Freeskier Magazine — 2018 Ski Testing

Let Her Rip

In early March 2017, flocks of skiers gathered at the base of Snowbird’s freshly dusted slopes in Gad Valley to test new gear hand-selected by Freeskier Magazine for their 2018 Gear Buyer’s Guide. As a last minute recruit, I had no idea what I’d be getting myself into. Imagine a dance party, costume contest, bell-to-bell skiingpalooza with an après scene not for quitters and you may gain a little insight into what the madness of Freeskier Fest is all about.

Catch the action:

The Freeskier Magazine 2018 Buyer’s Guide is now on newsstands and you should definitely check it out. Because I am so passionate about helping women find the perfect ski, I thought I’d follow up with my own account of all the skis I tested from the notes I took during Freeskier Fest. I tested each ski for 2 runs on the Gad Zoom and Gad II Chairlifts. Occasionally I’d swap in a Little Cloud lap to keep it fresh.

A girl could get used to this…

A personal milestone: Getting myself in mid-hair whip published next to Pep Fujas in a ski magazine. Check.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me here via my website or find me on Instagram, @kapowder. Unfortunately, due to the last minute nature of my involvement in Freeskier Fest, I was only able to participate in 2.5 days of the action, so I missed out on all the sub-99 mm underfoot skis.

So…basically, this is a Big Mountain/Powder ski review.

Indulge me for a moment while I divulge my skiing background to help you better contextualize my ski reviews to find your perfect pair. I was raised on the slopes of Snowbird and was 4 years old when I graduated from Snowplow Sam Level 1. I do not recall if I completed levels 2-7. Hopefully I did. I do have some evidence that I became a certified Level 3 SKIwee through Solitude Ski Resort, but it appears I never learned the Skier’s Responsibility Code, so that’s concerning.

It appears I never learned the Skier’s Responsibility Code. I am, however, a DELUXE Pizza Maker and I think that’s a mighty nice quality.

In elementary school, Mini Miners Camp off the shiny new Baby Thunder lift at Snowbird was my jam and my little sister and I racked up thousands of laps, screaming with glee around all the wooden cutouts of mangy miners. (BTW some of those are hardly politically correct in this day and age, which I appreciate.) I love to showcase this oft-overlooked corner of the mountain by leading unsuspecting friends on vacation at Snowbird down into the bowels of Mini Miners Camp.
Hilarity guaranteed.

I recall fervently hoping to ride the Little Cloud double chair someday and ski the scary black diamond dubbed Regulator Johnson. When my sister and I were crotch-tall, my mom used to screech “My daughter’s gunna puke!!” to score us the best window seat on the tram so we didn’t have to inhale farts.
This tactic was failproof.
Try it.

Gaper gap and rear entry FTW.

My father worked in the Snowbird ER clinic for 24 years and we would catch a ride up with him every weekend and ski bell-to-bell (with a french fry and Coca-Cola break in the Mid Gad lodge).

At the tender age of 19, I skied outside of Utah for the first time when I joined my collegiate racing team and headed off to our winter boot camp at Crystal Mountain in Washington. I failed to pack Gore-Tex, proper racing equipment, and the basic understanding that everywhere else is not Utah. It was on the glassy slopes of Crystal where I learned that skiing in the rain is an actual thing, and that I had absolutely no idea how to ski on ice. Period. After many explorations in the Pacific Northwest with the race team, and a thorough reworking of my foundational skills, I returned to Utah and began honing my skills and appreciation for backcountry skiing.

Here you can see I had an impressive aptitude for ski racing (I didn’t) and I certainly was not the last seed on the University of Puget Sound Alpine Racing Team (I was) and that I took my racing very seriously.

I’ve been a season passholder to Snowbird for life, and occasionally add Alta into the mix when finances and conditions permit. I relish the steep and challenging terrain of Little Cottonwood. (For a truly representative peek of skiing at Snowbird, check out my ‘Passing Through’ project with Powder Magazine.)

Powder skiing is my mainstay, but I’d say a perfect day involves a large dumping of surfy graupel or thunder pow. I do enjoy the wind in my hair and a sunny groomer when conditions aren’t favorable for storms. I like to ski fast, I prefer big, sweeping turns and technical terrain. I do enjoy the occasional drop or air, but if it’s giving me lip or I can’t see the landing, it’s game off. I do not like to ski moguls and my technique in bumps is terrifically bad. Please keep all this in mind as you read my reviews.

DISCLAIMER: I am just one simple lady, and this is my experience on each pair of skis with just 2-3 runs at Snowbird. I am 5’3” and 120 pounds (on a good day) and typically prefer skis 170-174 cm in length. Know that what I disliked may be your dreamboat, and I’ve tried to identify the target skier if the sticks didn’t agree with me. My best advice for you is to read the following, narrow down the skis that could make your heart sing, and find yourself a demo day at a local mountain. There you can land on the perfect choice for you and start your season on the right set of planks for an incredible winter. There’s nothing more foolish than spending a huge sum of money on gear that doesn’t work for you. I’ve done that FAR too many times and I want to help you narrow down your choices for a Cinderella fit.

I’m not great with mathematics, but here’s a winning equation:

Better gear = longer days = pushing the limits = more better

Mt. Rose Ski Area, Reno, Nevada. Photo Credit: Jeff Bartlett Media

Since I have yet to perfect the art of watching myself ski, I thought some of my ski partners could provide a better assessment of my skiing ability and style to give you full context on my reviews:

“Playful charger.”

  • Meaghan & Annie

“Soul skier willing to charge hard.”

  • Jawn

“Aggressive finesse with precision. Lexi is a sharp edge cannonball, selecting fast and precise lines down the steeps with a nose for finding powder stashes.”

  • Claire

“Strong, fast, aggressive, and sometimes hilariously awkward.”

  • Lance

“Aggressive, sprightly, and spirited.”

  • Jamie

“Big mountain, all mountain, bred in the mountains. Adventurous.”

  • Re

2018 4FRNT Hoji W Ski Review • Twinkle Toes

4FRNT Hoji W
171 cm Tested
30 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1700 g (3.75 pounds)

Slarving 101: WHIP out this butter knife if you want to learn how to swish those tails. I found that the flat tails on the 4FRNT Hoji W just wanted to spread love all across the mountain. Fun, though admittedly loose on the groomers, they were a little lazy edge-to-edge and required extra muscle to finish the turn without washing out. Stable and reliable in the crud, I had no trouble navigating mixed snow and soft moguls. Floatation is where these skis shine, but it would make a great daily driver for diverse conditions.

Product Video: Click Here

2018 Sego UP AK Ski Review • Mach Schnell

Sego UP AK
176 cm Tested
20 m Radius

First off, the Sego UP AK ski in a 176cm length was too tall for me, but that being said it’s easy to imagine Lindsay Dyer ripping sublime Alaskan steeps with this ski. It craves speed and huge arcing turns. The least versatile ski I tested, this ski was by far my favorite in powder (obvi – just look at these monsters). Floatation was as unreal as the mythical unicorns dancing across the top sheets. The full rockered profile with such girthiness was really different, and while the funky tails kept the skis floating mighty high in pow, they required a good deal of muscle and extra energy to complete turns on the groomers. Skis were exceptionally damp and plowed through the rough stuff but required the rider to be right on top of them and in charge mode or it’s a runaway train situation. If I were lucky enough to score a heli skiing trip in AK or B.C. I would reach for these (ideally in a smaller size).

Product Video: Click Here

2018 Prior Harmony Ski Review • Freeskier Fest Staging Area

Prior Harmony
169 cm Tested
15.25 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1945 g (4.29 pounds)

Again, I think I should have been on a shorter pair of skis while testing the Prior Harmony Skis. I found the 169cm length to be somewhat difficult to reign in and wished I'd had time to compare their performance to the 163cm size. The Harmony skis felt robust and chargy. I had no problem blasting through thick cookies and moguls but I think these felt a bit wooden, they were not at all playful, just a very straightforward traditional feel. Larger riders or those who prefer a stiffer flex or weightier ski may love these. Looking at the weight, they are heavier than a lot of the other skis I tested, so I think I may not have enough physique to steer these bad Larrys. Perhaps I would be singing a different tune on a shorter, lighter pair of Harmonies, but the weight did make me struggle.

Product Video: Click Here

2018 Blizzard Sheeva 11 Ski Review • Gad II Area

Blizzard Sheeva 11
172 cm Tested
17.5 m Radius

I’ve always liked Blizzard skis, and the Sheeva 11 is no exception. Damp without sacrificing playfulness, these blue boards just want to go fast and straight. (Aside: Could these actually be named after the Mortal Kombat character, Sheeva?)
I wonder…
Their stability was excellent at speed. The entire ride felt rock solid which was awesome considering the lighter weight of this pair. I noticed the swing weight to be snappy, though this ski needed a forward, aggressive stance to navigate through tight trees or moguls. Floatation was dreamy in the creamy, wind consolidated 13" that fell overnight. The tails are fairly flat on the Blizzard Sheeva; I can feel them wanting to let loose on some fast and furious Tokyo drift style turns.
Butter me up, buttercup, I’d happily ride these all day.

2018 DPS Alchemist Yvette 112 Ski Review • Mach Schnell

DPS Alchemist Yvette 112
168 cm Tested
15 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1670 g (3.68 pounds)

I was surprised to find how damp and stable the DPS Alchemist Yvette skis felt, despite their feathery construction. This ski had a bit more slarve or freeride feel to it than the Zelda model. The Yvette was straightforward to navigate in tight trees and it turned on a dime. This ski felt like it skied long, but the swing weight felt great since it has such lightweight construction. I’d find joy in take this out on a powder day or several days after a storm. The top sheets made me feel like Malibu Barbie trolling for Ken, which I don’t mind, but some ladies may be turned off.
Bonus Points: Made in the USA

2018 Icelantic Maiden Ski Review • Gad Chutes

Icelantic Maiden 111
177 cm Tested
18 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1928 g (4.25 pounds)

At 111mm underfoot, the Icelantic Maiden was snappy for such a fatty. This ski was energetic and lively, especially popping off consolidated snow and moguls. The Maiden was surprisingly quick to initiate turns, given the ski is quite fat. This was a much poppier ski than the Blizzard Sheeva. I felt confident in a variety of terrain and conditions and I didn’t want to hand these ones back to the costumed gentleman generously adjusting bindings at the Freeskier Fest HQ. In powder they felt like they were planing or surfing through the snow versus floating atop it, which was both a novel and gratifying sensation. Maybe the dramatically rocketed tails help with this? Suuuuuuuuuuuuuper neat in deep snow.
Bonus points: Made in the USA.

Product Video: Click Here

2018 Nordica Santa Ana Ski Review • Hanging Bowl

Nordica Santa Ana 110
169 cm Tested
15.5 m Radius

If the Nordica Santa Ana skis had a soundtrack it would be heavy metal; it needs to be rocked out and ridden fast. It's not a big fan of turning. This ski must be skied forward with strength or it will ski you. Rather than popping off moguls or cut up powder, this ski freight trains right on through. I caught first tracks on Hanging Bowl as Peruvian Gulch opened and had a blast on the steep, untouched powder. It's not as surfy or floaty as the Icelantic Maiden or Blizzard Sheeva, but this is a more versatile ski. Really really heavy, would not choose this ski for bell-to-bell work, it was too much for me; it does contain metal. Heavy metal. Get it? Maybe a shorter size would be more manageable for me.

Product Video: Click Here

Black Crows Atris Birdie Ski Review • South Chute

Black Crows Atris Birdie
178 cm Tested
20 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1775 g (3.91 pounds)

The Black Crows Atris Birdie ski was one of my favorites from Freeskier Fest! Just like the perfect gentleman, I felt that this ski allowed me to take the reigns but also opened doors and treated me well. I find this is a delicate balance that most skis fail to achieve; it’s difficult to put into words. A fun stable ride, the Black Crows Atris Birdie was a solid blend of damp and playful. I let them loose on the groomer and detected no chatter, just soaring down the mountain without a worry. The versatility of this ski stood out for me. I would venture to say this is the IDEAL ski for a day at Snowbird. This Black Crow is for BIRD LOVERS! Black Crows claims this is the most versatile of their big mountain skis, and I would have to agree. I’m raven’ about it!
(Ok…sorry, not sorry, couldn’t resist.)
This ski was a Freeskier Editor’s Pick.

Product Video: Click Here

2018 Icelantic Pioneer Ski Review • Mini Miner’s Camp

Icelantic Pioneer
174 cm Tested
15 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1819 g (4.01 pounds)

The Icelantic Pioneer ski is a surf machine, it simply wants to hang 10 in some pow (not surprising given it’s rockered tip and tail). I tried to satiate its appetite with some fresh turns out in Tiger Tail. It was still hungry for fresh meat. So fun to butter knife through the silky, consolidated powder in the lost zones of Gad II. Floatation was solid, but I didn’t find this to be a particularly playful ski. (I tend to like floppier skis.) I had a tougher time navigating through tight trees, it was difficult to initiate very tight turns with speed. Weight was a little on the heavy side. Ideal for exploring variable terrain, the Icelantic Pioneer just wants to explore the unknowns and probably head west to heed the call of the wild.
Bonus points: Made in the USA.

Product Video: Click Here

2018 Lib Tech Wunderstick Ski Review • Tiger Tail Gliding Traverse

LIB Tech Wunderstick
172 cm Tested
16.5 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1814 g (3.40 pounds)

Though not a poppy or playful ski I found the LIB Tech Wunderstick skis best for railing turns and charging. This ski needs a fast clip to perform responsively on groomers. A stiffer flex, this ski feels like one of the stiffest of the fleet, and it’ll talk back if you aren’t on top of the ski and leaning forward. I thought I would notice the funky Magne-Traction edges on the Wunderstick, but I really didn’t detect much sensation. Ex-racers may love this number because it wants to rail.
I hear the train a comin', rollin' round the bend
I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when…
Bonus points: Made in the USA

2018 Salomon Stella QST Ski Review • Tiger Tail

Salomon Stella QST 106
174 cm Tested
20 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1850 g (4.08 pounds)

The Salomon Stella QST 106 is truly a daily driver. If you’re wondering how Stella got her groove back, it’s because she found this ski. It was much floatier than other women’s skis in this category, it really stayed right on top of the snow surface. It felt solid and snappy on the groomers as we navigated over to Tiger Tail on Gad II again. I see this being a great choice for someone looking for a versatile ski that won’t sacrifice powder performance. A solid ride with excellent maneuverability because it has a lower swing weight with the honeycomb tips and tails. I call it: power steering.

2018 K2 LuvBoat Ski Review • Tiger Tail Area

K2 LuvBoat
170 cm Tested
16 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1750 g (3.86 pounds)

The K2 LuvBoat reminds me of a classy cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway. At freeway speed the ski didn’t feel stable and I experienced paper airplane tip flap, (best not to exceed cruising speed on this pair). If you’re partial to a more casual clip, you’ll be fine. I did get bucked around a bit in moguls and harder snow, lots of deflection and instability. This ski really shines in powder, however. A fun, nimble ride, it was great sluicing through the trees in fresh snow. I’d recommend this for intermediate skiers who are still honing their skills on the mountain, since it is a very forgiving ride. This ski isn’t for harder charges who like straighter lines and fewer turns at speed.

Product Video: Click Here

2018 DPS Alchemist Zelda Ski Review • Cirque Traverse

106 DPS Alchemist Zelda
168 cm Tested
18 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1507 g for 168 cm (3.32 pounds)

The DPS Alchemist Zelda would be a great choice for a touring ski. It’s lightweight and can really surf. Because of the featherweight construction, I was getting bucked around in the cut up snow and loose moguls, so I think this ski would be better suited as a pow ski or a touring-specific option. A more traditional feel, this ski was fun on groomers and energetic in short radius turns. The Alchemist Zelda was solid at speed and dependable in long arcing turns but lacked pep on take-offs to small airs. I would LOVE to take this ski into the backcountry, I wouldn’t be as stoked if it were my daily driver for resort skiing.

2018 Liberty Genesis Ski Review • Fields of Glory

Liberty Genesis 106
171 cm Tested
17m radius
Weight Per Ski: 1785 g (3.94 pounds)

A true quiver ski from Liberty Skis, I found the Genesis 106 to be a bit more solid and versatile than the Origin model. It was sluggish to turn at slow speeds but once let loose it had great rebound exiting turns at higher speeds. I love the feel and responsiveness of the bamboo, and I’ve always thought Liberty skis were exciting and responsive to ride. I felt comfortable fighting through thicker, consolidated snow after the storm had settled. The Genesis could absolutely be considered a quiver ski. I found it to be lightweight, flexy and poppy with the bamboo construction. Liberty manages to meld a winning combination of flex, responsiveness, and attitude in this ski. Loved it.

2018 Elan Ripstick 102 Ski Review • Wilbere Back Bowls

170 cm Tested
17 m Radius

The dark horse out of left field, the Elan Ripstick: an all around stunner. Truly a versatile all mountain ski. I was fortunate to hit the Road to Provo rope drop (thanks SSP) where the powder was inconsistent with wind affected patches and lurking ice balls. The Elan Ripsticks were unfazed when bucked by lurking ice. Blasting through chunder, I always felt in control and fluid. I found the skis to be energetic on small, medium, and large radius turns regardless of speed, fast or slow. This ski is a Cadillac ride – so smooth. Dependable and predictable in mixed snow and moguls. A solid choice for an all-arounder. I was actually surprised by how well this ski also floated in powder. (I love being surprised!) The wide shovel in the tips provided excellent floatation for our 3 laps off R to P. I didn’t want to turn this ski back in at Freeskier Fest HQ and may or may not have snuck in an extra run.

2018 Prior Flute Ski Review • Gad Chutes

Prior Flute
169 cm Tested
18 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1845 g (4.07 pound)

If you’ll recall the sweet and soothing sounds of Ron Burgandy’s Jazz Flute, the Prior Flute Skis are similar, in that they are always prepared at a moment’s notice to sing a little ditty. I charged them through a huge variety of terrain and conditions and they never disappointed. If you’re looking for a damp, chargy ski to tear up the mountain 3 days after a storm, this is your ticket to ride. Still fun in powder and highly enjoyable on the groomers, I found that this ski didn’t have a speed limit. The Flute was completely stable, chatter free, and was equally at home on the groomer as it was in the mixed conditions I found in the Gad Chutes.
As Ron would say: “Jerry, let’s take the bassline for a walk.”

Product Video: Click Here

2018 Black Crows Daemon Birdie Ski Review • Gad 2 Area

Black Crows Daemon Birdie
170.2 cm Tested
20 m Radius
Weight Per Ski: 1775 grams (3.91 lbs)

I think I’m turning into a love bird with all this Black Crows action. I’m twitterpated, it’s true, I don’t care if everyone knows. The Black Crows Daemon Birdie was such a perfect bird in all conditions. I felt so powerful and in control riding the Daemon. Making wide, arcing turns down Gad Chutes at speed, these skis handled a huge variety of conditions from scoured ice to packed powder, to windslab, to loose powder and chunder. I was fist pumping as I popped out on the groomer, at which point these skis allowed me to swoop down the groomer for another lap up Gad Zoom. It’s as if the crows gave me wings but stole my heart. I think it’s love…

Product Video: Click Here


Thankful in this moment that the Black Crows boys thought to pack beer!

Huge thanks to Freeskier for inviting me to participate. It was truly a whirlwind of epic proportions. I may still be dizzy…so I’ll just keep dancing for snow!

Cheers to a fantastic 2018!

For Freeskier’s great writeup on basic ski construction: Click Here

To see Freeskier’s top ranked 2018 women’s skis: Click Here

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