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2013-2014 Caravan SB 100

Tucker NIxon reviews the Caravan Skis SB 100, Blister Gear Review

Caravan SB 100, 183cm

2013-2014 Caravan SB 100, 183cm

MSRP: $599

Stated Dimensions (mm): 130-100-122

Sidecut Radius: 19 meters

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 180.3cm

Boots / Bindings: Dalbello KR2 Core I.D. / Look Pivot 18 (DIN at 10)

Mount Location: true center (recommended line is -3cms from center)

Test Locations: Stowe, Smugglers Notch, Breckenridge, Vail, Keystone

Days Skied: 17

Founded in 2011, Caravan Skis is a small-batch indie company based in Bozeman, Montana. They currently offer five different models, including two one-ski quiver options: the “Daily Driver,” a directional ski with a traditional mount point of -8cm behind center, and the “SB 100,” a soft-flexing, symmetrically rockered ski with a recommended mount point of -3cm.

Since I’m a freestyle skier who spends as much time in the park as I do around the rest of the mountain, the SB 100 looked to be the better fit for my style; the SB 100 really looks like a very jib-oriented, all-mountain ski.

Caravan makes some very strong claims about the SB 100, calling it “The perfect all mountain ski for every condition. The SB 100 has a very playful feel to it with a ton of pop and easy maneuverability. With a symmetrical rocker profile it’s at home shredding chopped up pow, carving groomers and making the entire mountain your playground.”

We’ve never, ever seen a ski that is “perfect for every condition,” so my job was to go get a sense of the SB 100’s particular strengths and weaknesses, and see how it handled on the mountain, in the air, and in the park.

Camber / Rocker Profile & Flex Pattern

Caravan builds the SB 100 with traditional camber underfoot, and a symmetrical tip and tail rocker profile to help it surf through softer conditions. The ski also has a bamboo core that is very forgiving and provides plenty of snap while carving, and pop in the park.

From tip to tail, the SB 100 hand flexes very soft, and exhibits a smooth rebound. It is one of the softest skis that I have been on recently, something I especially enjoyed in the spring conditions out in Colorado.

Park Performance

Jumps

At 100mm underfoot, the SB 100 can handle a range of conditions around the mountain, but it is especially capable in the park, despite having a wider waist width than most dedicated park skis. Although the factory recommended mount point on the SB 100 is -3cm from center, I chose to mount the ski at true center where I am used to riding.

Initially I worried that the ski’s width would hinder its ability to handle jumps, but I found this not to be the case. In fact, the extra width made the SB 100 extremely stable on both takeoffs and landings, and prevented it from getting kicked around by loose snow.

I also suspected that the SB 100’s width would make spins and rotations much slower in the air, but I was surprised that the swing weight didn’t feel too far off from that of a park-specific ski.

As mentioned above, the tails of the ski have a huge amount of pop. Several times while carving into takeoffs, I was tossed off axis because I wasn’t expecting it to require so little effort to load up the tails. It definitely took some time to get used to, but once I had adjusted to the skis’ pop, I appreciated the minimal effort needed for an explosive takeoff on the SB 100.

Tucker Nixon reviews the Caravan Skis SB 100, Blister Gear Review

Tucker Nixon on the Caravan SB 100, Stowe, Vermont.

Like takeoffs, the feel of landings took some adjusting to, as the ski’s soft tails did not allow me to get away with backseat landings. There are pros & cons of a freestyle ski with a softer flex pattern, and while its inability to hold up on an off-balance landing is a con, the SB 100 excels in ways a stiffer, more competition-ready park ski (like the Fischer Nightstick). For example…

Jibs & Rails

I had no problem rocking over the tips or tails of the SB 100 for butters, so its soft flex will benefit to skiers who prefer a more relaxed riding style and want a particularly jib-oriented ski. Its soft flex pattern and super responsive core enabled consistently perfect butters, presses, and nollies. And though it is soft, I rarely felt like the ski was abruptly folding at the tip or tail. Rather, its rebound was very smooth and robust, generating more pop than I am used to on butters and nollies, also allowing for more airtime and additional spins out of those tricks. While in Colorado, this characteristic was really enjoyable on some of the skatepark-esque features in Keystone’s A-51.

I was pleased to find that the SB 100’s wider waist width did not inhibit spins or swaps on rails, either. As with any ski, mounting center undoubtedly helped balance out the SB 100’s swingweight, but I was still surprised to find the extra weight in the wider shovels of the ski (wider than those of a more dedicated park ski) didn’t seem to factor in much. I did, however, find myself washing out on some landings off rail features, as I was used to relying on a ski with a stiffer tail. (See video for a rail edit on the SB 100.)

All-Mountain Performance

The SB 100’s relatively soft flex pattern is great for jibbing around the park, but I was curious to see how it handled ripping down groomers. Smugglers Notch recently received several inches of snow over about a week, which provided a firm, packed-powder surface to lay down some serious GS turns.

I was impressed by the ease with which the SB 100 carved, though there was some noticeable chatter from the skis’ tips and tails. This was to be expected, but thanks to a torsionally stiff core, I still felt extremely stable on edge and did not experience a single washout throughout the day.

Over the next couple of weeks at Stowe, I was able to get the SB 100s in some more demanding conditions. Several exposed trails like Upper Nosedive and Upper Liftline had been blasted by heavy winds, exposing a harder, scoured-snow surface.

Tucker Nixon reviews the Caravan Skis SB 100, Blister Gear Review

Tucker Nixon on the Caravan SB 100, Stowe, Vermont.

Edge hold on the SB 100 was still good, and by no means was I struggling on the ski, but a more directional carver would definitely been better suited for the conditions.

Dense, Wind-Affected Snow

During my time in Colorado, I was also able to put some quality time on the ski at Breckenridge. I made my way over to the T-Bar and spun a few laps while I waited for the visibility to improve around the mountain’s upper lifts. Here the snow was fairly windblown and dry, generally about 6” deep, and consolidated in ~10” pockets in some spots. In these conditions I had to keep my speed up in order to prevent the tips from diving under the dense, windblown snow.

On several occasions, through slower turns when not carrying as much speed, I found that the ski would get bogged down, forcing my weight forward over the shovels. Here the soft flex of the SB 100 was less responsive. If I tried to muscle out from under the windblown layer, it felt as if the skis’ shovels were folding somewhat, not helping to plane back on top of the snow.

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