It’s not often that I’m able to mix family time on-snow with a little work. But in November, we all headed to Vail for some early, pre-Thanksgiving time on snow with the family.
Lucky for me, we were able to coordinate some ski testing with a friend of ours. I did three days of in-depth testing of a woman’s specific ski, the Ellipse from Deviation.
We headed up the Eagle Bahn at 9 o’clock on Sunday morning, only two days after opening day. By the time we went up, the snow was considerably better than last year. Opening weekend at Vail last year had only one open trail. The options were much better this year, with plenty of open, accessible terrain.
Here are the specs from Deviation for the Ellipse I tested.
Sizes Available 159, 165, 172
Tip 130, Waist 94, Tail 118, Radius 15m, Profile Traditional camber, Twin tip, Tapered tail
The Ellipse is designed to be skied every day on the East or West coast. It will hold its edge without compromise on ice and bumps, yet with its mid-fat waist and large upturned shovel, the Ellipse will perform perfectly off-piste. The turned up, tapered tail helps pivot turns in the powder and crud. Coupled with an aggressive sidecut, the Ellipse allows you to lock in each turn with an automatic and super fun transition to the next.
My testing plan was to seek out as many varied snow conditions as I could find and give the Ellipse a good spin. Being partial to GS and Super G turns, the core of my race background, I wasn’t sure that an all wood ski with a 15 m radius, a fair amount of rocker and 94mm underfoot was going to be all that much fun. Add a little speed, hard, man-made snow and some nice high edge angles and I fully expected to have some twisting, chattering and more feedback than I wanted from such a lightweight ski.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, despite the fact that my first turns were made while keeping my 5 year-old from hurtling down the wrong trail. But even with the distraction, I kept reminding myself to “feel” the ski’s personality.
This is what I felt. They were simply NICE. My first sensory reaction was that the rocker was just right, making short, relaxed turns really easy. The snow was pretty good, so finding tougher skiing conditions was a challenge. I thought that once I pointed them downhill on a couple firm groomed black diamonds, they’d show their true colors.
Surprise, surprise. When I rolled over onto the steep section of Pickeroon, the skis responded smoothly. But wait, surely an all-wood ski would get jumpy as I added more speed. They were bound to break away from the pressure as I demanded more from them. I waited for the twist and the inevitable chatter.
Not only were they responsive, quick and smooth, but the Ellipse stayed under me, and more importantly, with me. I hit the bottom of the pitch and was wearing that grin they always teased me about on the tour. I was still waiting for a certain skittishness you’d expect from such a lightweight ski. I expected it to start avoiding the pressure I was inflicting.
Frankly, I expected to be chattering more on my first day of skiing on firm, man-made snow. At 46 years old, my skiing isn’t all that competitive any more. But, even factoring that into the equation, I searched to find the ski’s faults. I was sure they would show themselves. So I tested the ski hard in between nicely smeared turns behind the 5 year-old. Whatever my feet demanded, the Ellipse delivered.
It was time to head into the bumps and crud under the lift. This was a matter of great excitement for my son. He should try it on my knees…
Again, just enough rocker. I anticipated the need for a heavier ski in the crud, but, here again, I was pleasantly surprised. I have not skied a ski this light in a very long time, if ever. Because of its design and responsive nature, it was very easy to change my timing and line.
Ever the skeptic, I was still looking to find something wanting. Zero, zip, nada. I again found myself smiling as I was not fighting the snow. Everything I skied was effortless. The Ellipse left me with the feeling that this was going to be a great ski season, even at my advanced age.
Perhaps day two would reveal an end to the honeymoon. Wrong again. We had a dusting of powder and it added a nice natural snow feel to the man-made groomers. I’m hesitating to say it, but SWEET. I planned to add more force to the ski and lay over some reaching arcs. The skis inclination to bend smoothly with a distinct lack of twisting made for some rich carving. I caught myself smiling again. It was the dusting of new snow right?
By the end of the day I realized that the Ellipse’s versatility was simply delightful. Every model in my current ski quiver has a specific purpose, yet I could do everything on this ski. For my female friends out there who like to rip and typically avoid models designed for women, (you know who you are) you can jump hard on this ski and tackle anything.
After three days of skiing with our club racers, friends and family, (there is an interesting and variable need to skiing creatively with 5 year-olds) I was won over. I am adding this ski to my arsenal, not because I’m loyal to my friends or I’m looking for more skis, but because I really want to ski on it, hard and often.
After three days of skiing, my surgically repaired knees were feeling grateful for a light, responsive ski that lets me ski exactly the way I want.
I do have one criticism to the skis I tested. The 172cm ski is slightly too short for me to ski aggressively. The only time the ski balked, and even then only slightly, was when I skied at higher speed, with high edge 40 meter radius turns. I was deliberately pushing the ski past its comfort zone.
More good news – Deviation Skis makes personalized skis with custom graphics for special orders. My order is an Ellipse in a 179 cm with graphics that include the names of the areas I won World Cup races and Olympic Medals. I mean who’s going to try to steal those?