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Jan 23 2013

OR Report: On Snow Demo notes

The Outdoor Retailer Show began yesterday up at Solitude ski resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. It’s always a blast checking out new skis, boots and bindings. The sun was blaring and the snow was tired, groomed, and firm so it was a good day to lock the heel and just cruise at speed to see what skis held an edge best on hard snow. The results have little bearing on how well the skis I tried would work in typical backcountry conditions except in a steep couloir with wind hammered snow or refrozen corn.

The surprise hit of the day was Voile’s new V-8 ski which had no problems holding an edge while bombing down the runs with training heels. Other skis were not so capable except for Volkl’s V-Werks Carbon Katana. This is a fully rockered ski but not a spoon. As soon as you tip it on edge it is already preflexed and it just grabs an edge and holds on no matter how hard you push it. Actually, the harder you drive it, the better it responds which seems to be typical of Volkl skis these days and why they have such a stellar reputation among chargers.

Bootwise I didn’t stick my feet in anything new except Scarpa’s new Freedom AT boots. These are supposed to be Scarpa’s solution for skiers who want an alpine caliber boot that doesn’t compromise downhill performance and has a decent walk mode for earning turns. On first impression they nailed it. The boot was comfortable out of the box, reminding me of the Lange XT for fit and feel, delivering ample power regardless of speed. Walk mode does require loosening the cuff buckles to notice any rear mobility, but once unlatched the cuff moved easily and had plenty of range of motion for comfortable walking.

Most of the skis tested were outfitted with Dynafit bindings but the pair of Freedoms I tried didn’t have the tech inserts in them so that was a perfect opportunity to check out Markers upgraded Tour F12 binding. I don’t know why I’ve had reservations about how well it can hold on when the going gets rough but that bias was quickly nullified. The Tour F12 may not be adequate for landing big air but it is more than enough binding if you keep your feet on the ground, even at bone rattling speeds.

I did have one incident of premature releasing with a Plum binding. Guess I should have locked out the toes because I didn’t do anything to justify it letting go while maching down a mildly choppy groomer. Hopefully that potential issue has been addressed with the new crop of Plums.

Tele was present in scaled back form. Most skis were outfitted with a variety of bindings, from Dynafit to Duke to Switchback, Axl or the NTN options of a Freeride or Freedom. Tele boots were in short supply except at the Scarpa or Black Diamond tents.

As ever it was great to reconnect with familiar faces and friends, one of the better fringe benefits of attending Outdoor Retailers On Snow Demo Day. There’s a ton of follow up “testing” to be done, so stay tuned for updates as I manage to give more gear more time in the field.

© 2013