Ski: 2012-2013 Black Diamond AMPerage
Dimensions (mm): 142-115-124
Turn Radius: 22 meters
Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 185.4 cm
Boots/ Bindings: Noridca Supercharger Ignition/ Marker Griffon, DIN (10)
Mount Location: +1 from recommended
Test Location: Arapahoe Basin
Days Skied: 2
(Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 AMPerage, which is unchanged for 12/13.)
When Jonathan Ellsworth and I left Colorado Springs on Saturday, May 21st, temps were already in the 60’s and the sky was bluebird. I was planning to ski 4FRNT’s flagship park ski for next season, the Switchblade, but Mother Nature decided that this late May weekend would be better suited to testing powder skis. Good thing the Black Diamond AMPerage was one of the 11 pairs of skis loaded in to the back of Jonathan’s FJ Cruiser….
Picking up the AMPerage, I was struck by the amount of reading material on the topsheet, and was glad to find so many specifications listed on the ski. (I hope to see these specs on Black Diamond’s website next year, too.) Black Diamond has listed rocker specs (40cm tip, 30cm tail) in addition to the standard sidecut and turn radius numbers. They also included a flex profile on the tail of the skis.
While not everyone will care, or understand exactly how to interpret the profile, the kind of transparency Black Diamond is showing is admirable. I find that it can be quite difficult to find accurate descriptions of most fun shape skis without actually seeing the ski in person. Props to Black Diamond for taking some of the guesswork out of purchasing skis.
When we arrived at Arapahoe Basin, over a foot of fresh snow had fallen and it was still snowing. I hurried over to the Black Mountain Express chair.
I usually prefer a more centered mount on my powder skis – the ON3P Caylor is my usual ride (you can read my review of it HERE) – so I was initially worried that the AMPerage’s large tips would be heavy and difficult to maneuver in the air. However, on the chair, when I tested the ski’s swing weight, I found the AMPerage to be much lighter than I had originally thought. I soon found the AMPerage to be even lighter and more nimble on the snow.
For a wider ski, the Amperage is very quick edge to edge. I felt confident at high speeds on groomers below the Lenawee chair and in soft but packed out snow. Dropping in around End Zone in Montezuma Bowl, a wide open face with a bit of pitch, I could hardly see the snow in front of me, but I didn’t have to worry about carrying speed. The Amperage gave me confidence to blindly charge in these whiteout conditions.
The AMPerage can hold a solid edge, but it also pivots and performs really well in tight trees and moguls. I never once felt like I had too much ski in front of me.
The AMPerage is definitely designed as a directional ski, but despite its more traditional mount position, I was able to make switch turns surprisingly well thanks to its ability to roll easily from edge to edge.
The AMPerage performed well on firm snow, but it really excelled in the conditions that it was designed for, and I was impressed by how responsive the AMPerage was in fresh snow. The large, rockered shovel, and short, slightly tapered tail provided ample flotation in the knee deep stashes that I found all over the mountain. “Surfy” is the word that best describes my experience on the AMPerage in powder. It was effortless to make quick, slash turns in soft snow, and the rockered and tapered tip of the AMPerage was easy to direct.
I was able to cruise through most of the varied conditions I encountered on the AMPerage. I had no problems skiing the deepest chop I found in Montezuma Bowl and below King’s Cornice. The AMPerage isn’t a very stiff ski (it has a moderate flex for a powder ski), but it held its own in these variable conditions. These skis have a fairly large sweet spot, but it was easy to get bucked around if I lost focus for a split second. Nevertheless, I had no trouble driving these skis as fast as I wanted to.
Having said that, the AMPerage also felt good at slower speeds. I felt really confortable skiing at all speeds in nearly all conditions.
The AMPerage’s ultimate test for a PNW skier like me came on one of the last runs of the weekend at Loveland pass. A few folks who had just skied the pass warned us that the snow was really heavy and wet. After sampling the snow myself, I definitely agreed: some of the finest mank I have skied outside of Southeast Alaska. To my delight, the AMPerage was completely unphased by these sloppy conditions. It was still able to float and maneuver through the thick, sun-baked snow as easily as if it were typical Colorado powder.
The only snow that the AMPerage didn’t handle well was really firm chop. I had a hard time getting the ski from edge to edge in this snow. I felt stuck in some turns and had to really work to make it to the next turn. However, I have had similar experiences with wide, aggressively rockered skis in these conditions. Considering that the AMPerage is billed as a versatile soft-snow ski, I wouldn’t expect it to do well in snow like this anyway.
I initially thought that the AMPerage’s large tip would make it hard to spin, but the light swing weight pretty much made this a non-issue. I found that it required only a little bit more effort to swing these skis around than my more forward mounted ON3P Caylor, or the K2 Hellbent.
The only thing that was a little bit worrisome about taking the AMPerage into the air was the short tail. If I slipped up and landed a little backseat, especially when carrying speed, the AMPerage had a tendency to wheelie out. But again, this characteristic isn’t unique to the AMPerage. Most skis with a significant amount of tail rocker relative to the length of the tail won’t be as forgiving of backseat landings. A short, rockered tail demands that you be on your game when taking airs or when skiing fast through chop.
As Jonathan mentions in his review, the AMPerage enters a very competitive fun-shape market. After my time on the AMPerage, I expect it to find a nice niche and work really well for a lot of skiers, especially those seeking a good alternative to more jib-oriented skis like the Armada JJ or the Atomic Bent Chetler. Black Diamond hasn’t been known for skis like this in the past, but the AMPerage deserves to get a lot of attention. If you already have a dedicated hard-snow / big mountain ski and you are looking for something that excels in a variety of soft-snow conditions, the AMPerage could be the ticket.