the bumps, but were noticeably stiffer than anything else I'd ridden (I had spent most of the season on Karmas, Mantras, and AR5), which threw me at first. I had to stay on top of them a bit more, which is always a chore as my natural inclination is towards being a lazy skier.

The only real "trouble" I encountered was when I took them into a powder stash on the backside (sorry, I've only been to KW about 6 times and don't remember the names of any of the runs). I made about 3 turns in knee deep and then endoed over the handlebars. I chocked it up to a combo of not being enough in the back seat and the narrowness of the skis plus my hacker style.

That said, I did the impulse buy and bought the skis. Heck, they were on sale for $375 (online they were going for $700). I rode them once more in April at Alpine Meadows during ego snow spring conditions. They worked fine.

Flash forward to the 2006/07 season and 3 days of riding in N. Lake area. Given the sparse snow in Tahoe and being more or less relegated to groomers, I pulled out the AKs for what would be my second day of riding this season (the first day back in November resulted in minor base damage to my Karmas). I decided I'd risk the bases, but also made a conscious decision to stay on the groomed runs. I rode at Sugar Bowl with my cousin and his girlfriend.

This would be the day that I really worked the skis and figured them out. They railed on the groomers. Incredibly stable and easily the first shaped ski that feels somewhat remotely as stable as my old 198 7S's did. I opened them up several times and no chatter whatsoever.

Turning takes a little work, which I chock up to the ski's stiffness and turning radius (not sure what it is, but I think it's in the mid-to-upper 20s). They turn much easier when you're at mach 8 with your hair on fire. I don't usually like to go that fast, but the solid feel made it incredibly easy to gain the confidence to do so (definitely need a helmet now).

While most of the steep pitched runs at SB were icy or filled with too much exposed brush and rocks, the shorter runs over on the Crow's Nest side were pretty decent and provided additional testing grounds for the skis. Again, I cannot stress how stable these puppies are at speed. Edging is pretty decent, too, then again I'm more of a slarver than a carver. They were a wee bit spotty on super hard icy conditions, but then again that could be because of the stiffness and the fact that I'm not an aggressive flexer. Despite this, I still felt comfortable on them.

The only real problem I began encountering is that later in the day when I began to get tired I would start to cross the extra wide tips when I went into a hard turn on borderline ice. I really had to get over the tips and stay focused to avoid this. Definitely not a lazy man's ride, that's for sure.

My cousin was impressed with my "carving" and remarked several times at how he thought I'd stepped up my game. Granted he's a relative, but he's also not an a$$ kisser of any kind. I actually felt like I was skiing like Gumby, so any postive feedback was welcome.

I gave the No Ka Oi's a rest on my second day (took the Karmas out). I brought the NKO's out for my third day, this time at Northstar. Again, they ripped doing GS turns on the groomers and became suprisingly nimble at high speeds. I had to work 'em a little harder to do tight slalom turns, but as long as my speed was up they whipped around lickety split. This time I even took 'em into the bumps (unknowingly) and they worked well, popping quick turns as long as I kept my speed up and stayed on top of them. I wouldn't choose this as a bump ski (that's what my shorter Karmas are for), but in a pinch I was able to make my way down the run (everyone else was popping out of their skis and walking/scooting down the run!).

Pretty much the skis performed as they had at Sugarbowl two days before: incredibly stable at speed, turny if you forced 'em, demanding enough that if I got lazy they woke me back up. My second to last run of the day was back on Burnout, which was scraped off hardpack/boderline ice. Again they got a little shifty on the hard stuff, but held an edge okay (I'm nowhere near being an expert on ice, mind you). While I felt a little shaky edging on the ice, the ski held up and didn't let me down. Though I will say that I didn't feel expert enough to fully open 'em up on this run (a helmet might have changed my mind, though).

Interestingly enough, I ran into one other guy on the hill rocking the same ski (only the 2nd person I've seen riding these...the other was at Mammoth last 4th of July).

Anyway, long story short: I love this ski. It's just a little over my head, but not so much so that I feel out of its league. If anything, it keeps me on my game more and prevents me from slacking off. That and the simple fact that it rips and makes riding the groomers fun (and challenging) again (if only because I've spent the past two seasons skiing 90% off-piste and mostly riding a Mantra).

In fact I'm so stuck on this ski that I think I'm about to retire my Mantras and pick up the No Ka Oi's "big brother" the King Salmon. It only comes in a 180, but I think the extra 3cm on my 177 Mantra will do the trick. Looking forward to demoing that hopefully this weekend at KW.

At any rate, anybody looking for a "narrow" waisted all-mountain ski that is quick and stable and demanding, I'd highly recommend making a trip to KW to demo the AK No Ka Oi (it's available at Cornice Sports).
post #2 of 2
Thread Starter 
Got out on the No Ka Oi's for a few more days recently, at Heavenly and Alpine Meadows.

The more I ride this ski, the more I love it.

With a 78mm waist it's the narrowest in my quiver, although the tips and tails are pretty wide (I posted the dims above).

Both Heavenly and Alpine had minimal new dusting from a minor storm, but were still predominantly packed powder groomers. These things rip on the packed, turning agily when up to speed. For what I consider a kind of short ski (180) they ride a lot like my ancient 198 slalom skis.

At Heavenly my time was spent mostly on Olympic Downhill, practising tight turns and carving wide open GS turns. I was riding with an AT buddy and a boarder. At Alpine I was with a tele buddy and another downhiller. On the soft mild bumps that line the outer edges of Wolverine Bowl, on Sunspot off the Summit Chair, and on the Sherwood Bowls they handled nicely. I thought they'd be too narrow for such conditions and given my level of skiing, but I worked 'em out and had a blast following my tele buddy and his friend through these runs (tele buddy was on 100mm Karhus, other guy on 74mm 724s).

The only recurring problem I'm having is some tip crossing when I hit a turn too aggressively. Not sure if it's my technique or not, but as long as I stay on top of them and focus on not crossing the tips it works fine. This just prevents me from getting in the zone and finding the sweet spot, though. Both my buddies remarked several times that they could tell when I'd hit the sweet spot and was gelling with the skis. Sadly, I missed most of these, but every once in awhile I'd get a sweet set of linked turns and everything clicked.

The only time I felt uneasy on 'em was the Expert Shortcut coming back from Sherwood and the icy-mixed-with softie area off of Waterfall. And that was more a problem of me getting too defensive rather than offensively attacking the runs. I also let the 180 length "fool" me thinking it was too long for popping some tight turns (something I need to work on more). Admittedly, though, this was the first time I had gone somewhat off-piste all season, so I cut myself some slack. So far this season I've been sticking mainly to the groomers, which is something I haven't done in more than 2 seasons.

At any rate, I'm totally digging these skis, so much so I'm seriously contemplating retiring my Mantras and picking up their big brother the King Salmon. Gonna hit Kirkwood to demo them at the end of January, that's for sure!
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