Ski: 4FRNT Renegade, 186cm
Dimensions (mm): 135-122-129
Turn Radius: 35 meters
Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 185cm
Boots / Bindings: Rossignol 2010 B-Squad Pro 130 Carbon / Marker Jesters, DIN at 12
Mount Location: Factory Recommended
Test Location: Silverton Mountain, CO
The multitude of specialty skis that have entered the market in recent years is rather staggering. While skis remained relatively unchanged for the latter part of the 20th century, advances in technology eventually brought about new production methods and specialty designs as the industry progressed. The early 90’s initiated a production movement with cap ski technology that allowed skis to be produced in mass quantities at relatively low cost. While the success of this particular technology is debatable, the fad eventually lost steam and ski companies transitioned to marketing new design advances. Most notably, the parabolic shaped ski highlighted this period by introducing a design that suddenly made a ski turn more efficiently and easily. During this same period, wider skis were introduced to heli ski clientele desiring the same new standard in deep soft snow. And with these two designs, a new era began in which skis were not just designed for the particular radius of a racing turn, but for turn efficiency in specific types of snow.
Now more than ever, the market reflects this ever eveloving era of specialty skis. Current powder skis come with a hybrid of features such as rockered tip and/or tail, reverse camber, traditional camber, narrower tip and tail, reverse sidecut, and even contoured sidewalls. With so many designs, in addition to the growing number of mainstream and independent brands, (models, designs and graphics), it’s becoming difficult to find something truly unique. But one ski that has stood out this season is the 4FRNT Renegade.
The Renegade was designed by Eric Hjorleifson, the prominent big mountain freeskier with one of the most beautiful turns on the planet, and Eric definitely had a plan when he put this ski together. The Renegade features a rockered tip, a wide waist (122mm under foot), and a long, gradual tail rocker. But what really stands out with this ski is the striking wood laminate costruction. Not only is it unusual to see a solid wood sidewall, it’s satisfying to feel the legitimate flex of this ski. This type of camber/flex is something I wish every ski could have, because what’s inside the ski will make what’s under it that much more enjoyable. If you truly love to carve a ski, the Renegade will allow you to take your off piste turns to another level.
I took the Renegades out for the first time on a recent powder day at Silverton Mountain, Colorado. The day began with a ten minute hike up to the weather station where our group clicked in and made the Tiger traverse out to sunset ridge. Our plan was to ski a favorite run called ‘Concussion,” but our guide stopped us short, seeing that Tiger Main had filled in to Alaska quality standards. As we dropped in from the steep ridge one by one, I spotted a clean line with a nice air and a high speed run out into the main bowl.
Admittedly, my early impressions of the ski were a little shaky. After clicking in, I motored across the Tiger Traverse where the ski felt extremely stable on the windblown powder. However, as I encountered variable hardpack throughout the traverse, the edges washed out and compromised the stability I had expected to find in the front and rear of the ski. Granted this was my first experience on a ski with elongated tail rocker, but my ability to hold a steady edge on firm snow was not to the standards I expect when encountering dangerous alpine zones.
Regardless, I finished the traverse and my time to drop in for an epic Silvterton run had come. I cautiously entered the steeps below the ridge to find reassuring full floatation and stability in the variable chop. As the knuckle rolled over to a sluffed off chute, I again noticed firmer snow and questionable edge hold. Instead of trying to scrub too much speed (this can cause more harm than good in sketchy scenarios), I opted to send it down toward my clean exit that opened up into a pow field, followed by a shrubby knoll that was prime for a high speed launch. As I let her loose, the ski became remarkably smooth on the run out and the long carve I engaged before sending it off the knoll. Suddenly, my confidence was back, which was a good thing because it was time to fly! Gravity seemed to disappear for a bit as I sailed ~30’ to a surprisingly cushy, high speed landing. I immediately spotted my opening into the low-angle wide open bowl with ~10” of fresh. Letting em run, I applied a few large radius turns to feel the ski before I layed into them with smaller turns in the perfect snow.
The first small turn immediately became my single best turn of the season, hands down. The skis’ ability to immediately swing to a smaller radius turn was remarkable. My speed became controlled with a beautiful carve combined with a high speed slip. Suddenly, the term “slarving” had real meaning! This turn – and the sequence that followed – were amazing: stable, fast, and extremely smooth. My impressions of the Renegade skyrocketed as the ski facilitated my best turns of the season.
Our guided group continued on down to Tiger Gully, which resembles a mile-long avalanche gully and half pipe hybrid. The ski cruised wall to wall and allowed me to float through chop and carry enough speed to boost every hip jump I encountered. This is the other area where I really noticed the wood core’s performance. The semi-rigid torsion of the wood allowed for perfect flex to bank turn to turn, while providing the dampening stability I need through the chop.
As we lapped our second run, we headed toward some steep, untracked trees that began as a low-angle ridge but eventually dropped off into a tree zone on a high-angle apron. The Renegades slarved around the ridge top trees with effortless grace and efficiency. As the run steepened, the heavier swing weight of these wooden beasts became insignificant, and the ski was able to almost pop from turn to turn with remarkable quickness. So now, not only did I have a pair of skis that could kill it in the wide open pow fields, I also had a weapon that performed equally well in the trees.
My following runs were greeted with similar surprises, mostly good. Since the ski overwhelmingly exceeded my expectations in both open powder and tree runs, it’s important that I mention where the ski did not perform adequately: variable hardpack. Over the course of the day, the ski would lift my confidence in powder; but then the sudden semi-exposed avalanche debris or ice section would present itself and send me into a gripped state. I presume this is because I like to stand neutral on my ski during these events and rely on a stiff tail to rail through. With the Renegade’s extended tail rocker, this technique proves futile and I would recommend driving through variable hard pack, rather than attempting to neutrally ride it out.
As the day progressed, the weather cleared and I took advantage of a heli-assisted lap to the zone across the valley. (This is an option that makes the already unique Silverton Mountain Ski Area an even more valuable experience: you can ski individual heli laps as weather and seat openings permit.) With multiple weather windows, I was able to get in on standby for a fabulous three-pitch run to wrap up my day. We flew over to an open bowl and began our descent from the landing zone known as “The Grassy Knoll.” Our run consisted of moderately angled, wide open bowl skiing with 12-16” of fresh. With three long pitches, I got first dibs in our group on one section, and still had plenty of fresh snow on the other two sections. And with a full day of the Renegades under my feet, I was able to take full advantage. The open bowl section consisted of wide open pow turns that were even better than the ones I’d found on my first run; the middle section was a series of rollers with miniature trees that created the ultimate slarving course; and the last pitch transitioned into perfectly spaced trees filled with some of Colorodo’s finest powder.
While it seems somewhat paradoxical, the Renegades seem most at home in open bowls, rolling terrain, and trees. The skis dimensions facilitate both large radius and short smearing turns, which proved to be the most fun on terrain with multiple pitches and aspects. In trees, the tip and tail rocker allowed for quick edge to edge transitions that resulted in more fluid skiing over longer sections without stopping. The Renegade’s wide range of terrain capabilities leads me to suggest this ski for intermediate to expert skiers. The ski is efficient for easy skiing when the aggression factor is low, yet the wood camber allows you to give it all you’ve got when you want to drive into them. If you’re looking to charge steeps and make mellow rollers and trees look like a theme park, then this is the ski for you.
[Editor’s Note: The Renegades were built by Eric Hjorleifson and Cody Barnhill in 4FRNT’s White Room factory, located in the back of 4FRNT’s Salt Lake City headquarters. 262 pairs were put together this season with alot of ingenuity and TLC.
For next season, Cody said the plan is to build 200 Renegades in the 186cm length, and 100 pairs in a new length, 196cm, and you shouldn’t expect these to be available for long.
Also, 4FRNT has introduced some subtle changes to the Renegade for 11/12. About the updates, Cody Barnhill had this to say, “The [changes to the Renegade were] actually kind of an incidental result of improving our pressing process and tooling, which we figured was a good opportunity to make small improvements as needed. The last several inches of the tip have a nicer (slightly sharper) curve to them, which results in a slightly higher tip without changing the feel or overall shape of the ski. All skis going out from this summer’s production, and all future productions will have this improved shape, making them a little nicer in really deep snow, and (what the original thought behind this change was) smoother when cutting through chunky and variable snow.”
We’re eager to check out these updates, and we’ll of course get back to you when we do.]