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The Silver Standard - Sterling Ski Review

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I got a chance to ski the Sterling Matterhorn today here at Jackson Hole. The owner, John Mansell, and his wife were here putting a few prospective buyers on pairs and they were kind enough to let me make some turns on a pair of 184's.

First off, the photo in the other review thread really doesn't do justice to how beautiful these skis are.

They are absolutely a work of art, with beautiful wood topsheets inlaid within a surrounding layer of titanal. The topsheet Sterling logo is (fittingly enough) genuine silver, and these skis just "feel" good to carry around.

Okay, so they look great but how do they ski?

I'm 6'1", 195#, have been skiing a long time, teach all levels of adult private lessons at Jackson Hole and spent a bunch of winters as a backcountry guide here. The skis I prefer tend to be smooth, powerful, damp, and capable of blowing through crud snow while not being SO demanding than I can't relax and teach on them. The two skis I like the most right now are the Head SuperShape Magnum (177cm) and the Head iM88 in the 186cm.

The Sterlings have a similar feel to the Head iM82. I think the 184 Sterling has a turn radius of around 19 or 20m and are pretty similar in feel to the Head iM82's, which are an outstanding all-around ski. The Sterlings are not so turny as to get deflected in crud but definitely turny enough that if you tip them over and put some weight on them they'll come around plenty quick.

I skied them on a new-snow day with about 8" of fresh snow over several days of cut-up snow and soft moguls. The only groomer I tried them on had 8" of fresh untracked fluff on it and those skis were like heaven on that.

What I liked about these skis was that they were very predictable and didn't want to lock me into any one kind of turn or radius of turn. They could be skied low and fast in long-radius GS turns or they could be easily swung around in tighter, steeper trees and bumps. I felt very confident on them and didn't hesitate to take them through some pretty skinny holes in the trees (no worries, John, I didn't whack anything ).

So, I would call this a really, really fun ski that could take on most anything a big mountain has to offer. I know that you wide-ski afficionados out there will want a bigger platform, but this ski will do it all very nicely if you give it a try.

Enough has been said in the other review threads about the cost of these skis that I'm not going to dwell too much on it. These are handmade skis and it's very obvious that John and Rhonda (I hope I remembered her name correctly) are very passionate about making a great ski. There are a zillion comparisons to cite where a finely crafted product performs essentially the same function as something more mass produced. Homes, cars, wines, whiskeys, fly rods, shotguns, watches, etc. The list goes on and on.

Are there skis out there that ski as "well" as the Sterlings? I'm sure there are. Are there skis out there that LOOK as good? Not that I've seen lately. Are there skis out there that are as lovingly and meticulously made? Maybe, but I don't know that I'm aware of them.

So, I'll leave it up to you readers to decide if the price differential is worth it to you. What I can tell you is that they ski really darn well.

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 6
The more that I hear about these skis, the more that I want to get on a pair. Kudos to John for making a product that is living up to the hype.
post #3 of 6
Thanks for the great review, Bob... I'm hoping to get on a pair one of these days soon!
post #4 of 6
Good review Bob. I agree with your review on the skis in powder conditions. After skiing the Matterhorns a dozen times in great conditions, I have learned they have a sweet spot. Once you find that spot, they are incredible at everything. I originally thought 8 or so inches was their limit in powder but after spending more time on them, I can say their limit is much deeper, maybe 12-14 inches depending on the type of snow.
It took me about 5 days to hone in on the sweet spot but now that I have found it, I am skiing better than ever. The sweet spot requires me to hold my form better, combine this with the Matterhorn’s high performance, and I have exponentially improved my skiing ability in a matter of weeks. After 29 years of skiing, I did not think this was possible. When I got my Matterhorns, I thought they were one of the best skis I had been on. Now I can say they are the best skis. The more time I spend on them the more I love them.

post #5 of 6
A quick followup on the original testing after getting on a bunch of other skis the last month or two and coming back to the Sterling Matterhorns (It's always good to get away from a ski for a while and come back to it after riding other brands for a while in different snow conditions and trails...)

This time, we had the 163cm version (shortest one they have) with the "Madrona Burl" topsheet in addition to the 174 length with the "Palisander Santos" topsheet. We still did not get a chance to try the 185 (darn).

163 cm Matterhorn:

I got to ski these 163s one day in soft, soft packed powder (the kind you walk on and sink about 2 inches in your boots) and up to knee-deep powder.

Soft, Soft Packed Powder:

The ski really felt like a race ski at first. It sank undefoot and lost momentum if you pressed down like you wanted to carve in the soft packed stuff. It really wanted a firmer surface for that kind of technique. If I backed off the foot pressure and smeared my turns, the Matterhorns were happy and made perfectly civilized changes of direction with just a little bit of effort. To be fair, everyone with a ski less than 85mm underfoot has having the same problem in these conditions. The Matterhorns are only 76mm at the waist, so skiing sinkable packed powder with them was going to be an adventure anyway.

As soon as the surface firmed up or was scraped away by traffic, the ski came alive and wanted to immediately sink its teeth into the surface and grip a high-performance arc. Being a 163, quick SL-type turns were immediately available on demand, with more kick than you might expect...(definitely a race-bred gene pool at work here). Higher speed GS turns were no problem. Stability was excellent and turn intiation was predictable and consistent. You want to stay forward on the Matterhorns at 163. The lack of tail behind you becomes apparent at really high speeds. The ski's dampening is high, so it stays quiet at speed, but I could find the end of the tail quickly if I was really humming along and got into the back seat.


The sinking underfoot feeling in the really soft, soft packed powder disappeared once I ventured into the fresh knee-deep powder. The whole ski remained "in" the snow (it is not a porpoise-like surfacing powder ski like a Praxis!), but could be raised or lowered in the powder without too much work. Just keep your stance steady and centered. Again, it is not a specialized powder ski...don't expect it to act like one. Much more civilized than a race ski in powder, for sure. While it's natural habitat is the groomed surfaces, the Matterhorns work perfectly OK in the powder if you're not spoiled by using fat skis in the fluff.
Ditto for the 174 Matterhorn in the soft pack and powder conditions.

Grippy, Squeaky Eastern Hardpack:

On a different day with epic squeaky Eastern hardpack buffed smooth, I got to use the 163 Matterhorns. The same vice-grip feeling of the 174cm Sterlings on hardpack showed up in the 163s. Both skis reward an athletic, expert initiation with a resulting strong, very secure edgehold and pressure control. The 163 will allow a tighter turn to happen quicker (16.5m radius) than the 174 (19.1m radius), and at lower speeds. Where the 174 takes a little speed to get into its best groove for its first turn, the 163 has already ripped off a turn and begun the next one. The 163 still requires a bit of preparation before you get it set into its race-like turn, but if you ski it easy...it just changes direction without the race-like grip. Like its longer versions, the 163 can still catch a lazy skier off-guard. The Matterhorn is responsive and strong, with a high amount of camber, making the old "I caught an edge" saying come to mind more than a less athletic ski would cause.

I watched another skier riding the Sterling Matterhorn 163 who had tried the 174cm version earlier. She had been somewhat overwhelmed by the 174 since she is much shorter and less aggressive in style. The 163 allowed her to increase her speed and control across the hardpack and experience a race-like grip lacking in her own skis. I think she said "Oh boy...these things just want to RUN!". She immediately became comfortable with them and was confident in her turn control, where the 174 took her for a ride sometimes. Bottom line: make sure you size this ski correctly by demoing it first for your preferred terrain and style. When in doubt, go with the shorter length!

The Matterhorn 163 as not as richochet-rabbit as a pure SL ski. It was more like a short GS ski, with all the high speed cruising and carving manners of its longer versions. You could do slalom turns with it lickety split, but make sure you stay on top of them. Very manuverable, but still business-like in their attitude. Shorter skiers who love a high-performance, near-race quality carving ski will love the Matterhorn 163. I repeat my feeling that the intermediate level skiers will have to increase their skills or be in good physical condition to really enjoy this ski. It rips, plain and simple. It is not a fluffy luxury ski. It is a race-bred carving tool in high-gloss, exotic wood clothing. Gorgeous to look at, a really nice work of art and a high-end performance machine. I don't think there are many skis with that combination. You could probably find skis that perform as nicely as the Sterlings, but they won't have that same work-of-art appearance and premium branding.

Some folks wanted more photos of the Sterlings. Here you go:

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Rumor has it there is a "de-fanged" version of the Sterling Matterhorn out there for next year with the hefty plate removed, making it flexible and easy-going for less-than-expert level skiers.... If anyone rides a pair...let us know...
post #6 of 6
Heh, heh, heh... I'll be riding a pair of the new boards tomorrow, if all goes as planned. I'll let you know, for sure!
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