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.
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.)
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.