Ski: 2015-2016 Salomon Q-Lab, 190cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 145-109-134
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 144-109-133
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 187.2cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2571 & 2484 grams
Sidecut Radius (for all lengths): 20.5 meters
Mount Location: Recommended Line (87.8cm from tail / -5.8 from true center)
Boots / Bindings: Salomon X Pro 120 / Marker Jester (DIN at 11)
Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley, Alta Ski Area, Summit County, CO.
Days Skied: 8
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 Q Lab which was not changed for 15/16, except for the graphics.]
For the 2014-2015 season, Salomon is introducing the “Q Lab,” which comes in a 176cm model; a 183cm model (with stated dimensions of 138-104-127mm); and a 190cm model, with measured dimensions of 144-109-133mm.
In a nutshell, the story here is that these are beefed-up relatives of the Salomon Quest 105 (part of Salomon’s Quest series) that we reviewed last season. While the skis in Salomon’s Quest series are positioned for both inbounds and backcountry duty, the Q-Lab is more of a dedicated inbounds tool.
These Q Lab skis are made with Salomon’s “s-core,” the same core they use in their race skis, which has 42 alternating vertical laminates of poplar and ash wood that are then sandwiched between two sheets of titanal.
Salomon has this to say about the Q-Lab: “The guts of our Lab race skis, optimized for a lighter freeride application and built on our ultra versatile Utility Rocker platform. This is the new one-ski quiver of the Salomon Freeride Team.”
While I’ve put multiple days now on the 190cm Q Lab, I also got a handful of runs on the 183cm version, too. In short, the 183cm Q Lab reminded me exactly of a beefed up 188cm Quest 105. I barely noticed the length difference, and the two skis have almost identical dimensions. Since I tend to like fairly beefy skis, for lift-accessed riding, I personally would opt for the more substantial 183cm Q Lab over the 188cm Quest 105 in every instance.
Interestingly, the 190cm Q Lab didn’t have me thinking much at all about the 188cm Quest 105, despite the fact that these two skis are nearly identical in length. Why?
1) Flex Pattern
While I described the 188cm Quest 105’s flex pattern as being very similar to the more playful 190cm Rocker 2 108, the flex Pattern of the Q Lab 190 is quite stout in comparison to the Quest 105. In fact, the back half of the Q Lab 190 ski is among the top 10 skis with the stiffest tails we’ve reviewed, up there with the DPS Wailer 105 Hybrid T2, the DPS Wailer 112RPC, Pure3, and the new, excellent Salomon X Drive 8.8.
And the flex of the initial ~20 centimeters of the tip of the Q Lab 190 is somewhere between extremely stiff and unbendable.
The forebody of the ski, however, by comparison to the tips and back half of the ski, goes relatively soft, on par with the LINE Supernatural 108, and softer than the Moment Belafonte, DPS Wailer 112RPC, or DPS Wailer 105 Hybrid T2.
190cm Q Lab 190: 144-109-133mm
188cm Quest 105: 136-105-128mm
While the Q Lab is wider all around than the Quest 105, the tails in particular feel noticeably wider and far more burly. I didn’t have any complaints with the tails of the Quest 105, and that ski carves well. I just like this wider tail shape even more. Fat tails make me happy. They tend to provide excellent edge hold and allow you to finish turns powerfully.
Salomon designed the Quest 105 to be light enough to handle touring duties, yet still hold up in the resort. You could certainly throw an AT binding on the Q Lab 190 if you felt like it, but Salomon didn’t design this thing for people in spandex.
In fact, while the Q Lab 190 doesn’t feel like a super heavy ski on snow, on the scale, this is one of the heaviest ski we’ve reviewed, and it’s just barely lighter than the 194cm 4FRNT Devastator, and a touch heavier than the 193cm Blizzard Cochise.
But again, given that we are talking about some fairly big, heavy, stiff skis, the Q Lab 190 doesn’t feel sluggish on snow, most likely because of the weight-saving and heavily tapered tip, and I’d like to say Thank You to Salomon and every company that acknowledges that lighter isn’t always better.
Ok, on to the Q Lab 190’s on snow performance.
I recently spent some time in Summit County, Colorado, the land of long, wide groomers that are extremely conducive to going very fast and making big turns. When the groomers were smooth and the conditions were soft, the edge hold of the Q Lab’s fat, powerful tails was outstanding, and its softer shovels were easy to bend. I had a lot of fun setting high-speed, high-angle carves down the mountain. But if your style is to make lots of turns, still-substantial skis like the Nordica Helldorado or the Line Supernatural 108 are a bit more conducive to that.
At very high speeds on smooth groomers, I loved everything about the Q Lab. But once those groomers began to get roughed up a bit, the shovels began to feel too soft to go flat out. This reminded me a bit of the Blizzard Bonafide vs. the 13/14 Volkl Mantra: at very high speeds, the Bonafide’s shovels begin to feel too insubstantial, while the Mantra held up much better at speed in roughed up conditions. The softer, lighterweight, tapered tips of the Q Lab don’t do much to smooth things out; the shovels don’t feel damp. And yet, the back half of the ski still felt very solid and kept things tracking pretty well.
In the 105-110mm range, when carving on roughed-up groomers, I personally would prefer the more substantial shovels of the 13/14 Moment Belafonte or the 14/15 DPS Wailer 105 Hybrid T2. But if the groomers are in good shape, there is nothing I’ve skied in the 105-110mm range that I clearly prefer over the Q Lab 190.
And if you tend to slow down when things get roughed up (1) you’re probably smarter than me, and (2) a lot of what I’ve just described may be a non-issue.
In beautiful, untracked, fairly dense snow on Alta’s Baldy Shoulder Area, these skis felt smooth, easy to ski, fast, precise. This isn’t a loose, super-surfy ski (its tail should make that kind of obvious), but a ski that had me wanting to stay on edge and carve through pow rather than run bases flat and smear around in it. So if you know you’re more of a pow carver than a pow surfer, this ski should be on your radar.
Soft, Spring Chop & Slush Bumps
On open, rolling, off-piste pitches like Copper Mountain’s “Hallelujah,” the Q Lab was great. Hallelujah is a mellow-pitched face with mid-sized moguls, and it was fun to ski the Q Lab very fast down this stuff. The bottom section of the area steepens up a bit, and the moguls get bigger. Here, I was able to keep my speed up and ski dynamically, airing from bump to bump into the next trough. The Q Lab felt supportive, and quick enough (again, keeping in mind that this is a fairly burly ski).
Dedicated Bump Runs
The tails of the Q Lab are quite stiff, so you do need to be on your game to ski these in bumps. But still, on a run like Copper Mountain’s Mine Dump where the bumps were nice and uniform and it was easy to find a line, I could happily ski the Q Labs.
But if I was choosing among the various skis in this category, I’d pick the 187 Belafonte or the Line Supernatural 108 if we were going to go ski bumps all day, given the Belafonte’s and Supernatural’s twinned up tails, slightly softer tails, and narrower shovels. And the steeper, bigger, and less uniform those bumps get, the more I definitely would want to be on the Moment Belafonte or the Line Supernatural 108. Case in point…