Jonathan Ellsworth (see bio)
I. What’s your one-ski quiver (of currently available skis) for where you ski most?
II. What’s your one-ski quiver for Taos?
It was pretty easy for me to narrow down the field to these two. But as I’ve said before, I still need to see if the Cochise is as much fun (or nearly as much fun) on groomers as the Supernatural 108 is.
When thinking about pow performance, I can’t yet say that one ski will clearly be better than the other—though I also don’t really believe that one will be clearly better than the other.
Both skis excel at providing a stable ride in variable conditions at speed, without being demanding beasts. I’m also quite happy skiing moguls on either of them.
So while it’s currently too close to call given that I need to spend some time A/B-ing these two skis, give me either of them and I am going to have a really fun season.
(Update: Will Brown and I now have A/B-ed the Cochise and the Supernatural 108, and it is definitely worth reading.)
III. What’s your one-ski quiver for the Canterbury Club Fields, New Zealand?
Again, because we just spent a lot of time on the Cochise down in Canterbury, and it was great.
IV. What’s your one-ski quiver for skiing around the East Coast?
The more difficult and demanding the conditions, the more I’d prefer to be on the Salomon X Drive 8.8. It was the best ski I rode last season for making very fast GS turns down groomers, and especially afternoon, roughed-up groomers.
The X-Drive is also the ski I would currently trust most if we were going to go ski bulletproof, wind-scoured steeps, or steeps covered in refrozen death cookies.
Of course, I skied the X-Drive in ‘nice’ conditions, too, and it still performs well; you just don’t have to draw upon its impressive stability, predictability, and dampness as much.
The softer and / or deeper the conditions get, the more fun the Mantra gets. But to be clear, the Mantra is still a pretty capable all-mountain ski even in demanding conditions, it just isn’t the X-Drive.
So while I am still going to go pour one out for the 184cm, 13-14 Mantra, I have to admit that I had a lot of fun on the new Mantra last season, and think it’s a well-rounded ski.
V. What’s your one-ski quiver for the next two years, regardless of location?
I’m going to take “regardless of location” in a very broad sense:
East Coast, Japan, the Mountain West, Europe, New Zealand, etc. And I’m also going to factor in resort and backcountry skiing in all of these places.
So given all of that?
• V-Werks Katana, 184cm – mounted with a Marker Duke or the Dynafit Beast 16 (since we’ve yet to vet the Beast 14).
Of everything I’ve skied in the past four years, I can’t think of another ski that would feel *most* at home across a such a crazy-broad range of conditions, terrain, and applications (going up and going down).
I still am not ready to recommend bashing around on the V-Werks on thin early- or late-season snow, but if you’re willing to do so, I can say that they will ski well. Because they performed quite well for me everywhere.
If that super thin profile of the V-Werks Katana makes you nervous, or you want to have fewer worries or restrictions about which bindings are compatible with your one-ski quiver, then the Countdown 114 definitely deserves a look as a “50/50” resort/backcountry option.
The caveat here is that this ski has been tweaked a bit from the ski we reviewed (the Countdown2). But if I wasn’t going to tour on the V-Werks Katana, then this would be my pick, given its combination of length + width + weight + relative dampness. And that ‘relative dampness’ matters a ton to me given that I will also be slamming around moguled-up resort terrain on this ski.
The Countdown 2 felt much less dialed when carving on groomers than the Katana, but if we’re talking about backcountry performance, then so what. (And perhaps the new Countdown 114 is now better on groomers?)
VI. What ski was most difficult to leave off your list?
It’s a very good ski, and I could very happily ski it most days in most places and have a lot of fun. And if you are into big, fast GS turns, then this is still the best, most powerful ~100mm underfoot carver we’ve reviewed.
VII. What ski do you imagine has the greatest likelihood of making your list, if and when you get to ski it, or get to ski it more?
• 187cm Blizzard Brahma, as my East Coast ski.
I will be surprised if I don’t find the Brahma to be a very nice ski. What I can’t yet say is whether it will be able to unseat the X-Drive 8.8 for me personally, given the particular reasons why I like the X-Drive so much. (Well, except for those graphics. On that front, the Brahma is already winning by a landslide.)
Looking forward to finding out. It’s going to be a fun season.
Next: Tucker Nixon’s Selections