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.
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.