Black Diamond Mira
Dimensions: 112/79/102 Lengths: 162, 175, 188.
Weight: 7 lbs. 10 oz. Tested: 175
Let's cut right to the chase: the new Mira,
a foam core ski (with a metal binding retention plate) from Black
Diamond, will go down in history as the ski that brought BD back
among the elite of backcountry and telemark ski manufacturers.
While last year's Arc Angel received kudos such as "best
ski from Black Diamond ever", the Mira will
require no such qualifiers, it rocks. Think of a much lighter,
more modern, quicker edge to edge and more carvy Volkl Snow Ranger,
add more surface area for float in soft snow, and you have the
This ski, like many of today's alpine skis,
sports a tail that gets fairly stiff out near the end combined
with a sweet flexing front end, while the sweet overall flex
is definitely set up with the telemark turn in mind. Every ski
has a part of the board that really make the ski rock, a part
of the ski that when pressured really helps the driver find the
sweet spot. With the Mira, that part of the ski is the fore body--the
area in front of the binding but not all the way out to the tip.
I tried the Mira first at the trade show last
winter but I didn't get much time on them, so I really looked
forward to our recent Mt. Hood Summer Gear Test trip to get to
know these boards better. At Hood I could immediately see the
potential in the Mira. The skis seemed to be begging for me to
step harder on the tips...much harder than I could do tele turning
with the conventional cable bindings these test skis were mounted
with. I skied them for the major part of the first day, and they
just got more fun as the warm summer sun turned much of the snow
on the Palmer Snowfield to mush. There was no doubt that these
were great skis.
Still, I was intrigued. There was another
level to be explored than I had experienced, I was sure. So that
afternoon, over beers at Full Sail Brewery in Hood River I asked
Russell Rainey if he had an extra pair of HammerHeads with him
and he said that he had a pair of the beta test version HH's.
Perfect. The next morning BT and I mounted the Mira with Russell's
new binding and went skiing.
Bang! There it was. Step on these skis and
crank on the tip pressure and you have a sweet spot big enough
to drive a truck through. The Mira tracked very well on the hard
snow, holding a dynamic carve through both short turns and long.
As the snow softened later in the day I just adjusted my stance
upward a bit, using a lighter touch for less tip pressure, and
I let the Mira's sweet overall flex do the work. This light mid-fat
could do it all.
Although I had limited time on the Mira in
powder at the trade show last winter I can say it performed very
well in those conditions at Park City. At Mt. Hood I concentrated
on using powder techniques on the mush field down low to get
a feel for the Mira's ability to float and stay on course. I
have no doubt at all that the Mira will rock in backcountry powder.
A couple of other testers skied the Mira at
Hood. One said, "yep, Black Diamond has a real winner here"
and that simple comment, without any qualifiers, sums up the
Mira very well. I highly recommend that you give this ski a test
ride on your own, especially if you can try a pair with the HH's
attached, it is a very, very sweet combo.
The Völkl V-Explosive is the most thoroughbred
among the new fat twins to hit the market. It sports a solid
sandwich construction and has Völkls notoriously strong
build and craftsmanship.
But most important is the skiing. The V-Ex
offers great flotation due to a massive surface area and will
stay on top of everything. It is not a very soft powder ski,
rather stiff flexed actually, but still it stays up quite easily.
As with any ski at the stiffer end of the spectrum it can be
made to dive if one puts enough pressure on the tips but it will
require more pressure than what is generated when skiing in balance.
These skis are built to handle high speeds
and they will feel rather dead if driven slowly with little input.
The reward for this comes when the speed goes up. The V-Ex remains
stable at high speeds far beyond what is comfortable to most
skiers; both in powder and through crud and slush. The relatively
stiff V Explosive will bust a hole in most things lying in its
way if driven with determination. On the other hand these skis
will throw a skier in the wrong direction if they are not receiving
sufficient input when going through uneven, cut-up terrain. Given
enough power, the skis will turn were the skier wants them to;
almost no matter what the snow is like.
On hardpack no one can expect a ski with a
95mm waist to be completely at home. But I doubt there is any
other ski of the V Explosives size that will handle hardpack
with this kind of confidence. The relatively conservative sidecut
makes for decent carves, while not being nervous or edgy. It
is, even on hardpack, a ski one can trust. This also gives a
comfortable feeling in the soft; knowing that the ski will be
safe even on a patch of ice or crust.
If in the park the twin tip will allow switch
landings and the stiff rear ski lets a skier recover from tail
landings nicely. It is not a top-spinner though; for very technical
tricks I can imagine a skier would prefer a lighter ski that
can be thrown around easier.
As most Völkl skis, the V-Ex is not light
- on the contrary. It will not appeal to the weight fetishists
for this reason. On the other hand it will be a great stick for
those who prefer to carry a heavier ski with them in the bc as
they will hold up to anything they might encounter on the way
down. The relatively conservative sidecut makes it a fair skinner
too, though it will naturally not traverse as well as a no-sidecut
ski. And with skins cut to fit, a ski of this size one can almost
walk up walls.
In conclusion, the V-Ex will be one of the
best skis in 2002 for skiers with good technique and an active
(read: aggressive) approach to technique. If only skiing powder
there will be better skis; those that are the same size or bigger
and slightly softer. If only skiing hardpack there are plenty
of skis with a narrower footprint that will give a better hold.
But I can hardly imagine any other ski that does powder AND hardpack
so well, and really excels in those conditions in between. And
the fact that the ski is built the same way for all lengths will
give shorter/lighter skiers a chance to ski a true thoroughbred
freeride ski. For someone with a bit of power and technique skiing
big and fast in all conditions just got a lot easier.
Tua's New Skis
Tele specific skis have come a long way and
Tua is no exception. The skis that Tua introduced last year and
now this season do more than ever to blur the lines between alpine,
randonee and telemark skis. In fact the distinctions are no longer
in Tua's literature and they have even gone so far as to recommend
the new Crossride 112 for alpine skiing, submitting the ski for
testing by the alpine skiing magazines. One thing that has not
changed is Tua's commitment to a sweet round flex. In the past,
for many of us, this was not enough. The tele specific skis seemed
to be too far behind the curve, failing to keep up with the trend
towards bigger boots, faster more aggressive skiing and tele
skiers who are out for the turn more than the tour.
This is no longer the case. The 112 is a ski
aimed directly at that crowd. Happily, Tua is also pushing the
envelope with wider skis that are also quite light, skis made
for going places but that are also able to handle a wider variety
of backcountry conditions. Last year's featherweight Helium and
the new superlight Hydrogen are good examples. To kick off our
reviews of next year's skis, let's take a good look at the Crossride
112, the new Hydrogen and then the M3, Tua's replacement for
the discontinued Mito. All of these new Tua skis were tested
with Rainey's new HammerHead binding.
102/72/92 Weight: 1,260 gr/ski (185cm) 170,178,185,192.
Length tested: 185
Sharing the same air-channel
wood core construction as the Helium and the dimensions of last
year's Big Easy (but much lighter than the 'Easy which weighs
in at 1,550gr/ski in 185cm), the Hydrogen is a a true lightweight
among the fatties. I spent two days riding this ski at the resort
and two days in the backcountry. The resort skiing was done in
warm spring conditions, perfect for corn skiing and, on the sunnier
afternoon aspects, mush testing. Backcountry included a day of
peak bagging with more than a foot of two day old powder that
got progressively heavier during the descent, and a day touring
for turns in mixed terrain.
Although not really designed
for area skiing, the Hydrogen performed surprisingly well at
the resort. With 30 mm's of sidecut the ski is a hard charging
corn carver, laying out fat arcs and short carvy turns with aplomb.
Put the Hydrogen on edge and push that tip into the turn and
this ski will show its Tua flex, bending sweetly to tighten up
the turn, relax a bit and it will straighten out nicely, the
sidecut will do the job of providing a clean carve. Not particularly
soft, as Tua skis go, the Hydrogen held its edge well, even in
the hard snow of morning.
As the snow on some aspects
turned to mush, the Hydrogen was a big surprise. It did not seem
to get tossed around in this stuff like so many light skis. The
pair I tested were mounted with Rainey's new HammerHead and the
combination of a heavier, high-performance binding on a light
ski with T-2's was a real winner. I could feel the added tip
control of the HH working very well with the wider shovel of
this ski. The light weight of the Hydrogen makes it seem very
quick edge to edge, get in a little trouble in the mush and all
you have to do is snap it onto a new edge and you have a quick
recovery. After two days of skiing at the resort in everything
from opening-hour corduroy to late afternoon mashed potatoes,
this ski got a big thumbs up, especially in the corn. Excellent.
But the Hydrogen is a backcountry ski and it deserves to be tested
Day three was spent on rolling
terrain, with a few 800 to 1,000 vert runs thrown in. We had
6 inches of fairly light powder on a firm base. The Hydrogen
moved really well over the snow. It was a green/blue day and
with the wax applied from tip to tail I really enjoyed the kick
and glide that this light ski offers. The downhills were a pleasure
as well, with the skis floating through the shallow powder nicely.
When they did go through to the base they held a predictable
edge. Again, a fine ride in these conditions. The Hydrogen will
handle light pow very well, I have no doubt that in even deeper,
untracked backcountry fluff these skis will ride great.
Day 4: I should have quit
while I was ahead. It was an incredible day for peak bagging.
A bluebird sky and well more than a foot of fresh had fallen
a couple of days before. The weather had stayed cold but there
had been little wind-loading. We began skinning up the mountain
and the Hydrogens felt like feathers on my feet. Half way up
we switched to boot packing and the skis felt so light on my
back, compared to hauling my usual fat alpine rides, it seemed
like I had an empty pack on. On the summit my shoulders were
not even sore!
On the descent the snow off
the top was fairly consolidated, the Hydrogens performed as expected,
gliding predictably on the surface, responding nicely to driver
input. After the first 800 feet of vertical the snow changed
radically. It was no longer set-up and had become exactly what
it was, two day old, heavy, stiff snow with a lot of water content.
The Achilles heel of light skis, particularly wide light skis,
has always been this kind of snow and the Hydrogen's foundered
badly. The lead ski would get buffeted off track so I would move
forward to weight it more, then the rear ski would either dive
or get tossed. Moving back more onto my back foot (my normal
mode in such conditions) the lead ski would take on a mind of
its own. And so it went, survival turns in parallel mode were
not much better. It was a miserable descent through the next
2,000 feet, constantly trying to find my center and a tactic
that would work. It didn't happen. Things did not get better
until I hit the canyon run-out and the snow became more corn
like and much more consolidated. Once again the skis became a
blast to turn.
Conclusion: The Hydrogens are indeed a terrific
ski for going places. They will also be a killer spring corn,
peak and chute ski. Consistent mush? no problem. Firmer snow?
(not ice or super-hard), very good. High speed cruising? much
better than you would think. Light untracked powder? Excellent.
Crud? not a crud buster. Old and/or heavy pow? don't go there.
This ski would be a poor choice for general winter use in places
like the Pacific Northwest or other coastal areas with heavy
snow but if you are looking for a light, backcountry oriented
wide ride that handles a variety of backcountry snow well, and
a ski that will provide a really good time during occasional
resort forays, the Hydrogen is a big winner. They are unique
boards, a light weight touring ski that can turn with the best
of the heavier skis in almost all conditions.
Tua Crossride 112
112/80/100 Weight: unavailable, lets just say
"not light" 170,178,185,192 Tested: 185
A huge ski by Tua standards,
the 112 Crossride sports an 80mm waist but with that fat tip,
still has a big 32mm's of sidecut. When told of the 112, a couple
of my alpine-ski-for-tele riding bros scoffed and said "a
2mm increase in width over last years fat ski (the Sumo/ 110)?
Huh? Why doesn't Tua just go big and get it over with?"
Like many skiers, they spend a lot of time focusing on tip width.
I think waist width generally has far more to do with how a ski
behaves on the snow. The 112 is 4 mm's wider in the waist than
the others, and skis totally different.
In our "Tua Preview"
article, the weight of the 112 Crossride was unavailable as the
ski was undergoing a few tweeks after its big trade show debut
last January. I still don't have the final weight available at
this time, but with the 112 it is kind of like buying a yacht,
if you have to ask...
The ski we demoed at OR was
being touted as a crud buster and a ski for deep snow, especially
heavier snow. And although the snow was not heavy that weekend,
there was plenty of crud and it did very well, still I had the
impression in talking with the designer, that the ski was still
evolving and I am happy to say that was true. I thought the 112
we skied back then was OK but not that great. It did not have
the lively snap I like in a ski, especially a heavy ski, and,
to me, it didn't possess the Tua flex and the response we have
come to respect and admire.
Right out of the box the 112
I skied for this test report appeared to have more camber and
a different flex pattern. I still don't know for sure if this
is the tweek they made, but when I got it on the snow it sure
seemed like it. This baby was much snappier. A very alpine-like
tele and backcountry ski, the 112 has a tail that loads up nicely
and springs the skier into the next turn, all the while maintaining
a stable and sure-footed platform beneath. This ski handles heavy
snow very well, tracking predictably, not getting buffeted or
tossed. The added snap makes it less work to ski than the earlier
version but it does feel heavy.
One of my ski partners on
a peak bagging day, mentioned above, skied the 112, and it rocked
for him in those tough conditions. Blasting through the stiff
stuff, rising up and out of the snow on cue without diving for
I spent part of another day
touring for turns in rolling terrain, and there the 112 Crossride
skied much like other mid-fat alpine skis. A bit of work on the
flats and climbs but a lot of fun on the downhills. Although
heavy by Tua and some other backcountry ski standards, this ski
feels lighter and skis with a lighter touch than many equivalent
Back at the resort, the 112
proved to be a strong ski on groomers and quite carvy. Even with
all that sidecut these skis are right at home cruising high speed
GS style turns and giving the skier a confident, locked-in feel.
Short radius turns were doable but more work, the 112 'Ride wants
Conclusion: I don't think this Tua will exactly
set the alpine ski world on fire, but for tele skiers looking
for a wide, stable ride that will work well at the resorts and
for some backcountry jaunts too, the 112 Crossride is worth checking
out. The 112 represents a bit of a departure for Tua, a ski that
can compete directly with the alpine-for-tele skiing folks' ski
buying dollar and I hope they do more of this. Some may question
the wisdom of introducing an alpine-like ski that is so close
in dimensions to skis already in the line (how about a 115/85/103
Tua tele ski?) but the 112 marks a big step forward for them
in bringing to market a powerful, big mountain ski that should
prove to be more durable for resort skiing. These are snappy
and responsive boards that will hold their own inbounds while
still providing the familiar Tua flex. We hope to see more like
this from Tua in the future.
98/70/88 Weight: 1,480 gr/ski (185) Lengths:
170,178, 185, 192. Tested: 185cm
Sharing the same dimensions
as the old Big Easy and the now discontinued Mito, the M3 is said to be a fusion of the Mito and the previously
popular Mega, also discontinued. When Russell Rainey sent us
the Hammerhead prototype to ski for a couple of days, it was
mounted on a Mito. We fell in love with that ski. Its strong
edge holding characteristics were a perfect match for the powerful
new Hammerhead; it was light and very quick edge to edge. It
was a great ski on the firm groomers we were riding that day
and BT had a blast in the bumps riding that rig.
The M3 appears to have inherited all the Mitos
good qualities. It still holds a mean edge but feels a tad softer,
with a little rounder flex. I skied the M3 parts of two days
at the resort and a short day in the backcountry. It was a pleasure
to ski on the pistes, especially in the morning, but hung in
there well as the snow softened during the day. These skis are
wide enough both at the tip and the waist to give decent float
in soft snow despite their stiff, hard snow leanings.
The 28mm's of sidecut is not a lot by today's
standards but I never felt like it wasn't enough. The 185's arced
smooth tele turns, both long and short, on demand. Short swing
turns on the steeps were particularly satisfying as the ski holds
a tenacious edge, feeling very secure and surefooted. The M3
is a strong performer on hardpack, as good as many heavy alpine
skis but with far less weight. Their relative lightness gives
the M3 quickness during the edge change and also makes it suitable
for backcountry use where weight is a consideration.
On day two at the ski area, the snow got really
mushy and clumpy on the busy groomers. Mush performance is not
an area of strength for theses skis. Neither myself or another
tester really wanted to continue skiing the M3 in these conditions.
The softer and wider Sumo and the fat 112 Crossride were just
the ticket in the mush, especially the Sumo.
In the backcountry, the M3
was, well, solid! Not the fast tourer that the Hydrogen is, it
nevertheless motored right along with less effort than the fatter
skis I usually ride these days. The M3 did really well on the
frozen hard snow downhills early, and carved sweet turns on the
afternoon corn. That day also brought us some unconsolidated
snow on the north facing aspects and again, this was not the
M3's strong suit. As a backcountry ski, the M3 will shine on
big, open, wind exposed slopes (like the Pacific Northwest Volcanoes)
where the snow often falls heavy and wet and then freezes hard.
It should be a great ski for eastern hardpack skiers too.
Conclusion: A very fine ski for firm snow and
resort piste skiing. Now that the Atomic TM.24 has been discontinued
(what were they thinking?), the M3 just may assume the position
as the premier tele-specific ski for these conditions.
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