In both shallow and deep soft chop, the flex pattern and shape of the Crop Duster again combined to deliver a smooth and damp ride. The large dimensions kept the ski riding high on the snow surface, while the fairly strong forward half of the ski kept the descent free of any hang-ups transitioning into and out of the deep spots.
Just as in untracked powder, the soft tails were again the limiting factor when trying to scrub speed or slash turns, and while skiing switch in these “resort pow” conditions.
Dense chop can have its way with the Crop Duster, but most devoted powder skis seem to struggle a bit when it gets dense and choppy. There are better narrower, stiffer skis that can conquer thicker pow well and do much better once it gets cut-up, like the Moment Bibby Pro.
I spent a few days in the backcountry with the Crop Duster, and the ski definitely performed well in all of the conditions and terrain I showed it. As I mentioned in the powder section, the skis are very maneuverable, which took my mind off the technical side of skiing and allowed me to just reap the rewards of grunting up the hill.
While up on Pink Pine Ridge, the Crop Duster easily transitioned from slow-speed, deliberate moves in upper technical sections, to wide-open smear turns on an open face, and then when pulling in the reins while navigating the lower, heavily treed sections. The strong front end of the ski, combined with the full length sidecut, also provides confidence while laying down long-radius turns down more exposed, wind-affected faces.
One area of the Crop Duster that isn’t 100% optimal for touring, however, is the large amount of tail rocker, which inhibits skins from achieving their maximum grip on a packed skin track. When I encountered a steep, icy section on an ascent, I typically veered off track and made my own route, which worked perfectly.
Air / Play
I didn’t get to spend much time sessioning the Alta jump lines while on the Crop Duster, but my experience with the ski in general makes me believe that the asymmetric flex pattern may deter many jibbers from drooling heavily over the ski. However, that is not to say that the Crop Duster isn’t capable of being a fantastic tool for backcountry booters into deep landings, or tricking off natural features at the resort on powder days.
The stiff-ish front end didn’t inspire much nose-buttering action on my part, even with the bindings at -2cm from center. For those looking to get tricky with it, I’d suggest moving the mount to true center.
The flex pattern also provides a decent platform for sticking drops, but it is important to remember that soft tail on the bigger drops; the Crop Duster can become a wheelie machine if you’re landing backseat.)
Epic Planks states the Crop Duster is a powder ski that can also rip anything to get you back to the lifts. My experience has found the ski a little nerve racking at high speeds because of a bit of twitchiness on groomers, and I’ve been on powder boards that most certainly have been more exciting (in a good way) on corduroy. Even the old, soft Hellbent seemed to carve better and provide more stability than the Crop Duster, as does the exceptionally performing Line Opus. Nonetheless, the Crop Duster is capable of ripping it down a groomer, I just wouldn’t expect much for additional stoke factor from that portion of a run.
The Crop Duster can perform fairly well on smooth, off-piste hard snow as long as it’s not pushed to excessive speeds, but in the end, this ski isn’t really cut out for these harder snow conditions. The massive dimensions combined with tip and tail rocker with zero camber underfoot make the ski feel quite planky, and sometimes it can be quite a handful. This is a soft-snow-oriented quiver ski, not a one-ski quiver.
So far, I don’t have any reason to suspect the quality of these skis to be any less than those I’ve tested from highly regarded companies or skis that cost twice as much. The skis haven’t seemed to lose any of their flex or rebound characteristics, though I’ve only used them for a short amount of time. The bases are pretty standard, so although they may not be the most robust out there, they are neither paper thin nor super soft. I’ve hit a few hidden gems along the High Traverse, and still the bases look as good as new.
The top sheet does chip / fray slightly if it is whacked enough by the opposite skis edge, so you might want to file the topsheet / sidewall junction slightly to soften the edge to prevent this.
Epic Planks has obviously taken the feedback they have received from collaborative cat and heli-ski operations, along with athletes and product owners, to create a straightforward, intuitive, and very effective powder ski. It isn’t an experiment in all the new design elements like a tapered tip / tail profile, or ultra tech lay-ups, and it doesn’t try to be a soft snow, jack-of-all-trades Bent Chetler-esque ski. But the Crop Duster will undoubtedly make a lot of people very happy in powder snow, because it’s easy and it works.
I think the Crop Duster would be the perfect quiver addition for an intermediate through advanced, directional skier looking to elevate the fun factor on powder days. It is also a perfect fit for someone looking for a ski specifically for cat or heli skiing trips, because you can just hop on, drop in, and have fun.
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