Once we got over the whole midwinter spring thing with three inches of base, I was able to get the WooTest out in some real winter snow. A few hiking days and a few sled days had me grinning from ear to ear. In untracked snow, I swear I could have had my Protests on my feet: easy turns of any shape, from pow 11s and super tight slow stuff between and around trees to bouncing on pillows. I was stoked. They weren’t quite as easy and loose feeling as some of the other 130ish-waisted skis I’ve been on, and I expected that. But the WooTest was in its element here, and they’re the best backcountry pow skis I’ve owned. That’s a fact I’m very happy to report.
With weird winters often comes weird snowpacks, and like much of the West this season, we had some sketchy-ass snow conditions, including a lingering hard layer from the plethora of “not snowing” that happened through January. As much as I would have loved to have parked the WooTest in the backcountry and left them there, I knew to really give them the workout they deserved I needed alpine binders on them. There were a lot of pow days that I didn’t go near the BC this season.
Bindingfreedom.com makes plates that allow multiple combinations of AT and alpine binders to fit on the same ski, so I bought a pair of ‘sollyfit’ plates: Salomon and Dynafit binders on the same ski. Sweet.
As most pow days go, first runs in the resort are no different than in the backcountry. Fast, slow, big, or tight turns, I was stoked. But there’s something about that 12 p.m.-and-later time that’s not quite a pow day anymore. Chunder, crud, tracked… whatever you want to call it, it’s rough. It’s rewarding on the right skis and snow, and a nightmare in heavier snow on the wrong skis. In this environment, the WooTest sometimes feels like the wrong skis. I know it was never intended to be a resort ski, but I’m picky.
As much as it pains me to say so, the WooTest gets knocked around from the tips a bit. It’s not a lack of dampness, not a lack of stiffness; it’s something else. But it’s there, and both I and a few friends who got a pair have felt it. Not everyone—some think I’m crazy—but for some reason, in these conditions, these skis tend to get tossed around from the tips from time to time.
They’ve got a 30-plus-meter sidecut, so it’s not because that the WooTest is overly “turny.” It’s not something I’d call hooky in the traditional sense, but it’s the same end result. It doesn’t happen in corn, it doesn’t happen on smooth hardpack, and it certainly doesn’t happen in anything untracked. But once that pretty snow surface turns into a series of lumps and irregular undulations, the calm, cool, completely controlled feel I’ve come to love in the Praxis Protest—the one I wanted to duplicate with the WooTest—just wasn’t there, or at least not as much. I’ve been trying to get this ski made for years, and in those rare instances where this was happening, I kept feeling that we might have screwed something up.
The TGR thread that helped gin up the interest in this ski has shown a good number of comments that echo what I’ve said so far. In anything smooth, from untracked groomers to pow, the WooTest is solid. But once it gets lumpy, something’s grabbing. To a degree, what I wanted to duplicate from the Protest was very specifically something that crushes this kind of snow. With the WooTest, it’s not there, or at least it’s not there in the same capacity.
Like I said, opinions on this seem to vary. Neither Keith nor Kevin O’meara seem to be feeling what I and a few others have experienced. I’ll go ahead and admit that there’s something about the members of the O’meara family whom I’ve met (just those two, for what it’s worth), maybe growing up skiing in some complete garbage on the East coast, that makes them both better skiers than I am in funky snow. (Actually, they’re both better skiers than I am in any snow, period.)
I’m more of a fair weather guy, and literally the very first day out on these in some gnarly, thick crust, I was embarrassed by how well Keith moved down the hill. It was literally my first day on any skis this season, but I just didn’t have the motivation for all the hopping around. Keith was actually enjoying himself while I was simply getting to the bottom. He was breathing so hard he sounded like a humping cow, but he was doing it. I wasn’t.
The complaints from the family guys who made this ski seem to be from the lack of sidecut causing some outrigger leg. I feel that too, but I’m kind of used to it from the Protests, and just slide them around if they’re not turning. The whole hooky/grabby in chunder thing just doesn’t happen to them, it seems.
But for us West-coaster pampered-snow types, I know I’m not alone in what I’ve been experiencing. Others have said the same.
One of the biggest revelations I had came while skiing a pillow line I’ve skied several times. I realized that I just wasn’t committing. I was skiing like a backseat-driving scared dork, landing on my tails all over the place. This was after half a dozen days or so skiing the resort, and I realized what my subconscious already knew, what to me is one of the most damning things that could be said about a pair of skis: I didn’t trust them.
I got back on my Protests the next day, and it was like I’d completely discovered them again. No hooking, no surprises, just charge or chill, and they were like an appendage. This is what I’d wanted in the WooTest. In most ways, we succeeded, but not quite in every way.
So where does that leave us?