Soft Chop / Crud
By design, the Belafonte is a little lighter and more agile than a full-blown, metaled-out comp ski, though it has a camber profile that’s made to rip well through crud and chop. The Howitzer is very similar, and the camber profiles of the skis are nearly identical. If anything, the Belafonte feels like it has a touch more positive camber underfoot that, along with the longer sidecut radius, makes throwing the ski sideways in chop at speed more work than it is on the Howitzer.
With such an intuitive, trustworthy feel in every other condition, I fully expected the Howitzer to do well in chop and variable snow, which it certainly does. The Howitzer makes skiing chop and crud really fast very easy. Somehow, it feels lighter than the Belafonte and less powerful (or more forgiving), but I still had no problem confidently opening things up through plenty of 4-5” chop in Keystone’s back bowls.
At slower speeds in these soft conditions, again the Howitzer seemed to float and smear a little more readily than the Belafonte. I could stay a bit lighter on my feet on the Howitzer, whereas the Belafonte wanted to slice and hammer through uneven, tracked snow. In that way, the Howitzer may be more of a ski that any advanced skier or expert can rip though soft chop on, where the Belafonte will require a little more attentiveness to do this and will also let a strong expert skier blast through nasty crud / coral a with even more power and speed.
Final Comparisons: Howitzer vs. Belafonte vs. Cochise
The Howitzer is a wider ski than both the Belafonte and the Cochise, and it does feel that way: like a narrower powder ski rather than a wider all-mountain ski. Consequently, I’ve found that it doesn’t require as much speed in soft snow to make an easier turn, but it also doesn’t feel quite as stable and powerful in hardpack steeps (like Taos’ Castor, Pollux, and Reforma on firm days).
While neither the Howitzer, Belafonte, or Cochise are ideal in firm moguls, the Belafonte is a ski that you can work around in bumps if you’re really on your game. Same with the Cochise, though perhaps even a bit more easily than the Belafonte. But this is where I noticed the width of the Howitzer the most: edge to edge, the ski seemed a little sluggish at times.
The Howitzer could be a daily driver, but not if you plan on spending a lot of time in hardpack moguls. There, the ski can feel a little out of its element.
I should note that these differences are slight, and I’ve actually been surprised at just how similar the Belafonte and Howitzer felt to me. The truth is that the two can both handle most of the same conditions very well, but they do have there biases.
The two skis’ turn radii and flex profiles are the most important distinguishing factors, and they’re the main reason I’m not inclined to say one ski is unequivocally better than the other. The Howitzer can charge, there’s no doubt about that, it just doesn’t feel quite as dedicated to doing so as the Belafonte. It’s a touch more of a powder ski, and yet is set up to let you carve up groomers in a more civilized (by which I mean a bit slower) way if you want.
The Howitzer is a well balanced, intuitive, and very dependable directional ski that expert skiers will definitely appreciate for its stability at speed, traditional feel in powder, and fun carving performance. Yet advanced skiers should also give it some consideration if they’re looking to move into a more aggressive, faster skiing style, and want a ski for power days but don’t want to commit to the limitations and demands of a stiffer big-mountain board.
NEXT PAGE: ROCKER PROFILE PICS