I have been skiing the ‘regular’ Charger (181cm) for the last two seasons. I love them. They turn on a dime, float like a butterfly, etc. I had been considering a fish scaled, down hill oriented ski as there are some areas I ski with short (¼—½ mile) approaches or exits that are just tilted enough to make them a pain with flat skis. I ski another area where being able to traverse and head uphill slightly gives access to another great shot for turns. I finally found Chargers used at a fair price.
I took them to a new location (for me) this weekend. It involved a 1.1 mile approach along a mostly flat hiking trail until it turned up the mountain. I left the skins in my pack and headed out with two friends who were using skins. After 1/3 mile or so, one partner commented how fast I was moving and asked if I was trying to kill him. I was easily kicking along and getting great glide. We hit a switchback and the trail tilted to 20°–25°. After kicking up the heel risers and struggling for a while, I decided it was time to put on the skins. Luckily with some ‘custom’ notches in the tail strap, I was able to get my 181 skins to fit the 191 skis.NOTE: at this point, I was able to get a better sense of the ‘free pivot’ of the NTN Freedoms. It is much better than the Freeride, but still did not have as much range and was not as smooth as the NT Spikes I have on my other Chargers.
At the top, we stripped skins and headed down. My first impression was that the 191s ski MUCH longer than the 181s. The snow was about 14″ deep on a firm surface. It was a little wind packed. The Charger BCs plowed right through it but, given we were in tight VT woods, they just didn’t turn as quickly as my 181s (surpise). They turned parallel great, but rolling them in tele turns was more difficult. I also noticed that I could not tell there were fish scales at all. I wasn’t loosing speed or catching at all. In fact, even on shallower pitches, once the fish scales broke free the skis would just truck along.
Fishscales to the Rescue
We skied down into a brook ravine and realized we were in the wrong drainage (ooops). This was where the BCs really shined. I was able to kick up and around all sorts of little hazards, trees, hummocks, etc. without slipping backwards. We eventually found an old skid road that followed the creek bed for a while. I asked my partners to break trail and while I remained in the ski track, I still didn’t notice any issue with being too slow.
Eventually, we came across a sno-mo trail and decided to follow it out to the road. This was the first time I noticed the downfall of the scales. On the packed sled trail, the familiar ‘zzzzzzzzzz’ of the scales buzzed and I couldn’t keep up. The trail flattened and while my partners could easily skate to keep their speed, I could not. Ultimately I was kicking/shuffling my way along and they had to wait for me. Of course at one point the trail headed up and while they had to ‘herringbone’, I was able to keep shuffling (much better in plastic boots).
Overall, I asked my partners how they thought my skis did. Both said that I certainly had a ‘net gain’ in efficiency and effort. I agree. Except the sno-mo trail, the BCs were the better option for this tour. I’m confident that they will work for most of the reasons I bought them.
Of course, if anyone has a pair of 181s that they want to trade for 191s, I’m all ears!
Me: 6’1″, 180lbs +
Tele skiing for 15+ years
Type of skier: expert – ski in bounds, earn turns, etc.
Days per season: 75 + or -
Boots: 3 year old TX-Pros (yellow/black)
Bindings: NTN Freedom
Dimensions: 171 cm • 134-11-123 mm • r=21.7 m • 7 lbs., 3 oz. (3.26 kg)
181 cm • 137-112-126 mm • r=23 m • 8 lbs., 2 oz. (3.69 kg)
191 cm • 140-114-128 mm • r=25.4 m • 8 lbs., 12 oz. (3.97 kg)