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2015-2016 RAMP Groundhog

Julia Van Raalte reviews the Ramp Groundhog for Blister Gear Review

2015-2016 Ramp Groundhog

Ski: 2015-2016 RAMP Groundhog, 179cm

Dimensions (mm): 136-100-121

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 179.0 cm

Sidecut Radius: 19.4 meters at 179cm

RAMP’s Stated Weight per Pair: 8.8 lbs. / 3992 grams

BLISTER’s Measured Weight Per Ski (g): 1986 & 1993 (3979 grams total)

Boots / Bindings: Black Diamond Shiva MX/ Marker Jester

Mount Location: Factory Line

Test Locations: Alta Ski Area, Utah; Canterbury Club Fields, New Zealand; Crested Butte, Colorado; Stowe, Vermont

Days Skied: 11

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 Groundhog, which is unchanged for 14/15 and 15/16, except for the graphics.]

 

The Groundhog is RAMP’s “one ski that does it all,” and according to RAMP, is a ski for 50% groomers and 50% powder.

Last season, Robin Abeles wrote a telemark review on the 179cm RAMP Groundhog, which you can check out to learn a bit more about the company.

RAMP also offers a women’s version of the Groundhog, called the Beaver, which is “exactly the same ski as the award-winning Groundhog with a different topsheet.” So we wanted to see how the Groundhog / Beaver would perform for ladies who lock down their heels.

Plus, over the last few seasons I have been impressed with a number of wider skis that could serve as a good one-ski-quiver, namely the Nordica La Niña (113mm underfoot) and the Line Pandora (previously 115mm underfoot, now 110mm). These skis can rip groomers, handle chop, and are awesome in soft snow.

Recently though, I’ve been curious to explore narrower (95mm-105mm underfoot) one-ski-quiver options; I would be willing to compromise a little float if I found a ski that performed on hardpack significantly better. The Groundhog, at 100mm underfoot, seemed like an ideal candidate for this narrower one-ski-quiver category.

Julia on the Ramp Groundhog, Blister Gear Review

Julia Van Raalte on the RAMP Groundhog, Stowe, VT.

Heavy Chop and Crud

The Groundhog has tip rocker, camber underfoot, and a flat tail, which upon my initial inspection reminded me of the Salomon Stella (the female version of the Q-105). I loved skiing the Stella across a range of conditions, but it lagged a bit in deep chop. Its shorter effective edge on the front of the ski combined with a flattened tail made the shovels feel slightly unbalanced and unpredictable in the variable snow.

For my first run on the Groundhog, I began with a late morning bootpack up the south, shaded face (remember, southern hemisphere) of Mt. Temple, easily accessible from the top of the rope tow at the Canterbury ski field Temple Basin. From the top of the peak, it was easy to see that the sun had already warmed parts of the north-facing couloir and wet slides were possible. The shadier top section required tight turns before opening up into a wider, sun affected apron. I sincerely hoped the Groundhog wouldn’t hinder my ability to negotiate the terrain and snow.

I dropped in and picked my way down the edge of the couloir with some quick turns. There were several inches of light snow on top of crust, which didn’t break through, and the Groundhog held a solid edge where new snow had sluffed off. I wasn’t sure how easily the Groundhog could execute short-radius turns given its longer length and relatively longer effective edge, but I did not find them to be too much additional work.

The bottom section below the couloir was a whole new game, and significantly more effort was required to work through the wet, deep chop. The Groundhog’s shovels have a good amount of splay and rocker, which produced mixed results in these tricky conditions. While skiing centered and fast with a lighter touch, the tips could stay on top and work around or over soft bumps or troughs. However, when skiing with a forward and aggressive stance, the softer shovels did not drive through the snow as well, and were occasionally deflected by firmer chunks. Additionally, the flat tails prevented the ski from quickly releasing in the deep snow through the end of the turn. These conditions wouldn’t have been easy on any skis, but I would have preferred a heavier, damper ski, such as the Blizzard Samba (female version of the Bonafide) that had more power to smooth out the ride.

Groomers and Hardpack

For Thanksgiving, I made a pilgrimage to Alta for some early season turns. The mountain hadn’t seen new snow in a week or so, and most off-piste runs were firm hardpack. After spending a majority of last season on skis with a waist greater than 110mm, I was looking forward to carving on a narrower ski. The groomed runs had varying sections of grippy and slick snow, which required a little more cautious carving to maintain an edge. The Groundhog did not have a sharp tune, but had no problem carving in areas where a little more packed snow covered the ice. In places where the ice was exposed, I had to resort to a slide turn, as would be expected with dull skis. At faster speeds on packed snow, the Groundhog could easily be brought up on edge, though it did not feel as intuitive of a carver as the Samba (98mm underfoot) or the Stella (104mm underfoot), both of similar widths.

While I had expected the Groundhog’s flat tail to give the ski a more natural “carving” feel than other good tail rockered skis I have been on, I was a little disappointed that I could not charge as hard as I had on the Stella or Samba. On the Stella and Samba, I had confidence in the skis’ lively and stable response to firm edge pressure through a turn. With the Groundhog, I could pressure and stand on my outside edge, but didn’t feel the same dampness or power in the ski. That’s not to say the ski didn’t carve well, it just didn’t have the same solid feel as other skis in this category. The new Nordica Wildfire (the female version of the Vagabond, rockered tip, flat tail) also has a lighter feel than the Samba and Stella, yet had a substantial flex pattern that I could still trust it more on edge or in variable snow than I could the Groundhog.

The Groundhog has a very specific feel, which is totally different than any other skis I have been on with similar dimensions. I can’t exactly say that the ski is soft, or too damp, or that it is a little unbalanced, because it isn’t really that; rather the ski just doesn’t feel precise across a range of conditions.

My best guess as to why the Groundhog feels this way is that it is constructed differently than anything I have skied. RAMP builds its skis with a vacuum molding technology, which is a different process than the traditional molds. This allows RAMP to have more flexibility with their designs and also cuts down on costs so that more resources can be dedicated to the use of high-quality materials (e.g., U.S.A.-grown bamboo) and production in the United States.

While I think RAMP’s mission to source their materials from environmentally and socially responsible companies is really awesome, I do wonder whether there is something that is sacrificed in the production process. But back to performance…

The Groundhog’s flat tail makes it a more directional ski, which was obvious when I experimented with different speeds and turn radii. The Groundhog preferred faster, medium-to-high speed turns down the fall line, especially while carving. I had a lot of fun taking the Groundhog up to speed, and it did like to go fast. The only problem was, with a less-solid feeling platform, I was always worrying about the tips hitting a bump or rut and being deflected. And at higher speeds, I did notice some tip chatter. Short radius turns were a little more work, as the relatively longer length of the tails had to pivot through the completion of the turn. The Groundhog was great at making fast, medium sized turns through bumpy hardpack since they were easy to pivot at higher speeds.

I found the Groundhog to be relatively forgiving whenever I got kicked into the backseat, as the softer tips made it easier to move forward. Smaller airs and drops were no issue, and I felt well supported from the ski’s stiff, flat tails during landings.

After a morning of groomers, I headed out to Baldy Shoulder. Although there was decent coverage towards the bottom of the Shoulder, some of the lines on skier’s left required a bit of billy goating to get into. Here, the stiffer tails made quick hop turns a little more difficult, but were still manageable. After gaining some speed, however, I found the Groundhog to be quite maneuverable and quick direction changes to avoid bumps or slow moving skiers were not an issue.

New Snow and Lighter Chop

I arrived in Crested Butte, Colorado several days after a 12” storm, expecting to ski mostly packed powder and bumps. Luckily, the mountain opened up a new lift that had been closed all season, so there were still plenty of softer zones, while the rest of the mountain was a bit skied off and had plenty of bumps. I didn’t get to ski the Groundhog in any truly untracked powder, but the ski’s ability to float in variable powder was quite good compared to some of the other 100mm-ish underfoot skis I have been on. The tip’s generous splay allowed the ski to stay on top of snow most of the time, though I did experience occasional tip dive. I imagine that in untouched snow, the Groundhog would be a lot of fun.

Ramp Groundhog review, Blister Gear Review

Julia on the RAMP Groundhog.

8 Comments

  1. mikep January 7, 2014 Reply

    tldr:
    ramp sucks

  2. Vanessa Pierce January 8, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for including us in this review. I would like to quickly explain something on behalf of RAMP skis and snowboards. I’m the communication director at RAMP. Our skis tend to ski long, and we would have recommend someone like Julia to be on a 169—no matter skill. The radius is smaller, and a total different experience. I’m a former ski racer and collegiate athlete and I ski on our 169s. They are a blast. With the full vertical bamboo core, they are very strong so you don’t need the length unless you want to ski big lines and go much faster. Just food for thought. This ski won two awards from Freeskier and Men’s Journal. Thanks again!

  3. Tuck February 22, 2014 Reply

    Curious as to when Blister is going to have a man test these skis? No offense but the last two reviews were from women who were most likely skiing the wrong size and one was on tele gear. I love this site, and have read most of the reviews and I feel like this ski and company are not being given a fair shake. To be clear, I have never skied on Ramps and do not know anyone affiliated with the company. If you need someone to test them, send them to me here in Maine and I will give you a fair opinion.. Consider this a Pro Call Out, it is well deserved in this case.

  4. Macy February 23, 2014 Reply

    Before I point out that one of Blister’s reviews of the Groundhog was indeed written by a man, I’d like us to all consider that, yes, women can ski too. If you disagree with that–that a person can ski without having something hanging between their legs–then next I offer you an extended review of the Groundhog, by, yes, a woman, who has skied the Groundhog 169 and 179, both alpine and telemark.

    Fancy that!

    I grew up ski racing in Colorado and Vermont. I telemarked through college, and then I switched back to alpine. I now live in Crested Butte, CO. My main ski (fine, my only ski) is the 2012-2013 Blizzard Dakota 177, which is almost identical to the Cochise. This is a stiff ski, and arguably one of the stiffest women’s specific ski out there, sporting a paulownia and bamboo core reinforced with two sheets of metal. Hot damn, I love these skis. They’re tough, but if you put the energy into that turn they know how to respond. They love the fall line, they carve, and they blast through crud. While this isn’t a review of the Dakota, there are a few things I’d like for you to consider relating to the both of these skis.

    1) The problem is not the length. Vanessa has suggested that Julia was on the wrong size ski. I am 5’5″ and 145 pounds. I am shorter than Julia, but I am, overall, built bigger. After skiing on both the 169 and 179, I found that my qualms with the Groundhog were not resolved by length.

    What was my qualm with the Groundhog? Julia mentions in her review that this ski is neither intuitive nor precise. I think this is an honest assessment. They may not be the words that a company wants to see tagged next to their ski after shipping it out to Blister, but it’s honest.

    The first time I skied the Groundhog I was on a telemark setup. I hadn’t telemarked in a while, so I blamed much of my experience on being out of practice. It just seemed like I had a really hard time initiating the turn. I skied them for a few days.

    The second time I skied the Groundhog I was on an alpine setup. While I am a much more competent alpine skier than telemark, I still felt that something wasn’t quite clicking. The skis weren’t really responding. No matter how much energy I put into them, I couldn’t quite get them going. I skied hardpack, and while it wasn’t terrible, this would not be my ski of choice. At this time I was on a 179, and while Ramp might tell me that I should be on a shorter ski, if I were on a shorter ski I would have felt not only like I was incapable of maneuvering how I wanted to, but unstable to boot.

    I recently made a switch from a Surface ski–another small company that suggests you ski a shorter ski because they make their skis stiff. If I compare it to my Surface set up (which I skied at 170), I far prefer the Surface ski to the Ramp. My Surfaces blasted threw crud, I loved to ski them in moguls, and although I could hold an edge and carve on them, I always felt that the height limited my speed.

    For someone who likes to rip GS turns, a 170 is just not enough length under foot. Period.

    That brings me to…

    2) Who IS this ski for? Julia mentioned that she chose to test this ski because she was willing to give up a little float for a little more carve. A lot of ex ski racers (and other folks who skied before year 2006) miss that carve–and those skis that shred groomers. But if you’re telling us that we need to ski a ski that is so short we’re falling over the tips when we finally rip a groomer, what’s the point? And if someone who can ski a notoriously stiff men’s ski can’t get the Groundhog to respond, then who can?

    I went telemarking again a few days ago, this time on a pair of Icelantics. Turns out I’m not quite as rusty as those Groundhogs had me feeling.

    In conclusion, I would sum my experience on the Groundhog up with one word:

    Meh.

  5. Mike Kilchenstein February 24, 2014 Reply

    This is Mike from RAMP, just ants to chime in. First of all, the resin there are so many brand s and models of skis is everybody likes something different and has different tastes. That’s why I respect what people say at consumer demo days and when they test, there’s something out there for everybody. At RAMP we do a lot of consumer demo days and really listen to what people say. At Magazine tests we get some great scores (won 4 medals this year( and some not good results. Bottom line is we have a new manufacturing process that’s the most flexible in our Industry. We can make any shape and use any material without having to make a new mold. Our skis reflect what we like in product and most importantly, they change and evolve a lot (because we can) in response to what our athletes and consumers tell us at our demos. I know we can’t make everybody happy (and nobody does, there are too many priorities and techniques) but luckily we are consistently making the vast majority happy. At the Freeskier Test last winter I made a few runs with the person I thought was by far one of the 3 best skiers there and this person loved the Groundhog, they felt it was the most aggressive of the 2–mm one ski quiver type skis there. It won a medal at the tsp. I also skied with people at Snowbird at the Outside test and they didn’t like, even commuted it was soft and didn’t hook up (even though it’s one of the stiffest burliest skis in the category???? Bottom line is I welcome comments and results and luckily the overwhelming majority of people who try our skis are giving us really good comments. People like what they like and I respect that.

  6. tim September 5, 2014 Reply

    Honestly, who even skis blizzard besides ex racers which only like heavy skis that don’t leave the ground. Seriously… 2 sheets of metal. Like Mike said everybody likes something different and has different taste.

  7. Mike Kilchenstein September 23, 2014 Reply

    I wanted to clear up a comment that wasn’t correct about our process. They made it sound like we use vacuum molding to cut costs so we can make product in the US. That is completely not why we do it at all. Vacuum molding is now the norm in about every high end composite operation there is except ski making. If you look at aerospace, high end boat building, and high end composite molding operation you see it’s done with vacuum. Watch them make a carbon helicopter blade or tails section for a fighter plane, it would look a lot like what we are doing. The ski industry is still clinging to the old ways mainly because it’s how they always did it and because the companies each have millions invested in that kind of tooling.

    Vacuum molding distributes the pressure more evenly, allows for greater manufacturing flexibility, you can put anything in the mold and get the same pressure distribution. We consistently get the best lines and closure on our skis I’ve ever seen, when you squeeze them together base to base at the binding mark it’s like an air cushion because the whole base touches at one, no gaps. You don’t get this with presses because small variations in tooling or thickness of say fiberglass give inconsistent pressure and gaps in the line. Presses also need a lot more pressure because the whole mold assemble and the metal top have to be crushed into the shape of the camber plate; we don’t do that at all. We rely on the thermal expansion of the materials, they way they grow in length at different rates from the heat in molding to get perfect camber.

    So, what I wanted to clarify is, I totally realize that everyone has a type of feel in skis they like best and I totally respect that. Our skis are a reflection of what our engineer, myself, and our athletes love. And luckily most of the people who demo them really love them also, but no company pleases them all or even comes close in general. I also wanted to clarify the reason we developed this new process for making skis is because it gives us the most consistent excellent result and provides the most flexibility. That combined with our sidecut invention, where we can change the shape-sidecut-radius of a ski without the need to make a new mold allow, us to change more quickly and test more often new things. That was and is our goal with this.

  8. skyler holman November 25, 2014 Reply

    Speaking of clinging to old ways…much of the alpine skiing industry is still stuck in the 90s when it comes to materials and intuitive designs. Alpine ski boots haven’t hardky changed in years. Same buckle systems, same materials, same designs. It’s fun to see some companies reach out to new technologies and materials since that world is advancing incredibly fast. And some companies are holding back. My favorite is the ski mountaineering industry…all experimental and creative ways of changing things that, for me, have always seemed mediocre in ski equipment. Future holds lots of fun stuff in our amazing sport.

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