Ski: 2020-2021 Parlor Skis Cardinal 100 — 185cm & 178cm
Stated Dimensions (mm):
• 185cm: 136-100-126
• 178cm: 136-100-126
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm):
• 185cm: 136.5-100-126.5
• 178cm: 137.5-100-127
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull):
• 185cm: 184.0cm
• 178cm: 176.6cm
Stated Sidecut Radius:
• 185cm: 21.6 meters
• 178cm : 19.6 meters
Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered):
• 185cm: ~47mm / ~6mm
• 178cm: ~50mm / ~6mm
Core Construction: combination of maple & aspen
Available Lengths: 154, 164, 171, 178, 185, and 192cm
Camber Profile Options: traditional camber or full rocker (reverse camber)
Factory Recommended Line:
185cm: 80.5cm from tail; 11.5cm behind center
178cm: 77.5cm from tail; 10.8cm behind center
Reviewer’s Mount Location:
185cm: on the line
178cm: on the line
Boots: Fischer Vacuum RC4 130 & Tecnica Mach 1
Bindings: Tyrollia AAAttack 13 (DIN at 11)
Test Location: Taos Ski Valley, Arapahoe Basin
185cm: 8 days
178cm: 3 days
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 15/16 Cardinal, which was not changed for 16/17, 17/18, 18/19, 19/20, or 20/21, apart from graphics.]
Parlor Skis is a young company that produces made-to-order skis in East Boston, Massachusetts. (Prior to moving to East Boston, the company was building skis in an old funeral parlor in Cambridge, Mass. Get it?)
Pete Endres, Mark Wallace, and Jason Epstein are the three co-founders of Parlor Skis, and they met and raced together at Williams College.
If there are two things you could rightfully infer from this last sentence, it is:
(1) These guys aren’t idiots; I’ve met Pete and Mark, and I can vouch. (I haven’t met Jason, however, so I guess it’s at least possible that he is an idiot?)
(2) They care about the performance of a ski when you put it on edge.
But these guys aren’t merely race dorks who only care about a ski’s performance on groomed snow, which brings us to the Cardinal 100, Parlor’s flagship, all-mountain, one ski quiver.
Parlor calls the Cardinal 100 a ski that “provides soft snow versatility without sacrificing grip on ice and loose granular. This ski will rip on hardpack without feeling grabby in soft snow.”
May companies say stuff like that, but the Cardinal 100 that I tested—in two different lengths—merges two design elements that makes Parlor’s characterization more than marketing fluff:
Design Element #1 – Rocker Profile of the Cardinal 100
The Cardinal 100 has a very subtle reverse camber / full rocker design. Emphasis here is on “very subtle,” because as you’ll notice in the rocker pics of the 185cm Cardinal 100 on the last page of this review, while you can see a deep tail rocker line on the Cardinal that opens up – subtly – to a mere ~6mms of tail splay, the tip rocker line on the Cardinal 100 is almost non-existent. I.e., this ski could almost be described as flat (at least through the shovels) rather than “reverse cambered.”
Note #1: For the coming season, Parlor is planning to increase the tip splay very slightly, while the tails will remain unchanged. That will make for a subtle difference—if any—and I hope that Parlor errs on the side of a less-than-1-cm increase as opposed to more-than-1-cm. In short, that flat-ish design works.
Note #2: Before we go any further, you know that we’re going to have to talk about the Volkl Mantra. 3 guys who grew up racing on the east coast = 3 guys who grew up seeing Volkl Mantras everywhere. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that Volkl decided this past season to go full reverse camber on the Mantra, bringing the Mantra closer to the already-fully-rockered Cardinal 100.
The difference here is that, as I’ve said, the Cardinal 100 is pretty flat, while the Mantra has an impressively subtle amount of splay. It’s a beautiful design, and next season, the Cardinal’s reverse camber design will look a bit more like the Mantra.
Note #3: Some people like traditional camber, so not everyone was psyched about the reverse camberization (that’s a word, right?) of the Mantra. Well, those people might be happy to hear that for the 15/16 season, Parlor is offering the Cardinal 100 with traditional camber. So while you can’t get a cambered Mantra, you can get a cambered Cardinal 100…
Design Element #2 – Tail Profile of the Cardinal 100
Flat skis and fully rockered skis are good at feeling loose and remaining maneuverable in grabby snow. But they can also sacrifice edgehold on “ice and loose granular.”
But Parlor wanted to have the best of both worlds, so they did something with the Cardinal 100 that I haven’t seen anybody else do: make a reverse cambered ski, then stick a big, fat, flat tail on it. Check out the rocker pics on page 3. There is no twinned-up tail here, and there is very little tail taper. There is some tail splay, but tilt this ski on edge, and those fat tails bite and engage and rail.
In an age where ski manufacturers seem so nervous about, and intent on making sure that their skis are super duper duper accessible for every skier out there who wants to rock back on their heels and swish back and forth at very slow speeds down the mountain (if that’s you, do yourself a huge favor and go take some ski lessons!), Parlor stuck a tail on the Cardinal 100 that allows the ski to actually accomplish the two things we mentioned above: be versatile in soft snow (in soft or punchy snow, if you take a more bases-flat stance, you can pivot & foot steer the Cardinal 100 very easily), while still allowing you to hit high edge angles and carve hard (set the Cardinal 100 on edge, and those fat tails will bite and engage, and help reduce wash out).
I can think of a lot of fully rockered skis out there, and I can think of a number of carving-oriented skis that have fat, flat tails. But I can’t think of any ski that combines this rocker profile with this tail shape. And the design works quite well.
NEXT: Parlor’s Custom Process, Flex Pattern, Etc.