Thursday, October 3, 2013

Black Diamond Starlet Ski Review


The Black Diamond Starlets allowed me to learn to ski in the backcountry, take on varied terrain and snow conditions and have lots of fun in the process.



In tech speak, the Starlets are very turny.

The short turning radius, flexibility under foot and early rise tip allows the skis to turn quickly and tightly.  This makes skiing through trees and other obstacles in the backcountry much easier.  For a beginner skier, the ease of turning opens up terrain that would be more difficult on a ski that takes more skill and power to turn quickly.

The wide (but not too wide) base, 100mm underfoot, allows the Starlets to float on top of powder, and often floats on top of crust, especially with a bit of speed. (Although breaking through crust is just part of being in the backcountry.)  The width and turning prowess really helps me pop up out of the snow and navigate more challenging snow conditions.  As I get better at skiing, I find myself taking on varied snow conditions with greater ease and confidence, and the skis keep up.

They handle decently in heavy snow (aka Cascade Concrete) and can get through some crud.  They get thrown around a bit in cut up and frozen crud, though that may be due to my skill level.  A heavier, stiffer ski would do better at blasting through heavy or frozen snow.



The Starlets are quite light, giving my legs a little bit of a break on the uphills.  They are made for backcountry ski touring.  A heavier ski with similar properties might take on ice a crud a bit easier and more securely, however, a lighter weight ski leaves me more energy for skinning uphill and skiing down.

I have used skinnier skies that supposedly make the touring part easier on my body and allow me to go uphill more quickly, but the performance of the Starlets outweighs the benefits of an even lighter, skinnier ski at my level of ski ability.  For me, the skinnier ski was much harder to turn and I ended up catching an edge and taking spills much more often.  It's exhausting to keep getting back up on my feet in deep snow!  I don't think I'll ever stop falling, especially as I keep taking on more challenging terrain, but I don't mind a ski that helps me keep my feet.


The Starlet is not a beginner ski: it is designed for getting after it in the backcountry.  The beautiful ease of turning makes it an ideal ski for someone learning, who wants to be out in wild places instead of spending most of her time at a ski resort (as useful and fun as that may be). The newer version of the Starlets has a semi-rockered tail which Black Diamond says "improves turn release."


Learning to ski in the backcountry has its challenges; I would probably be a better skier if I spent more time in area.  As it is, I'm becoming good at imperfect technique suited for funky and variable snow conditions.

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