2012-2013 Black Diamond Gigawatt

The Gigawatt looks huge, but doesn’t feel like a monster in your hand—and it definitely doesn’t ski like you’ve just got stupid hunks bolted to your feet.

In fact, on our way out the door this morning, I was passing around the 185cm, 135mm-waisted Gigawatt, mounted with a Marker Griffon, and a new, 186cm, 114mm-waisted Blizzard Gunsmoke (that has no metal in it), mounted with a Marker Jester.

As our crew held up one of each, the two skis felt about equal in weight—and the Gigawatt might have felt a bit lighter. Impressive.

It would be a pretty big fail if the Gigawatt wasn’t good at skiing deep pow in open spaces. But the Gigawatt is fantastic in such conditions. More surprisingly, skiing the Gigawatt in deep snow and tight trees has been a lot of fun, too.

Jonathan Ellsworth, on the Black Diamond Gigawatt, Niseko.
Jonathan Ellsworth, Super area, Niseko Grand Hirafu.

The Gigawatts require a bit more “set up” time than a truly quick tree ski, but as long as you can see your line through the trees, the Gigawatts can do the job. They do not get hung up or bogged down in thick snow, so they aren’t difficult to release from one turn to the next.

I’m not sure that I’m prepared to call any ski with a 135mm waist and a 163 mm shovel “quick,” but the Gigawatt hasn’t been terribly hard to throw around. They can handle slow speeds, but excel when you bring them up to moderate or very fast speeds.

In deeper snow, the Gigawatt has a large sweet spot, and like the Megawatt, it is not particularly demanding, especially given how stable it is.

Skiing fast around Niseko Village in driving snow and limited visibility, our crew was hitting variable snow and hidden rollers. I was watching Andrew and Julia get bucked around a bit, while the Gigawatts smoothed out the ride. I had a similar experience on the Megawatts, too, but the Gigawatts took that sensation to another level.

The Gigawatts are very good at handling these transitions in the snow from dry light stashes to thicker areas of dense mank, or 1- to 2-feet-deep tracks of cut up snow. I wouldn’t call the Gigawatt an uber stiff pow ski (for that, cf. the ON3P Cease and Desist), but it is a well balanced pow ski that definitely doesn’t noodle out.

Lighter skiers might have a different experience, but I found the flex of the shovels to be just about perfect for these transitions (as opposed to, say, the Armada AK JJ.)

There are certainly lighter skis out there than the Gigawatt, and their bulk isn’t ideal for jumping off stuff; but their overall surface area and shovel profile make for really nice landings in anything from bottomless pow to just a few inches of fresh. (Land too far in the backseat, however, and you will almost certainly wheelie out on those heavily rockered tails.)

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Black Diamond Gigawatt, Niseko, Japan.
Jonathan Ellsworth, G7, Niseko Annupuri.

You may or may not care about the hardpack performance of a 135mm pow ski, but Black Diamond could brag a whole lot more than they do about the groomer performance of the Gigawatt. It is totally predictable, it handles speed very well, and there is nothing quirky (or terrifying) about it’s hardpack performance on consistent terrain.

Skis like the DPS Lotus 138 or the Praxis Powderboards are ‘fine’ on hardpack, but their design characteristics are not at all intended to optimize hardpack performance. The Gigawatt is great in deep, and its lack of surprises on groomers does, as Black Diamond claims, inspire confidence.

But good luck getting the Gigawatt up on edge. I had said that I found the Megawatt to be work to do that; the Gigawatt is definitely more so, and given that I tweaked a knee a little bit before this trip, truly carving the Gigawatt every time back to the lift isn’t something I’ve been tempted to do.

The Gigawatt is so good, that I found myself evaluating it as if it was an all-mountain pow ski (think 115-125mm underfoot) rather than a very big, very specific pow ski.

At the end of the day today, I was skiing lines located skier’s right of the Center 4 Chair of Niseko, Hirafu. The snow was deep, but there were sections of short, steep trenches that had been carved throughout the birch trees, routes that the trees basically force everyone to take. It was dumping snow, winds were kicking, and visibility was low. These were tricky conditions, and I wasn’t skiing these sections well.

I met up with the rest of our crew at the end of the day, wasn’t thrilled with how I’d been skiing. I told the group that the Megawatts would have been way better in these conditions. Then Jason Hutchins basically started yelling at me. Nobody in our crew had been skiing those sections particularly well today (and they were on 110-115mm waisted skis), and they were precisely the opposite type of conditions that the Gigawatt was designed for.

He was right. But the Gigawatts had handled so much other stuff so well, I stopped expecting to encounter limitations.

11 comments on “2012-2013 Black Diamond Gigawatt”

  1. thanks for the report…I was thinking about the gigawatt this year as I was offered a killer deal. But after reading your report I think it was right to not buy it (it was past the great powder days in the alps anyway).
    I will definitely get something fatter (I’m skiing the blue 192er Zealot and absolutely love it in everything other than super tight trees and bottomless) for next season. Right now I got my eyes on the new Carbon Megawatt as the weight sounds just too good to be true (I would mount it with a Marker Tour)12. Do you by any chance plan on reviewing that one soon as well? I would very much like to hear about it in comparison to the normal megawatt. I would use it in about 70% of the days with lift access plus some/little hiking. I would like to know if there are any major disadvantages due to the lower weight. From what I hear the carbon MW got the old shape so might be slightly worse on hard snow and a touch better in the soft (which would suit my needs)
    anyway always fun to read your reviews!
    cheers Jakob

  2. I love your reviews, they are so in depth and give one a good idea of the feel of the ski. I wish you had the time to review every ski.
    Which ski, gigawatt or megawatt, is best for skiing trees? The obvious choice would be the megawatt because it is smaller, but the gigawatt’s full rocker profile might allow it to pivot better. And, which ski is better for steep back/side county? I think that having more tail would be a great boon in the steeps, but would love your expert opinion.

    • Hi, Sydney – glad to hear that the reviews have been helpful. I think your hunches about the Megawatt and Gigawatt are exactly right. But tell you what: I’ll take the Megawatts out tomorrow morning at Alta, ski some trees, and tell you what I think. I haven’t been on the Megawatts since I skied the Gigawatt in Japan, so I’m overdue, and I haven’t really had the Megawatts in tighter trees, where the Gigawatts certainly do pivot easily. (And thanks for giving me a good excuse to get back on a ski I really like.)

      • Sydney – just an update. I spent more time on the Megawatt, and in trees, especially tight trees that are NOT bumped up, I would likely go with the Gigawatt because it is easier to pivot. I was skiing pretty steep, bumped up trees at Alta, and the Megawatts (unsurprisingly) didn’t feel terrible quick there. But if those trees are bumped up, you may not love having to negotiate the even bigger shovels of the Gigawatts through mandatory turns in huge moguls….

        As for open steeps, yes, that’s where I would prefer to have the tail of the Megawatt, especially if you’re going to encounter wind scoured sections or aspects.

  3. I don’t like you. I live in my happy little s7 world thinking all is well until I found your website. I have a love/hate relationship with the materialistic aspect of skiing. I like cool stuff but I hate submitting to the man and buying new skis. But now, all I do is look at your reviews and try to find good deals! I could actually be skiing instead of researching skiing. Enough with the frustration, I am submitting to materialism.
    i found a sub $300 deal on new gigawatts. I ski Mt Bachelor. Flat, good amount of pnw snow, occasional tight trees, some cut up, wind blown, whiteouts. I was thinking I needed the Opus, but this is such a good deal maybe it might be worth it for the 10-20 days a year I could use the gigs. You said four ski quiver. How about a two ski quiver, maybe paired with an SFB, megawatt, or Cochise for trips to Jackson and for spring mank and corn on mt. B.? I love ski trips and kind of use mt. B to just stay in shape for trips.
    I know there haven’t been any comments on these skis lately. I hesitate to even comment because all of the info is really already there to glean, but should I pull the trigger on the Gigs? I am 5’11” 160, thinking about the 185s.
    Thanks a bunch!

    • Ha. Well, Scotty, I like you – but only since you’ve finally come to see the error of your ways w/r/t the S7….

      And I would argue that, more than any other review publication in existence, we do the most to push back against the stupid “you MUST always have the latest, greatest”-trend in the stupid review world. If we think a new product represents an improvement, we will say so. If we don’t feel that way … we will say so.

      As for the Gigawatt and the 2 ski quiver … I personally would pair it with the Cochise. But honestly, I’d probably still rather pair a Cochise with a Megawatt. I would NOT want to own a 2-ski quiver of the Megawatt and Gigawatt. Maybe the Opus and the Gigawatt if you don’t care about having a ski that will ski well in difficult conditions (the Cochise) and you want a jib ski (Opus) to pair with a directional deep-powder specialist (Gigawatt). But those aren’t questions I can answer for you. All I really can tell you is that I’m glad you’ve come to realize that the S7 sucks. :)

  4. I ski the Megawatt as almost a daily driver in western Canada and am sort of contemplating a Giga as they are getting blown out places for pretty cheap right now. Am I drunk to have both these ski’s in the quiver? Is this way too much overlap for a similar purpose? Thought process is the full rockered 185 could be a fun deep snow ski and a little surfier in the trees and tight. Kind of tempted as the full range of the Zealot, MW, and GW could cover a lot of fun big mountain bases.

    • I don’t know whether you’re drunk, Nooner, but if you are, you are a very good speller when hammered.

      And since you say you are using (and seemingly enjoying) the Megawatt as a daily driver, I could absolutely see pairing it with a Gigawatt. These skis are different, and you’ve pinpointed exactly what the Gigawatt would bring to the table. So yeah, you’ll have 2 skis of fairly similar widths, but you aren’t complaining about the performance of the Megawatts, and the Gigawatt is a different, surfier ski. I’d say pull the trigger and pour yourself another drink.

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