Dimensions (mm): 128-98-118
Turn Radius: 23 meters
Actual Tip to Tail length (straight tape pull): 182.5 cm
Boots / Bindings: Lange RX 130 / Marker Jester (DIN 10)
Mount Location: Factory Recommended & also at +3
Days Skied: ~50 days over 2 seasons
(Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 S3, which is unchanged for 12/13, except for the graphics.)
I get asked about the S3 a lot, and with good reason: it’s a very good, playful ski that can be fun for a remarkably broad range of skiers, from beginners to experts. In this regard, it seems like one of the surest bets in skiing: when in doubt, you can grab an S3 and you’re probably going to have a good time, and depending on the terrain and the conditions, maybe even a great time.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the Rossignol S3. I bought a used pair of the 09/10 S3s (mounted at +3) and skied them two years ago, then skied a pair of 10/11 S3s a bunch last season (mounted on the line). Only the S3’s top sheets have changed from 10/11 to 11/12.
So the S3 has not been changed in three years, and I think Rossignol is to be commended for this. Given the intended purpose of the S3, the ski is pretty dialed. And though it’s been around for a while and so isn’t much of a secret, I think some light can still be shed on this ski’s strengths and weaknesses that will help prospective buyers know what they’re getting and what they aren’t.
One of my favorite things to do in a review is to look at the manufacturer’s own claims about a product, and Rossignol has this to say about the S3:
“The S3 is a narrower-waisted version of the S7. Sharing the same Powder Turn rocker as it’s big brother with low camber underfoot and high tip and tail rocker, the S3 is a versatile all-terrain vehicle. Powder Turn rocker provides amazing floatation, tracking and an efficient angle of attack that gives skiers effortless steering and instant speed control. At 98mm underfoot, the S3 is a functional and lightweight all-mountain powder ski that is incredibly maneuverable, easy-to-steer and forgiving. Whether using an Alpine, AT or Freeheel binding the S3 has the quickness and agilility perfect for poaching secret stashes in and out-of-bounds. It is a versatile adventure ski and the ideal lightweight powder tool for skiers who love exploring all of the nooks-and-crannies on the mountain.”
Rossignol’s own keywords here are: versatile, all-terrain, amazing floatation [I’d add: for a 98mm ski], functional, lightweight, instant speed control [i.e., they’re easy to scrub off speed], maneuverable, easy-to-steer, forgiving, quick, agile…an “all-mountain powder ski.”
And yes, that pretty accurately sums up the virtues of the S3. It also has a very poppy tail, and it skis switch great.
This is one of those rather rare occasions when a manufacturer’s own product description actually lives up to the product itself – and maybe even fails to do the product justice (more on that in a minute).
The S3 has a huge sweet spot, figuratively and literally.
On the literal side, I’ve skied the thing at +3 and really liked it, and I’ve skied it on the line…and really liked it.
To be honest, I didn’t notice a tremendous performance difference between +3 and 0, but I’m also not flippin’ and spinnin’. If you are spinning or skiing switch a bunch, I can easily recommend moving your mount to +1, +2, or +3, since there seemed to be little corresponding increase in tip dive.
Straight airs and landings felt very stable in either position. I can’t recall ever skiing anything at +/- 3 centimeters and not noticing really significant performance tradeoffs.
As for the S3s large figurative sweet spot, I’ll reiterate: I’ve seen beginners, intermediates, advanced, expert, and pro skiers on this ski, and the limitations of the ski really only seem to come into play when advanced / expert skiers are skiing in steeps, or charging in hard chop. (In softer cut up snow, the S3s are still very good.)
In fact, steep lines of ice bumps with deep troughs are the only condition where I hated the S3s. And in case you’re a little slow today, those conditions are going to be pretty damn tough for most skis.
Skiing steep, firm, bumped up tree lines around The North Face at Taos, the soft shovels of the S3 were simply the wrong tool – the shovels of the S3 would just fold when I’d cut hard against the bumped, steep fall line, and I’d get bucked forward, often overcorrect, and end up in the back seat.
In such instances, the 101mm, tip and tail rockered MOMENT PB&J’s stiffer shovels work better, but it’s stiffer tails will be less forgiving than the S3s if and when you do get tossed back….So I don’t see this as a design failure of the S3, just a design decision of the S3.
On semi-steep, more consistent bump lines (think Al’s Run, Taos), the S3s are great, and are my favorite bump ski in the 90mm – 100mm class. And in lower angle bumps (think Hunziker Bowl, Taos) and trees, the shovels are great, the skis are fantastic, and they turn quick.