SIA 2016: Skis
On to Skis...Rossignol's Soul 7 (in fact, the entire 7 line) sees its first major upgrade with the Fall 2016 debut of the Soul 7 HD. What's new? Carbon. Yes, carbon fibers now infuse the 7, with the goal of adding edge grip and high(er) speed stability, esp for heavier riders.
Who are you people who were complaining about the Soul 7's stability at speed?
Seriously, go get a Cochise or a Patron or some other metal ski! Consistent with my General Theory of Carbonality, which states there is no good ski that carbon can't ruin, the addition of space-age technology to the Soul 7 undeniably improves the ski's edge grip and solidity at speed, at the cost of much of the...soul of the original.
That's not a good trade, for me, but I am admittedly a lighter skier, so who cares what's best for me? Maybe you'll be happy with it. Anyhow, my YouTube review is here.
I skied the Mantra.
This is the not-quite-so-new Mantra, which debuted last year, I believe, and which I found new enough, at the time, to be kind of un-Mantra-ish. I remain of the opinion there is too much tip and tail rocker here, but only slightly so. At the end of the day, when you're tired and dealing with chopped up powder on finicky moguls, the new Mantra's ease of operation is hard to argue against.
This is a fluid, flawlessly-balanced, effortless All Mountain ski. No, it's not the same Mantra, but I had a lot of fun on it on softer snow, so I'm willing to embrace the change. Video review is here.
I revisited the (almost-new) Bonafide. Last year, the Bonafide was updated with carbon and less metal. The goal was to produce a more Kabookie-like Bonafide. I do love the Kabookie (now discontinued, alas), so I was very excited to try the new Bonafide and...I hated it.
I hated it so much, that Blizzard overlords saw my video review and expressed their extreme displeasure. In fairness, I wasn't sure whether the ski was bad, or whether it had just been poorly tuned the night before (there were rumors the tech guys were having trouble that day), so I pulled my 2015 WWSRA review.
How did the Bonafide feel at this year's SIA demo? Not as bad. What bothered me most (last year) was the Bonafide's torsional stiffness, which made it grabby and harsh. This year, I distinctly felt the same tendency, especially in comparison to the previous Bonafide, but it was more moderated and not as offensive. So maybe the bevel was a bit off last year.
I'm willing to say these remain among the best of today's 95-98mm All Mountain skis, and I particularly liked the updated Bonafide, oddly enough, on soft snow, but this is not the best carbon implementation I've seen, and I wouldn't get a pair for myself. Anyhow, review here.
Atomic's Vantage, in contrast, gives us a look at a state-of-the-art carbon implementation: you don't notice the carbon! I liked this ski last year, and I still like it today, even without being hypnotized by Anna. This is a great ski from Atomic, and all you Atomic loyalists should definitely check it out.
On the Touring front I rode Salomon's MTN Explore 95. Salmon is aggressively pushing technology back and forth between its Alpine and Backcountry lines, and the result has been a lot of good synergies. The MTN Explore is light, light, light, and it has a very nice feel to it.
I would absolutely consider buying this one. I am considering buying this one (review).
Black Diamond is now having its skis made by Blizzard, and I think you'll notice an improvement in ride quality this coming year as a result. Their new touring line is called the Helios. I skied the Helios in its 95mm version, and liked it (sorry, no video review). I'll call it a fine upgrade to the Carbon Convert (which I believe it replaces).
Finally, I have to talk about Blizzard's Zero G 95. Aw, heck. Yes, I did do a video review of this one, but now I'm afraid to post it. I hated this ski! I hated it, even though I was planning on loving it so I could buy a pair. I was so committed to buying a pair, in fact, I may still buy a pair just so I can mount them and confirm that I really do hate them.
What happened? The Zero G replaces the Kabookie. This is another light-light-light touring ski that's a carbon hybrid, and it has generally been well received by other testers.
At Copper Mountain I found it to be unacceptably grabby and harsh—too words I would never use to describe the Kabookie. Did the tune shop blow the bevel again?
Maybe...but I skied the Zero G in soft, 6-12" powder, and even an edge-high ski should ride normally in those conditions. The flex just seems off too me. Much too stiff torsionally, and oddly biased from tip to tail. I guess I'm just going to have to wait a year, and try it again. But I was profoundly disappointed.
UPDATE ON THE ZERO-G 95: The most excellent Brent picked up a pair of these, and reports that the factory bevel was indeed seriously out of whack. After fixing them, he says they are not the same ski as the Kabookie, but still a very promising touring plank especially given their weight. Encouraging news for Blizzard fans!
Hey, remember when Rocker was the new thing and everybody was adding Rocker to their skis and most of the newly-rockered skis pretty much really, really sucked? Let's be honest: they were terrible! Rocker was a technology that the makers knew they had to add, because it was the new big thing, but the majority of the rocker implementations weren't very good because the makers hadn't yet figured out how to do it right.
In some ways, we seem to be in the same place with carbon. Carbon-infused skis are today's rocker, and in the same way, we see good implementations, not-so-good implementations, and terrible implementations. The makers, no doubt, will get it right eventually, but for now, there are some stinkers out there.
As always, I encourage you to try before you buy—and let me know if you find something particularly noteworthy. That's gear news for now.
Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents
Brad Brown February 22, 2016 at 3:29 am
2nd season of monogamous Soul 7 "research" reveals the following: Steeps, check Bumps, check Tight Ass turns, check GS/Super G turns, check Air, check Swing Weight, check User Friendly, check Pow, check Crud, check Groomer, check Light, check Ice, bring other sticks Probably other skis handle portions of this work load better but like you said once if your goal is to ski a big mountain from fresh to cut to ice bumps on a bell to bell day this is it. Why oh why would Rossignol change one the best skis ever invented? Next year instead of carbon they'll "upgrade" to Carbonite!?!?
Steve Bennett February 24, 2016 at 12:31 am
I watched this review and your prior one with great interest. I skied the 2016 Soul 7 the Sunday before the Super Bowl in 10" of new at Winter Park. I loved how it turned effortlessly in the Mary Jane and Eagle Wind trees. It did exactly what I told it to down the West Headwall of the Cirque. And we finished the afternoon in the Vasquez Ridge trees. I became a hero at tree skiing! I did notice the chatter at speed and less edge hold than my other ski, the Blizzard Brahma (duh.) So I wonder, does the sweetness you like about the 2016 include ease of turning in the trees? I am 6'1", 175# strong advanced skier. I certainly don't need a Cochise, but maybe a smidge more stability in the Soul 7 - but not at the expense of ease of turning in the trees. Would you recommend the 2016 for its sweetness or do you think I'd enjoy the 2017 with its carbon? Oh, and my skiing? I like to turn, turn, turn, and then when I am done, I'll turn again. (How many skiers does it take to change a light bulb? 100. One to change it, 99 to count the turns.)