Taos picked up a fresh 8″ last Saturday night and was skiing great. But I already knew what the Protests could do in pow, so I waited to take them up two days after the storm to lap the ridge all day, trying to get a sense of the Protest’s limits.
On Zdarsky, huge, soft-ish bumps had formed at the entrance, and the Protests handled these mandatory turns through the bumps very well.
Billy Sol Trees, open sections of Niños Heroes, and bumped-up sections of Corner Chute all were fine. While this was a big ski to work in those Corner Chute moguls, the Protest’s tips are narrow enough that they don’t tend to slam into and deflect off of themselves or the bumps. For this reason, if I’m skiing steep, bumped up, tight trees off the ridge at Taos, I’ll take the quicker Protest with its smaller tips over one of my favorite skis, the Black Diamond Megawatt.
Keep in mind, we are talking about some very big skis here, so I don’t want to slip into talking about how “lightning fast” the Protest is. Rossignol S3s are super quick. What the Protest does in tight trees is make you forget exactly how much ski you have underfoot. I loved the Black Diamond Gigawatt in deep pow, but I rarely forgot about their size in tight trees, and I definitely didn’t love their massive amount of tail rocker in firm luge-style tracks among the birch trees. There, the Protests were definitely better.
It was a very warm day, and by the afternoon, Juarez was getting pretty sunbaked. The Protests were once again impressive as they didn’t get hung up in the crust, thanks again to their stiffness and shape.
OK, at this point, the review should be over. The Protest is clearly not a groomer ski. But whatever, we’ve come this far….
Groomers / Hardpack
The Protest has very little sidecut, though Praxis actually increased the amount of sidecut on the Protest a touch this season and keeps the change for 12/13.
On anything soft—even soft groomers—the Protest does just fine. But you are definitely not on a frontside carver.
The Protest is not a one-ski quiver (several rabid Protest fans likely just read that and ran off to mail a pipe bomb to me), so if you’re going to pick up a Protest, it would be good to have access to something else for hardpack days. Groomer performance is okay, but this is a ski that isn’t attempting to optimize groomer performance (though, as mentioned, Praxis increased the sidecut slightly on the Protest to enhance its carving ability.)
The Protests don’t inspire complete trust on groomers, but if the groomer is the least bit soft, they are happy to let you open things up quite a lot—you’re just not likely to be laying down high angulation carves on these. (Did I mention that they’re 128mm underfoot???)
So if you love your race skis and believe that “skiing” and “carving” are synonyms, and you really just want a fatter race ski for deeper conditions, look elsewhere.
I’m not sure how or why the Protest got named the Protest, but let’s just make up a story that says that Praxis wanted to protest the racer / carver bias in skiing, that all skis must first and foremost accommodate this specific aspect of the sport—even if we’re talking about designing a tool that excels in deep pow, far from race courses where crews scramble to remove snow that has fallen on and sullied the course. (On this bias in ski design, take a look at Kevin Bazar’s “Protesting the Backcountry,” where he speaks to the design of the Protest and other unconventional shapes.) Carving is great and beautiful and fun; but it’s not the only way to experience or move down a mountain. [/endrant]
So what 125mm underfoot (or fatter) skis are better on groomers? The Black Diamond Megawatt and (impressively) the Black Diamond Gigawatt come to mind. Both have far more conventional shapes than the Protest, with huge shovels that give way to relatively traditional sidecut dimensions. (In other words, leaving aside their rocker profiles for a minute, the dimensions are closer to that of a race ski that has been fattened up to handle deep snow, and both do that very well.)
The Protest handles its business in an opposite fashion. Instead of enormous shovels, the Protest goes with small tips and tails and keeps the bulk of the ski underfoot, providing an excellent swing weight, and making life easier to negotiate huge bumps and tight trees, as I noted above. I’m not spinning on these, but I would rather throw 3s on the Protest than on the Megawatt or Gigawatt. So, as always, there are tradeoffs. The Protest is not a ski that was designed to achieve groomer nirvana. You might not carve perfect turns on the Protest, but they can certainly handle speed on groomers.
We get on a lot of skis around here, from big, century-old companies, to tiny, recent upstarts. And of all the skis I know, the Praxis Protest gets my ‘Flying Under the Radar’ award as the best ski that not nearly enough people know about. The Protest is an exceptionally well built ski that perfectly achieves its intended purpose.
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