Ski: 2014-2015 4FRNT Devastator, 194cm
Dimensions (mm): 142-111-137 (194cm length)
Sidecut Radius: 25 meters
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 191.6 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2599 & 2567 grams
Boots/Bindings: Salomon Quest Max BC 120, Marker Jester Demo at DIN 13
Mount Location: Factory Recommended Line
Days Skied: ~17
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 Devastator, which is unchanged for 14/15, except for the graphics. We’ve put more time on the ski since posting our initial review, and you can now read our Update on the Devastator’s powder and soft snow performance.]
The name of this ski leaves little doubt about its intended purpose, and the Devastator is, in fact, a powerful ski that can be driven hard in all snow conditions.
Situated between the more powder-specific Renegade and the touring/mixed snow-oriented Hoji, the Devastator is billed as the “charger” in 4FRNT’s lineup of directional skis. And given the Devastator’s full reverse camber profile, 4FRNT also touts it as a ski that can be quick and nimble on demand.
My first day on the Devastator at Craigieburn involved a mix of fresh late season soft snow with areas of set-up crud and lower elevation, spring-like conditions. Run one included all of the above snow types, and, after a few tentative, forced turns, I let the Devastators run to see how the skis liked the variable conditions.
After about the 4th turn, it was evident that this is an aptly named ski that doesn’t get deflected easily.
Based on my experience with the 194cm Devastator in the club fields of New Zealand, it certainly seems that 4FRNT has produced a fun, powerful tool.
This is a pretty stout ski. I would call the tips and tails stiff for about 30 centimeters from the ends, where the flex then softens up a bit (call it a medium or medium-stiff flex) as you move toward the center of the ski.
And one of the things we’re huge fans of is the consistency of the flex pattern—the tips and tails flex very similarly, and give the ski a very predictable feel on snow. Kudos, 4FRNT.
Crud (And Comparisons to Other Crud Busters)
This is mostly what I’ve been skiing over the past two days, and I can’t think of a ski I’ve been on that handles crud better.
For the past five years, I’ve been looking for a ski that has the dampness and stability of my old Nordica W105’s, but that is quicker, more versatile, and floats better in powder. Despite having tried several prominent skis in the class of “All Mountain Charger” (Blizzard Cochise, Rossignol RC112, 195cm Line Mothership) nothing has really come close to that old Nordica’s ability to make rough, heavy snow feel smooth.
The Devastator is the closest I’ve found, and I would rank it a notch above my 193cm Blizzard Cochise, which feels lighter and more easily deflected when things get rough and fast. It’s been over a year since I’ve skied the 188cm Rossignol RC112 or the 195cm Line Mothership, but I think the Devastator is superior to both of those crud killers.
(Note: The ski that I feel is most glaringly absent from this comparison is the 191cm Volkl Katana. I have skied a few runs on the older, 183cm version of the Katana, but I think that the 191cm Katana would be a great ski to compare head-to-head with the Devastator, and I hope to do so later this season.)
I suspect that the crud performance is due to two main characteristics of the ski, and the first is the weight of the Devastator. This is a 5.2kg, 194cm pair of boards.
I love light, powerful skis in powder, but I still find that big, heavy boards are best for crushing variable snow. I spend most of my lift-served days in maritime snow and I haven’t found a ski to convince me otherwise.
With bases flat or at high edge angles, it takes a solid hit to cause any kind of deflection on the Devastator.
Second, I’m not sure if it really is the “Reflect Tech” (the ski’s sidecut matches its rocker profile in an effort to eliminate “hookiness” in the tip or tail), but I can say that having spent time on both the 4FRNT Hoji and the Devastator, these skis are not hooky in inconsistent snow. This allows the skis to be shut down predictably and without the tips or tails grabbing and throwing the skis off course. And for me, the ability to throw a ski sideways in variable snow and have that ski quickly and predictably brush speed is essential to being able to ski fast.
The 193cm Cochise is good in this regard as well, but it is definitely more prone to getting bounced around. Compared to the old 195cm Line Mothership, the Devastator is markedly more manageable and less hooky when breaking it free of a carve to redirect or scrub speed.
Open Spaces vs Tight Terrain
Craigieburn and Mt. Olympus have a really fun variety of tight chutes and big, open terrain. And the Devastator cranks through big terrain. So what about those narrow chutes?
In tight spaces the overall size and mass of this ski are a little more work to throw around. It’s completely doable and I skied several chutes not much wider than the ski length with lots of tight jump turns, but when I got on other, lighter skis on the same terrain, I found myself hopping around with significantly less effort. Part of this is probably just the mass of the ski, but the more traditional tip shape—with the widest point of the ski very near to the tips—does seem to create more swing weight than anything I’ve been on recently. Compared to the 193cm Cochise, for example, the Devastator is a bit more laborious.
We did get to ski a fair amount of soft late season snow that was fun and smearable on the Devastator in New Zealand, but I didn’t have the chance to ski it in real fresh powder. I’ve yet to find a ski that I enjoy in variable snow and terrain that also skis powder well (the 193cm Cochise isn’t much of a pow ski), but I’m hoping the Devastator will be an exception.
(I did put more time on the Devastator in soft conditions in Alaska following our trip to New Zealand, and you can read my Update on its powder performance below.)
Craigieburn and Mt. Olympus don’t groom anything—ever—so no groomers. But the Devastator exhibited great edge hold that was at least as good as any ~110mm I’ve been on—and minimal tip flap. As with its powder performance, I speak more to the Devastator’s handling on groomers in the Update below.
For a ski that performs so well at high speeds, the 194cm Devastator has a large sweet spot at the recommended mount point. Like all of the stiff, directional skis I’ve ridden, the Devastator is at its most manageable at high speeds when driving the shovels of the ski but the tails are supportive when finishing turns on hard snow.
Of note, in a narrow chute in the Middle Main area at Craigieburn on my first day, I was jump turning down a 45-degree section that was a foot or two wider than the skis are long. Coming out of the choke I hit a patch of unsupported snow near one of the rock walls, got onto my tails, and found myself rapidly rocketing toward the opposite wall. This may well have occurred on any big ski, but it took a lot more work to correct than if I’d been on smaller, lighter skis. In any case, I wouldn’t plan on steering the Devastator from the backseat. Drive them.
At 6’ and 193 lbs, skiing with a pack in predominantly open terrain, I personally wouldn’t want to downsize to the 184cm version. But keep in mind that the 193cm Cochise is my everyday ride, and I do find the 194cm Devastator to be a bit more work than the Cochise.
Still, even at my size and the skis I’m used to, I think the 184cm Devastator might be fun, especially in tight spots. We haven’t skied the 184cm model, but lighter skiers or those with a need for a quicker ski might prefer a shorter length. I would not jump up to a longer length if you’re on the fence regarding size.
I haven’t taken any big airs yet, but little hits to firm landings feel solid and predictable. Although this is a damp, heavy ski, I should note that it ollies better than any other stiff /charger-type ski I’ve been on, and helped me pre-jump lots of little rock features at Mt. Olympus.
Bottom Line (For Now)
After my first two days on the Devastator, I am impressed. I think it has the potential to be an everyday, lift area ski for those who like to go fast and who ride in places with some space to let them run. They are more difficult to throw around in tight spots, but skiers willing to work a bit more for quicker turns will be rewarded with a fun, stable, and predictable ski. I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time on them here in New Zealand and back home in Alaska.
NEXT PAGE: Update on Powder and Groomer Performance