The HO Syndicate Omni is the best Crossover ski from HO to date. This ski has a remarkably wide performance envelope. It could be a great first ski or a great ski for cruising for miles on open water, and it is a great ski for chasing buoys.
For many skiers, the Omni would be a better choice than a more expensive and less stable traditional slalom ski. For this review, I ran numerous 32 offs on the 67 inch ski and through 35 off on the 65 inch ski. You can certainly take the Omni to shorter rope lengths, but past 35 off, a ski like the Syndicate Pro would be a better choice.
Compared to a ski like the Syndicate Pro, the Omni is a little wider at the front binding and significantly wider at the tail. One of the benefits of the extra width is that the ski is more stable side to side as well as from front to back. This additional stability makes it easier for skiers to be in a better skiing position. Approaching the turn, this ski instills confidence and allows the skier adjust their stance as needed.
In terms of speed, the Omni creates ample speed and then maintains that speed. For all levels of skiers this means more skiing with less fatigue and less sore muscles. In the slalom course, the Omni gets very wide around the balls with minimal skier effort. As the rope gets shorter than 32 off, the skier needs to be mindful to not create excess speed.
Turns on both sides are fast and crisp. The Omni delivers more of a snap at the finish of the turn than a carving turn. The On Side turns on this ski are particularly forgiving and fun. The Omni turns best with front foot pressure but is forgiving for less than ideal technique.
The one thing about this ski that stands out the most to me is how comfortable I feel on it from the second wake to the finish of the turn. During the review period, I was able to work on technical aspects of my turns that would be much more difficult to learn on a traditional shape ski.
The NRG represents a departure from D3’s reputation of conservative and incremental ski development. This ski looks different than previous D3s. The one thing that the NRG shares with all previous D3s is that it feels comfortable the first time you ride it.
The NRG turns smooth on both sides, makes ample speed to the wakes, and then slows down quickly approaching the next turn. From the gate pull out to the exit gates, the ski does nothing unfriendly or unexpected but getting the most out of this ski is a nuanced affair.
Ball to the wakes:
If mistakes are made at the ball, one of the NRG’s best attributes is that it allows the skier to regain position and repoint the ski across the lake.
Skiers who do not lean harder than necessary will generate enough speed to be wide and early at the next ball. Skiers who apply excess load heading into the first wake may find the path to the next ball to be not as fluid as it could be.
Wakes to the ball:
The NRG creates plenty of space in front of the ball and slows down quickly approaching apex. The ski is very stable both side to side and front to back making it easy for the skier to stand where they need to. As noted below in the On Side section, keeping the handle close to the skier’s center of mass after the second wake is the key to unlocking this skis full potential.
The Off Side turns on the NRG are absolutely phenomenal. The ski consistently carves a smooth tight arc under the line and heads for the other side of the course. Its stability in the pre-turn is especially apparent approaching Off Side.
When running wide and early it is recommended that the skier temper aggression at apex to avoid over turning.
When the skier is at their hardest pass and starts to scramble, the Off Side turns happen automatically. This one characteristic of the NRG will result in additional balls.
On Side turns on the NRG can be almost as good as the Off Side turns but require the skier to maintain connection and outbound direction off the second wake. Skiers who release the handle (lose connection) too early after edge change will experience inconsistent On Side turns. This issue is more critical on the NRG than on any other ski tested to date.
Skiers whose technique emphasizes connection off the second wake will find that the On Side turns are as dependable as the Off Side turns. The NRG is remarkably tolerant to other technical mistakes approaching On Side.
Is the NRG a fast ski or a slow ski? Impressions of the amount of work the ski requires are dependent on fin and binding settings. The NRG consistently gets wide enough even if the skier makes technical mistakes so I would call this ski “fast-ish”.
Another outstanding quality of this ski is how it preforms when the skier is desperately scrambling to run a pass. After a substantial mistake is made, if the skier can stay calm and just keep skiing they will round more additional balls than expected.
Skiers may have to adjust their gate pull out technique to avoid losing width before turn in. This is because the NRG slows down so effectively. This trait is not a bad thing, but it does require an adjustment.
For a skier who maintains good connection off the second wake and can resist being too heavy on the line, the NRG draws a very smooth path through the course. For a skier who struggles with connection, the NRG still offers nearly magical Off Side turns but inconsistent On Side turns.
Over 35 rides I tried 6 or 7 different settings. The below two worked best for me on the 67" ski.
Crawford / Bush
The KD brand has returned to the US market with a completely new KD Platinum. The ski’s design is heavily influenced by Terry Winter. Perhaps the best endorsement of the ski is the fact that Terry ran into 41 off during 31 consecutive* tournament rounds and increased his tournament personal best to 3.5 at 41off this year all on the Platinum.
If you had to describe the Platinum with just one word it would be “consistent”. This may not sound like a sexy description of a ski, but in a world where many high end skis are twitchy and quirky, consistency is a good thing. In many ways, the Platinum is a throwback to classic designs that are less finicky and more dependable.
If speed is a measure of A) how much physical effort is required to run passes or B) how easily the ski gets wide at the ball, in both measures the Platinum is faster than most.
The Off Side on this ski is simply bulletproof. You almost can’t screw it up. The front of the ski pulls to the inside more than the tail slides around. The stability of the ski makes it easy to be in the right position, and even if you are not, the ski will snap off a sharp turn anyway. Because the tail of the ski rides deep, it is almost impossible to blow the tail. The turns themselves are decisive and fast.
With the settings used for most of this review (29 1/8 - 2.465 - 6.890 - .779 - 9), the Platinum requires more front foot pressure than most high end skis to make on side turns as consistent and crisp as the Off Side turns. By focusing on a few key technical points, I was able to make the ski turn as well on the on side as the off side. If I am skiing at my technical best, these settings are preferred.
At the end of the review period Terry Winter suggested shallower and longer settings (29 1/8 - 6.950 - 2.450 - .79 ). These settings alleviated the need for extra front foot pressure and made the on side turns much less technically demanding.
Ball to the wakes
Leaving the ball, the ski goes where you point it and errors at the ball are easily compensated for. It holds more than enough angle and speed into the wakes. One of the keys on this ski is to not be overly aggressive into the wakes.
Wakes to the ball
The Platinum flows out wide and draws an early path in front of the ball. The ski carries much of its speed out to the ball line making width somewhat automatic.
One of the unexpected attributes of the ski for me was more consistent and more forgiving gates. The hardest part of the whole ski testing process is adjusting for the gate on each different ski. The gate on the Platinum basically just worked from the first ride.
At 180 pounds, I prefer the 66” version of the ski. I suggest that skiers consider sizing down on the Platinum.
The appeal of this ski is high performance without overly technical or finicky requirements.
How consistent was I on this ski? The weekend of the NorCal MasterCraft BallOfSpray Cash Prize I took two practice rides and two Class L tournament rides. The first practice ride was all back to back 32s and 35s. The second practice ride I ran my 7th 38 of the year. The first tournament round I ran 4 @ 38. In the second tournament round, I ran 2 @ 39 to equal my best of the year. Over four rides, this is about as good as I can ski.
*This string of consecutive 39s ended in a head to head format where Terry did not need to run the pass to move on.
The stated goal of BallOfSpray ski reviews has been to describe more than to judge each ski. The reader is left decipher to the comments and decide if a ski might fit their skiing or not. The Denali is an unusual ski so this will be an unusual review. It may read as disjointed, disorganized, contradictory and schizophrenic so let’s clear the air: the Denali C65 is one of the best skis ever reviewed on BallOfSpray.
Traditionally skis are either described as fast or slow. Skis described as slow typically require more physical work and more technical skills to get wide but turn more dependably at the ball. Fast skis are less work and get wide more automatically but often require more skills and finesse at apex. World records have been set and pro events have been won on both fast and slow skis.
In the last few years, a few skis have blurred the lines by being both fast across the course and turning automatically at the ball. The Denali C65 resets the bar as far as what possible in terms of fast and slow. The C65 is as fast as any “fast ski” from the ball to the wakes, and it bleeds speed as quickly as any “slow ski” from the wakes the ball. This ski is the best example of the merging of these two paradigms. One of the results of these attributes is that the skier will rarely get slack at the ball.
When a skier is at their best, the C65 is as smooth as any ski reviewed previously. On a more normal day when a skier makes typical mistakes, the C65 allows the skier to throw caution to the wind, pull hard, and then crank turns to get a score.
To quote Brooks Wilson, “The only thing that stayed the same is the name”. The 2018 Vapor is an entirely new ski design from Radar and the third major redesign of the Vapor.
The first generation of Vapor (2014-2015) was appropriately compared to Italian sports cars. It was fast and provided extreme performance to the skier who could handle it. The second generation of Vapor (2016-2017) had all of the performance of the previous version but with much more sophistication and polish. The new 2018 version has at least as much performance of the previous versions with an additional level of refinement.
The ski turns effortlessly and makes as much speed as any ski on the market but perhaps the most important attribute of the new Vapor is balance. This ski makes it easy for the skier to keep flowing in the right direction.
Ball to the wakes:
From the ball to the wakes, the 2018 Vapor holds angle and creates speed with surprising little skier effort. Part of this is the result of the ski carrying substantial speed through the turn. Skiers may find that they can take more passes per ride with less fatigue on the new Vapor. The lack of strength required is one of many factors that translates into more overall control and calm skiing.
Wakes to the ball:
Gaining width on the course is practically automatic. The ski flows out from the center of the course quickly and rolls up on edge at a rate that will surprise you the first time you feel it. This contributes to a tip down attitude approaching the ball. These same attributes also come into play after apex and result in more speed after the ball.
The inherent balance of the ski makes it easy for the skier to stay centered on both feet and flow through the turn. When the skier starts to initiate the turn, the ski quickly carves a tight arc and heads toward the wakes with surprising speed.
During the review period, ski adjustments were focused on getting the Off Side turn right. My personal technique flaws required me to tune the ski so it would not overturn Off Side. Once the fin and bindings were set for Off Side, I put the tools away and just skied.
On Side turns on the Vapor are basically fool proof and automatic. Provided that the skier does not do anything frightfully stupid, the ski is going to turn when it is asked and create plenty of angle. Previous generations of the Vapor required more front foot pressure to turn On Side. Skiers should always strive to be forward at On Side, but this ski will forgive you more then most if you do not.
One of my personal skiing flaws is that I rotate my shoulders more than I should, and I push into the exit of Off Side. The stock “long shallow” settings are perhaps superior to “short deep” for some skiers, but the ski worked much better for me with “short deep” settings.
The 2018 Radar Vapor is a ski that just works. The 2016-2017 Vapor was a classic, and the 2018 Vapor is even better.
Official Radar settings https://www.radarskis.com/finsettings/
Final Review Settings 29 15/16th /.776 / 2.507 / 6.863 / 9
The Raptor is the best high end ski you have never seen. Designed by many time German National champion and coach, Willi Ellermeier, the Raptor is different. It is fast. It turns very sharp. It is not for the faint of heart.
The ski is available in 65.75” and 67.5”. The below review reflects the 67.5”.
General Feel: The Raptor wants to follow an early line as opposed to other skis that work best with a less aggressive path from ball to ball. The ski turns extremely hard and makes a lot of speed, but it is also relatively forgiving to skier mistakes.
Many of the best skis on the market in the last 10 years require the skier to temper aggression. Conversely, the Raptor will accommodate skiers who ski with a style that is more “hammer down”. The ski will accommodate calm technical skiers as well.
Toe Side (Off Side) Turn: Off Side Turns on the Raptor are extraordinary. When the skier is in the center of the ski and rolls the ski in at apex, the Raptor feels like no other ski. The ski turns hard and fast but without the feeling of tail slide. The tip stays down and the ski carries more speed than expected back toward the wakes. These turns are dependable and consistent. The ski is relatively forgiving to skier weight distribution. If this ski has one trademark attribute it is the Off Side turn.
Heel Side (On Side) Turn: Heel side turns on the Raptor are also sharp and fast. Much of the review period was spent searching for fin settings to make the On Side turns as good as the Off Side. With the final settings used for this review, as the rope got shorter On Side turns became less flowing and often resulted in a moderate amount of slack at the hookup. I am hesitant to further criticize the On Side turns because I suspect better settings could make a world of difference. At just less than 185 pounds, I am at the bottom of the practical weight chart for this ski.
From Ball to Second Wake: The Raptor seems to always leave the ball with a lot of angle and hold it to the wakes. This ski makes as much speed toward the wakes as any ski on the market.
From Second Wake to the ball: The caveats noted above about how the ski performs at On Side should perhaps be addressed as how the ski casts out and then slows down. This ski carries a lot of speed all the way to the ball. At Off Side this extra speed is manageable and even to the skiers advantage. At On Side this means it takes a little more finesse to get the ski to arc back in on the ball. As noted above this may simply be a matter of fin settings or perhaps the ski is best for skiers weighing in at 190 pounds or more.
Conclusion: This ski is marketed as a 67.5”, but with the front binding at 30.5”, I would find it comparable to a full 68 inch ski. It is a big fast ski that turns on a rail. If this was the ski I was to ride for the rest of the year, I feel confident I would find better settings and put up scores equal to my best.
Best Settings as of the end of this review 30.5 / 2.515 / 6.895 / .830