Salt Lake City, UT – It’s not often that we’re impressed with an entire line of skis, but that was precisely our experience with new lineup from H2O Outdoor Gear (H2OG). While Outdoor Retailer was being held in our home town of Salt Lake City, several members of our staff were invited to accompany several other media outlets and H2OG’s founder, big mountain skier and heli guide Dean Cummings, for a day at Alta sampling all three skis in H2OG’s line.
Following a short briefing after breakfast, we headed out to test H2oG’s Tazlina, Kodiak and the company’s signature big mountain ski, the Karen’cito on firm, crunchy snow that could hardly be deemed the “Greatest Snow On Earth.” Cummings, however, stressed that despite their dimensions these skis could all handle all conditions. We’ve heard that one too many times before, and many fat skis can be a challenge to get onto edge on hardpack and keep them there. Rockered skis tend to have a bit more “flap” in the tips when brought up to speed, destroying rider confidence on hardpack. While this type of ski typically shines in deep snow, one usually has to ski some part of a groomer or cat track to get back to the lifts for the next run.If there was ever a test for a ski that looks for all the world like a powder plank, these conditions were it.
First up was the Kodiak ($899), available in three sizes and weighing in at around 10 lbs.
• Length 191 cm: 151-120-132.5, Flex (7), Radius 27.5m
• Length 184 cm: 151-120-132.5, Flex (7), Radius 25m
• Length 174 cm: 151-120-132.5, Flex (7), Radius 22m
Many Utah locals would surely consider a ski that’s 120mm under foot for the deep days, but bringing it out in firmer conditions usually requires more work. Not the Kodiak. With its short turn radius, atypical of most fat skis, it can carve out huge GS-style turns as well as lay down some of the tightest turns we’ve ever made with a ski of this size, all with ease. They were, in two words, confidence-inspiring. Stability was top notch, as the ski lacked the tip flap common in most skis of this size at high speed. We never sensed a speed limit, nor did we feel that scrubbing speed at a moment’s notice would be any issue. The H2OG Kodiak would be a “daily driver” ski for most westerners.
After ripping around on the Kodiak for a few runs, it was time to change things up a bit. With the stability and carving capability of the Kodiak already established, it was time to amp things up and try the fattest ski in the line, the Karen’cito ($899).
• Length 191cm: 165-133-149, Flex (7), Radius 26m, Weight 10lbs
• Length 181cm: 165-133-149, Flex (7), Radius 23m, Weight 9lbs
• Length 171cm: 165-133-149, Flex (7), Radius 20m, Weight 9lbs
We are the first to admit these are fat, Fat, FAT. However, take special note of the turning radii listed above. The Karen’citos turned as well as those statistics would indicate. One wouldn’t expect that skis of that dimension could handle the hard packed snow on which we were testing them, but they performed like the Kodiaks, only with more girth. The Karen’cito held a firm edge on hardpack, laughed off runouts strewn with icy chicken heads, handled speed without tip flap, and skied like a dream in what little wind buff we could find. You had to tell them to initiate a turn, but once you did so they complied without argument. Despite their 133mm waist width, the Karen’citos could nonetheless serve as a powder ski that’s still a daily go-to choice for a Westerner. In short, this could be a one-ski quiver.
After trying two fat skis that performed like carvers, it was time to head to the opposite end of the line to try H2OG’s narrowest ski, the Tazlina ($899).
• Length 191cm: 137-108-124, Flex (6), Radius 27m
• Length 184cm: 137- 108- 124, Flex (6), Radius 25m
• Length 174cm: 137-108-124, Flex (6), Radius 22m
One of our testers’ first thoughts when clicking in was, “This would make a great touring ski.” Just like the rest of the lineup, the Tazlina was stable. It shined if you like to turn, at least once you pressured the shovel upon turn initiation. It was equally aplomb at carving slalom turns as it was in pulling off long, sweeping GS-size turns when you wanted to. The tip rocker helps it get up in the soft stuff and the size underfoot will obviously let it float in all but the deepest of snow. Once again, the Tazlina had none of the dreaded tip flap that comes with many other skis with tip/tail rocker when they are brought to speed. We’d peg the Tazlina as a “low snow” Western ski and a perfect choice for East Coasters. In either location, it would be perfect for a touring setup.
If you’re looking for something that’s not built by the big ski houses, and which unlike those skis is actually made in the U.S.A., then H2OG deserves a look. With their moderate price point by boutique ski standards and solid construction, we think that you’ll be seeing more of these skis on the hill in the very near future.
For more information: www.h2ooutdoorgear.com.