2012-2013 Black Diamond Gigawatt

And so, to recap: the Gigawatt is exceptional in deep, open spaces; very good in deep, tight trees; outstanding in soft chop; and excellent (for its size) on groomers.

Jonathan Ellsworth, Niseko, Japan.
Jonathan Ellsworth, Center 4 area, Niseko Grand Hirafu.

But it is the Megawatt that is an exceptional pow ski that has excellent big-mountain / all-mountain characteristics, and it is the ski that most people interested in the Megawatt and Gigawatt ought to buy.

Put another way, if you are building a two- or three-ski quiver, the Megawatt is probably for you. If you are working on a quiver of four or more pairs of skis, then I could certainly imagine adding the Gigawatt.

Both the Gigawatt and the Megawatt handle abrupt changes in snow density very well, and handle groomers very well, too. But the Megawatt (by design) handles variable snow much better than the Gigawatt. In firm chop, the serious tail rocker of the Gigawatt has a tendency to wash and doesn’t easily hook up. These mannerisms tend to get you on to your heels, and once you start moving toward the backseat of the Gigawatt, the significant tail splay keeps you moving in that direction.

In such variable terrain, the Megawatt is much more forgiving and has a bigger sweet spot. It’s a different beast, and with the Megawatt, Black Diamond isn’t going for that “long board-style” bliss of the Gigawatt.

But I tend to place a high value on versatility, and the Megawatt is such a good pow ski in its own right that I am willing to give up that surfier feel of the Gigawatt for the versatility and stability of the Megawatt. You may feel different.

So, who’s the Gigawatt for?

People who ski a good bit of untracked snow in terrain that doesn’t throw a lot of surprises their way. (For this reason, I’d be more inclined to take the Megawatt with me on a heli skiing trip to AK, or say, a 17-day trip to Niseko.) The Megawatt is better for dealing with the unknown and the unexpected.

But if you know what you’re going to encounter—a deep day in Niseko, or a day of catskiing or slednecking in thicker, denser BC / PNW snow, or the drier, lighter snow around of the Mountain West, then by all means, break out the Gigawatt. Just avoid steep, wind scoured sections where that tail won’t be able to engage.

Finally, a word about mount positions: I skied the Gigawatt on the recommended line, as well as at +1. While the difference wasn’t enormous, I preferred the recommended line, and feel that the line leaves you with plenty of tail, and that +1 didn’t significantly reduce swing weight or improve quickness.

By the way, I want to give kudos to Black Diamond for including on their website a discussion of mount positions for each of their skis. They aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but any information that a manufacturer can provide regarding mount position is something that we regard as a useful addition.

The Gigawatt fulfills its stated design purpose incredibly well. It’s definitely not for everyone, but those who are in the market for a big, dedicated pow ski that can go big, go fast, handle tight spots as well as wide open spaces, and feel at home in deep snow, light snow, dense snow, and will get you back to the lift as well as any super fat pow ski out there, Enjoy.


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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