Ski: 2014-2015 Romp Skis 106, 175cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 135-106-125
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 135-105-123
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 173.7cm
Stated Sidecut Radius: 23 meters
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1830 & 1852 grams
Boots / Bindings: Lange RS 120 SC / Marker Griffon (DIN at 7)
Mount Location: Romp’s Recommended Line (-8cm from center)
Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley, NM; Crested Butte, CO
Days Skied: 11
We review tons of off-the-shelf skis from manufacturers every season, but for those looking to fine-tune the design of a ski to suit their specific skiing style and interests, there are a number of custom and semi-custom ski builders to turn to.
One of those companies is Romp Skis, based in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Co-owners of Romp, Caleb and Morgan Weinberg, moved to Crested Butte in 1992, and this is their 5th winter building skis to order. This season, Romp built skis for two Blister reviewers, Will Brown and me, so this is my review of my custom Romp ski.
But before we get to the review, here’s an overview of the options available to customers when building a ski with the guys at Romp.
Building a Ski with Romp: Your Options
For $2,000 USD, you’ll be given full control over all of the design elements of the ski that Romp builds for you, including the exact length, rocker profile, and dimensions. (This is also the case with Wagner Custom Skis, who built a ski for reviewer Garrett Altmann last season, before he competed on the Freeride World Tour.)
However, like a number of manufacturers, Romp also builds what you might call semi-custom skis. For $850, you’ll work with Romp to choose one of their nine ski molds to start with (essentially templates of skis with set lengths, dimensions, sidecut radii). From there, you’ll speak directly with Caleb to decide what kind of flex and camber profile you’d like your ski to have, given where and how you’re looking to ski.
By default, Romp will build your ski with a full poplar wood core, reinforced with tri-axial fiberglass, but an Ultra Light carbon layup option is available if you’re looking for a very light ski for added quickness or touring.
Building skis at the Romp factory in Crested Butte, Colorado.
In order to tune the flex of the ski to suit your needs, Romp varies the thickness of the core, the fiberglass weave, or adds ½” carbon fiber stringers to the layup. And if you’d like a ski with rocker, tip and/or tail rocker can be introduced to the camber profile in varying amounts (10, 12, 20, and 45cms), again, depending on the performance characteristics you’d like from your ski.
This “guided,” semi-custom build process offers less flexibility than one in which you’re dictating the exact shape of your ski, but it’s the process we were particularly interested in learning about first hand. The flex and camber profile of a ski play a huge role in determining how it performs, and Romp says that each of their starting templates can be tailored to suit skiers with quite different skiing styles and interests.
Both Will and I began with Romp’s starting shape called “The 106.” But Will was looking for a soft, poppy, freestyle-oriented ski, while I wanted a more directional all-mountain ski with a playful side to it.
Building My Ski
This year (and in a lot of next year’s skis that we recently saw at SIA, too), we’ve been noticing a growing number of all-mountain skis with mid-100mm waists.
While I’m happy to ski something every day that is a little wider, and the 98/100mm range is also fun, the mid-100mm underfoot width is pretty ideal for soft snow and firmer conditions in the places I ski most—Crested Butte and Taos.
I was also interested in Romp’s “100” shape, but after learning that it has a shorter sidecut radius, I opted for the wider ski. So after settling on the 106, it was time to talk design.
I actually went in and walked through this process in person, but it’s just as easy to do over the phone if you can’t make it to the factory.
I first explained that I wanted an all-mountain ski that was really fun to carve. While this was a priority, I also was looking for a ski that would still be quick in Crested Butte’s tighter, more technical terrain. So, I was after a good balance of (a) stability for handling high speeds down groomers and roughed up trails, and (b) playfulness for those softer days in the trees and bigger bowls around the Butte. In other words, I was kind of thinking of making a ski that would perform like a narrower Line Pandora, with slightly better hardpack performance, while still being pretty playful.
Caleb and I started with the ski’s profile.
1st – I wanted a good amount of camber to make the ski a little more lively.
2nd – I didn’t want a completely flat tail, but something that would be able to hold a good edge while carving, and provide a longer effective edge for added stability at high speeds.
3rd – I like a bit more tip rocker than tail rocker, and slightly stiffer tails than tips.
With all of this in mind, we settled on 20cms of rocker in the tip, 12cms in the tail, with a medium flex from the tip to the middle of the ski, and a medium/stiff flex in the tail.
Although I like a lot of heavier, damp skis like the Blizzard Samba, I also really appreciate a poppy ski that has a lot of energy and life in it. So after discussing this with Caleb, I opted for a full wood core rather than a core with carbon stringers that would offer a bit more dampness.
After that, all I had to do was pick a topsheet and wait. I walked away from the factory really excited about the ski we just designed, and I was quite curious to see how the sum of these chosen parts would actually perform on snow.
Back at home, I was really impressed by how well the skis flexed. The flex felt smooth, with slightly stiffer tails and a nice, medium, even flex from underfoot to the tips – just like I had requested. I expected them to ski quite well.
My first day on the 106 was right in the middle of January’s lovely high pressure system that refused to deliver any snow throughout Western Colorado. At this point, a lot of Crested Butte’s groomers had gotten pretty slick, and I had actually been taking out my GS skis for a few days before I hopped on the 106.
My very first impression of the skis was how fun they were. In fact, going back through my notes over the past month or so, pretty much every day added I comments about the ski, I included the word fun, often with multiple exclamation points.
Getting the 106 up to speed on groomers, it felt really solid, and had a cool combination of lightness and stability. Even though conditions were firm, the groomers held up well in the morning, with a shallow layer of softer corduroy on top. I started out with some mellow turns, getting a sense of the skis and how well they could hold an edge. I was making some shallower carves and slarves, with the ski’s bases running pretty flat on the snow.
At slow to medium speeds, the 106 was still really responsive and easy to turn. If I was ever feeling lazy, it was no issue to ski with a more relaxed stance or at slower speeds without feeling overpowered by the ski.
Once I felt confident digging into the skis a little more, laying them farther over on softer snow, I loved how energetic the 106 felt through the completion of the turn. While other narrower skis like the Salomon Q-96 Lumen or DPS Cassiar 85 Hybrid T2 are really fun carvers and a little quicker edge to edge, I didn’t find the 106 to feel that much slower than the Volkl Aura (100mm underfoot) or the Blizzard Samba (98mm underfoot). Down consistent and roughed up groomers, the 106 could be pushed hard, skied fast, and felt really lively.
By the afternoon, big patches of snow had gotten skied off, so there were some icy sections that were hard to see. While cruising fast down one run, I was laying the skis over into a deep carve and lost both of my tails out from under me, sending my flying down hill where I landed hard on my head. Although I was OK, just with a slight concussion, I was curious as to what might have been the issue. Both tips and tails had been significantly detuned, so they were very very dull.
As someone who loves to carve and likes to be able to trust my edges in a carve, I definitely prefer having a bit of a sharp edge on my tips and tails, perhaps more than normal all-mountain skis. At the same time, conditions had been much firmer and slicker than usual, and with more normal, softer snow around the mountain, I’d probably want to slightly detune my tips and tails. However, I’d love to have been able to start with sharp edges and detune to my personal preference. Though I’ve been able to put a bit of an edge back on the skis, it’s not quite as much as I’d like, and I’d recommend that Romp includes a section for tune preference when working with customers, or else, just make sure you specify what sort of tune you’d like. I haven’t found the dull tips and tails to affect the ski’s groomer performance too much, though since then, I’ve been much more hesitant to commit to deeper carves on the 106 than I have been on other skis.
NEXT: Hardpack, Bumps, and Softer Snow…