2018-2019 Kingswood Skis SMB

Heavy, Untracked Pow

In heavy, untracked pow, I found myself thinking that coastal skiers would do well to consider these. I think the 191 ON3P Billy Goat handles even better in these conditions, but the SMBs are less work than the Billy Goats. And basically, in light pow and heavy untracked, there was nothing about the SMB I didn’t like.

Jonathan Ellsworth, Kingswood Skis SMB, Blister Gear Review
Jonathan Ellsworth on the Kingswood Skis SMB, Two Bucks, Taos Ski Valley.

Soft Chop / Deep Chop

A bunch of laps down Alta’s Ballroom provided a good testing ground for the SMB. The SMBs weren’t super damp steamrollers (like the 191 ON3P Billy Goats), but they were not getting tossed around, either. The Volkl Katana and Billy Goat are both a lot of ski, and I think the fact that the SMB is dialed back a little will be good news to a lot of people.

One notable attribute of the SMBs is that the tips—not the whole shovels, but just the area from about 5cm from the top of the tip down to roughly 14cm into the shovel—are softer than the tips of the Black Diamond Megawatt and of that other bamboo ski, the 191 Billy Goat. (About a quarter of the way down the shovel, the three skis arrive at roughly the same stiffness; the SMB just gets softer sooner than the Megawatt and Billy Goat).

In heavy snow and in chop, I’d like the tip of the SMB to be a little stiffer, and I felt that the 191 Billy Goat and BD Megawatt might have been preferable for ripping big, fast lines down Alta’s Ballroom and Baldy Shoulder Area. If you’re skiing at more moderate speeds, however, I doubt that you would want to modify the tip/shovel stiffness at all.

Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t allowed me to get back-to-back days in real pow and chop with the SMB’s and the BD Megawatts, but I will update when I can.

Note on the Low Splay of the SMB

As you’ll see in the rocker profile pictures on the last page of this review, the splay is low, and there is not much up-turn at the tip of the SMB. In some respects, this is reminiscent of the Nordica Patron and Helldorado (soft tips, low splay), with the significant difference being that you cannot pancake the tips of the SMB flush to the ground. Given my experience with the Patron and Helldorado, I definitely wondered about this. But I’ve not experienced any spearing issues at all, on traverses, in tight bump lines, or making bigger turns in open areas with wider, more spaced out bumps (e.g., Ballroom Area, Alta).

Big Bumps, Tight Trees

In the big bumps and trees of Eagle’s Nest, the SMBs would pivot, but they definitely took some work to bring all the way across the fall line in quick, successive turns. At first, I was impressed with how easy these were—while my legs were fresh and strong. As I fatigued, these began to feel like a good bit of work. But at ~2,430 grams each (about the same weight as the Megawatts), that ought not to come as a surprise.

Again, to be clear, in soft snow, these pivot easily enough that tight trees felt very manageable, and more open trees felt like home. And in untracked snow in more open terrain, I can’t imagine a directional skier being disappointed. Very light skiers (~150 pounds or less) might find these to be a good amount of work; strong skiers will find these to be stable and fun.

And if you’re actually making consistent turns in bumps rather than raging through them, the SMB is more manageable than the Megawatt, largely because it doesn’t have the oversized shovels of the Megawatt.


The SMBs are excellent on groomers for a 123mm-underfoot ski. The only other fat ski I’ve been on that might hold its own against the SMB is the Megawatt. But flying down Alta’s Collins Face a week after the last storm, where winds had removed any soft snow, I was surprised how smooth and stable the SMBs felt—first, in a controlled slide on the first couple turns, then getting on edge and trusting the rockered tips and tails not to wash out on big, very high-speed arcs.

On icy steeps, I didn’t feel like I was on a pair of 78mm race skis, but I was genuinely impressed. And on less steep groomers, these skis were simply a lot of fun to lay over and carve.

Bottom Line (For Now)

If you care about true craftsmanship, you need to know Kingswood.

If you like the sound of having your skis made by a fellow skier who only turns out about a hundred pairs a year, then you definitely need to know about Alex Herbert and Kingswood.

If you’re looking for a solid, stable, soft-snow ski that is strong on edge, planes well, and is easy to pivot, then I would be shocked if you are disappointed in the SMB.

You can now read Paul Forward’s 2nd Look Review of the SMB.



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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