I have never been a gear junkie. I like good gear and good performance — a good bike, comfy hiking boots and, of course, good skis. But I am not one to follow the latest trends or to study advances in ski technology. While I might like to, and while I do know from my kids that rockered skis are “really, really cool,” I simply don’t have time to keep up on much of anything other than our day-to-day necessities and activities. I mean, even moms have to sleep sometime, right?
So, when I was offered the chance to demo skis in late December, I jumped at it. My response to Utahskis.com (retail name Ski ‘n See) was, “Of course, I want to demo skis! Thank you! Thank you!” Now here is a confession for you: I have never demo’ed skis. In fact, I would guess that of the last 4 pair of skis I have owned, I didn’t even buy them myself. Santa brought them.
Yep, Santa has time to do the research and I trust Santa completely. As you can tell, going into a ski shop and having a conversation about skis, and then choosing a pair of skis to try, was going to be completely new ground for me. An adventure, you might say.
Here’s what happened.
Demo Ski Number One — Line Celebrity 100: We arrive in Salt Lake City and go to the downtown location of Ski ‘n See. I walk in, slightly nervous. Will they know immediately that I don’t know anything? Can they spot me for the ignorant consumer that I am? Am I now a poser? Not to worry. The staff was super helpful. When they asked me what I wanted to try I said “fat skis.” Eric, the store manager, showed me a few pair and then thoughtfully said, “Based on the forecast and what is happening up at Park City where you’ll be skiing tomorrow, I suggest two different pair — a pair of Salomons and these Line skis.” I chose the Line’s precisely because I am intrigued with Line. My son has a Line t-shirt, you see. Perfect!
And perfect skis they were. I loved them. When we got to Park City Mountain Resort the next morning, the sky was falling, bombing, pounding us with snow. While it took a while to really get rolling (the avalanche control crew were working double time to handle the powder volume), these skis felt great immediately. We started out on some fairly gentle intermediate runs – but intermediate runs with many inches of heavier-than-normal powder. The Line Celebritys turned easily and I swear it wasn’t my imagination — they actually did float on the snow.
By afternoon, more of the mountain was open and we were able to find some steep, soft bumps to play in. The skis were great. In this much snow, where my own skis might submarine and I might be exerting extra energy to keep them moving through the snow, the Lines very nearly skied themselves by staying high in the snow. They were awesome.
Coming down in the late afternoon, much of the new snow had been skied off by the crowds. The Line Celebritys carved really well on the packed powder. There was no chance of finding any hardpacked snow or ice that day, so I have no idea how they would handle, but from what I could tell, they are a great all-mountain ski, especially good, thanks to their extra width, when the snow gods have blessed the mountain with some fresh.
Demo Ski Number Two — Volkl Aura: Back at Ski ‘n See, I sadly part ways with the Line Celebrities. Completely at the mercy of the ever-helpful staff, I let them suggest my skis for the next day: a pair of 156 cm Volkl Auras. These skis are heavier and more narrow than the Lines. After a good night’s sleep, I try them out the next day at Park City Mountain Resort — this time in 20 inches of new powder instead of 24!
The mountain is ready on-time today, so we immediately head up to McConkey’s, a black and double-black area of the resort. The first thing I notice is that I am sinking, not sunk, but sinking. The Auras are heavy and not fat — a true all-mountain ski. I am wondering why I gave up the Lines.
But amazingly, within just a few turns, I am enjoying these skis. I think I would still have preferred a fatter ski with all the snow, but the Volkls perform well. By afternoon, the sun is out and we head over to Jupiter Bowl. While the bowl isn’t at all skied off, the snow outside of the trees is getting chopped up and packed down. The Auras just get better and better as the snow gets more compacted. Not only that, but they respond quickly and give me no trouble in the trees.
By now, I figure I should try to put these skis through all of their paces. So, we go lower on the mountain to a lift called King Con. King Con serves blue, intermediate terrain, some of it groomed and some of it left as small moguls. Being lower, King Con had suffered more than the rest of the resort from the unseasonable rain which had fallen two days earlier. It also sees a lot of traffic and was essentially skied off. Yes, we had found hardpack snow and ice!
On these conditions, the Auras really showed their stuff. They are similar to my own skis in shape and sidecut, but I found them much heavier and much more stable. They carved beautifully and held a line without any chatter. My verdict on the Volkl Auras: a great all mountain ski for advanced ability and up. While they may not be the optimum choice on massive powder days, for those of us who don’t live in Utah, and don’t see week after week of foot after foot of fresh powder all season long, they would make us very happy.
Demo Ski Number Three — K2 Miss Behaved: First of all, I love the name. Secondly, these were the only true rockered skis I demo’ed. And I really wanted to demo some rockered skis. The day before, when I had been on the Auras, both my son and husband were demo’ing some Rossignol S7 and Rossignol S3 (both of which have traditional camber underneath the foot with reverse camber rocker at tip and tail — Listen to me! I can now talk ski!) skis from Ski ‘n See. Having watched them play in the powder all day, I was really curious to see what the rocker would do to me. Hah! All I can say is thank goodness I have a teenage son — he schooled me, so that the skis wouldn’t.
We were at Snowbird, and again, there was a lot of new snow. As we were putting on our skis, two Snowbird employees walked by and one of them said, “Those look like some fun skis.” I agreed, with a big smile. The tram long was long and the Peruvian lift wasn’t yet open, so rather than wait, we headed off on a slightly hardpacked cat trail to the Gad Valley section of Snowbird. Whoa Nellie! I couldn’t find an edge, I couldn’t turn, I felt completely out-of-control and, as my son would say, “gaperish.”
Somehow, I made it to the GadZoom lift and riding up with my 14 year-old I begged him to tell me how to ski on these crazy reverse camber bananas (and, mind you, K2 promotes the Miss Behaved as an “all mountain rocker.” I can’t imagine what their full rockered skis are like.)
“Schmear,” he told me. “Schmear your turns, don’t try to carve, don’t link the turns too tightly, just turn the skis and schmear the turns to remain in control. Be fluid.” Darn it, if that didn’t work perfectly. We were skiing some nice steep faces and glades off of the Gad Two lift and for the next several runs, my manta with each turn was “schmear.”
I loved these skis! Schmearing my way down the hill, I was able to hold a smooth line and rhythm with much more confidence than I ever feel on my own skis. While old-school skiers would be appalled by allowing the skis to slide downward through the turn, the schmear works and even my son thought I was (almost) rocking these babies. I was Miss Behaving and I loved them!
In the afternoon, we chose to take the Dick Bass Highway, a green cat trail, over to the other side of Snowbird. Again, this cat trail was a challenge. This time, however, my son had warned me that if I kept the skis straight on the track and tried to carve, I would pick up way too much speed, get out of control and smash into a beginner. Again, he counseled schmearing, but this time it meant placing my skis in a mostly horizontal position and proceeding at a 45 degree angle, thus dumping speed. It worked.
My verdict on the K2 Miss Behaved: These are the skis I would buy if I lived in a really snowy place and could ski on every epic powder day. That is, if I lived in Utah, Mt. Baker, Washington, Squaw Valley, California or Wolf Creek, Colorado — or if I had the resources to own more than one pair of skis at a time — or if I were some incredible, 20-something big mountain diva. I loved their performance in the powder in the steeps. They were a blast and when I was turning them correctly, my legs didn’t even feel like they were working. The turns were effortless — and this was in heavy powder, not the ultra-light dry snow for which Utah is famous. Miss Behaving with K2 was really, really fun.
Mens’ Skis: Yes, I mentioned above that my son and husband also demo’ed some rockered skis at Park City. Here is what they thought of their experience.
Rossignal S3s, demo’ed by my fourteen year old son: “I liked them. I thought they worked surprisingly well on hard pack because they weren’t super thick. They floated really well and you could get really forward and aggressive and they wouldn’t dig in. They like to go fast and they skied even better when I skied faster. I recommend them to skiers who like to ski all mountain, but mostly steep ‘n’ deep.”
And here is my husband on the Rossignol S7s: “The graphics were scary — a bad psycho anime illustration. This is not a visually appealing ski, which is a combination of the graphics and the unbelievable width. They busted through crud and performed best at a higher rate of speed in choppy snow. The underfoot width took a while to understand. I used them on groomed slopes, in the trees, on double-blacks with heavy snow and in fresh powder and they were maneuverable in every condition and on every type of run. I would like to ski them one more day to get an even better feel for them. I recommend them to anyone skiing deep snow and who has confidence on skis.”
A big hearty “Thank You” to Ski ‘n See and Utahskis.com for helping us out with these demos. It was a blast and they are super-helpful. If you are skiing Utah this year and want to demo, I recommend them without reservation. In the market for new skis or other gear? Make sure you check Utahskis.com. Great service, no shipping charges. What more can you ask for?
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