Skis: 2016-2017 Blizzard Gunsmoke, 186cm
Available Lengths: 179, 186, 193 cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 183.5 cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 140-114-130
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 139.5-113.5-129.5
Blister’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2248 grams & 2273
Sidecut Radius: 22 meters
Core Construction: Bamboo/Poplar/”ISO” (Synthetic) + Fiberglass Laminate
Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered): ~77mm / ~66mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~2 mm
Factory Recommended Line: – 5.95cm from center; -85.75cm from tail
Mount Location: +2 cm from Recommended Line
Boots / Bindings: Nordica Enforcer / Marker Jester (DIN 10)
Days Skied: 18
Test Locations: Alta Ski Area, Park City Mountain Resort, Wasatch backcountry
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 Gunsmoke, which was not changed for 14/15, 15/16, or 16/17, except for the graphics.]
As I noted in my review of the 2012-2013 Blizzard Gunsmoke, this was a ski that I really wanted to love. I am continually searching for a ski that allows me to feel 100% in control while skiing in challenging snow, yet still is super fun, nimble, and intuitive when I just want to play around and goof off. The Gunsmoke looked like it would do both.
Unfortunately, after spending a good chunk of time on the pre-production version of the 2012-2013 Gunsmoke, I didn’t feel like it was a great mix of either. It felt a bit like the ski was having an internal battle determining the type of skiing / skier it preferred.
As it turned out I wasn’t the only one who thought the ski could be tweaked a bit: before the full production run began on the 12-13 model, Blizzard changed the construction of the ski and switched away from the Isocore center stringer used for their other Flipcore skis (e.g. Cochise) to Paulownia stringers. This supposedly stiffened the ski slightly, and helped with binding retention.
For this coming season, Blizzard has refined the Gunsmoke a little further by increasing the flex behind the bindings even more. They’ve also added a new length to the size run (193cm) for big dawgs shredding big terrain.
While I wish I could have ridden the actual production 12/13 Gunsmoke for comparison to the 13/14, I can say without a doubt that the new Gunsmoke is a big improvement over the preproduction model I skied in Japan and at Alta a season ago.
Combine the Gunsmoke’s width with a moderate amount of tip and tail rocker and it’s no surprise you have a ski that floats well in fluff.
Furthermore, the flex and rebound characteristics make the ski much happier than the 12/13 Gunsmoke in typical resort powder day conditions. The Gunsmoke doesn’t have quite as loose and smeary of a feel as fatter skis like the Atomic Bent Chetler, or a ski bearing a shapelier sidecut and rocker profile like the Line Opus or the even smaller 190cm Salomon Rocker 2 108 (the 190cm 108 has a 111mm waist width), but with the right amount of speed and / or edge control, the ski can drift around quite easily.
And like most of the Blizzard skis I’ve ridden, the Gunsmoke never minds fall-line arcs with speed, even in powder.
The new flex pattern of the ski has allowed for a more forward mounting position than I felt comfortable running on the old Gunsmoke, and this translated to a more playful feel without giving up float or resort pow versatility when weighted by my 160 lb. self.
The Gunsmoke has become one of my favorite skis for throwing buttery nose tap spins off of drifts, drops, and trail edges.
Of the mid-fat and fat skis I’ve ridden, this ski is among the best in terms of predictability during those types of maneuvers, which increased my motivation to play around.
Initially, I would never have never guessed that the Gunsmoke would be this playful. It feels pretty damp, of average weight, and maybe a little too supportive in front of the bindings.
But when it came down to it, tossing my body weight far to the tip or tail of the ski revealed a very progressive and predictable flex, which cradled my weight and rebounded with just enough kick to help set rotations out of a press.
(Ok, so our editor-in-chief isn’t a huge fan of the word “cradled” here. What I mean is that the nose and tail of the Gunsmoke have a large sweet spot, so it is easy to hold a nose or tail press—and those large sweet spots also provide a lot of rebound coming out of a press, too.
What is unique about the Gunsmoke is that it still feels strong in the tip for ‘normal’ skiing, but it allows you to jump up onto the tips and get the feel of a much softer playful ski like the Line Opus.)
That same progressive flex and smooth rebound was noticeable when hitting pounded-out kickers as well. Even though at times I wish the ski had a touch more snap to it, the Gunsmoke’s flex pattern provides a lot of confidence and reassurance when pinning it into a jump.
The Gunsmoke is what I would consider an average weight for a ski of its size. There are skis out there with lower swing weights for those inclined to get super duper tricky off pristine backcountry booters, especially with the latest trend in designs at the tip and tail of skis to reduce swing weight.
But for chopped up resort powder day conditions, the Gunsmoke feels just about right: it’s able to motor through a chopped up in-run, take-off, or landing pad, and will still allow you to get pretty fancy in the air.
Like most freestyle-oriented, “all-mountain” skis, the Gunsmoke does have a limit to how hard it likes to be driven off-piste. Blizzard does, however, make some of the most ripping skis for variable conditions out there (especially the Cochise), so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that even their more jib-oriented, 186cm Gunsmoke does particularly well in these conditions.
The Gunsmoke has a 22-meter-radius, full-length sidecut, which keeps the tip and tail dimensions from becoming excessively wide. The trade-off of this profile is that the ski doesn’t initiate turns quite as easily as a ski with a greater amount of sidecut through the tip. This means that at slower speeds through difficult snow, the Gunsmoke requires a little more effort and skill than a Salomon Rocker 2 108, the Rossignol Sickle, or Line Opus.
The benefit, however, is that the Gunsmoke delivers a very predictable ride when skiing both fast and slow through varying degrees of chop, because the tip isn’t easily deflected or excessively grabby as it transitions in and out of varying snow depths or densities.
In my opinion, the limiting characteristic of the 186 Gunsmoke, when pushed to the max, still came from the tail. Aggressive speed control in tight spots or moguls and, to a lesser extent, when bleeding off a little speed while bee-lining down an open face made the ski feel a bit out of balance. Because of this trait, I found myself second guessing a few of the more difficult lines that funnel or air into bumps and tight spots.
(One day at Alta, I’d aired off the cliffs into Tilt-A-Whirl, which as always was full of moguls, and I had to shut it down quick before the trees. But I overpowered the tails while slamming through moguls, and washed them out. I did kind of a lincoln-loop / polish-donut-on-the ground-looking-thing, and skied away.)
With a strong, balanced stance, and an understanding of the skis characteristics, I still felt comfortable enough to ski anything I wanted in complete control, I just had to remember that the tails didn’t have my back at all times.
If that sounds like a deterrent to those skiers looking for a “chargier” playful ski, the Gunsmoke in the new 193cm length supposedly addresses these characteristics. According to Blizzard, the 193’s flex is designed with “chargy” skiing in mind, while still allowing you to throw tricks down a line, and is stronger not only throughout, but also increasingly so through the tail over the 186cm. While we haven’t yet tested the 193, I have heard a few testaments to back up those claims.
Groomed / Firm
Like every Blizzard ski I’ve ridden, the Gunsmoke holds an edge well, even with its fairly substantial tip and tail rocker, and on harder, choppy snow provides a smooth and damp feel.
At 114mm underfoot, groomers and hardpack aren’t what the Gunsmoke was built for, but I still found it very fun: It loves to carve, and it can build up enough energy to pop you from turn to turn.
It’s also easy to skid, and is happy to slow down and play on the side of a trail or through the trees.
The new Gunsmoke provides an entirely different experience than the pre-production model we reviewed a year ago.
While I had really hoped that the OG Gunsmoke would be a top contender in the one-ski quiver category for a resort like Alta, I can now confidently say that if that’s the type of ski you’re looking for, the new Gunsmoke better be on your radar.
And if you’re looking for a powder ski that can also tackle left-overs and handle sessioning kickers, the Gunsmoke should also be on your list.
This ski isn’t the easiest ski out there, but I would not call it a demanding ski, either. Rather, It will reward accomplished skiers looking for a playful ski that can actually still be skied hard all over the mountain, and will allow them to push nearly all aspects of their skiing.
And the fact that the Gunsmoke is now available in a “chargy” version in the 193cm length, along with the more “jibby” 186 version, will make the ski even more appealing to a larger audience.
* You can now check out Will Brown’s review of the Gunsmoke.
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