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2013-2014 DOWN Skis Countdown 2

review of the Down Skis Countdown 2, Blister Gear Review

Down Countdown 2

Ski: 2013-2014 DOWN Skis Countdown 2, 190cm

Stated Dimensions (mm): 137-114-128

Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 136-114-128

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 189.0cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1978 & 2045 grams

Stated Sidecut Radius: 25 meters

Mount Location: -8.5cm from center

Boots / Bindings: Salomon X Pro 120 / Marker Jester (DIN at 11)

Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley; Alta Ski Area; Snowbird

Days Skied: 9

Down Skis designed their Countdown 2 to perform as a true one-ski quiver that could handle both inbounds riding and backcountry touring duties. And to a large extent, I think they have pulled off this difficult feat.

So the goal of this review is to try to give a better sense of this ski’s relative strengths and weaknesses, make a bunch of comparisons, and hopefully paint a good picture of who this ski is for.

Weight

For a 190cm long, 114mm-wide ski that’s intended to work well for backcountry touring and resort riding, the Countdown 2 is light.

In fact, compared to other inbounds & out-of-bounds skis of a similar length and width, the Countdown 2 is at the top of the class. It’s lighter than the 188cm Salomon Quest 115, the 190cm Dynastar Cham 117, the 186cm Line Sick Day 110, and only slightly heavier than the shorter, narrower, 184cm Volkl V-Werks Katana. The Countdown 2 measures longer than all of these skis, is as wide (or wider) than most of these skis, yet is the lightest of the bunch. So if you like lighter skis that still provide a good amount of length and width, you should be paying attention.

Rocker Profile and Flex Pattern

Here’s how Down describes the profile and flex pattern of the Countdown 2:

“A low, full reverse camber profile [complements] our hybrid carbon/glass construction, allowing for a very calm and confidence-inspiring feel, despite the low weight….Our tapered tip and tail combination eliminates hooking and instability while slicing through anything in its path and giving the ski a playful nature. The moderate amount of shape and sidecut coupled with a medium stiff flex achieves a balance that makes this ski a true all-mountain, all-conditions performer.” While there is a lot of pep in this description, it provides a pretty good picture of the CD2.

I would describe the flex pattern of the Countdown 2 as: Medium/Soft tips; Medium forebody; Medium/Stiff Tails.

Pow

In mostly untracked pow (only crossing the occasional track), these performed very well, and there was no slowing down when making very big turns down Taos’ Kachina Peak, or the Shireen area at Snowbird.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the Countdown 2 was designed to be a one-ski-quiver rather than a dedicated pow ski, so this isn’t the loosest, floatiest ski out there. But that’s also why it performs quite well in firm off-piste conditions, too.

review of the Down Skis Countdown 2, Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Down Skis Countdown 2, Alta Ski Area. (photo by Tom Bear)

Given its relatively subtle tip and tail rocker, the Countdown 2 isn’t happiest when noodling around at slow speeds in deep snow. In tight tree sections over in Alta’s Eagle’s Nest area, the tails of the Countdown 2 would get hung up a bit in really deep piles of snow, and the ski’s rocker profile and sidecut radius encourage a fall-line approach to the mountain. (See again the first sentence of this section.)

Deep Chop

At Snowbird a few days after a big storm at the end of April, I was getting bucked around pretty good in deep, thick chop around Elevator and Death Chute. Even in the stuff around Wilbere face, I was working hard to stay balanced. But these are difficult conditions for any ski, and I wasn’t faring world’s better when I switched out later in the day to the stiffer, heavier Moment Belafonte. (For what it’s worth, in deep chop, I find that a wide, fairly heavy ski with a good amount of tip and tail rocker works best. In other words, the 190cm Moment Bibby Pro.)

Firm, Icy Steeps

We got into a steep icy chute entrance around Snowbird’s Hanging Bowl, and one of our snowboard reviewers admitted that he was feeling pretty gripped, worried about the exposure below us and hoping his heel edge would hold. Situations like this suck when you’re on equipment that you don’t yet know well, so I’m very happy to report that I felt confident and comfortable on the Countdown 2. The full reverse camber rocker profile is subtle enough and the ski is straight enough that I was able to maintain good edge contact, and the ski never felt unpredictable (in tricky situations, predictability is much appreciated.)

And while the skis are relatively long, they are light and have a low swing weight, so billygoat-turns didn’t feel like a chore.

Groomers

Edge hold on the Countdown 2 is good on groomers, though the ski doesn’t invite high-angle carving like the DPS Wailer 112RPC or the Volkl V-Werks Katana do.

And on steeper-pitched groomers, I definitely found myself sliding turns more than carving them, and the CD2’s tip and tail rocker needed me to lay the ski over more to engage the full length of the ski, but the ski felt a bit too lightweight and soft to handle highspeed, high-angle carving. So in sum, the Countdown 2 is very predictable on groomers and will certainly get you back to the lift just fine, but we don’t need to say a whole lot more than that.

Mount Point

Down recommends mounting between -7cm and -10cm. I ended up settling at -8.5cms, and found that I much preferred it to -8 or anything more forward. I still wish I had been able to find a larger sweet spot on this ski when riding in variable, bumped-up resort conditions, but outside of those very difficult conditions, the ski felt very good everywhere else at -8.5cms.

review of the Down Skis Countdown 2, Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Down Skis Countdown 2, Alta Ski Area.

4 Comments

  1. Per Nyberg May 14, 2014 Reply

    One thing I just want to add is the graphics. “Well..they are blue”…and yes they are blue indeed. But the topsheet structure makes the blue very vibrant and lively when you see it live.

  2. Ru May 14, 2014 Reply

    Presale coming up soon, apparently; they’ve been pretty good value in the past. There were also rumours of shorter lengths of some (or more!) of the skis for this coming season, though I don’t know how that’ll pan out.

  3. Max September 12, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    could you please compare the Countdown 2 with the Blizzard Cochise 185 in terms of groomers, crud, bumped off-piste conditions and afternoon-skied-out-terrain. The reason is that I own a dps Lotus 120 pure in 184 that gives me much more fun in kneedeep pow than the 2013 Countdown 2 and I’m looking for something that suits the “don’t-know-what-to-expect”-days better than my Countdown does. Thus I could save the dps for the superb pow days and have this ski last some more seasons.
    Your review of the 185 Cochise sounded very interesting in terms of the abovementioned conditions. But if there was not much of a difference, I’d probably stick with the Countdown 2 for everything but the fine pow days. Regarding my skiing abilities: I’d consider myself an advanced skier, being 6′ at 175lbs.

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