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.
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.
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