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Sterling Matterhorn, 174 two days' review

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Some of you may have read the earlier reviews of these skis, including this one by Bob Peters. This past week, I was delighted to be on a pair for a couple of days.

I met John Mansell (President of Sterling Skis) at Turley's in Boulder, and over a couple of Chai teas and a bowl of soup, we talked skiing and skis. He told me how he had spent a year skiing on the boutique brands of europe looking for the differences that limited production can make. He talked about finding a high-end company that builds hand-made skis, including many prototypes for WC racers on many different brands. He mentioned an exotic hardwood from Africa that is the core of his skis. And he told me that he had only one goal when he started: To create the best ski possible in a mid-fat, GS design.

He's done a pretty dang good job of it.

Now to the review...

In a word: Imperturbable
In two words: Confidence inspiring.
In a sentence: A world-cup GS soul in a midfat body.

Conditions: I skied on 5 and 6 February at Copper Mountain, primarily on upper-level blue and black terrain. New snow both days meant a soft surface, occasional deep sections (up to mid-thigh), and very limited groomed or hard snow. I was guiding a group each of the two days, so we covered a lot of terrain and kept moving.

Edge hold: This ski likes to track. It is biased for riding the edge, and the power of that edge produces confidence and encourages movement patterns along the ski rather than across it. Throwing your tails around is strongly discouraged...

The only other ski I have ever been on with this kind of edge confidence was an FIS GS ski. It is astounding. Even more so that it didn't matter the conditions or terrain: Bumps, crud, powder, chunks, whatever. I practically arced down bumps on terrain like The Moz, Retreat, Jaques Peak, Kaboom, and Rattler while also cutting up powder on shots like Marvin Gardens, Timberline Trees, and Buzzard's Alley. In other words, all over.

The skis tracked predictably and without deflection in all of this at up to very high speeds. There was never any hint of instability of any kind. They just track.

Turn shape: For me, the Matterhorns clearly preferred medium- to long-radius turns. Tight turns along the zipperline of moguls were more work than I have been used to with my Nordica Afterburners. But, at medium and long turns, just hold on for an exciting ride!

Release: The skis really reward solid movements along the ski and through release. Try to muscle into or out of a turn, and they'll slap your wrists a bit. This can be a good thing, and can contribute to the advancement that some skiers have reported after spending time on them. I believe that they can make anyone a better skier by encouraging solid movements. This was especially noticeable at transition and release.

Conclusions: Some people are willing to spend $5000 for a bike, $1500 for golf clubs, and $3500 for skis if they see that they are purchasing precision. The Sterling skis deliver on this promise. They certainly aren't for everyone, but for those who are looking for uncompromising performance in an all-mountain ski, Sterling is a solid -- and upscale -- choice.

My stats:

Height: 6'
Weight: 175lbs
Equipment: Nordica Mach 3 Power and Afterburner skis (both in 170) and Aggressor 150 boots
Skiing skills: 37th season skiing, ski anywhere in all conditions. Instructional hobbyist and PSIA Level II since 2004/5 season.

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 13
Originally Posted by ssh View Post

In a word: Imperturbable
Where is that dang (see: darn, blastic, MFing) dictionary????
post #3 of 13
Thats really impressive, a ski that looks the part and delivers, with a price to match but at $3k it seems to be a fair given the reviews I have thus far read.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Philpug View Post
Where is that dang (see: darn, blastic, MFing) dictionary????
Right cheer: imperturbable.
post #5 of 13
I totally agree with Stephen's experience with John Mansell's Sterling Matterhorn. This ski is no "fluffy bunny" luxury brand. It has the breeding of a race-room GS ski in a mid-fat carver shape, wrapped in the body of a finely crafted piece of artwork. The advanced-intermediates and expert skiers find this ski allows them to really grip at any speed and can improve one's confidence and technique.

Lesser-skilled skiers definitely find this ski a bit difficult to master at slower speeds, and John is already considering a new model to cater to less athletic skiers, but maintain an exclusive combination of quality and performance as demonstrated in the Matterhorn. I will bet his secret ski designers (darned if I can get him to divulge the designers and builders!) can find the formula for a slightly less demanding ski with the same level of targeted performance and stunning workmanship. (I confess the ski has the "feel" and personality of an Austrian or Swiss creation...but I can't be sure...stereotyping the country of origin by a ski's behavior is just asking for disagreement among skiers!)

I really liked this ski and thought it was a superb example of top-tier performance and workmanship. The more you do with it, the more it impresses you. Ask RockDude...he bought a pair !

We hope to have some more tests of the Matterhorn posted soon in the other lengths (163cm and 185cm) perhaps late this month...stay tuned...!

Some more pics of the Matterhorn skis can be seen over at :


In this era of gorgeous, high-precision bicycles, fishing rods, archery equipment, golf clubs and other toys with multi-thousand dollar price tags...the Sterling Skis fit the niche. Apparently, they sold out some size runs already!

Can't wait to try other lengths....

It's nice to see a "premium brand" really deliver performance at a extremely high, race-quality level...not just a shiny recreational ski with a big price tag and foo-foo image.

P.S. - The $3450 price includes the velvet wooden case, poles and VIST bindings. You can buy the ski alone (no bindings) for $2950).
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
You know what's interesting? I think I like that topsheet wood the least of the three. Here are examples of the other two from their web site...

The Birdseye Maple is really cool, but I like that Madrona Burl, too.
post #7 of 13
At this point, why would you not spend the extra couple of hunnerd for the box and awesome Vist plate.binding setup. I would love to get on a pair of these at some point.
post #8 of 13
Saw a photo of Antonio Banderas today with a pair of these under his arms.
post #9 of 13
Originally Posted by Richie-Rich View Post
Saw a photo of Antonio Banderas today with a pair of these under his arms.
Great..:..Now everyone is going to want a pair.
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
The Vist bindings and plate are very convenient. They are a system setup, with holes in the plate into which the bindings mount. This means that you can easily move the bindings fore and aft and also that you can easily adjust them for others to ski. This is one reason I skied them one notch forward; they are intended to be adjusted like this.

In my case, I have the downside of a small foot. With the way the plates were mounted, this meant that I had a smaller choice of options than most people will have (one notch fore or aft before I run out of notches!). I certainly felt the shovel more when full forward, but think I prefer these they way they ski in the center... even with my tiny feet/boots (284mm)).
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Here's an even better pic... aren't the burl and birdseye gorgeous?

post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Looks like I'll have a chance to jump on the planned new ski for next year. I'll post back when I have skied them...
post #13 of 13
they look awesome
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › Sterling Matterhorn, 174 two days' review