A Narrower S7?
I mentioned at the top that Rossi actually fails to do the S3 justice in their description of it. Rossignol states, “The S3 is a narrower-waisted version of the S7. Sharing the same Powder Turn rocker as it’s big brother with low camber underfoot and high tip and tail rocker, the S3 is a versatile all-terrain vehicle.”
But the fact is, the S3 isn’t merely a narrower S7, it’s a better, narrower S7, and the primary reason is the S3’s tail, which you’ll notice, Rossignol doesn’t mention.
The S3 has a very different overall tail shape than the S7, and in my opinion, the S3’s tail works better than the S7’s.
The Rossignol S7 is, without question, one of the most significant developments in modern ski design, and was designed to be super loose – playful, slashy, and slarveable – in soft snow. Rossignol accomplished this in part by terminating the sidecut of the S7 where the rocker line starts. (See Marshal Olson’s ROCKER 101 article, if you need to brush up.)
And while the S7 performs really well on groomers, as you move into higher angulation turns and really bend the ski, the tapered tail doesn’t contact the snow past the rocker line of the tail, and so you’re not able to fully engage the tail beyond the rocker line. Hence, when you’re trying to really carve and edge a ski through cut up, chopped up snow, you’ll do so without a whole lot of help and support from the ski’s tail, and things can get squirrely.
The rocker line of the S3 begins before its sidecut ends—the fattest part of the tail is further back on the ski, or closer to the tail’s tip. If you just flattened out the rocker of the S3, you’d see that its shape (unlike the S7) is actually that of a conventional ski. The result is that when you bend the ski in a hard carve, you are able to access all of the effective edge / running length of the tail (unlike the S7), and there is no squirrely effect. Nice.
To be fair, Rossignol has sold approximately 17 bazillion pairs of the S7. Clearly, lots of people (and lots of good skiers) love it. I would just humbly submit that with a slight adjustment to the tail (à la the S3 and the S6) Rossignol would have an even more versatile ski with fewer design tradeoffs.
(And I’d really, really want to ski that thing.)
Anyway, point is, the S3’s tail is poppy, supportive, and dialed. Sure, if you’re looking for a chop / crud machine, you would probably reach for a ski with a stiffer tail, but the S3 wasn’t designed to destroy crud.
The Rossignol S3 has gained a reputation for being an outstanding carver, and it is—for a tip and tail rockered ski. But if hard snow carving performance is really a priority, then Rossignol has a different—and better—98mm solution for you: the Rossignol Experience 98 (139-98-128mm).
The Experience 98 was the best carver I skied last season in the ~100mm waist range. Totally impressive. I skied the Experience 98 and the S3 on back to back hardpack days at Taos, and as we were maching around the back side and hitting ice patches, the rockered tail of the S3 would release / wash out; the Experience 98 would not.
Rossi’s own description of the Experience 98 goes like this, “The new Experience 98 is a powerful all-mountain charger that combines beefy construction with a surprising versatility and ease-of-use for strong expert skiers.” And Rossignol is spot on, again.
And my only addition would be that, if you’re an intermediate / advanced skier who spends most of your time ripping groomers (not skiing tight trees or bumps) and doesn’t see a lot of 12”+ storm days, don’t shy away from the “strong expert skier” description. It’s not as forgiving and playful as an S3, but you can fly on these things and they will serve you better than the S3 in harder, icier conditions.
As always with skis, it’s important to be clear about your priorities, and Rossignol has provided two very good variations of a 98mm ski.
In conclusion, the Rossignol S3 is a fun, forgiving, quick, playful, versatile ski that will make beginners and intermediates more confident, yet will still allow advanced and expert skiers to have a blast, too, so long as they’re not pushing the ski beyond its intended design. But for anything from mellow pow skiing to zipperlines, super tight trees, slightly soft groomers, switch landings, spins, and straight airs, the S3 is good times, and a great choice.
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