Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sportiva Hi5 AT Ski - Powerfully good fun

As part of our deal with Sportiva, Olivia and I recently had the option to pick two pairs of skis from Sportiva's ski line.  As I primarily tour I went straight for the GT (184 cm 125/89/111) knowing that a ski with these dimensions would be the ideal weapon for a ski guiding.  It is light (3 lbs. per ski), has a traditional camber, and seemed like it would be good for all around conditions.  On my last two tours this is what I took into the backcountry and I really liked the ski.  It was solid on crust, floated nicely on the few powder pockets we have, and had a stiffness, particularly in the tail that suits my ski style.

For my second ski I picked the Sportiva HI5 thinking that I would use it for the slack country, touring on powder days, and the occasional big storm day at the ski area.  Of all the new skis Sportiva is making, this one is getting the most buzz.  This is also the fattest ski I have ever owned for touring at 135/105/125.  I am on the 188 and was a bit nervous about going so long, but did so after many reputable friends pointed out the massive rocker in the HI5, with assurances that it would feel shorter when I had it out skiing.

Sportiva HI5 Ski - 188cm
I mounted them with Dynafit TLT Vertical FT 110mm bindings as I only had my hands on one pair of the RT bindings and I put them on my GT's in order to create an ultralight setup.  I have been skiing the Hi5's in a Dynafit Titan Ultralight.  The RT's seem plenty bomber and weigh 175 grams per binding, and thus would be the ideal match for a big, lightweight, rockered touring setup.

Sportiva HI5 Ski - 450 mm of tip rocker in the 188cm.
We have been going through a cold spell with zero new snow and I had been itching to take out the much beefier HI5 just to see what 105 underfoot felt like.  I also wanted to ski it simply to make sure I had mounted it properly so that I would know it was ready when we finally got our next big storm.

I have now taken it up to Stevens Pass twice in the past 4 days and used it for high-speed in-bounds skiing and can't emphasize how much I love this ski.  These things fly!  I fully expected the HI5 to be cumbersome and difficult to ski on hardpack as they have the deadly combo of being big and light, but found them to to almost seem to get better the faster you are going.

Today we arrived close to first chair, so I had the opportunity to take them out on some groomed runs and see how well they did in more regular tight turns as my first outing had mostly featured bigger turns and higher speeds.  There is no question that I had to work a bit to quickly link turns on firm snow, but this seems like the tradeoff you make when you go for a straighter ski that is going to provide stability when going fast in variable conditions.  The one place they start to feel big and less responsive is in bumps.

In the end these were so much damn fun that I think this is going to be the ski I grab this winter for most tours and any day at the ski area.  I suspect come Haute Route season I will take both the GT's and the HI5's and use the GT's if it looks like we have a low snow year or really firm snow for a given trip.  Outside wildly variable conditions requiring the most maneuverability the HI5 has a solid spot at the top of my quiver.

A few other notes about the HI5.  They have a flat tail and use the K2 skin system which arrive pre-cut and have their own tip and tail attachment system.  I used the same skin on on my GT's (cut for the GT's) and they have a super nice glue and did very well even in very icy conditions.  I will be curious to see how durable the tip and tail attachments prove to be, but thus far have had no issues.  The ski has no metal top sheet, but rather a double polyamide top sheet and then layers of fiberglass and a carbon/fiberglass mat.  There are reinforcement plates under the bindings to beef up screw attachment points.  They have ABS sidewalls.

When Sportiva first started making skis the rumor was that they were being made by Movement, but it turns out they are not made by Movement, they are made in the same factory that makes Movement's skis.  That said, they have a similar feel as the Movement skis I have demoed, which highlight a torsional stiffness that is surprising when you put it on edge, given the flex of ski when going over bumps.

HI5 Specs:

Lengths: 168 cm, 178 cm, 188 cm

Dimensions: (all lengths) 135/105/125

Turning Radius: 178 cm

Profile: Early rise tips, traditional camber underfoot.

Core: Wood (Light Karuba)

Tail: Flat

Weight: 7 lbs. 7.6 oz in 178 cm

Cost: $799

As the skis just hit the market this season there are not a ton of reviews out there yet.  On Wildsnow.com Lou Dawson titled his review, "Let the Horses Run" and he describes the same smooth ride and then goes on to mention that this ski, like big skis in general tend to be super grabby in spring snow, leading to a jerky ride as the skis alternately engage and disengage with the snow.  This has not been an issue thus far given the cold we are experiencing and it overcome by a good wax, something I tend to overlook in long runs of ski guiding.

In conclusion the HI5 has thus far been a blast to ski.  The ride reminds me of a Tornado I "borrowed" for a night of revelry in Talkeenta, AK years ago.  One minute you are driving to get steak and eggs and the next minute your realize you are doing 95 mph but can't tell as the ride is so smooth.  These are great skis for powder, area skiing, and most touring.  If I was really trying to log some miles or faced with the worst, icy, variable backcountry conditions I would likely size down and go with a more narrow waisted ski.  The HI5's are going to get some serious mileage in with me this winter, they are just too much fun to leave home.

Our guide service, The Northwest Mountain School