Ski: 2013-2014 / 2015-2016 Rossignol Squad 7, 190cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 145-120-126
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 145-118.5-127
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 186.2cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2286 & 2326 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius: 30 meters
Test Locations: Alta Ski Area
Days Skied: 4
[Editor’s Note: When Rossignol came out with the original Squad 7 for the 12/13 season, Jason Hutchins’ review and my review made clear that we were both big fans. The very next season (13/14), Rossignol tweaked the Squad 7, and Jason and I were able to get time on the new version. So this is Jason’s First Look at the 13/14 Squad 7. Also note that the ski was not changed for the 14/15 season, and comes back unchanged for 15/16 as well.]
This is how Rossignol describes the new Squad 7:
“Designed for pushing the boundaries of big-mountain skiing, the all-new Squad 7 is a balls-to-the-wall, big-mountain pow-slayer featuring athlete-driven innovation. Powder Turn Rocker’s been redesigned, virtually eliminating “tip flap” while delivering maximum floatation and versatility. Patented new Air Tip technology reduces weight by 20% for enhanced agility, control and ultra-light swing weight. With a beefier core profile, 120mm waist and long turn radius, the Squad 7 delivers unrivaled power, stability and float for straight-lining the most daunting terrain, out-running your slough, and stomping the mandatory. 100% Powder”
With only 4 days on the updated Squad 7, this is far from the full wringer test I try to give all skis. However, since the Squad is intended to be a “100% powder” ski, not a one-ski-quiver, I feel pretty comfortable that the variety of conditions I have ridden the ski in cover the necessary bases, and I will be following up on this initial review.
Alta had received over 18” in the previous 48 hours leading up to my first day aboard the Squad 7. I had been warned that the shovels of the skis had a tendency to fold up when mounted on the line, but with the snow density around 6-8%, I figured that I didn’t have too much to worry about. Turns out, I should have worried a little more than I did.
For run number one, I took the skis out to Alta’s High Greeley, aired in off the cornice, and immediately felt my downhill ski “walling up” as I plowed through the untracked snow. With a slight weight adjustment, I coaxed the skis to glide up over the snow as I made my way over to a small air with a perfect, untouched landing zone. I cruised into the take-off, felt good in the air, and touched down in my normal balanced stance. As the skis punched down into the depths of the snow, I felt my left ski start to fold up. With all of my might I tried to keep the ski under me, but failed as the right ski then began to fold, sending me over the handlebars. After double ejecting and tomahawking half way down the pitch, I realized I had some work to do in figuring out this ski.
I skied more fresh powder that day, and consistently felt that I could not trust the front of the skis.
Taking a tip from a close friend who spends an enormous amount of time on the Squad, I decided to move the bindings back, and set my midsole at -1.5cm from the recommended line before heading out for another day on the ski.
Day 2 on the Squad, as luck would have it, came after another ~16” of fresh snow had fallen on Alta. To my relief, my friend was right: with the bindings behind the line, the Squad easily planed up on the snow without the need to shift my weight back, and the support from the front of the ski was confidence inspiring, even when landing airs and motoring through the chopped up ‘resort powder’ conditions (more on that in just a second).
On day 3, I headed out to Alta’s famous sidecountry for three laps in untouched powder to get a taste of the ski in its intended environment. The north-facing aspects held a couple feet of settled powder, and the Squad 7 did not disappoint. Much like the previous version of the Squad, I found the new ski to plane up on the new snow quickly, and easily transition from smooth, long-radius carves, to a quick slash as desired. The Squad 7 felt very predictable and calm, erasing any variances in the snow surface density (from wind affect) along the descents.
Although the Squad 7 does float well at slower speeds, I found that it needs speed to come alive; it is not a ski that makes powder skiing dead easy, like the Atomic Automatic, or to an even greater extent, the Black Diamond AMPerage. I found that sticking with medium to long radius slarves, and going as fast as possible, is where the Squad felt most at home.
Rossignol’s description of the ski states the Squad 7 is a “100% balls to the wall pow slayer”, and at this point in time I can only support that claim. If I were to go out today to ski a big line, fast, in untracked snow, I would feel comfortable with this ski on my feet.
Resort Pow / Soft, Deep Chop
Mounted on the recommended line, I struggled to remain balanced and on my feet while trying to float over deep, chopped up powder. It wasn’t that the big, tapered tips overturned or deflected randomly, it was the soft feeling front half of the ski and “stuck” feeling tails. However, once moving back to -1.5cm from recommended I felt comfortable maintaining a slightly forward, balanced stance once up to speed, allowing me to place my weight further forward and get a slightly “looser” feel from the tail of the ski.
The Squad isn’t a ski that likes to rail through chop on edge, but rather prefers low edge angles, slarved arcs, and using piles of snow to transition from turn to turn. Just as when skiing powder, I found myself happiest floating medium to long radius arcs over the chop.
The Squad’s tail flex is stout enough to make short radius turns, slashes, and high-speed side-slides (scrubs) quite a chore for me in deep, chopped up conditions. I have a feeling stronger or bigger skiers will find the Squad 7 to be “looser” and quicker feeling than I have in these conditions.
Thicker Pow / Chop
I spent one afternoon A/B/C’ing the Soul 7, Squad 7, and the 13/14 Moment Bibby Pro down Alta’s West Rustler, from the top. The mix of powder and chopped up snow at the top was heating up due to the springtime sun, and the thickening snow certainly didn’t make the Squad 7 any more manageable when trying to control speed. The steep upper half of the run required short to medium radius turns, or speed-controlling, long radius drifts, all of which were quite difficult for me to execute. I felt best using a medium radius slarve, using piles of pushed up snow to transition from turn to turn; however, even this technique was pretty exhausting with the tails feeling very “stuck” when I needed to push them around. Again, I think more powerful or bigger skiers will find the Squad 7 friendlier than I have in these more challenging conditions.
The bottom of West Rustler sees quite a bit more traffic, and the pitch mellows out enough to typically allow high-speed carved turns through the light chop and moguls. This portion of my testing was the only time I felt the Squad 7 didn’t feel as damp as I would have liked. The high speed and moderate-sized, firmer bumps allowed me to push deeper into the flex than I had been able to up to that point, causing the skis to rebound with authority, and my vision to become a blurry mess.
Like Jonathan (see his Dynastar Cham 117 review), I have been content riding the Squad down a soft groomer. I wouldn’t call the ski overly enthusiastic, but by driving the ski and adding a bit of foot steering, I was able to carve pretty quick turns for a ski with such a long sidecut radius. Like most skis with this much tip-to-tail taper, working the ski from the tip to just underfoot worked better than pressing tip to tail, as the tails provided very little in terms of carving ability or energy.
Skidding turns on groomers is actually quite easy on the Squad, and although the skis feel a little big and bulky, I found it easy to ski slowly and perform short radius skids all the way up to higher-speed, long-radius smears.
Rossignol Squad 7 vs. Rossignol Soul 7
This comparison is an interesting one, as the skis share virtually identical rocker/camber profiles (the Squad has ~2mm less camber and ~2cm longer tail rocker), but obviously differ in flex profiles and sidecut shape. The skis also differ in length, but not how you may think; the 188cm Soul 7 actually measures .5cm longer than the 190cm Squad 7, that’s both in straight-tape-pull and base length.
Surprisingly, the only place I feel as though I would prefer the Squad 7 is rallying down an untouched, big mountain line, or during the early morning runs at Alta on a deep powder day.
As soon as conditions become chopped up, I have had much more fun and enjoyable experiences rallying around and searching out little hidden stashes on the Soul 7 than on the Squad 7. The Soul 7 has a progressive enough flex (for my weight and ability) to allow it to stay on top and smear high-speed, long radius turns over deep, soft chop, but the flex is soft enough initially (and in combination with a shorter sidecut radius) to also support skiing slower, dicing through the trees, and throwing tricks off natural features with great ease.
I’ve mentioned the “stuck” feeling tails of the Squad 7 numerous times, and can’t say I’ve ever felt the tails of the Soul 7 feeling this way in any snow condition. From a design standpoint, it’s very interesting: the large tip-to-tail taper of the Squad 7, in combination with the slightly longer tail rocker, would make me think the Squad 7 would be the looser, smearier ski. But the significantly stronger tail flex seems to counteract the above design elements, making the Squad 7 feel more traditional, requiring a more powerful, driving skiing style. Some people will undoubtedly love this aspect of the Squad 7, while others may like the larger variety of turn shapes and styles available to them with a ski like the Soul 7.