Praxis Backcountry Review

These are great skis.

Before I go any further, I have to admit it’s taken a ridiculously long time for me to have skied them enough to feel able to post any kind of meaningful review. I bought them a full year ago when I was still mired in the depths of ACL rehab, and seeing them leaning against the wall – so pristine and shiny compared to my other well-worn skis – was a great motivator during some of the darker days of recovery. I did take them out once on some very sloppy cement on Mount Seymour last season, but I was lucky to be skiing at all and I certainly wasn’t ready for the backcountry at that point. My first two days touring this year were on bomber ice, which is (to say the least) not their natural habitat. But I’ve finally had a couple of untracked days on them, and that has made a world of difference.

First of all, the vital statistics:

Praxis Backcountry: 131-106-121 at 170cm. Turn radius 20m. 45cm of tip splay and 20cm of tail splay, with 5mm of camber underfoot. Mounted right on centre at Keith’s recommendation.

Me: 5’4″, 120lbs, still slightly lopsided (right leg is about 10% stronger than left.) Rediscovering my off-piste technique after being restricted to groomers in the aftermath of the ACL surgery.

Even mounted with relatively burly Marker Barons these skis are super light. They’re way lighter than my Shoguns; possibly even lighter than the Silencers, which have a fraction of the surface area. They’re robust – the flex feels extremely solid – but not overwhelming for someone my weight, which is a problem I’ve encountered with a lot of the skis that I’ve demoed. I didn’t have any issues bootpacking them 2.5km uphill on the start of our Diamond Head trek. For skinning up, they’re just fine. They’re my first touring ski, so I don’t have anything to compare them to, but the light weight makes them very easy to move uphill.

They’re the longest ski I’ve ever been on (I generally ski at 160 – 165), but with the tip and tail rocker they don’t feel it. Turn initiation is impressively easy and on solid snow, that touch of traditional camber underfoot makes them surprisingly easy to tip up on edge and they grip well right through the turn. They feel like they have quite a bit more tail than I’m used to; I haven’t figured out yet if that’s because of the extra length or the stiffer flex. The tails did feel a tad hooky on the groomers that I skied initially, but that may just have been unfamiliarity and conditions that weren’t ideally suited to the ski.

In powder, these skis came into their own. Even though it was somewhat wet, the tips rose up the second I started moving and never dipped. The skis lifted off bumps and absorbed air and landings like it was all part of one endless floating line. In the choppy snow we encountered around Disease Ridge, the rockered tips smoothed out the ride and took it all in stride.

My only complaint about the skis is that the topsheet construction isn’t great. They already have a number of sizeable gouges, and even light contact between the edges causes chips and scrapes. That’s not really a big deal, however.

After five days, I’m excited to get to know these skis better. I want to take them out in every conceivable kind of condition, from perfect corduroy to spring corn to broken crud. I think the BCs have the potential to make me a better skier, and I certainly feel like I couldn’t have made a better choice for my first touring ski. I’m jonesing like crazy to get out there on them again.

Update 24/2/12: On Monday I took the Praxis out for a couple of hours at Blackcomb. It was very cold and super icy, which made for interesting testing conditions. I learned a few important lessons along the way.

Icy groomers are not this ski’s preferred surface. On the scoured boilerplate, it was really hard work trying to get them to hold an edge and I ended up doing a lot of skidding around. The second I got them into softer snow, little bumps, or even just away from the ice they were much happier.

I need to stay on my game. The longer ski and stiffer flex in the tail means that these don’t let me get away with slips into the backseat. On firm snow and in crud I could feel the tips heading away from me each time my weight drifted even slightly back. This is probably a very good thing, since this is a habit I really need to break.

The tip rocker rocks, the ski loves to be in the air, and speed is its friend. When the skis were pointed downhill, I flew over everything in my path. They’re so light that they just leap off bumps and rollers. And once I let them start running at speed they were easy to carve, held their edge awesomely, and felt very stable.

In short, this is definitely more ski than I’m used to and I need to stay alert and on my toes when I’m on them. The more aggressively I ski them the more fun they are, especially in softer snow. I’m not sure they’d ever be my first choice for a groomer day, but a powder day inbounds? Absolutely.

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