In the ski touring world, as far as I’m concerned white is the new black and carbon is king.
Anyone who has followed WildSnow over the past number of years knows I have been a disciple of carbon construction since it’s inception. My latest carbon footprint is Black Diamond’s new entry into the fray: the Carbon Convert.
The Carbon Convert is a carbon sandwich construction version of their current model, the Convert. Both share the same 105 mm waisted footprint and rockered tip and tail profile with minimum camber underfoot. BD bills the current Convert (which I have never skied) as a touring oriented, powder seeker weighing in at 7 pounds with the Carbon shaving off an additional pound. A 6 pound pair of skis in a 105 mm girth is impressive.
Speaking of the skin track, what a welcome relief that BD and some other AT ski manufactures are finally seeing the wisdom of making skis with white (and other very lightly shaded or reflective) top sheets. Simply put, snow doesn’t stick to the top of white skis nearly as much as black or other dark colored top skins. I like my 6 pound skis to stay as close to their given weight as possible on the way up. White is the new black.
Unfortunately, even though they are white, the top surface of the Carbon Convert is 3-dimensional due to the torsion ribs. This leaves the low lying space between the ribs to collect snow. In the kind of conditions these skis are designed for, you _will_ find that snow or ice may accumulate in the depressions on the tips and tails, somewhat negating the weight savings of these featherweight planks. Fortunately, the Convert’s white color helps keep ice and snow accumulation at a minimum.
I’ve put in three days touring and some lift served on the 172 cm Carbon Convert. In terms of conditions, I have been hard pressed to find anything to ski but powder given the superlative season in Aspen. My very first turn was in a foot of light, dry pow and I knew from the get go the Carbon Convert was in its element. Easy to initiate, smooth as silk with a subtle, little pop out of each turn. With each successive lap that day I went from slower, smaller, conservative turns to faster, larger, swooping turns all bringing a wide grin to my face. A slight change in angulation and I was able to change the turn radius at will.
That said, the Carbon Convert has a speed limit and is not a take-no-prisoners, freeride mountaineering charger. At those speeds it will fold and deflect a bit in the tip. Keep it within it’s speed limit and endless bliss is yours. To take on those higher speeds, more aggro attitude or hard and icy snow the Carbon Convert would need to be a bit stiffer and have more torsional beef.
My second Carbon Convert review day was yet again touring on the backside of Aspen Mountain (my workplace as a powder tours guide). On one run in particular I rolled along on low angle terrain never breaking stride as I dropped over the top of a steep bowl. Gravity pulled me down the open face with snow billowing up around my knees. I let them run on the lower flats until just before everything funneled into a narrow, steep sided terrain trap gully. I stopped to put my skins on, not a soul in sight and headed home via Aspen Mountain thinking it doesn’t get any better than this. It was only my second day on the Carbon Convert but it felt like I had been on them for two years.
Both of those days ended on Aspen Mountain for a final run home. I have to say, I couldn’t find the groove out of the powder and thought maybe this ski is just a one trick pony–until yesterday, or call it the trifecta if you will. The day before was a return to winter with a cold, windy, snowy day of low visibility running laps in Highlands Bowl (on different skis). The snow kept piling up as the day wore on. The forecast was for a cold night and clearing so the green light was on. My partner and I raced up Mt. Hayden in the morning. We ran into a group of Snowmass patrolmen on top and shared a run of untracked from the first turn right off the top. Big smiles and poles taps all around. The Snowmass crew went up for another lap but we had to head down.
Back in town I checked in with my wife who was headed to Buttermilk with our 5 year old daughter. I raced out there to join them for laps on the baby chair at the bottom. When they went in for lunch I jumped on the chair for a couple of cruisers from the top. I stayed on the groomed to take the time to learn where to stand on and how to carve this ski.
What a difference a day and a little patience makes. Like all wider skis, one of the keys to railing on the Carbon Convert is a higher edge angle achieved with a wider stance and increased angulation. Secondly, they really respond when the turn is initiated right at the very tip of the ski. It grabs the ski and pulls you through the turn. If you are lazy in the early phase of the turn they will drift off in some other direction. I went up for a second run on the groomed and before you knew it I felt like I was playing with the mountain. I even managed to whip off a few quick slalom turns (but certainly not their forte).
The third part of the trifecta was a few laps on the gondola at Aspen Mountain after my wife and daughter went home. I started with the cruiser routine and then went looking for the most manky snow I could find. I found it in the form of day old Chunky Monkey sun baked tracked powder with or without bumps, a few inches of baked, left over untracked and the nearly refrozen version of the above mentioned Chunky Monkey. Initiating right from the tips, keeping within the speed limit and making round turns, the Carbon Convert smoothed it all out like molten ice cream. Those unique carbon construction attributes of smoothness and dampness with a little pop rolled right over, around and through the funkiest snow this side of Sly and the Family Stone.
Lastly, one of my pet peeves with BD skis in the past has been their finish or lack thereof from the factory. In some cases I have found some of their skis downright unskiable until retuned. They promised with their new factory those days were over and they have delivered the goods. The Carbon Convert were impeccably finished and ready to roll.
With the Carbon Convert I discovered a surprisingly versatile ski that will make a joy out of powder, corn and all of the funk in between while leaving the heft behind. The profile and dimensions combined with the unmistakable attributes of carbon construction make for a ski that will take you where you want to go and leave you smiling. I know what ski I will be on this spring from here on out. Light and white is right.
WildSnow weight chart: Carbon Convert at 1443 grams per 180cm ski is 9th in weight/surface out of nearly 50 skis we’ve sampled, 10th for weight/length which is exceptional for a 105 mm waisted ski. We also have the Carbon Aspect here for evaluation, 127/90/113 dimensions; it also ranks well in our charts.
(Guest blogger Bob Perlmutter and his wife Sue live in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado, where Bob manages Aspen Mountain Powder Tours, a snowcat skiing operation. Bob has sought adventure skiing over the past thirty years in the nearby Elk Mountains as well as locales around the world. Presently, he is reeling it in close to home and enjoying his biggest adventure yet, fatherhood of his beautiful daughter.)