When asked to join for a day of snowcat skiing during one of the more fluffy days of the year here in Colorado (last week), can one refuse? I tried, I even thought about bringing my skins and doing some cardio before the lifts opened, but the seduction of chattering diesel and catered lunch sucked me into a hydrocarbon enhanced day of trying out Black Diamond’s new and reworked Power Series skis. Climbing skins? They could wait till tomorrow.
The venue: Aspen Mountain Powder tours uses a beautiful gladed area to the south of Aspen Mountain ski area, created mostly by mine timber cutting and forest fires back in the late 1800s, as well a efforts by pioneer skiers of Aspen’s early days to create good terrain options. (The timber is gradually growing back, leading one to wonder what they’ll be doing up there in 50 years unless the USFS lets them start doing some cutting.)
Specifically, I rode Black Diamond’s Amperage model in a couple different lengths, as well as the women’s version of the Amperage (Element). First, I was on the 175 Amperage as I always try to push skis to their shorter length so they’ll tour better (lighter, easier kick turns, easy to carry on backpack.) Amperage in the 175 was a bit too short for me. It wasn’t fluid in the pow and shook me around pretty good in the chop while descending Aspen Mountain resort at the end of the day. 185 Amperage was much more reasonable, and would indeed be my powder touring board of choice from this lineup (though hauling around a ski that long and heavy might never happen for me in real life).
While Amperage is reasonably wide (115 waist), it’s still somewhat light in weight for what you get, and fully double-rockered for fun in the powder and crud. Would I tour on it? I’d probably go for something lighter, but definitely recommend for someone looking for a more solid feeling ski than super lightweights. Interestingly, I enjoyed the women’s version of this ski the most, Element in 175 cm. Could have been psychological as I enjoy women, but it seemed to flex out more supply and be a bit less planky than the men’s version. (That said, I did not try the shorter women’s model in the chop, and it could have been as rough as the men’s Amperage 175 for all I know.) Specs for Amperage 175: 4.3 kg per pair, dimensions 141/115/123.
One observation: I most often ski powder on narrower skis than these testers. While I expected the floaty double-rockered Amperage to make powder skiing easy, and it did, I missed getting face shots. I guess what you do now, since face shots don’t come with every turn like they used to, is you contrive a “slash” when a camera is pointed your way so you can simulate a face shot. That’s just wrong. But that’s the way it is, I guess. Even so, I was letting my mind wander today and it occurred to me that we could in a few years actually see a trend to narrower skis again, perhaps still with rocker and slow rise tips, just for the purpose of making powder skiing more photogenic and more fun. Another “I told you so moment” coming for WildSnow.com? Stay tuned, and meanwhile, perfect your camera-ready slash turns (or telemark, which does help with the face shot ratio). After all, it did not happen unless it’s a faceshot on Facebook (a bookshot?).
Just as an FYI, here are the raw specs on the power series (right to left in photo above):
Gigawatt- 185 & 195 (163-135-141)
Megawatt- 178(145-120-126) & 188 (151-125-131)
Amperage (formerly known as Amp) – 165(139-115-123) & 175(141-115-123) & 185 (142-115-124)
Zealot- 182(135-110-123) & 192(136-110-125)
Verdict- 170(132-102-120) & 180(134-102-121) & 190(136-102-123)
Warrant- 168(128-95-116) &178(130-95-118) &188(132-95-119)
Element (women’s Amp) – 165(139-115-123) & 175(141-115-123)
Ember (women’s) – 158(126-95-115) & 168 (128-95-116)
Beyond great powder skiing and cool skis to “test,” It was interesting to see how Black Diamond is working their effort to become an alpine ski brand. I still find that a bit odd, but I can’t come up with a good analogy; it’s like expanding their climbing gear line to window washing? Um, perhaps that’s not such a good analogy (grin). Indeed, skiing is, well, skiing. So you get a ton of crossover between the different disciplines. Thus, BD making skis specific to alpine skiing does make a certain sort of sense. Yet with ski touring being such a huge and growing sport around the world, one has to wonder if the marketing model of a more human-powered company is not more viable than competing with the likes of the big alpine ski makers for market share. Not really my business to second guess that sort of thing, but fun to ponder outloud. What do you Wildsnowers think about it?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.