Hydrocarbons Were Burned & Black Diamond Skis Were Tested

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 14, 2011      

When asked to join for a day of snowcat skiing during one of the more fluffy days of the year here in Colorado (last week), can one refuse? I tried, I even thought about bringing my skins and doing some cardio before the lifts opened, but the seduction of chattering diesel and catered lunch sucked me into a hydrocarbon enhanced day of trying out Black Diamond’s new and reworked Power Series skis. Climbing skins? They could wait till tomorrow.

Your's truly, testing.

Yours truly, testing. Forgive my me-wall, but I thought it was about time your friendly blogger published a few photos of himself playing in the fluff. Keeping it real and all that...

The venue: Aspen Mountain Powder tours uses a beautiful gladed area to the south of Aspen Mountain ski area, created mostly by mine timber cutting and forest fires back in the late 1800s, as well a efforts by pioneer skiers of Aspen’s early days to create good terrain options. (The timber is gradually growing back, leading one to wonder what they’ll be doing up there in 50 years unless the USFS lets them start doing some cutting.)

Specifically, I rode Black Diamond’s Amperage model in a couple different lengths, as well as the women’s version of the Amperage (Element). First, I was on the 175 Amperage as I always try to push skis to their shorter length so they’ll tour better (lighter, easier kick turns, easy to carry on backpack.) Amperage in the 175 was a bit too short for me. It wasn’t fluid in the pow and shook me around pretty good in the chop while descending Aspen Mountain resort at the end of the day. 185 Amperage was much more reasonable, and would indeed be my powder touring board of choice from this lineup (though hauling around a ski that long and heavy might never happen for me in real life).

Lou with his loaner Pocs.

Lou with his loaner Pocs. They're good goggles, but I think I'll pass on the color.

While Amperage is reasonably wide (115 waist), it’s still somewhat light in weight for what you get, and fully double-rockered for fun in the powder and crud. Would I tour on it? I’d probably go for something lighter, but definitely recommend for someone looking for a more solid feeling ski than super lightweights. Interestingly, I enjoyed the women’s version of this ski the most, Element in 175 cm. Could have been psychological as I enjoy women, but it seemed to flex out more supply and be a bit less planky than the men’s version. (That said, I did not try the shorter women’s model in the chop, and it could have been as rough as the men’s Amperage 175 for all I know.) Specs for Amperage 175: 4.3 kg per pair, dimensions 141/115/123.

One observation: I most often ski powder on narrower skis than these testers. While I expected the floaty double-rockered Amperage to make powder skiing easy, and it did, I missed getting face shots. I guess what you do now, since face shots don’t come with every turn like they used to, is you contrive a “slash” when a camera is pointed your way so you can simulate a face shot. That’s just wrong. But that’s the way it is, I guess. Even so, I was letting my mind wander today and it occurred to me that we could in a few years actually see a trend to narrower skis again, perhaps still with rocker and slow rise tips, just for the purpose of making powder skiing more photogenic and more fun. Another “I told you so moment” coming for WildSnow.com? Stay tuned, and meanwhile, perfect your camera-ready slash turns (or telemark, which does help with the face shot ratio). After all, it did not happen unless it’s a faceshot on Facebook (a bookshot?).

Black Diamond Power Series skis.

Black Diamond Power Series skis at Outdoor Retailer trade show. I'd say many of these models are intended more as slackcountry or even alpine skis. I mean, how many committed ski tourers are going to haul around a Gigawatt, when they can have just as much fun going downhill on something about half the weight? But as with much of today's ski models, most of the Power Series would work as backcountry skis.

Just as an FYI, here are the raw specs on the power series (right to left in photo above):

Gigawatt- 185 & 195 (163-135-141)
Megawatt- 178(145-120-126) & 188 (151-125-131)
Amperage (formerly known as Amp) – 165(139-115-123) & 175(141-115-123) & 185 (142-115-124)
Zealot- 182(135-110-123) & 192(136-110-125)
Verdict- 170(132-102-120) & 180(134-102-121) & 190(136-102-123)
Warrant- 168(128-95-116) &178(130-95-118) &188(132-95-119)
Element (women’s Amp) – 165(139-115-123) & 175(141-115-123)
Ember (women’s) – 158(126-95-115) & 168 (128-95-116)

Typical demo day, Marker Jester was easy to adjust.

Typical demo day, Marker Jester was easy to adjust but hard to click into for the smaller woman on the trip. First time I'd been in alpine bindings in perhaps eight years, luckily I'd just received a test pair of Tecnica Cochise sidecountry beef boots. I tuned those puppies up for my feet, ground the touring soles down so they'd fit the Jesters, and got in a good boot test as well. Review of the Cochise boots is in the works.

Beyond great powder skiing and cool skis to “test,” It was interesting to see how Black Diamond is working their effort to become an alpine ski brand. I still find that a bit odd, but I can’t come up with a good analogy; it’s like expanding their climbing gear line to window washing? Um, perhaps that’s not such a good analogy (grin). Indeed, skiing is, well, skiing. So you get a ton of crossover between the different disciplines. Thus, BD making skis specific to alpine skiing does make a certain sort of sense. Yet with ski touring being such a huge and growing sport around the world, one has to wonder if the marketing model of a more human-powered company is not more viable than competing with the likes of the big alpine ski makers for market share. Not really my business to second guess that sort of thing, but fun to ponder outloud. What do you Wildsnowers think about it?


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31 Responses to “Hydrocarbons Were Burned & Black Diamond Skis Were Tested”

  1. Fra February 14th, 2011 10:32 am

    BD Aspect is being replaced by Warrant?

  2. jLd February 14th, 2011 10:59 am

    BD Aspects will remain in the Efficient Series for next year:

    Justice(new), Drift, Aspect, Stigma, Guru, Starlet*, Syncra*

    The new Warrants for F11 replace the current Kilowatt in the Power Series. The entire new Power Series for next year includes:

    Gigawatt, Megawatt, Amp, Zealot, Verdict, Warrant, Element*, Ember*

  3. rider11 February 14th, 2011 12:28 pm

    Nice to see some snow report/trip report on here. For a little I thought this site was just sponsored by Dynafit exclusively. Snow has been great all over CO, let’s hear about it some more!


  4. Gourmand Vert February 15th, 2011 1:38 am

    Did anyone find out already if the Amp lives up to the “hard” part of its 60/40 soft/hard snow bill?

  5. Tom February 15th, 2011 10:13 am

    This is not a BD specific question, but does fit in with the discussion of new skis. Specifically, when are old skis truly old? Seems to me the decline in a ski’s response is very gradual, then all-of-a-sudden one day you notice it’s not popping out of turns like it used to. How many ski days are people getting out of a pair? Does this vary from brand to brand, or core materials, or type of ski? Any rule of thumb to go by?

  6. Gourmand Vert February 15th, 2011 10:56 am

    Tom: skis are truly old the day you try a newer pair.

    Sometimes it’s enough to see the new pair on the interwebs to make yours stale.

  7. Bjorn Naylor February 15th, 2011 11:52 am

    Skis are old when people snicker and stare and point in the corral….still see LOTS of toothpicks on the ski hill. saw a pair of original yellow Elan MBX the other day!

  8. Scott Newman February 15th, 2011 2:03 pm

    I agree with you, Lou. I’d rather ski in it than on it. Aren’t faceshots what it’s all about?

  9. Bjorn Naylor February 15th, 2011 2:48 pm

    then ski steeper terrain if u want face shots…oh sorry there is none in colorado…

  10. Dave February 15th, 2011 3:03 pm

    Lou – How do you like the POC goggles?

  11. Lou February 15th, 2011 3:19 pm

    Dave, they’re fine. But I’ve never given them the acid test… and I always bring two pair of goggles when doing things like cat skiing…

  12. Lou February 15th, 2011 4:07 pm

    So, I go all the way down to Montebelluna Italy, write posts about both Scarpa and Dynafit while being hosted by Dynafit? And Rider 11 snarks about Dynafit? Can’t win for loosing… but I did have a Scarpa post on tap for tomorrow. Perhaps that will be my redemption from the sin of blogging too much about the one complete-line (boots to clothing) company that is 100% about human powered skiing.

    Seriously, can I help it if Dynafit comes up with stuff like their bindings and radical boots?

  13. rider11 February 15th, 2011 4:29 pm

    Lou, all that information was above and beyond. Thank you. Just wanted to note that there used to be way more skiing posted here, and with Colorado having a great year in most places it would be nice to see more of it. Maybe some more guest posts from CO? Just a thought, love the site regardless.

  14. Lou February 15th, 2011 4:59 pm

    Rider11, you have a good point. It has honestly been a struggle to balance gear with trip reports. I actually like doing trip reports and general writing more than gear stuff, but we are in such a unique position for the gear reporting, it just makes sense to keep doing it. In other words, take today for example. Yeah, I skied pow in West Elks with Lisa yesterday, but I’m walking out to shop with the new Tecnica tech inserts to test them to destruction. The latter just has to take priority. Oh, and destroying things for a gear review is actually as fun as powder skiing and writing about powder skiing. Well, almost as fun (grin).

    Oh, BTW, we actually still do have quite a few trip reports, they just come in waves and sometimes are indeed sporadic. Don’t forget that Denali was one big trip report for practically a month! And my Europe trips yield quite a few TRs as well…

    ‘best, Lou

  15. ptor February 15th, 2011 5:23 pm

    Just skied the 185 Amps for 2 weeks in Kyrgyzstan. Works great on hard snow as i did a day on the Karakol ski hill as well and actually skied some groomers with them. They rail! However, I felt undergunned in the deep powder and they’re definately too soft, short, narrow and easy for me but a very nice ski.
    I highly disagree with the faceshot comment Lou. I ride megas exclusively for touring (except for that session) and at 6foot2 have no shortage of faceshots even on Gigawatts. (and i look forward to mounting up some 185 Gigas with dynafits). In my opinion, it is now very difficult to have more fun going down than with Gigawatts. They’re just another dimension beyond and so worth any effort to ski on them as I’m sure it would be to ski on Volkl Kuros or any other similar ski.

    Your “Austrian” comment on “slashing” is also disappointing to hear from you because to me the sideways dimension availed by fatter skis is a beautiful thing and new technique to create a whole new expanded reality and range of techniques for more ways to ride terrain for skiers, plus it’s a way to get faceshots in shallow powder. It’s like having a double backside snowboard turn. Besides, a fat ski under the waist with a huge rocker completely negates any “extra” weight when breaking trail in deep powder. It’s just way easier. But if one just follows skin tracks all the time and doesn’t want to evolve their skiing and furrow slowly through powder, I guess light modified piste skis will do just fine and so would leather boots. Devolve if you want to back to thinner skis, we all have our way of skiing.

    “Skiing” is actually what we call backcountry or off-piste skiing, the rest needs a prefix. therefore as far as I’m concerned, BD is just making skis, not alpine, not back country, just skis.

    And what is “wrong” is to change the way you ski for the camera, period, face shots or not. It is not why we ski. Very strange comment Lou! BTW You can see my face on Spacebook 😉

  16. Lou February 15th, 2011 5:53 pm

    Ptor, don’t take my attempt at philosophizing too seriously. Really just a comment on skiing for the camera pro or con, which I’m sure you can relate to as you’re somewhat of a philosophizer yourself. And, the idea was to get some commentary from folks such as yourself, so great!

    And, if I can see your face on Spacebook, is that still a faceshot (grin)?

  17. Chris February 15th, 2011 6:34 pm

    Hey Lou, how’s the mobile hut coming along. Here it is February, and we haven’t seen a post about it in four-five months!

  18. Lou February 15th, 2011 6:35 pm

    Mobile hut turned out good. It’s built as a trailer of course, with a strong roof for the snow load. Turned out we wanted more privacy with the project than I originally thought, so I had to back off on the blog posts. Sorry about that. I’ll probably cover it eventually. Thanks for asking. Lou

  19. Chris February 15th, 2011 6:38 pm

    I understand you’d want privacy to keep it secure. What a fantasy for any tourer though to execute the installation of a hut like that deep in an area that’s rarely reached by any tourers. I can think of a few places partnered with a snowmobile could be incredible in the Cascades. First descent kind of good.

  20. Kevin February 15th, 2011 9:17 pm


    In response to your comment about skis becoming more narrow again…Line’s skis are indeed decreasing width in their EP Pro’s and Sir Francis Bacon’s. They claim they are ahead of the curve with this move, so perhaps you are on to something.

  21. ptor February 16th, 2011 1:11 am

    Yes, I should have sensed your sarcasm or whatever but you know I love ranting and yes, it’s serious faceshots here in Italy today 😉

  22. Barry February 16th, 2011 8:36 am

    Any chance you got to demo something other than the Amp?

  23. Brian H. February 16th, 2011 8:38 am

    Hey Ptor, will you be skiing in Gulmarg this year? Are things there moving “forword” the way it seems in the various articles/movie type stuff we’ve been seeing?

  24. Lou February 16th, 2011 8:39 am

    Barry, then it wouldn’t have been a demo. I don’t believe that skiing a ski for one or two runs has any meaning in terms of evaluating. At least it doesn’t for me. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

  25. Matt Kinney February 16th, 2011 9:51 am

    I think ptor comments that choosing a ski to break a trail is better than picking a ski to follow a trail is spot on. He has an interesting perspective.

  26. ptor February 16th, 2011 10:28 am

    Brian H,
    No Gulmarg for me this year. Although it has been a big breakthrough for it’s avy control program to have advanced, I personally think Gulmarg will not be moving anywhere until it is privatized (so that the corrupt government officials that manage it stop stealing its funding) and Kashmir itself can be liberated from its occupation and end the clandestine subversive interventions of western intelligence agencies via both India and Pakistan. Still a great place for fat skis!!!!

  27. Barry February 16th, 2011 1:19 pm


    I think you may have misunderstood my question… I was just wondering if you got to demo/try/ski any of the other Power Series models, in addition to the Amp? new Giga or updated Mega…?


  28. Brian H. February 16th, 2011 1:41 pm

    Ptor- Do you think that the recent (?) interest helps the people of Gulmarg/Kashmir? I guess I’m wondering it’s possible for private development to take hold? It’s become a place that has entered “my dream (trip)”. Soon…Lou- sorry for the tangent, this will be the last one!

  29. Lou February 16th, 2011 1:43 pm

    Hi Barry, I guess I was clarifying that I don’t usually do ski demos or tests that involve just a couple of runs as I don’t feel my opinion from such tests is valid, so during the snowcat day I stayed with the same model ski and just tried some different lengths (and women’s ver).

  30. ptor February 17th, 2011 12:34 am

    Yes Brian, people going to ski at Gulmarg definately is crucial to the locals. The opening of the second phase of the gondola has been a small revolution in Kashmir and boosts morale for a people that used to thrive on tourism and hospitality before the era of militarism. So many more Kashmiris are now skiing and working, modern equipment has arrived and obviously they can share the message of their plight. If it’s your dream, give’er….and an ideal place to rip on BD Power series or similar skis.
    Getting back to what Lou is discussing, Gulmarg is a perfect “hybrid” place because the off the lift touring is a big part of the game as is spinning laps on the lift with no groomed runs and it’s difficult to travel with multiple setups. My clients that have not heeded my advice in bringing fat skis have suffered, hindered the group and regretted their ideas of “lightness” despite the altitude.

  31. Colotele November 13th, 2012 11:58 am

    Hi Lou,

    I am planning to buy the AMP. Per your experience of this ski, I have some questions on the size. I weigh 130 pounds and 5’4″. I am a light guy. My questions are: 1) What size do you recommend for me? I am thinking 165cm. Should I go with 175cm? 2) Lou, how much do you weigh and how tall are you?

    Thank you very much in advance for your help. Look forward to your input on this ski.

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