Gear Guide: Downhill Ski Review

I recently had the good fortune to visit Steamboat Springs, Colorado during a winter storm that saved their January from being the driest January on record. During a week of snow ranging from wet crud to lighter-than-air powder that they are famous for, I tested four types of skis! Here’s a downhill ski review for each, including a rundown on how they stack up to the weather, and some ski comparison.

Sunday

Blizzard Black Pearl

Skis: Blizzard Black Pearl 166 featuring flip core technology.
Core: Bamboo/Wood
Tail Type: Partial Twin Tip
Conditions: Wet packed snow on its last legs of being skied on all month.

I do not normally ski on women’s equipment, since I am taller and heavier than most women. Unfortunately, the Black Pearls did not change my mind. They felt insubstantial, short, and chattery underfoot. They feature early rise in the tips, and, because we were hitting groomers with no new snow, this made my turns feel smeary and sloppy on the first couple of runs. I would be interested to see how they perform in powder, but did not get a chance to do so.

In spite of a rocky start, I stuck with them and found something to like. By the end of the day I could feel what so many people rave about with regard to the Black Pearl: the camber underfoot made carving easier and my turns smooth. It was sunny in the afternoon, and we were on spring style snow. The Black Pearl hung on and did not slip around in more aggressive turns, and it performed best in our race down the last run towards happy hour. Too bad it was too little, too late.

Summary: Probably a great all-mountain ski for someone shorter and lighter, but too flimsy and short for me.

Monday/Tuesday

Volkl Kink 163

Skis: Volkl Kink 163
Core: Wood
Tail Type: Full Twin Tip
Conditions: New snow. Good filler, coming down intermittently all day Monday with 24” reported Tuesday!

In spite of being marketed as a park ski the Kinks treated me well, so much so that I kept them for Monday and Tuesday. They ended up skiing just as well in packed snow as off-piste freshies.

The Kinks made me happy the moment I stepped into them on Monday, despite being shorter than Monday’s Black Pearls. Chalk it up to no early rise in the tips (though they are rockered) and being much stiffer. This makes them springier than my Salomon Lords, so turns feel crisp and neat. The 89mm underfoot did not exactly float me on the new stuff, but it made hidden bumps easier to manage and the 18.6m turning radius was fun for the wide open runs on Monday.

Because of that 89mm underfoot, I did have a hard time getting restarted in the powder if I dipped off for some trees, But for the most part, these negotiated everything well on Monday: groomers, trees, and especially bumps.
The Kinks did not disappoint in the 24” of snow we got by Tuesday, either. I played alone in the morning, hitting lots of off-piste pitches and bumps that were rapidly filling in with the snow that was coming down hard. In the afternoon I skied a tight glade where the 163cm length wound up being beneficial. Their 18.6m turn radius made the initial trees a little dicey but still was a lot of fun. The Kinks skied fast; I easily zipped by my friend several times. That quick speed would help quite a bit in the terrain park, although I did not have the opportunity to take them in while I had them.

Summary: The Kinks performed great in all the terrain I ventured into, with the exception of tight trees. I would definitely ski them again, and recommend them to anyone who skis at a high-intermediate/advanced level and would love to see what they can do in a park setting

Thursday

line-skis-prophet-90-skis-2013

Skis: Line Prophet 90 163
Core: Maple Macro Block (2 strips of maple surrounded by aspen)
Tail Type: Full twin tip
Conditions: Packed powder with plush piles, heavy powder in backcountry

The Prophets were perfect for conditions on Thursday. It had been snowing for three days, much of it had been wet filler snow, so some friends and I headed out into the backcountry to find a few powder stashes.

The tips floated me beautifully through the heavy stuff, while the stiff tail kept my turns clean. They transitioned well between powder and the packed traverse out of the backcountry, and with a 17.7m turn radius, they were perfect for the varied terrain we encountered. I was able to make short turns while I was in the trees, and then lengthen them on those final, open runs back to the lift.

My only complaint is the early rise, which threw me off when I skied less aggressively, especially when I hit my first puff of pow early in the day. While the Prophets were the same length as the Kinks, the early rise meant less constant contact with the snow, a problem I’m sure would have been remedied by having slightly longer skis.
But as we raced for lift lines, the Prophets felt surprisingly sturdy, blasting through plush piles and almost effortlessly holding my turns securely, so maybe my morning wobble with the early rise was user error.

Summary: A great ski for high-intermediate to advanced skiers all over the mountain. I am interested to see how the rest of the Lines ski, and will probably try them out again.

Friday

Nordica Soul Rider 169

Skis: Nordica Soul Rider 169
Core: Wood
Tail type: Twin Tip
Conditions: Overcast, flurries occasionally. Traces of new snow

As I left the shop with these, everyone I saw said the Soul Riders were going to be the perfect ski for the day. They did not disappoint. We hit every type of terrain, and the Soul Rider met everything head-on with exquisite performance.

They were a little heavier than everything else I had demoed during the week which took a couple warm-ups to get used to. But once got used to the extra weight, I was carried through turns almost effortlessly. The edges dug in and held beautifully on the groomers. The length made tighter trees a little hard to negotiate but the 169s have an amazing 14.5m turn radius, so as long as I chose my line well and brought the skis around in control, they did not lead me astray.

The powder of midweek had settled into an even heavier blanket than when it came down, but I zipped right through it in the trees. The 97mm waist floated more than the other skis I had been on, and in spite of sinking into the snow, I did not get bogged down even if I stopped. Moguls were back in a big way, and we sought out a couple of runs. I made one of my cleaner bump runs in these skis; they found a line and stuck with it. If I was getting out of my rhythm they let me know.

Summary: It was great to be on a longer and more substantial ski for my last day – I felt comfortable and able to manage the heavier Soul Riders. It would be great to see how these ski in a variety of conditions. I might seek these out again now that I am back in the Northwest to see how they handle Cascade concrete.

 

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About the author

Anna recently moved back to the Pacific Northwest after a brief stint in Colorado. An active member of WTA and the Mountaineers, she counts herself lucky have access to such a beautiful, diverse region to play in all year round, and happily volunteers her time to keep it that way.

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