Ski: 2015-2016 Praxis GPO, 187cm
Camber Profile: Rocker/Camber/Rocker
Stated Dimensions (mm): 140-116-128
Sidecut Radius: 24 meters
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 185.75
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2172 & 2175
Mount Location: Recommended line (-7cm from center)
Boots / Bindings: Tecnica Cochise Pro 130, Rossignol All-Track Pro 130, Black Diamond Factor Mx / Marker Jester (DIN at 10)
Test Locations: Alta Ski Area, Solitude Ski Area, Wasatch Backcountry
Days Skied: 21
The Praxis GPO (Giant Pacific Octopus) is the latest pro model from 2013 FWT world overall champion, Drew Tabke.
According to Praxis, “Tabke’s design was a culmination of his favorite Praxis Skis, borrowing his chosen aspects from these other designs and blending them into one…The final product was 116mm underfoot, with a substantial shovel and long slow tip, cambered mid-zone with a playful radius, and slight tail rocker accenting an easy tail taper.”
Praxis makes both “standard edition” and “custom” options of every model in their line. Our review skis are the fiberglass standard edition, with a “medium/stiff” flex, and a rocker/camber/rocker profile. (I’ll say more about the flex of our GPO below.)
The GPO is fairly light (given it’s size and a stout flex), coming in just under ~2,175 grams per ski, and has a mount point that is slightly further forward (7cm behind center) than I would expect for such a directional ski.
We’ve had the GPO for a while, and I am the last of our crew to get on the ski. I began putting time on it late last spring.
Jonathan commented in his review of the Moment Governor that both he and Will had a difficult time with the GPO, which is why we passed this ski around a bunch before posting a full review. (Jonathan was impressed by the GPO’s poppy tails, but found it to be hooky, unpredictable when carving, and its edge hold to be erratic.)
When I jumped on the ski late last spring, I was very impressed by a few characteristics, but I also noticed some quirky behavior. Primarily, the ski was very unpredictable at both the tip and tail when skiing with low edge angles and/or a soft touch. These qualities were especially apparent in inconsistent snow when not 100% over the sweet spot of the ski. While skiing very aggressively, consciously driving the sweet spot of the skis, they followed my lead. But back off the intensity ever so slightly, and they had a twitchy and unpredictable mind of their own.
Having had a similar experience with the Praxis MVP, I suspected the factory tune might be a bit too aggressive for my taste; Praxis is known for distributing skis with very sharp edges. Inspection, however, revealed that the bases were not quite flat, and the base bevel was at 0°, with the base structure still seen on much of the edge.
So I had one of my good friends work on the GPO’s tune, putting a 1° base and side bevel on the edges at the middle of the ski, fading into a 2° base bevel at the tip and tail.
When I got the ski back on snow, the GPO’s hooky, unpredictable behavior was a thing of the past. But I still found that the ski still demands power and great balance to be skied well on its sweet spot.
It may seem odd to start a review of a directional, big-mountain ski in talking about playfulness, but if you’ve ever seen Drew Tabke ski, it should be no surprise that after one run lapping the Collins jump line at Alta, I knew the GPO had more tricks up its sleeve than merely turning left and right at speed.
As I mentioned in the Intro, the GPO has a fairly firm, progressive flex, but it is by no means a plank; it produces a very energetic rebound and, again, has a rather forward recommended mount for a directional ski.
When flexed into the face of a booter or natural takeoff, the ski bends very symmetrically, and the pop it provides off the lip is butter smooth. Even on the most rutted out, kicky, natural takeoffs, the GPO has one of the most well-balanced releases of any big mountain ski I’ve been on.
Once in the air, the GPO feels light (it’s only ~125g heavier per ski than the 184cm K2 Shreditor 102) and balanced enough to throw my normal bag of tricks (variations of 360s) into beat out, in-bounds landings.
When putting the landing gear down, the GPO provides a platform that is more than capable of holding up to small and big drops. The relatively stout flex of our test pair will definitely support an off kilter landing, but that same flex will transfer more punishment to the knees when your return to earth is off balance.
Wet, spring pow is where the GPO performs best, whether in 6 inches or 2 feet or fresh. In the dense snow of warm storms, the skis easily planed on the surface and demonstrated a terrific blend of quickness and agility when pushed, while remaining very composed and predictable at speed.
In deep, low-density snow, as well as in slightly upside-down snow, the GPO didn’t feel nearly as proficient, and I consistently found myself wanting to have a different ski under my feet.
I found the tips to dive quite easily when pressuring them much at all—they sink, though they don’t feel as though they “fold up”—and I experienced this even after moving the bindings back, behind thefactory recommended line. I struggled to find a good spot to stand on since the skis’ unsupportive tips caused me to adjust my weight rearward, while the strong, floaty tails kept pushing me back up onto the (unsupportive) tips. Skiing in deep, light snow felt like a balancing act, and I kept searching for the ski’s sweet spot. And any variability (hard moguls with deep ruts, or firm, skied-off patches of snow) exasperated my sensations of being off balance.
When I did feel like I found the sweet spot on the ski in powder, I still thought the GPO felt slow to react to my input, and that I couldn’t really trust moving forward at all when wanting to get the ski high up on edge.
The point here is that, in my experience, this version of the GPO has proven to be a blast to ride in higher-density fresh snow, but as the storms dry out or the snow pack gets inverted, there are similar skis that perform better than this particular GPO, like the Moment Bibby, Rossignol Squad 7, or Atomic Automatic.
That said, I personally would love to get my hands on one of the GPO’s with a full, continuous rocker profile (something like the 4FRNT Hoji) or a GPO with a softer flex pattern that might be a bit more suitable for my weight.
The GPO is unique in that it offers a slightly smeary, light, and energetic (sometimes overly energetic) feel when upright and flat, but when brought to speed and put on a high edge, its sleek shovels dice through shallow-to-relatively deep piles of snow like a razor blade, smoothing out terrain like a metal-laminated charger.
I found the GPO to be most intuitive at leveling chop while on a slope that doesn’t require a ton of speed control—something that is moderately pitched, has a smooth base, and is mostly open. In this type of terrain, I was able to pressure the ski’s 24 meter sidecut into nice clean arcs, taking it across the hill just enough to control some of the speed, while the drag of knifing through 8-10” of dry or wet chop (it didn’t matter) did the rest.
In this sort of setting, the GPO is incredibly smooth, very predictable, and begs to go fast.
When the terrain became steeper, tighter, or more bumped up beneath the fresh snow, the GPO became a bit more of a handful for my light frame and light skiing style. I am not a big, powerful skier, and the GPO reminded me of that when I had to push it around in demanding snow or terrain.
I found the tails to feel quite stuck at times when wanting to dump speed, while the flex and very energetic rebound (similar to what I found on the MVP) provided plenty of kicks off of unexpectedly firm moguls under the freshly chopped-up snow. Given these characteristics, any time I found myself in really demanding snow while in consequential terrain, my heart was pounding.