Crud buster day………………Friday 3-6-2009.....................Sugar Bowl
There was no notable new snow from Wednesday’s deep powder to today. The wind had been blowing, it remained cold and there were some spits and dribbles. Today, I was able to start right at 9:00 but the light was really flat for the first hour or so. This was fairly typical Tahoe winter crud. The powder had been chopped into chunks and then broken up on Wednesday and Thursday. After that, the wind and cold firmed the chunks a little while the wind continued to blow snow to fill in the holes and gaps between the chunks. So……..mid shin deep, generally soft but with varying resistance. There were a few untracked turns here and there near the edges but nothing more than two or three in sequence then back into the chop. In a few spots, the wind had scoured the snow down to firm chalk. I chose this day to experiment by testing two drastically different skis to see how they compared in these conditions. I scouted the terrain first on my Huge Trouble 185 and it was very good and sort of a standard setter.
This tip and tail rockered ski has a fairly long section of normal camber and sidecut underfoot with an early taper from the contact points forward that coincides with the beginning of the rise. Within the last month, I’ve been on the S7 a couple of times in medium powder conditions. I have found that the S7 is remarkably quick and nimble in light snow and super easy and fun to ski on. My first time out was at Mammoth a few weeks back and there was some fairly consistent windblown powder in the more open spots with some nice light fluff in the tight trees. The S7 was good in the consistent windblown and in the tight trees, it was just a hoot. I found I could dart through spots that I wouldn’t have tried on many other skis. The S7 reminded me of a good run on a Slalom course. When you’re on it, there’s plenty of time for the turn and the block is just an afterthought. The S7 was so easy, I could intentionally go into a tight spot, duck or block a branch and come out the other side laughing.
Before trying the S7, many of our shop guys who regularly ski on big conventional skis and /or big stiff rockers said something to the effect that…..”awww, this ski is too skinny, too soft and too short” Then they tried them and said variations on the following……”awww, this ski is too skinny, too soft, and too short” “BUT IT IS REALLY FUN”
On this day, I started up in the wind shaded ‘58s where the snow was clumpy but still light. The S7 was again quick and ultra maneuverable but I found that it was a little prone to getting knocked around. As I continued I started playing with technique and as others have mentioned, smearing the ski helped to stabilize it to an extent. As I moved around the mountain, I found the snow was very inconsistent and that’s where I discovered the S7s weakness for my tastes. If I tried to ski the crud “normally” the ski just got bounced and worked too much to be comfortable. As I gradually, moved the ski more and more across the fall line at turn finish, the stability got better but it was still rough going. Watching they way snowboarders finish their “turns” by throwing the board sideways and plowing snow with the base helped me to figure out how to tame the ride enough to be having fun again.
The bennies of the S7 shape were apparent in the first half of each turn because the initiation was ridiculously easy. As the ski passed the fall line and speed picked up, I had to pivot the ski against the direction of travel and the turn sort of stalled at the bottom. Even with this technique, the S7 felt a little more like work than I was looking for in this type of conditions. Care was necessary to keep from getting tossed back on the tails. If that happened, the tail rocker would not take the load and would try to wheelie out from under me. I think I would need to work more at the timing of the brake check in order to smooth out the sorta choppy nature of my runs through the rougher snow. On the wind scoured ridges the normal midsection gave me enough grip to be comfortable. On the lower groomers going back to the lift, the S7 was no problem. (Yes) it felt short and floppy, (no) I wouldn’t take it out for a day of groomer zooming but it really was OK, solid enough underfoot, and better than some other “concept” skis I’ve tried. For me, the bottom line is that the S7 is absolutely great in powder and consistent soft snow but in the heavier inconsistent snow, it not my cuppa this point. On the way back to the car to get ski #2, I reflected that in the overall picture, this is the ski that I like the best of the full rocker and or reverse skis that I’ve been on.
The Answer is Blizzards all mountain/big mountain twin. It has the same 130mm tip width as the highly regarded Argos, but is 4mm wider underfoot, is slightly softer overall and notably so in the tail. The Answer shares the IQ system track which integrates the binding low into the core of the ski and it features two mounting points for the single center screw. On this ski, the two points are 4 cm apart and today I had the 185 set up in the rear hole.
Skiing the groomers on the way from my car back over to the upper mountain lifts, the difference in feel of a conventional ski vs. a rocker was immediately evident. In spots where the S7 felt skittish, the Answer felt normal and indeed very solid for a twin. On my first run down from the top of Mt.Lincoln, I chose the same line out in the “58” chutes that I had skied earlier. The pitch was still in the shade and the snow was clumpy but still light. Where the S7 felt light and quick and wanted to turn all the time, the Answer was solid, and powerful. The float was good out in the less tracked up edges and nothing in this pitch knocked the ski around at all. At the bottom of the 58s, there is a band of trees to negotiate. While the S7 could hit any hole I wanted, the Answer took a more careful consideration of line. Coming out of the trees, the lower expanse opens up after a quick pass through a rock band. Down here, the snow was a little heavier and the Answer blasted through solidly. When the run spit me back out onto the groomers I headed over to the Disney lift making lazy GS turns.
Up on Disney, I got into the choppy inconsistent snow that had worked me over on the S7. Here the solid feel of the Answer made the ride through the rough stuff much more manageable. Back up to the top of Disney and down the ridgeline I hit some scratchy scoured off patches. The Answer grips exceptionally well for this category and is nimble enough to make any turn shape. Slipping through a slot in the rock band, there was plenty of room to turn the ski but I decided to try some very short braking turns. The Answer was up to it but for this task, the mount position felt just a little far back. When the hill opened up so did I and I started making bigger and bigger turns. The Answer pushed the crud solidly and I never felt like I had to wait on the ski to quiet itself down. When the path took me into a gulley near the bottom, I had to break off the bigger turns into shorter ones. Here, the Blizzi took a bit of smear from the tail to get the first short turn going but settled in after that. On this day, the Answer and the Huge Trouble both outperformed the S7 in making the rough snow comfortable. Both the Answer and the HT were very solid, but the Answer was more nimble and the HT was just bigger than necessary for the conditions.
Within its width category the Answer is a really solid competitor. It is more stable than my 183 Gotama in crud and has better grip on the scratchy stuff but is not quite as easy going as a Goat so that’s a tradeoff. OTH, it is easier and more maneuverable than either the Legend Pro or the Argos although somewhat less powerful than those two (another tradeoff). My only concern about the Answer is that the two binding position holes are pretty far apart. This may be OK as I haven’t tried the 185 in the front hole yet so I can’t say for sure if the 4cm switch might be a little too drastic. That’ll be a project for another day.
Skiing be a fun sport............