2011-2012 4FRNT Switchblade, 181cm

2011-2012 4FRNT Switchblade, 181cm, Blister Gear Review

Ski: 2011-2012 4FRNT Switchblade, 181cm 

Dimensions (mm): 122-89-116

Turn Radius: 18.4 meters

Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 179cm

Boots / Bindings: Nordica Supercharger Enforcer / 4FRNT demo, DIN at 10

Mount Location: -1cm from true center

Test Location: Arapahoe Basin

Days Skied: 2

Memorial Day weekend yielded beautiful, sunny weather at Arapahoe Basin. This was quite the change from all the snow A-Basin had been getting the last few weeks. Spring had finally arrived, just in time for A Basin’s biggest party of the year, the 10th Annual Festival of the Brewpubs. It was also the perfect time to test 4FRNT’s newest park ski. Good times!

Arapahoe Basin’s Treeline Park was in excellent condition for this time of the season. A blustery tailwind combatted the slushy conditions and allowed the jumps to stay open most of the weekend, allowing me to spend a couple of full days testing the Switchblade in its element.

For me, the Switchblade’s moderately stiff flex was pretty ideal for a park ski. Butters and presses were manageable, but did require a little bit of effort. Though stiff, the flex was consistent and predictable – there was no guesswork when setting presses of any kind. I frequently found myself skipping jumps and rails so I could jib their rollers. But while butters and nose blocks were a blast on the Switchblade, jumps were really where the ski shined.

Read more2011-2012 4FRNT Switchblade, 181cm

2nd Look: 2012-2013 Black Diamond AMPerage, 185cm

2nd Look: 2011-2012 Black Diamond Amperage, 185cm, Blister Gear Review

Ski: 2012-2013 Black Diamond AMPerage

Dimensions (mm): 142-115-124

Turn Radius: 22 meters

Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 185.4 cm

Boots/ Bindings: Noridca Supercharger Ignition/ Marker Griffon, DIN (10)

Mount Location: +1 from recommended

Test Location: Arapahoe Basin

Days Skied: 2

(Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 AMPerage, which is unchanged for 12/13.)

When Jonathan Ellsworth and I left Colorado Springs on Saturday, May 21st, temps were already in the 60’s and the sky was bluebird. I was planning to ski 4FRNT’s flagship park ski for next season, the Switchblade, but Mother Nature decided that this late May weekend would be better suited to testing powder skis. Good thing the Black Diamond AMPerage was one of the 11 pairs of skis loaded in to the back of Jonathan’s FJ Cruiser….

11 skis, 4 pairs of boots, 5 packs, 1 kitchen sink.

Read more2nd Look: 2012-2013 Black Diamond AMPerage, 185cm

2nd Look: Icelantic Da’Nollie, 180cm

2nd Look: 2011-2012 Icelantic Da'Nollie, 180cm, Blister Gear Review
Will Brown reviews the Icelantic Da'Nollie, Blister Gear Review
13/14 Icelantic Da’Nollie

Ski: 2013-2014 Icelantic Da’Nollie, 180cm

Dimensions (mm): 118-88-118

Turn Radius: 20 meters

Actual tip to tail length: 177.2 cm

Boots / Bindings: Nordica Supercharger Ignition / Marker Griffon, DIN (10)

Mount Location: Core Center

Test Location: Arapahoe Basin

Days Skied: 2

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Da’Nollie, which is unchanged for 12/13 and 13/14, except for the graphics.]

You may know Icelantic because of their fresh graphics and unusual designs, like the relatively short Shaman with that enormous shovel.

The 11/12 Icelantic Da’Nollie, however, is nothing revolutionary design-wise as far as park skis go; but it’s just about as good as park skis come.

When I arrived at A-Basin for what would be my first day on the Da’Nollie, I was still recovering from the previous day’s bluegrass festival and end of the year party.  Needless to say, I was a little low on energy that first day. My first run on the Da’Nollie, however, snapped me out of my morning stupor, and I quickly learned that the Da’Nollie is a very lively and playful ski.  I took a few laps on Black Mountain Express while I waited for the rest of the BLISTER crew to get ready, and I was immediately impressed. I found the Da’Nollie to be very quick from edge to edge, and it felt lively when carving – responding well to my every move.

Read more2nd Look: Icelantic Da’Nollie, 180cm

Commencal Supreme DHv2 – Atherton Edition

Commencal Supreme DHv2 - Atherton Edition, Blister Gear Review

Commencal Supreme DHv2 - Atherton Edition, Blister Gear ReviewFrame: 2011 Commencal Supreme DHv2 – Atherton Edition, with Fox RC4 rear shock, size L/XL.

Intended Use: DH Race

Geometry Chart: Commencal Supreme DHv2

Rider: 6’2”, 205 lbs., athletic, technically proficient, fast and fluid.

My regular DH bike: Morewood Makulu, size Large, with an Avalanche Woodie rear shock.

Test Location: Colorado Front Range.  Steep, fast, rough, rocky trails, with plenty of small/mid sized jumps.  Generally in dry, dusty, loose over hardpack, pebbly terrain, but 2 days with freshly melting snow and riding in tacky awesomeness mized with muck and puddles.

Duration of test: 4 days, total of about 30 runs.

The Commencal Supreme DHv2 is one of the most decorated downhill bikes on the World Cup, so going in to this review, the question wasn’t whether this thing was any good. Rather, I was looking to identify any specific strengths or perceivable weaknesses, and see whether the bike demanded an expert-level rider, or whether it could accommodate advanced or intermediate riders, too.

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2011-2012 Rossignol Sickle / 2010-2011 Rossignol S6, 186cm

Ski: 2011-2012 Rossignol Sickle / 2010-2011 Rossignol S6, 186cm

Dimensions (mm): 140-110-133

Turn Radius: 21.3 meters

Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 182.3 cm

Boots / Bindings: 2012 Dalbello Il Moro T Comp (28) / Marker Griffon / DIN (10)

Mount Location: +2 cm

Test location: Alta Ski Area / Snowbird

Days skied: 25+

If I had my way, this review would just read:

“The Rossignol Sickle, THE MOST VERSATILE SKI EVER. The end.”

But I don’t make the rules around here, and Jonathan told me I had to elaborate.

Some incarnation of the Sickle has been around for the past couple of years. The ski started out as the Scratch Steeze back in 2008, and since then, Rossignol has been tweaking the flex pattern, name, and graphics just about every season. The biggest change came in 2010-2011 with the S6, when Rossignol got rid of the ski’s traditional camber and instead incorporated “U-Rocker.” U-Rocker is Rossi’s fancy term for continuous rocker; it has no flat section underfoot, and is entirely reverse cambered — kinda like the letter “u”.

(For 2011/12, however, Rossignol has decided to call this same, continuous, reverse camber design their “Spin Turn Rocker,” presumably because spins and turns are way cooler than the letter U. Tough break, U.)

Now if your brains (and knees) are freaking out because you think the Sickle will perform like a bar of soap on anything except powder, let me assure you that this isn’t the case. The key is in the amount of rise on the Sickle. Even though the rocker runs full length, it is very slight and his minimal tip and tail splay — if you press the middle of the ski down on a flat table, the tip and tail are somewhere around a ¼” off of the surface.

So how does this translate to the hill?

Read more2011-2012 Rossignol Sickle / 2010-2011 Rossignol S6, 186cm

2011-2012 Venture Zephyr, 155cm

2011-2012 Venture Zephyr, 155cm: Blister Gear Review

Board: 2011-2012 Venture Zephyr, 155 cm

Justin Bobb, hiking up Kachina Peak, Taos Ski Valley.

Dimensions (mm): Length 1550, Waist 250, Effective edge 1210, Sidecut Depth 21.60, Stance -20, Taper 5.8, Equivelent Sidecut Radius 8.48

K2 Thraxis boots, K2 Auto Uprise bindings

Stance: Goofy, Width 26”, Front 9 degrees, Back -6 degrees

Days tested: 10

Venture Snowboards has been on my radar ever since they moved to Silverton. I was living in Durango at the time and was very impressed with a start-up company moving to the remote San Juans.

I got to demo some of the original Venture decks, and I have to say that I was less than impressed. There was a funky stepped-back stance and a strange floppy characteristic that made the board unpredictable in turns and bumps of any sort.  The only advantage to these early boards (though it certainly aligns well with riding in Silverton) was in DEEP POWDER.

Even though they were great boards in terms of powder specific components, what about the other days that are crunchy, sun-baked, slushy, icy, and worst of all, rocky?

Fast forward a few years and meet The Zephyr: a true testament to a company with unrelenting focus on figuring out the details on possibly the best board I have ever ridden. Let’s just say that next year I’m getting one of these.

Read more2011-2012 Venture Zephyr, 155cm

Never Summer Infinity, 151cm

Never Summer Infinity, 151cm: Blister Gear Review

Board: Never Summer Infinity 151cm, Regular

Boots: Salomon F20 W boots

Relative to the number of men’s boards that are produced, there aren’t too many women’s specific boards out there. And of the options we do have, most seem to be oriented toward entry level or park riders. So what’s a girl supposed to do when she’s more interested in slashing powder and riding steeps than cruising groomers? Enter the Never Summer Infinity, friend of the female, all-mountain rider.

Before I talk more about the Infinity, let’s briefly discuss the whole issue of “women’s specific” gear. What does that really mean? Is it mostly a marketing gimmick, or does it signify the implementation of important design characteristics? While I don’t claim to be an expert on board construction and design, I have formulated some thoughts through years of riding, selling, and testing out gear.

Women’s boards are generally marketed as lighter, softer, and narrower. Personally, I like all of these things, and yes, I still like to charge hard. Having a lighter women’s board relative to a men’s board works because women are generally lighter than men. I like to look at it as a ratio, and lightening up a board just keeps things even. As far as flex, I like my board to be a bit softer because it helps me feel what’s going on under my feet. Instead of being tossed all over the place, I can bend my knees and absorb the board’s movement. I started out on a men’s park board because I thought it was soft enough for me to flex, and frankly, at the time, I thought women’s boards were lame. I was wrong. I couldn’t flex the board with nearly as much ease as I thought, and it took much more effort to turn the board from edge to edge. This leads me to my next point: women’s boards tend to be narrower because women’s feet are generally smaller. This translates into faster edge turnover and quicker turns.

All this being said, if you have a larger boot size (generally 9 or above) or a bigger build, you may not want to go the women’s specific route. One of the worst things you could do to your riding is to get onto a board that’s too narrow and have boot drag. Before you buy, evaluate your weight, height, and boot size and figure out what is going to work best for you. I know plenty of good female riders who still rock on men’s boards.

Ok, on that note, let’s get on to this review.

The Never Summer Infinity is a directional, all-mountain freestyle board with both rocker and camber (which NS calls R.C. Technology). The rocker between your feet gives the board some play and forgiveness, while the camber under your feet provides stability and better edge control.

One of the first things I noticed about this board is its skating ability. Even though the camber is supposed to help the board track, it didn’t feel that way and I found that the board had quite a bit of play in it. If you are accustomed to a traditional camber board, it is going to feel out of control until you get used to riding rocker. The Infinity was the first rocker-camber board I had ever ridden and for the first week or so, I hated it. I had no control over the board and felt powerless. After adjusting my riding style a bit and putting more focus in centering my weight, things came together.

I have been on this board for the last two years and have ridden it at Taos, Silverton, Telluride, Crested Butte, and Snowbird, and in all sorts of conditions and terrain.

Read moreNever Summer Infinity, 151cm

2nd Look: ON3P Jeronimo, 181cm

2nd Look: ON3P Jeronimo, 181cm, Blister Gear Review
Review of the ON3P Jeronimo, Blister Gear Review
11/12 ON3P Jeronimo

Ski: ON3P Jeronimo, 181cm

Dimensions (mm): 126-96-120

Turn Radius: 21.4 meters

Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 181.5cm

Boots/Bindings: Salomon Falcon Pro CS / Marker Jester, DIN at 9

Mount Location: manufacturer’s mark, -3cm from true center

Days skied: 4

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 10/11 Jeronimo, which was not changed for 11/12, except for the graphics.]

Having read Mark Connell’s initial review of the Jeronimo, I was eager to take them for a spin. I’d used the K2 Kung Fujas as my everyday ski last season, but found myself growing increasingly tired of their very soft flex. With dimensions and a camber profile nearly identical to the Kung Fujas, the Jeronimos are different primarily in their much burlier flex. Given this, and as I was looking down at them on the lift (and loving the top-sheet graphics for reasons I can’t fully explain), I had some pretty high expectations for how the skis would perform.

Will Brown, collecting data. (photograph by Amon Barker)

Conditions in Summit County on Monday, March 21st were in full spring-mode. A day at Breckenridge brought everything from firm groomers in the morning to big, super slushy bumps and a park laps in the afternoon.

Read more2nd Look: ON3P Jeronimo, 181cm