To get an impression about that ski, if you haven't yet seen the photos I put a photo of the ski I used at the end of the report.
Area: Hochkar in Lower Austria. Situated between 1380-1860m. One of the areas with best snow coverage every year of Austria, mostly intermediate to advanced runs, some nice offpiste runs with many about 35°-45° maximum. Many tree runs (trees are rather tight and not wide open), some nice chutes and some big mountain offpiste terrain. As the snow offpiste was really heavy, nearly all off it was untracked, skiers and snowboarders alike didn't venture much into it.
Weather: The night before it didn't freeze and 30cm of fresh slush snow from the past 2 days. Until 10:30 was the sight despite clouds still acceptable, then it became worse and worse. It started raining around 11:00 at the bottom (snowing on the top) and by around 12:30 snowing down to the bottom of the skifield. Visibility became worse as the snowfalls became stronger and stronger during the day, at the end you couldn't make out much anymore with maybe 20-30m
My skiing skills: Very good carving and mediocre racing technique (SL and GS, No SG or DH due to lack of technique). Primarily I snowboard (racing PSL and PGS and freeriding plus a bit of extremecarving and some freestyle (Halfpipe and Big-Air). On skis I can practically only carve or race (carvin with some drifting), but that on every slope and also to quite a good level in moguls - When there are bad conditions I'm mostly the last person in the skifield still carving. I completely suck off-piste though, basically I only get down, but with no style or controll in pow except if I use skis like Praxis which I can ride with carving technique.
The First Impressions: Until 10:30 while the weather was still acceptable i did some snowboard extremecarving with a friend of mine and then I dared myself to try the Raxski. As Tom had already posted on a lot of Forums but I hadn't seen a single testreport yet, I didn't really know what to expect. I had planned to start at a gentle slople but as there was a que it was straight up with the lift to the steepest groomed slope of Hochkar, which is around 20-25° steep on the first 200m vert, so actually quite steep. The model I was on first had 3 fins and was pretty extreme and more for really steep descents than slopes or "only" 25°, and belongs to the Generation 2007 - which foce you into the backseat, but I didn't want to change my snowboard hardboots to skiboots so I took the only Raxski with non releasable snowblade binders that fitted well my Raichles.
At first I noticed that the ski really went slow on the flats, firstly because Tom never bothered to wax them, secondly because the surface area is really small (full length of that model only around 1m). The first turns where surprisingly easy, the ski basically turned all by itself, either by simply turning the feet or by angulating. You can do pretty much everything and no matter how unbalanced you are the fins will allways turn you back into the fallline if you make a mistake. After a few turns onpiste (very soft) I went into the really wet and heavy 30cm new snow besides the slope. I was a bit afraid how such small skis would float at all but do to the far back binding mount position and the backseat I was constantly in on that model the Raxski allways stayed with the tips above the snow. For braking you simply lean even more back, or turn the skis 90° which is really easy and quick do to the short length. Even some sort of backseat snowplow is really easy to do even in new snow to slow down. However already after the first run my hipps were on fire (and that's definitely not caused by missing training). I did a few more runs in different terrain and tried to get used to skiing mostly only on the part of the ski which is behind the binding - the finns. I got down some offpiste on the Raxskis, which I wouldn't dare with normal skis though (no probs on snowboard off course). Even though I went down some gnarly and steep terrain, my speed was allways on the slow side. I then changed to skiboots and a more conservative Raxski design, the "Rax Austria 2008".
Raxing on Rax Austria 2008:
The Rax Austria 2008 was a lot easier to ski. Except on steep parts you didn't have to dig in the finns but could also drift or engage the single fin for turning only. Carving is off course not possible on these Raxskis, I tried it some times but you would allways have on ski going different direction from the other. If in Pow or on Piste you can however ski the Raxski with closed leg position or wide stance, both works equally good. Keeping the skis parallel is very easy as they are so short, if on fins and equal weight on both feet the Raxski will always turn downhill and straightline, until you either give a turning input by feet, legs or upperbody, or to not only quickly change direction and then continue in the fallline you simply have to put more weight on the ski on the side to which you want to turn and it turns. It's really easy to understand the principle. I allways felt under controll, however straightlining steep chutes or forest I got afraid that the ski dives below the surface so I didn't go very fast offpiste (max maybe 50km/h, average around 30-40km/h). Tom often straightlined even 40° chutes at high speed (I'ld say up to 8ßkm/h) and leave lines in the snow where people looking at them would have bet all their fortune on, that they must have been made by ascending skiers, as noone could possibly straightline such terrain. I think with a few days skiing on Raxskis security and knowledge how to best put fore/after ballance for going really fast will come. Even though the speed wasn't that fast (I'm used to be descending lightning fast on my 2m Lonboard (Rad-Air Tanker) skiing the Raxskis was really fun and easy. After a few hours really exact steering off piste can be achieved, so you don't even need to think about slowing down when you approach really tight places, steering is much more exact than on normal skis or on snowboard, as nothing could through you off your chosen path. For example on moguls you can simply straightline without being bounced around by mooving you weigth back so that the tipps are in the air and the finns cut through the moguls. If you lean back too far, the finns will just break even more and you directly get back into ballance. A few times I leaned back so far that I fell onto my back, however basically instantly the finns would engage in the snow to bring you back up. Even though the Raxski are very short, they ride very stable once you engage the finns.
On the steepest parts I however had some problems with the design. When hockeystopping 2-3 times I booted out and then it was difficult to get up again as the finns wouldn't slow you down and the short lengt and width of the Raxski (60-70mm as old straight skis are used to build them, simply cut off behind the binders) wouldn't suffice to slow down in such steep parts. The only way to get up is therfore to roll over from sliding on your side onto your back (this is easy as behind your binding there is only the fin, and no ski to stop you rolling over) and then dig in the finns to get up again and then breaking with the finns while still going straight down the fallline. I imagine that this would become very difficult on really icy hardpack, in case the finns, don't get through the crust.
Overall I really like the concept behind the Raxski and applaude the stubbornness of Tom continuing and improving his Raxski even though nearly all people who see the Raxskis were thinking that he is only crazy and that this concept can't work at all. Also most people don't find it stylish at all. According to Tom all except one of the 6 people who tried the Raxski so far however really liked it, and on his trip to the States beginning of March he found one person so happy about it, that he will start building Raxskis in New Hampshire. So it soon should become possible to test the Raxski in the wider area from NY northwards Raxskis will be available. After riding the Raxski I personally would like to have the finns applied to some real Big Mountain / Freerideskis to see what will become possible of riding with such a ski then. At least however mount the finns on some wider skis with say 100-120mm Underfoot. I think with the concept of finns you don't need very long skis, but a bit wider would be better in all circumstances. So broken Freeerideskis could be turned into some really good equipment for those days when there is now dry powder but either no new snow.
At around 14:30 I got of the Raxskis and put on my softboots to enoy my tanker. My friend who had been trying the tanker while I had been on the Raxski now decided to give the a try even though he had ony skied only once or twice during his life (he's not that young anyore but only started snowboarding after moving from England to Austria and had not been skiing beforehand as you would otherwise expect from every Austria as skiing is THE mainstream sport here). After explaining him how to get into the skibinders Tom, me and him directly took the chair up to the top and I thought already about wether it would be quicker for me to get back to the carpark to get him his softboots and a snowboard or wheter he would walk down quicker...... Getting off the lift he nearly fell down as he didn't think about not crossing over his skis and keeping them parallel. So Tom told him to just go straight and move the weight backwards to brake. Well surprisingly to both of us he directly began skiing without any apparent difficulties. We went down an interediate run which had huge moguls in the steeper sections due to the warm weather and strong snowfall, nevertheless he instantly found out how to turn and break. 10 minutes later and we were down to the base station. Both Tom and me were really stoked about him getting down the mountain without any serious technical flaws or mistakes, so alreay on the second run we went offpiste. The top part was angled at around 10-20° and didn't pose any difficulties so we decided to go down some difficult and steep terrain angled around 30°-40°. Some runs before my friend did have huge problems going down here on my tanker as he was too afraid to turn due to the steepness and the long unaccustoed length of the tanker. With the raxskis however he directly understood how to turn them and get down. Off course his speed was really slow but he kept going at a steady pace. Then he fell however and due to the steepness he could only get to a stop about 10m later narrowly missing some rocks. Now a bit afraid it was more one turn at a time in the really steep parts, once it got flatter however he regained confidence.
I now left my friend alone with Tom and got in some high speed runs on my tanker knowing that no ski ever comes close to the feeling of running a longboard down the mountain in fresh snow, feeling absolute sure about that as long I don't fall down a cliff that I wouldn't see with the now very strong snowfall nothing could possibly through me off. 2m length on a snowboard simply means huge stability and speed once you point it downhill on steep parts. About 45 minutes later it was 4PM so the lifsts closed down and I met Tom and my friend at the carpark. Tom was so overwhelmed by the perfomance of my friend on his first day on skis that he thought about mainly getting snowboarders to try out the Raxski. I'm pretty sure however that every sporty person can go down easily even double diamond runs on Raxskis on the first day, even if it is the first day skiing in his life. Skiing on Raxskis is simply much more natural for body movements compared to classic skiing even though at first sight it doesn't look so. Snowboarding off piste and carving on piste will however for the moment still stay in my main focus. Maybe with wider and slightly longer Raxskis this will change, but for the moment I can't imagine though. A few days per year of "raxing" would be great fun however. Nevertheless I do think that especially for the leisure skier Raxskis would be much easier and more fun than classic straight skis or carving skis.
I can't imagine Raxskis becoming a second discovery like snowboards, but think that i can be highly possible that skis with Finns like the Raxski will find their followers.
Tom will bring his Raxskis to the Derby de la Meije in La Grave this year and to the Austrian Firngleitereisterschaften (Firngleiter or Figln are to say the parents of the Raxski) so interested skiers or boarders can give them a try.
I have first used a model siilar to this one but with 3 "teeth" and not 2 like shown here:
Then after the first few runs I have been on this model: