2018-2019 Kingswood Skis SMB

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Kingswood SMB for BLister Gear Review
Kingswood SMB

Ski: 2018-2019 Kingswood Skis SMB, 187cm

Available Lengths: 156, 165, 177, 187, 194 cm

Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 187.5cm

Stated Dimensions (mm): 145-123-135

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2,429 grams & 2,437 grams

Sidecut Radius: 24 meters

Core Construction: Bamboo + Fiberglass Laminate

Tip & Tail Splay: 42 / 30 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: 2-3 mm

Boots / Bindings: Atomic Redster Pro 130 / Marker Jester (DIN at 10)

Mount Location: Factory Recommended Line

Test Locations: Alta Ski Area, Taos Ski Valley

Days Skied: 7

[Note: )ur review was conducted on the 13/14 SMB, which was not changed for 14/15, 15/16, 16/17, 17/18, or 18/19, apart from graphics.]

Now that I’ve had their flagship SMB across a broad range of conditions, Kingswood has shifted from being a little boutique outfit that I didn’t know much about, to being a company that I would place among the exceptional indies out there.

The Kingswood SMB is beautiful, and beautifully constructed. We see a lot of skis around here, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever been more impressed by the looks, the feel, or the quality of the construction. The SMB is like a work of art that was built for abuse. As we noted in our Profile of Kingswood, the last thing owner Alex Herbert wrote on the plastic covering the ski was, “Try and break ‘em.”

There is a statement on the Kingswood website that goes a long way toward summing up the gist of this company: “To own a pair of Kingswood Skis is to stand up for quality.”

I’ll testify that this isn’t merely rhetoric. Hold a pair in your hands, and I believe you’ll agree with everyone here at Blister who’s checked these out: these are special.

Alex Herbert only makes about a hundred pairs of skis a year, and he builds them all himself—each pair, made to order. (The Kingswood skis website is well laid out, and the interactive process of customizing the flex of your ski is straightforward and fun.)

A Few Features

All Kingswood skis have vertically laminated bamboo cores that extend all the way to the edge of the ski.

Kingswood Skis

Alex prefers this traditional sandwich construction for its ease of repair if damaged, and the sides can be maintained with a little wood oil.

Another thing for you purists out there: the 1.4mm graphite sintered bases, no die cuts. Die cut bases often look sweet, but I always smile with approval when I see solid black bases.

I also was a big fan of the factory tune, and I still haven’t touched the edges at all. The SMBs felt dialed right out of the box.

Two Important Notes

(1) Every Kingswood ski is made to order, and this review is of the SMB with a flex pattern chosen by Alex for us, which he described as “a tad on the stiff side.” So as you read this review, keep in mind that the flex pattern could be adjusted to your taste.

(2) Each length of the SMB comes in different dimensions:

156 cm – 136/115/124mm – Sidecut radius: 18m
165 cm – 128/109/120mm – Sidecut radius: 21m
177 cm – 137/116/128mm – Sidecut radius: 23m
187 cm – 145/123/135mm – Sidecut radius: 24m
194 cm – 167/136/151mm – Sidecut radius: 28m

So while our pair of 187s and the 194cm model are pretty much fat pow skis, the shorter lengths bring these closer to All-Mountain dimensions. And I’ve got to say, I would absolutely love to check out a 187cm length of the SMB with the dimensions of the 165cm or 177cm SMB….

(Kingswood does, however, make a ski called the Rocketype, and in a 186cm length, its dimensions run 134-112-124, which would be pretty great with a flex pattern similar to our SMBs.)

The Test So Far…

I’ve had the 187cm SMBs in a wide range of conditions: light pow; heavy untracked; cold, soft chop; chopped-up snow on top of firm bumps; straight-up moguls; steep trees and bumps; soft groomers; icy groomers.


Any 123mm underfoot ski better be good in deep snow, and the SMB is. In light pow at Alta and some thicker untracked in Taos, I never experienced tip dive.

Jonathan Ellsworth, Kingswood Skis SMB, Blister Gear Review
Jonathan Ellsworth, Corner Chute, Taos Ski Valley

The SMBs have a large sweet spot, and I was surprised at how easy these were to pivot, given how much bite the edges provide on hard pack. That pivotability is likely attributable to the minimal camber underfoot of the SMB.

While these skis are easy to pivot, the low splay of the tip and tail means that this isn’t a super loose, surfy ride. The tips and tails never got hung up at all—ever—and the skis planed well and offered no surprises. But this is a ski that puts more of a premium on transitioning well from pow to variable conditions, rather than just being ultra-surfy. (For straight surfing, the Armada AK JJ is still tough to beat.)


21 comments on “2018-2019 Kingswood Skis SMB”

  1. Kingswood makes phenomenal boards. I had a pair of the first generation midfats on a trip to las Lenas (1st gen gotama dimensions with the bomber kings wood craftsmanship). A great SA ski.

    My question after reading this review as well as your praxis protest review and megawatt review – if you have your go to 115 versatile pow ski in your quiver (im guessing bibby) what Would your deep day board? Protest? Megawatt? SMB?

    • It feels particularly reductionistic in this case to simply pick one of the these three very good skis and ignore the others. More than anything, I’d hope that these 3 reviews have helped make clear which ski sounds like the best fit for YOU.

      But in your scenario, if I’m pairing a fatter ski with a Bibby Pro – which is already 118 underfoot – I’d probably choose the Praxis Protest for the sake of (1) reducing overlap and (2) getting a pretty different feel.

      And if one of these 3 skis was going to be my ONLY ski, then it would be the SMB, hands down. And if I had one 98-110mm underfoot ski and was going to pair it with something else – and especially if I needed that fat ski to still be capable a few days after a storm, and good in bumps, etc, I’d also choose the SMB. Plus, the answer definitely depends on whether you’re skiing in a lower snow area or a deeper snow area, and skiing tight trees, bumps, or big, open lines. And if you’re after a more traditional feel (SMB / Megawatt) than not (Protest). Lots of factors….

  2. I second the observation about the excellent quality of the Kingswoods. I had the chance to eyeball a few different pairs in France, and they are really works of art…obviously built with love, care and a ton of pride.
    Definitely one of the gems of the ski world. Thanks for the review! Nicely done, as always.

  3. You are quite the eloquent reviewer – mad props for the use of reductionistic. I think that would win some serious friends with words points. As I grow older i am becoming a reductionalist (possibly a new political party) when it comes to my ski and mountain bike quivers(s). The technology has
    got ridiculously dialed compared to even 5 years ago, and I now have a quiver of strollers for my 2 future rippers to compete with a wall of skis and hanging bikes. Kind of sad but a reality. You and Will helped significantly with keeping the quiver manageable and dialed – thanks for the insight.

  4. Hi there – nice review. I’m currently on a 185 Line Pollards Opus which I’m very happy with. But a friend of mine is raving about the SMB’s.

    I’m 53 and an aggressive skier and spend about 4-6 weeks a year in Hakuba Japan so love deep pow……but also love the groomers.

    When talking with the Kingswood guys they’re suggesting a slightly stiffer 177 – as the Opus bindings are set true mid and I am assuming the SMB’s would set back 2cm ??……..but I’m trying to discover as much as I can about what the differences could be between the 2 skis.

    Not being a ski tech buff, would the stiffer ski and thinner tail perform better in pow and on the groomers? How would you describe the differences between the 2?

    Much appreciated.

    • Thanks, Haydon. What’s your height and weight? The 177 is probably a good call since the 185 Opus runs short. But I don’t believe that the Opus is mounted true center – it’s probably a couple centimeters back, while the recommended mount point of the 177 SMBs is probably 5 or 6cm back.

      But more than that, the Opus is a much softer, less directional ski with more tip and tail splay. Really, there isn’t much similarity between the Opus and the SMB. The SMB is a much more “solid” ski, the Opus is lighter, designed to spin and ski switch – it’s designed to play. Have you read our 2 Opus reviews? You should, and perhaps take a look at our Rocker 101 article. I think those will help a bit.

  5. Thanks Jonathon – great advice…….I’m 180cm tall and 92kg weight – ex football player – still fit. Do you think the 177 would work best?

    You’re right about the Opus – it is a much more playful ski but I think I need something more directional for the deep stuff i get to ski in Japan. With the tighter trees in Japan do you see this being an issue with the SMB’s?

    Many Thanks

  6. Hi again Jonathan…….read the articles – thanks. 1 question though…..the Opus has a sidecut radius of 17m whilst the SMB at 23m. Does this mean the SMB will be harder to turn in tight Japan trees?

    • At 92kg, Haydon, I would normally say that 177cm is too short for a pow ski. But since you already know you like the (relatively) short Opus, the 177 SMB seems okay, and it will feel like more ski (in a good way) than the Opus….

      And don’t worry about the sidecut radius. In really tight trees, you’ll likely be pivoting either of these skis on their bases rather than having them on edge and carving, so the difference in their respective radiI is negligible. The bigger difference will be in their respective swing weights.

      Bottom line: I could see either going with their recommended “slightly stiffer” 177, or a medium stiffness 187. Your 185 Opus might feel a little quicker because of its more forward mount, but at your weight, you shouldn’t have any problem throwing the SMBs around in the gorgeous trees of Japan. And you will have all the flotation you need on the SMB, where you might encounter tip dive on the 185 Opus.

  7. I’m ready to pull the trigger on a pair of these but having real trouble deciding between the Rocketype and the SMB. I’d get the 176cm/177cm respectively. I’m 46yo, 172cm and 70kgs. I’ve skied all my life and am a strong skier but not aggressive skier. I prefer to ski off the groomers and spend about two weeks in Japan each year and a week or so on the NZ club fields and/or ski-touring in the Australian back-country (something, surprisingly, well worth doing).

    I’m heading over to the clubbies in about six weeks.

    My main concern with the SMB is that I am not all that familiar with skis over 100cm underfoot and worry about how I would go in bumps more than anything. Perhaps I just have to worry less about the ski and learn to use it properly.

    I was hoping you’d be able to say something wise to assist my decision.

    • Hi, Jamie – we haven’t skied the Rocketype yet, but I think there are two primary things to consider:

      a) The Rocketype has more tail rocker than the SMB, which will make the ski easier to turn at slower speeds, and will be a good thing to have if & when you get the ski into deeper snow. And since making powerful, cleanly carved turns on groomers isn’t a priority for you, there is less downside to going with a ski with tail rocker.

      b) Having said that, you’re looking at 108mm underfoot vs. 116mm for the SMB. For an everyday ski for the club fields, 108mm seems like a really nice width. But I wouldn’t want to head to Japan with a ski that’s that narrow. So I think you’ll have to make a bit of a decision: are you trying to optimize for Japan, or for NZ?

      c) Finally I could certainly ski a 116mm ski everyday in the club fields, and the moguls in the club fields are not typically huge or very tightly spaced. So I wouldn’t worry too much about the difference between a 108mm ski and a 116mm ski in club field moguls.

      I think the best thing to do would be to contact Alex at Kingswood and get his take – see if he agrees with what I’ve said. I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either ski, but I’m sure Alex will have some helpful thoughts & suggestions to add.

  8. I’ve had a set of Rocket type Kingswoods for the last 3 years.
    Sadly due to work and injuries I’ve only been able to use them 8 times.
    Beautiful feeling ski’s, amazing in of piste soft snow conditions (as soft as whakapapa gets lol), but I do find them to be annoyingly slow on groomed trail.
    I have to note though that the previous ski’s were narrow stiff and blindingly fast so it’s a bit of an unfair comparison.
    Absolutely gorgous skis to look at, the workmanship is unmatched anywhere.

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