Julia Van Raalte (see bio)
I. Which currently available skis would you pick for your own three-ski quiver?
For a 3-ski quiver, I probably relate most to Jonathan’s categories based on waist widths. Ideally, I’d have a narrower ski in the 88-98mm underfoot range that is a stable carver, and can cut through firm, off-piste conditions. I’d use this ski mostly for early season groomers and longer stretches between storm cycles.
Next, I’d have a ski somewhere between 100-110mm underfoot that would be a playful ski that is more soft snow-oriented, but that can still handle a mix of soft and firm conditions. I’d like to be able to rip this ski down groomers and bump runs, but have the confidence to handle heavier chop and firm crud.
Finally, I would include a big mountain pow ski that floats really well, but that can also handle deep chop once the resort gets tracked out. This is going to be a ski that’s 115mm underfoot or wider, and may not be the surfiest ski, but will work well in variable conditions, too.
Having said all that, I haven’t yet found the ski in the 88-98mm category that fits the bill perfectly for me. I think the Salomon Lumen is a great carver, but it’s not quite solid enough on bumpy hardpack. I also really like the Blizzard Samba (98mm underfoot), but I need more time on it, and might prefer something narrower. I have a suspicion that the Blizzard Black Pearl (88mm underfoot) could be exactly what I’m looking for, but I haven’t skied it yet.
And so, since I haven’t yet come across my ideal narrow ski, I’m going to forego a skinnier ski, and include a dedicated touring ski with tech bindings.
I still want to underscore the value of having a ski that is a great carver, but ski quivers usually involve compromise, and since I spend a good amount of time backcountry skiing, I’ll compromise in this way—for now.
(I will mention that I always keep my old Rossignol 182cm GS race skis nearby, since they are really fun to rip groomers on early and late season. If I were still on the East Coast, I would consider having either my old GS or Slalom skis as a part of my three-ski quiver, but I would prefer a narrow ski that is a little more versatile for the Rocky Mountains.)
So, finally, my three-ski quiver:
Ski #1: a solid but playful all-mountain ski
At 110mm underfoot, the redesigned Line Pandora actually carves really well. It’s quite light and playful, and does well in fresh snow and soft variable conditions, but also in firmer, bumpy snow, too. It’s certainly not a heavy, burly crud ski, but feels solid enough to still ski aggressively in demanding conditions.
It might seem a little crazy that my every day ski would be 110mm underfoot, but the Pandora performs well in firmer conditions, and I love how fun it is in softer snow. As much as I would also love to have a narrower, heavier ski that was better for nasty conditions, I’m going to opt for a touring ski until I find a narrow carver I really love.
Ski #2: a versatile powder ski
I’m sorry for being predictable here, but the older Bibby Pro, returning this year as the Blister Pro, has been my favorite powder ski that also handles deep tracked out pow beautifully. It provides a stable enough platform to ski confidently at speed through deep, heavy chop without feeling overly damp or cumbersome. (I also love the Moment Bella, which is the smaller, female version of the Blister Pro, but I prefer a longer and wider ski for deep powder days and chop.)
Ski #3: a dedicated touring ski
While I don’t necessarily need the lightest ski out there, I certainly prefer a ski that doesn’t feel too heavy on longer touring days. Paired with light tech bindings, the Rossignol Savory 7 would be a great backcountry ski: it’s surfy, playful, and fun. This ski does best in soft and consistent snow, but can handle variable snow just fine at slightly slower speeds.
II. What ski was the most difficult to leave off your list?
185 Nordica La Niña: The La Niña is one of my favorite skis. It’s a very versatile, 113mm-underfoot powder ski that can also carve really well and handle chop and hardpack. I still love the La Niña, but have found that the Blister Pro is a bit more stable in variable conditions and floats better in powder, even though it doesn’t carve quite as well as the La Niña.
III. What ski do you think has the greatest likelihood of making your 3-ski quiver list, if and when you get to ski them, or get to ski them more?
4FRNT Hoji W: For the 2014-2015 season, 4FRNT is introducing the Hoji W, a female version of the Hoji, with a slightly softer flex. At 112mm underfoot and a with a powder-oriented design, I am really looking forward to spending some time on the Hoji W to see how it compares to other big mountain powder skis.
173 Blizzard Samba: With more time on the Samba, I think this would be a really solid choice as my narrower ski for nasty conditions. I am also really interested in the Blizzard Black Pearl, so am definitely hoping to spend more time on both of those skis soon.
IV. Bonus Question: If you had to choose a single brand from which to build your 3-ski quiver, which company would you pick?
I don’t think I can answer this question fully right now. At this point, I’d be very happy with both the Line Mr. Pollard’s Opus and the Pandora, though I am not sure what my third ski would be. I’m really curious about the Supernatural 108 or the Soulmate 98, but haven’t skied those yet.
I’d also love to have the Blister Pro and the Bella, but would want to spend time on the Sierra before I committed to a Moment quiver.
Finally, I’d be pretty happy with the new Blizzard Sheeva and the Samba, but would also want the Blizzard Dakota. The Dakota, unfortunately, is discontinued this season, so I’d need to spend some time on the male version of the Dakota, the updated 14/15 Cochise, before I decided on a Blizzard quiver. Hopefully I can update this question with a more complete answer later this season.
NEXT: Jason Hutchins’ Three-Ski Quiver Selections