While the market for women’s skis has grown substantially, many hard charging women find women’s models to be too noodly, too soft, and too wimpy to hold up to speed, air, and other tricks of the trade. So many of us ski men’s models instead. As an alternative to those pesky male branded planks, try taking a run on Icelantic’s new women’s ski, the Oracle.
Icelantic is a Colorado company that was started by a few friends who went to high school together and skied at Loveland resort on the Colorado Front Range. Company founder Ben Anderson had the idea for building skis, and dropped out of college to pursue it, recruiting Annelise Loevlie to do marketing and Travis Parr to do graphics. They launched at SIA in 2005, and have been growing ever since.
Icelantic is headquartered in Denver in the art district on Santa Fe, and has an art show every first Friday of the month to showcase Parr’s unique designs, which change every year based on concepts the group comes up with in the spring. For the 2010-2011 line, the company chose music as its theme; the Oracles are designated “Soul,” and feature a sultry female singer near the tips.
Icelantic also has its skis made in Colorado at the Never Summer snowboard factory, and stands behind its skis with a two-year warranty.
Sidecut for the Oracles is hefty, with a 138mm tip, 100mm waist, and 120mm tail. An early tip rise helps the ski float more in powder and it has a moderate twin tip tail for switch riding and playing in the park. The combination makes the ski nimble. They are available in lengths of 155cm, 165cm, and 175cm; the turning radius of each is 13 meters, 16 meters, and 18 meters.
The Oracles employ a “fly-weight” core, a combination of aspen and poplar, using the same design as the men’s models, but shaving weight for a women’s frame. Backcountry chargers will appreciate the weight, which is 6.2 pounds for the 155, 6.5 pounds for the 165, and 6.75 pounds for the 175.
I put the Oracles through the wringer, testing them on every kind of terrain, including deep powder on a heli-drop at Silverton, hard-packed groomers at the resort after two weeks of no snow, a powder cat tour at Chicago Ridge, park skiing at Echo Mountain, and the Telemark Extreme Freeskiing Championships at Crested Butte. I also popped on some skins and did some climbing in them.
While a twin tip, even a moderate one like the Oracles, might not be the first choice for skinning, I had no trouble getting the Black Diamond Clip Fix over the back part of my skis for the uphill climb. I definitely appreciated the lighter weight of the Oracles on the skin track.
In powder, the Oracles skied like a dream. The early tip rise kept the ski up on the snow. A 100mm waist may not be the most popular for the deep these days, but for a quiver of one, it is close to ideal.
On hard pack, I wasn’t sure how I liked the Oracles at first. The early tip rise that was nice in powder seemed to make the ski chatter when I opened it up on long radius GS turns. However, I found that if I shifted my weight a little forward on the ski, that chatter tender to disappear, and the skis held a nice edge. In short, you have to ski aggressively on the Oracle to get the most out of it on the groomers. The tip is still a little chattery, but it is significantly reduced when you ski aggressively. If you prefer to sit back a little and let the ski do the work on piste, you won’t like the Oracles.
One thing that really impressed me was the Durasurf 4001 sintered p-tex base on the Oracles. The base of a ski may seem an afterthought to many people, but between Arapahoe Basin in a low snow year and Crested Butte’s all-too-available chunks of the Rocky Mountains, I found rocks constantly. My K2s and my G3s have often needed 3-4 stone grinds a year; the Oracles probably need one after the last six weeks, but the bases still are in good shape, and a few times after hearing the skis go over a rock on the North Face extreme terrain at the Butte, I took them off expecting to see core shots, but instead saw minor gouges.
For most of the skiing I do, the Oracles would be one of my go-to skis. I might prefer something a little stiff for long radius turns, but for skiing in powder or tight, technical terrain, the Oracles were great, and I’ll be sorry to see them go.
Oracles will be available at most shops in September 2010.